We spent our last two days in the Smokies and Gaitlinburg, so combining them into 1 post was the only logical option.
It’s the most visited national park in the US and yet, I’d never heard of it. The variety of flora and fauna in the park is exceptional and this vegetation is also the reason the area is (almost?) always covered in a blueish smoky haze.
You’ll find over 800 miles of hiking trails in the Smokies, including a part of the Appalachian Trail. In wintertime several roads are closed. You can ask the very helpful Sugarlands Visitors Center (near Gaitlinburg) about current conditions.
Keep your eagle eyes open and look for black bears. We didn’t spot them unfortunately, but 1500 are living in the park so you could get lucky. Other than that there are plenty of deer running around and some wild turkeys (those guys are big!)
An 11-mile road takes you past historic buildings like log houses, churches and barns. They were established in the 1800’s and this drive offers you a glance into the past.
We drove through on our way to the Smokies, and were surprised to find a charming winter wonderland. Part of the Pigeon Forge Winterfest, this city is everything you’d imagine when hearing ‘a cozy, pituresque Chrismassy mountain village’.
Gaitlinburg is as diverse as it is snug and there’s something to find for everyone. Whether you’re interested in the little streets and squares, fun attractions (like minigolf, laser tag, escape rooms and many more), the outdoor stuff like tubing, ziplining or hiking, restaurants, wineries and breweries, or a good Ole Smoky Moonshine tasting: you’ve got it!
So, what’s definitely fun to visit in Gaitlinburg?
Ole Smoky Moonshine
While it used to be distilled illegally (and therefore secretly at night) by early moonshiners, turning their corn into profitable unaged whisky, the alcoholic drink is now openly available in some parts of the Appalachian area. My favorite: buckeye.
Good to know: for $5 you get 12 (very delicious) sample shots of Moonshine and a $5 coupon you can use at checkout!
Dick’s Last Resort – where sarcasm and dicks rule
The guy at the door was grumpy, the waitress chased me away from my table because I was apparently sitting at the wrong one (She: “Not here, THERE!” Me: “Excuse me for being alive, gosh”) and the floor was messy. I was just about to tell my travel buddy that they sure are particularly unfriendly in this place, when he got back from the bar with the message ‘Sarcasm and being a dick is their thing’. Although you gotta toughen up a little (warning: strong language), it sure makes for some laughs.
Treasure Quest Minigolf
18 holes, 1 treasure quest, glow-in-the-dark coolness and 1 terrible loss for me. Isn’t minigolf dated? Yes. A bit cheesy? Sure. Did we love it? Absolutely.
Price: about $10 per person.
** On the 10th and last day of our road trip we finally arrived to NY after a trafficky drive and a visit to the Natural Bridge, near Lexington. It’s located right under highway 11 and worth a visit if you’re in the area!