I’m going to start this post with one piece of advice: Bring Rain Gear! Even if you’re just shopping, do it. I know it’s been said in our other posts, but it’s worth saying again! You are in a rain forest, so it’s known to just dump buckets on you for like ten minutes. Georgia and I like to describe our life in one word: unprepared. We brought no rain gear. How dumb. We went out and bought ponchos. So, yes, rain gear is a must.
The Smoky Mountains are absolutely beautiful. In fact, they’re one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! But if hiking isn’t your thing then don’t worry, there is still plenty to do: indoor and outdoor! There are two main cities around the Smoky Mountains that you can go to: Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. I only spent time in Gatlinburg, so that is what this post is mainly going to be about.
I will say a few things on Pigeon Forge: it doesn’t have as many shops as Gatlinburg, but it does have a lot of other touristy things to do in it. Such as dinner and shows (like Hatfield and McCoy), indoor sky diving, a wax museum and so much more! Driving through the main strip of Pigeon Forge, there is no lack of things to stare at and our family referred to it as a big Carnival. So, if you’re looking for indoor things to do there is plenty here. However I can’t guarantee whether they are fun as I didn’t do any of them. So, go at your own risk! 😉
Gatlinburg is one smallish (compared to Pigeon Forge) street that has a lot of shopping on it. We spent about 2 days here shopping and just looking around in all the shops and to be honest if you are intense shoppers (unlike Georgia and I-we like to peek) and like to look through every shop, you could easily spend a whole week on this street as there is no lack of stuff to do!
If shopping isn’t your thing either this strip has mini golf (indoor and outdoor), and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Ripley’s has a couple (and by a couple I mean a lot) of things to do here. I did the Ripley’s museum with the rest of the family (as it was a family trip!), which, to be honest, I wasn’t excited about it (I hate museums). This one was actually pretty cool, and there are interactive things for the little kid in you! (which was my favorite part). I did not venture to the Aquarium, but my cousin and grandma (hey I told you it was a family vacation and our family does nothing small! 🙂 ) did while the rest of us went on a hike. They loved it, so per them, do it if you can!
They do have a public transport system here: the trolley. There isn’t much parking in Gatlinburg and what parking there is isn’t free, so using the trolley is the easiest way to get to and from Gatlinburg. We rode the purple trolley, which picked us up at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center. The fair for most of the trolleys is 50 cents (exact change only). If you plan on riding the trolley a lot in the day, you can buy a daily pass for $2. For the most part, we only rode it to and from Gatlinburg, so we just paid the fair as we rode. You can find more info on the trolleys on their website here.
There is an arts and crafts loop that you can take on the yellow trolley, which has a lot of little hand crafted stores such as leather, wood, pottery, etc. The trolley here is really inconvenient, it will drop you off and you have one hour to look around at that stop before it will pick you back up. If you miss the trolley, you’re out of luck and are stuck there another hour! 😦 So, for this round, I suggest you forgo the trolley and simply drive to and from the stores as there is plenty of free parking.
Our favorite shops were the candy shops, of course! We went into every single one that we possibly could (and of course we had to eat something from each one, too!). All of the candy stores look amazing but our favorite was the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen. All their candy is homemade and they have delicious taffy which they pull in the front window of the shop! (They also have amazing chocolate. Georgia and I polished off a box in a single day). Our second favorite store was Aunt Mahalia’s Candy, which has delicious pecan divinity. If you’ve never tried divinity, it’s a must, it’s so delicious!
Shopping in The Village is also a must! It is at the beginning of the strip (if you get off the trolley at the Aquarium) and you could easily spend most of the day looking through the little shops here (as there are 27!). This was our favorite spot to shop and is where all of these pictures are from (it’s so cute!). It also happens to be right next to the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen too 😉 There is a store dedicated to socks, one to leather, a personalize it store, an herb shop, and so much more here! If you don’t want to shop through this whole thing than there is one store that you must visit: The Spice and Tea Exchange. It is absolutely the cutest little shop. Obviously they sell tea and spices (and more flavors of salt than I even knew existed), but they also have flavored sugars (obviously my favorite part!). I bought some raspberry sugar and chocolate sugar, which we used a little bit of on some blueberry muffins this morning (it was amazing!!) This store is an absolute must for anyone who likes to cook or bake or even drink tea. It is in the back, near the restrooms. There are signs in The Village, as I am horrible at giving directions (I can’t even follow them, I always get lost) and will inevitably steer you in the wrong direction.
There are other things to do in the Smoky’s besides shop and hike. There is kayaking, canoeing, zip lining, and white water rafting. The only thing here that we did was white water rafting and, let me tell you, it was so much fun! This is a must do for every one from kids to adults. Our whole family did it (all 9 of us!). Grandma and Grandpa even went and they loved it (every one did!). I don’t think I can convey in words how much fun we had, you have to do it for yourself! The company that we went with was Smoky Mountain Outdoor and they did an awesome job. If you do this, do it with them! Shout Out to Dean, or Reverend Dean as every one calls him, he was amazing. He was the best tour guide we could have asked for. He made every part of the trip better. He’s been doing it for about 30 years. If you go here, see if you can request him as your guide, you won’t regret it! I should mention that none of us have ever been rafting, so even for beginners it’s perfect!
Look for a guide on eating coming soon!
There is so much to talk about here I could keep writing and writing about this place. It’s amazing! You must go, you must go! I felt like a hobbit was going to pop out at me during all the hikes. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine that I was in Middle Earth and I was rafting down the Brandywine. So make sure you check out Georgia’s posts on hiking here and here!
Any questions or comments on Gatlinburg or the Smoky Mountains (or on anything in general) let me know in the comments below, via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) on instagram (@unchartedbakers) and now on Facebook (@unchartedbakers). Have a great day and thank you for reading!
Enjoy this video from the Smoky Mountains: