A Gatlinburg Getaway
Trying to cram in one last weekend getaway before summer’s end? Gatlinburg, TN is the gateway for Smoky Mountain fun and an easy car ride away.
Written By: Kristin Luna
Want to stay in the thick of things? Visit The Park Vista (a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel) located just off the Parkway, overlooking the town center. Rooms begin at $99 a night. If you prefer a lofty perch on the side of a mountain, The Lodge at Buckberry Creek is the most high-end accomodation in the area. The 44 rustic-style setups start at $180 a night and boast incomparable views of the Smokies.
In Gatlinburg, the great outdoors is the main attraction. Biking the 11-mile paved trail that circles Cades Cove is a popular pastime, as is driving up to Clingmans Dome—the highest point in Tennessee at 6,643 feet—then making the steep half-mile trek up to the cylindrical observation tower. If you’re sticking closer to town, the six-mile Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a fun alternative without going far.
In need of an escape from the heat? The Arts and Crafts Loop is an eight-mile trail of craftsmen and artists’ shops along Route 321; you never know what you’ll find, from clay trolls to oil paintings to hand-carved jewelry. For $1, you can leave your car at the hotel and travel the length of the loop via trolley. Shows are a dime a dozen in this 4,000-person town, but A Brit of Magic, performed by a snarky English magician at the Iris Theater, is one to catch. While you’re already in the building, take the elevator to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle for panoramas of the area.
Sure, Nashville has its own Pancake Pantry offshoot, but nothing beats the original. (Arrive early enough at the Gatlinburg location and you’ll avoid the painful wait that inevitably plagues the one in Hillsboro Village.) Or you can head into The Village Shops and get your sugar high from The Donut Friar. Pulled pork is the daily lunch special in these parts, so make your way to Hungry Bear BBQ or Calhoun’s when hunger strikes. For dinner, there’s no better spot for cocktails and a fancy three-course meal with a view than the wraparound patio at The Lodge at Buckberry Creek, even if you aren’t overnighting at the upscale inn.
With four distilleries and three wineries in the area, you’ll get your fill of booze easily. The most well known, Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, is outfitted with multiple tasting counters, stocks merchandise galore, and even provides free live music out in the courtyard. (Ole Smoky added a second location, Ole Smoky Barn, in neighboring Pigeon Forge this summer.) At Davy Crockett’s, you can pick up a mason jar of sassafras shine or a bottle of pecan liqueur to take home as a souvenir. If hooch isn’t your thing, Smoky Mountain Brewery in the heart of town features a dozen or so regional beers on tap. Order a flight and sample them all.
Gatlinburg is 215 miles due east of Nashville, off of I-40. The quickest way is to get off at exit 388 and arrive via Pigeon Forge. For the scenic route, exit at I-140 in Farragut, cut through Maryville and Townsend, and meander along Old State Highway 73.