Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Virtual Vacation: Smoky Mountains

As the U.S. begins to open up and people are starting to look a bit at travel I thought this week we would check out the Great Smoky Mountains area, which is a drivable destination for close to half the country. 

The Smokies are named for the blue mist that always seems to hover the peaks and valleys. The Cherokee called them shaconage, (shah-con-ah-jey) or “place of the blue smoke. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934 and is comprised of ridge upon ridge of endless forest on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

Gatlinburg, TN is a mountain resort town that borders the Smoky Mountains and offers many tourist attractions aside from the mountains. Tennessee’s only ski resort, Ober Gatlinburg is famed for its aerial tramway. 

The Gatlinburg Space Needle offers an amazing panoramic view of the town and the Smoky Mountains. There are also several Ripley’s facilities, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley’s Moving Theater and more. Visitors will also find tons of unique shopping and dining experiences. 

Dollywood located in Pigeon Forge, TN, just 15 minute drive from Gatlinburg is a popular amusement park. The park is owned by county music legend Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment. For a virtual tour of the park, please click here

Also located in Pigeon Forge is The Titanic Museum which honors the ship, as well as the passengers and crew. It is the largest permanent Titanic Museum in the world. The structure is built in a pool to create the illusion of the Titanic at sea. The museum is offering a wonderful 4-part virtual tour series. 

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the area and the most popular place to hike is the Appalachian Trail. The Trail actually stretches through 14 states, from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, with 71 of the more than 2,100 miles of the trail running through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Google Earth offers a wonderful virtual tour of the trail. 

Also popular is Clingmans Dome , which is the highest point in the park. There is a 1-mile round-trip walk up to the top of the observation tower. Once at the top visitors enjoy endless views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Another popular activity in the Great Smokies is White Water Rafting, which can be done on several rivers in the area, with the Pigeon River being the most popular. 

Just 84 miles east of Gatlinburg, is the Biltmore Estate, located in Asheville, NC. Known as America’s largest home spanning 175,000 feet, and more than 4 acres of floor space. The 250 room French Renaissance chateau includes 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The home was the vision of George Vanderbilt, whose family amassed their fortune through steamboats, railroads, and various business enterprises. You can visit the historic house museum:

Located in Cherokee, NC, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian educates visitors on the history, culture and stories of the Cherokee Indian people. Check out this short museum tour: 

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad located in Bryson City, NC offers scenic rail excursions, including special event trains, onboard dining and an open air gondola. Check out this virtual tour.

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