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Going to Gatlinburg, TN for a Week

quhines

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We are going to Gaitlnburg, TN for a Week starting on 7/20. Are there any things that a must to do while there. We are a family of 2 Adults and 1 Six year old. We are not hikers, but would be willing to try out some beginner paths with some great views.

We will be staying at the HICV Smoky Mountains through an RCI Exchange.
 
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We just did the Stampede with our 3.5yo and it was amazing!

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bluehende

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In the national park there is a motor tour right out of gatlinburg that I thought was amazing. There is one nice hike to a waterfall that is not too strenuous.
 

quhines

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Is this the Dolly Parton's Stampede?
Yep. It's not racist at all like some reviews make it sounds. It's literally red vs blue.

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bnoble

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We did two hikes while we were there last week that would be good for beginners. The first is Gatlinburg Trail, a very easy 4-mile out and back hike and easily accessible from the main tourist drag. This is more a walk in the woods than it is a hike. The other was Mouse Creek Falls. This is a bit more work; it's roughly the same distance, but is a steady climb outbound from the parking area to the falls. We thought the payoff was worth it, and one of the kids was not particularly fond of hiking. We started both on the early side, and were thankful we did as the parking areas were full by the time we got back. Even getting an early start we saw plenty of other people on Gatlinburg. We didn't see anyone until we were on our way back to the trail head for Mouse Creek.

Unfortunately, the trail to Grotto Falls was closed while we were there. They are doing some trail restoration. It might be open when you get there, but it will only be on weekends and is going to be *busy*.

We went tubing on the Little River, which was lots of fun as well.
 

Lisa P

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July is really hot in Gatlinburg. On a particularly hot day, take a drive up to the (high elevation) lookout parking area by Clingmans Dome. Gorgeous views along the way, cooler temps up there, and a starting point for couple different hikes, including to an observation tower at 6,643 feet elevation. As Brian mentioned, start fairly early in the day for hikes so parking will be easier and bring water and a picnic lunch. There are some rest rooms at the Clingmans Dome parking area, but no food service.

If you want an all day outing, pack drinks and a picnic lunch. Bring swimsuits, towels, sunscreen, and maybe folding lawn chairs or a beach blanket. Leave early in the morning for Cades Cove, an 11-mile loop drive through an early settlement valley surrounded by pretty mountain views. Good wildlife viewing, deer wandering, possible black bear sightings. Get out of the car at stops to look at historic old homestead cabins, churches, waterfall, and mill. Halfway through the loop, there's a Visitor Center with rest rooms.

If you get an early enough start at Cades Cove, you may like to stop afterward at the converging rivers' Townsend Wye picnic area and swimming hole. It's about half way between Gatlinburg and Cades Cove. Always popular with the kids, and refreshing for all ages.

Dollywood theme park has live performance shows and craftsmen demos, as well as kid-friendly and thrill rides, so it's super-popular with all ages. Highly recommend, if you've never been. There's also a multi-day ticket available that includes their water park, Splash Country. We have many friends who frequently drive the 2 hours from our area to the Gatlinburg area for an overnight, just to revisit Dollywood and/or Splash Country, choosing the park depending on how hot it is.

Your 6 year old may really enjoy Ripley's Aquarium, voted in USA Today's 10 Best. Penguins, rays, sharks, touch tank, beautiful exhibits... in air-conditioning. ;)

Beyond the tourist area (45 minute drive from Gatlinburg?), we've enjoyed boat rentals on Douglas Lake in Dandridge TN, with so many quiet inlets where you can stop and swim or life vest float. There are at least 4 or 5 marinas that rent out pontoon boats and wave runners - we choose one near the dam for the shortest drive to get there.

Hope this helps. :) There's so much to do in this beautiful region. Way more than a week's worth. Have fun!
 
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chapjim

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Hike up to the summit of Clingman's Dome is deceptive. It's all nicely paved and very wide for a mountain path. It doesn't look like it's that bad but it will have most people huffing and puffing and probably stopping a time or two to catch your breath.

It's well worth the hike though, especially if you can catch a relatively un-hazy day. We were there on the way back from New Orleans in late November and caught a pretty day but found the wind to be a bit bracing at the summit.
 

bnoble

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I second the recommendation for Dollywood. It's one of my favorite theme/amusement parks anywhere. We get season passes for our week-long visit. This is more expensive than the multi-day tickets, but it allows us to come and go whenever we like. We tend to enjoy going for a few hours in the evening---it's cooler and the crowds have mostly gone home---and will do that most days we are there. We usually do one mid-day visit to hit the shows; they don't run late for the most part. The Dreamland Drive-In show is not to be missed, IMO.
 

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Not sure if you can get these in time, but if you go to SWEET DEALS and HALF PRICE HOOKUPS, you can get some great deals for things in the area. We are heading their ourselves the last week of August. We are staying at Wyndham portion of the Wilderness in the Smokies.

I paid $28 for admission to Ripley's aquarium (I think you son will really love it) and 2 other Ripley attractions (a bunch of others to choose from).

We paid half price for admission to Anakeesta, Comedy Barn and The Opry.

Many of the other recommendations are great as well.

My kids were 7 or 8 when we visited last and they had a ball. I remember they were obsessed with going to Fannie Farkles and having an oogle dog (super long corn dog).
 

joestein

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The only admissions that I haven't bought for our trip is Dollywood. Anyone know of any good deals for Dollywood?
 

sfwilshire

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Just visited the newly opened section of Dollywood Sunday. They have much improved the offerings for small children. There is an air-conditioned play space that was much appreciated in the heat. Grand-daughters ages 2 and 3 (almost 4) loved it.

The Smokey Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend is very nice. You can loop past it if you go to Cades Cove and take the Wear's Valley route back around to Pigeon Forge.

The Foothills Parkway has some amazing views if you like scenic drives.

Sheila
 

jwalk03

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I will second the suggestion of driving up to Clingman's Dome in the National Park.

Ripley's Aquarium is also a really neat aquarium especially for kids. Totally worth the visit, but buy tickets ahead of time with a good discount.

Dollywood is also very fun, but also tickets are expensive and I personally have never had any luck finding a good discount for tickets. (unless you qualify for the 30% military discount.)
 

bnoble

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I personally have never had any luck finding a good discount for tickets.
Dollywood is likely the top tourist destination in the area; as such, they probably don't need to do much in the way of discounting. The exception is for folks who live or work in the area, and that's only during a week or two each season.
 

sfwilshire

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If you are going to be in the area very long or multiple times within the calendar year, the Dollywood annual passes are a great deal. The only other discounts I've heard about are small ones for bringing soda cans or coupons from fast food places. I don't pay attention, since we never buy day passes, so there may be others. The best deal is buying an annual pass in November or December. The entire next year is included, so 13 or 14 months.

Sheila
 

Lisa P

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Agree that the Dollywood annual pass purchased during holiday season to include the following year is the best deal for anyone who plans to visit the area multiple times. We've gotten one member of the family (most likely to visit the most times) a Gold Pass and the rest of the family regular annual passes. The Gold Pass includes free parking ($15/day otherwise) and a 20% discount on many food/souvenir purchases.

If only planning to visit the area once within a year, the Dollywood 3-day flex ticket (any 3 days within a 5-day period) is a good deal. It costs only about 50% more than a 1-day admission. It adds 2 more days and both parks. 3 day visits during a timeshare week in the area allows you to take an easy pace and enjoy the water park whenever you get too hot. But don't forget to add your parking fees unless you take one of the Trolleys ($).
 

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We are visiting during the last week of August when school is back in session. We are not going to the waterpark. The park is open from 10 - 7. Do you think I need more than a day or will I need 2?
 

Talent312

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First, go online to the NPS website to get a list of park-sponsored activities.
Stop by Sugarlands VC to see exhibits, a short movie and pick up a map+guide.
-- They'll have a list of short and easy nature trails.

Drive out to Cades Cove and do the loop, stopping at historic structures.
A picnic at Metcalf Bottoms and/or The Chimneys would be nice.
Visit operating Mingus Mill (near Oconaluftee VC) and Cable Mill at Cades Cove VC.

In Gatlinburg, drive up Historic Nature Trail-Old Airport Road and do Roaring Fork NT.
.
 

quhines

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Thank You All for the recommendations. I am excited and ready to go!
 

sfwilshire

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We are visiting during the last week of August when school is back in session. We are not going to the waterpark. The park is open from 10 - 7. Do you think I need more than a day or will I need 2?
Probably not. If you go for a full day and there aren't too many shows you want to watch, you should be able to do what you want to do on a weekday visit. Weekends are crowded year round, particularly Saturday, because there are so many pass holders.

Sheila
 

quhines

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So just to follow up on my Trip.

  1. We did visit Dolly Parton's Stampede.
  2. We did do the Cade Cove Loop (It was a scheduled Activity from the Resort), and it was good. We did not stop at all of the places which was a bummer. But it was good for our 1st Time.
  3. We did some hiking/walking to view Laurel Falls, and Cataract Falls.
  4. We did Pigeon Forge Snow (Indoor Snow Tubing) and my Son really enjoyed it.
  5. We did the Sky Bridge.
  6. We did Ripley's Aquarium
  7. We did the Gatlinburg Space Needle.
So it was a Great Trip. We also had to spend a couple of Evening with son at the Water Slides which I am very Grateful that they had. This lead to many early bed times, because he was exhausted. We wanted to go tubing, and the resort had a scheduled activity, but because of rain received last week, the tubing was a no go because of safety concerns.

Thank you All for the Great Tips.
 

sfwilshire

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So just to follow up on my Trip.

  1. We did visit Dolly Parton's Stampede.
  2. We did do the Cade Cove Loop (It was a scheduled Activity from the Resort), and it was good. We did not stop at all of the places which was a bummer. But it was good for our 1st Time.
  3. We did some hiking/walking to view Laurel Falls, and Cataract Falls.
  4. We did Pigeon Forge Snow (Indoor Snow Tubing) and my Son really enjoyed it.
  5. We did the Sky Bridge.
  6. We did Ripley's Aquarium
  7. We did the Gatlinburg Space Needle.
So it was a Great Trip. We also had to spend a couple of Evening with son at the Water Slides which I am very Grateful that they had. This lead to many early bed times, because he was exhausted. We wanted to go tubing, and the resort had a scheduled activity, but because of rain received last week, the tubing was a no go because of safety concerns.

Thank you All for the Great Tips.
I notice that you recently visited Massanutten. I'm going to start a thread asking for tips for the area.

Sheila
 
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