An August 2003 trip
to Gatlinburg by Lovestogo
Quote: Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains are prime tourist areas, with over 10,000,000 visitors per year. What's the secret? What makes it so unique that people come from every state to visit? Only you can answer that question . . . I believe the area has a special meaning to every individual who visits.
Gatlinburg is one of the biggest tourist areas in the mid-south. There is something for everyone . . . from the very young to the very old. Shops galore, from the cheap imported goods to local handmade quality crafts. You will find items from one end of the spectrum to the other and if you happen to like the airbrushed, tie-dyed look, there are plenty of opportunities to declare your love to that special someone. However, there are some specialty shops that we always enjoy browsing through.
Entertainment activities abound in downtown Gatlinburg. Ride the space needle, chair lift or aerial tramway for a true perspective of the city. Ripley’s has several activities in Gatlinburg and our favorite is the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. If you are trying to decide what to do . . . take in the aquarium. Without a doubt, you won’t be disappointed.
The Great Smoky Mountains are just minutes out of the city. The national park is free and you can find beautiful nature hikes, historical driving tours, white water rafting, fishing or simply sit beside a stream, wiggling your toes in the cold mountain water on a hot day!
Take comfortable walking shoes. Walking is the best way to get around and everything is easily accessible. My motto is . . . walk, eat, and shop!!!!
Be prepared for the "free or discounted show tickets" speeches that you will often encounter.
Outlet shops are in nearby Pigeon Forge and offer name brand retailers at discounted prices.
Schedule time for the Roaring Fork Motor Tour. Nature at its best is only two miles away. Turn at traffic light # 8. Not to be missed is Cades Cove, an 11 mile loop located about 28 miles from Gatlinburg. Follow the signs toward Townsend.
Watch for pedestrians!!! There are many crosswalks and pedestrians have the right of way. Pedestrians will walk out into traffic without looking, so be sure you are paying attention while driving.
Pick up some of the many brochures/booklets that have discount coupons for attractions and dining. Select what you want to do/where you want to eat and look for the biggest discounts in the booklets. A little planning could save you several dollars.
Make your family memories as you spend time together doing the activities that you enjoy.
Have a great time on your vacation or weekend escape!!
A car is necessary to thoroughly enjoy and explore the area. However, if staying in Gatlinburg, leave your car at the hotel/motel and walk. There is no parking on the main street through town, with only limited parking spaces on River Road. There are a few small parking lots that are as cheap as or a day, but these fill up fast. Others are or a day. There are two new parking garages, which charge a fee by the hour or day.
Better yet . . . Leave the car, hop a trolley and see a completely different side of Gatlinburg that you might have otherwise missed. A trolley runs from the Gatlinburg Welcome Center (located on the outskirts of Pigeon Forge as you go towards Gatlinburg) into Gatlinburg. Pigeon Forge also has a trolley, which goes to the Gatlinburg Welcome Center. The price is low and it alleviates the stress of driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Trolley pick-up areas are spread throughout both cities and are easily spotted.
Eight Gables Inn is an extraordinary, elegant and charming bed and breakfast located just one mile from Gatlinburg. Encompassed by woods, you feel as if you are millions of miles from anyone!
Our room, The Sunflower Room was beautifully decorated. The light green wallpaper/cream-colored walls blended perfectly with the light sage green carpet to create a light and open feeling. The quilted comforter/pillow shams complimented the room and oh the king size bed . . . with the feather top bedding . . . having once laid on it, you never wanted to get up. Personal belongings could be stowed in the 5-drawer wicker chest. A wicker/wrought iron chair, table and footstool as well as another easy chair and footstool completed the sitting room. A remote controlled tv, complete with cable was provided. Turn down service was provided each night and relaxing music filled the room from the CD player. Two plush white bathrobes hung in the closet and a remote-controlled corner fireplace could provide a warm and cozy atmosphere on a cold winter evening. French doors opened onto a deck with a small wrought iron table and two chairs.
The bathroom was wonderfully huge and was designed with comfort in mind!! The corner shower was large and spacious . . . plenty of room to move about without hitting your elbows on the sides. The corner two-person whirlpool tub provided a much needed night of relaxation by candlelight. Complimentary coffee (regular/decaf), a 4-cup coffee maker and a hair dryer were provided, as was an iron/ironing board. The extra-large bath towels were soft and fluffy . . . as if they were freshly taken from your clothes dryer at home.
The grounds were immaculate with a garden area complete with a center fountain and gazebo. The wrap-around-porch contained large flower boxes overflowing with brightly colored flowers; and the hammock, rocking chairs and swings provided a peaceful way just to kick back and relax.
Included in your room rate are the tempting desserts specially prepared each night from 7:30–10 p.m. in the Main House. The Pantry, located under the stairs in the Main House is filled with snacks and sodas, which you are welcome to help yourself to. Coffee, hot chocolate, cappuccino and espresso are also available.
Twenty rooms are available at Eight Gables Inn ranging in price from $149-$259. Internet specials are available. Special rates are given during January, February and March and other selected weekdays. Honeymoon packages, Romantic and Outdoor Escape Packages are also available.
Children under 10 are not allowed unless prior provisions have been made with the inn.
Eight Gables is non-smoking, with smoking allowed in designated outside areas only.
This inn is definitely an undiscovered jewel. It is so peaceful and relaxing, a place to rejuvenate your soul and spirit and rekindle your love. Every imaginable detail has been carefully planned, even down to the flashlight in the nightstand drawer and the umbrella sitting by the front door.
We loved Eight Gables Inn and think you will also.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 20, 2003
Eight Gables Inn
219 N Mountain TRL
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738
Restaurant | "Great American Steak & Buffet "
The Great American Steak & Buffet is located at Traffic Light #1 in Pigeon Forge. Sitting on a corner lot, this restaurant is highly visible with its rounded stone front sporting its name in big red letters, its green metal roofed spires glowing with green neon at night and the many (19) large green rocking chairs sitting on the wrap around porch.
The Great American Steak & Buffet serves:
1. Breakfast from 7:30–10:30am for $6.95.
2. Lunch from 10:30am–3:45pm for $7.95.
3. Dinner from 3:45–10pm (Sunday through Thursday) and from 3:45-11pm on Friday and Saturdays. Cost is $9.95.
Senior prices are $.50 less per meal and all drinks are $1.75, which includes coffee, tea, milk and soft drinks. Children, 7 to 10, can eat for $3.99, while kids age 6 and under eat free. Both require an adult purchase.
Be sure to pick up one of the many discount coupon books for Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. Some offer 10-15% off, while others have $$$ off coupons. With the VDC (Vacation Discount Card), which offered 10% off, the total cost for us was $23.06, which included two dinners/drinks.
In addition to the main dining area, there are two separate dining areas with one being for smokers and one for families.
The selections on this buffet were many, with roast beef, ribs, catfish, salmon, fried shrimp and chicken just to name a few of the meat selections. Steaks were being cooked on the grill and you could select one based on your personal preference for doneness. For the kids, hamburgers, french fries and chicken fingers were available. Vegetables included mashed, scalloped, baked and sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, corn, a fresh vegetable medley of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, plus many more. All of the food was hot, fresh and tasty. A salad bar had all the fixings as well as a fresh fruit bar consisting of watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, grapes, and fruit cocktail.
The dessert bar had equally as much variety with derby, chess, pecan, pumpkin, cherry and my husband’s favorite . . . lemon meringue pie! Two varieties of muffins and soft-serve ice cream with every imaginable topping were available on this bar.
We arrived at 7pm on Sunday night and found the restaurant extremely busy. We only waited a few minutes before being seated, but the lines were long to the buffet as it was apparently "peak" dining time. In my opinion, the general layout of the buffet wasn’t the best and the food wasn’t arranged efficiently as the fresh fruit bar was first, then a few vegetables, followed by the salad bar and then a few meats. Each side of the bar contained different selections and with the long lines, a return trip meant starting at the back of the line of another bar.
Plan to arrive slightly before or after "peak" eating times to avoid the crowds and long lines.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 19, 2003
Great American Steak & Buffet
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee 37863
Restaurant | "Maxwell's"
Maxwell’s, located in downtown Gatlinburg between traffic lights # 9 and 10, has the slogan of "Great Casual Dining". You can’t miss the gold-shingled, red roofed building with big rock posts out front as you pass by.
We walked down the street after having had lunch at The Burning Bush and I asked my husband, as we were passing several different restaurants, where he wanted to have dinner that night. Imagine this . . . we had just finished eating lunch and I was already thinking about dinner . . . Guess who was planning ahead???? We scanned the posted menu in Maxwell’s front window, immediately eyeing the Maxwell’s Seafood Scampi, which advertised gulf shrimp, sea scallops and lobster sautéed in butter with garlic, white wine and scallions. Since we had not recently eaten seafood, we both agreed that this looked like a good restaurant for dinner that evening.
Maxwell’s also has beef entrees from $13-20, seafood entrees from $14-23, chicken breasts from $12 and pork chops for $14. All include the side items listed below and soup or salad. A wide selection of appetizers ranging in price from $5-11 include such items as fried green tomatoes, oysters Rockefeller or stuffed mushrooms. Four sandwiches such as hamburgers, BBQ chicken, or grouper sandwiches are available for $8-9. A children’s menu is available for age 12 and under and has spaghetti or macaroni and cheese for $2. Chopped sirloin/chicken tenders/popcorn shrimp are $5-6. Grilled cheese/cheeseburgers are $3-5.50.
We returned at 7:30pm and were quickly seated. We sat at our table for what seemed an eternity as several servers walked by and looked at us sitting quietly at our table. Finally as we were contemplating leaving, a young lady stopped and asked if anyone had taken our drink orders. We replied that they hadn’t and that we had been sitting for a while without anyone acknowledging our presence. Not the best way to start off a meal!
We ordered and, of course, I changed my mind!! But only after I discovered the crab cakes!! All entrées come either with soup or salad, and choice of one side item which includes garlic mashed potatoes, baked potato, onion rings, steak fries, fresh vegetables, pasta alfredo or rice pilaf. Freshly baked bread is also served. I ordered the crab cakes, which were pan sautéed in butter and served with lime aioli and tartar sauce for $15.99. I chose the garlic mashed potatoes and a salad. My husband stuck to the original plan and ordered the Maxwell’s shrimp scampi with rice pilaf and a salad for $19.99. Mine was delicious! However, my husband was unhappy with his selection as it was extremely bland and contained six shrimp, two sea scallops, a single 1" x .5" lobster piece, and six little crawdads. This wasn’t what he expected for $20 and he commented that Red Lobster’s was better!! (I’m glad I changed my mind)!!
My food was good, his wasn’t . . . The service was less than adequate originally . . . but it improved greatly. Would we go back . . . maybe!
Maxwell's Steak & Seafood
The Burning Bush Restaurant can only be described as one of Gatlinburg’s BEST!! It has been a long time favorite of mine for many years.
There are several dining areas and my personal favorite is the glass dining room. The fieldstone walls with black lantern lights, open ceiling beams and floor length glass windows create the perfect spot to enjoy their signature "Bountiful Breakfast". Stained glass panels suspended by ceiling chains separates the booths and are exquisitely beautiful!
We stopped in for lunch on an already hot August morning. The server immediately brought a pewter plate full of fresh fruit, which included sliced bananas, honeydew, cantaloupe, whole strawberries, grapes, mini muffins and a pewter shot glass of seedless strawberry jam. Their own special complimentary "Leconte Sunrise" was also served which resembles a strawberry daiquiri It was refreshing!! Of course . . . a shot of rum could only have made it better!
My husband was in a breakfast mood and I wanted something light. He selected the Veggie Omelet ($8.95) and I chose the Grilled Chicken Salad ($7.95). Naturally I was offered a small bite of his omelet and it was one of the best I have ever tasted. Light and fluffy, made of whipped eggs with seasonal vegetables, sliced mushrooms, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses and a dollop of sour cream . . . it had to be good! My grilled chicken salad had fresh greens, real bacon pieces, hard-boiled eggs, croutons, tomatoes, monterey jack and cheddar cheeses and grilled chicken strips. Two containers of Ranch dressing topped off this salad!!
We normally eat breakfast at The Burning Bush, which is served until 2:30 p.m. every day. The "Bountiful Breakfast" is a Gatlinburg legend where real southern tradition has been kept alive. The Burning Bush Bountiful Breakfast includes eggs, any style, all you can eat fresh cinnamon apples, grits, home fried potatoes, homemade biscuits and sausage gravy. Select your breakfast meats . . . from bacon (regular or Canadian) to sausage (patties or links) to pork chops or country ham and redeye gravy . . . Priced from $8.95 (bacon) to $10.95 for ribeye steak. The only thing missing is you!
Lunch (11am to 2:30pm) and dinner (4pm to close) are both served at The Burning Bush. Lunch entrees range in price from $6.95 to $8.95. Dinner entrees are priced from $11.95 to $20.95. Go early and enjoy a 10% "early bird special" discount from 4–6pm every day. A children’s menu is available.
Reservations are accepted but not required. Call in advance seating is available by phoning 865-436-4669. This is a casual dress environment suitable for everyone on vacation; however if you wanted to dress for a special occasion, it would create a wonderful memory.
The Burning Bush Restaurant is located at the corner of River Road and Parkway, just before you enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The atmosphere is cozy, the food is delicious and this is one restaurant you will want to experience while in the Gatlinburg area.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 19, 2003
The Burning Bush
Restaurant | "Dining at Eight Gables Inn"
The open dining area is beautifully decorated, and is surrounded by several windows and two sets of french doors. The exposed ceiling beams and posts add warmth and charm to the room. Upon arrival, you are seated by one of the servers. First course includes coffee and juice. Second course is fresh seasonal fruit. Third course on Tuesday morning was Canadian Ham and French Toast served in a fine white china plate, sprinkled with cinnamon. It was both eye appealing and delicious. Fourth course was dessert, which was apple surprise. Cappuccino and espresso coffees complete your perfect breakfast experience. We had breakfast again on Wednesday morning and the third course was a delicious quiche consisting of eggs, onions, and hash browns, along with a fresh zucchini muffin. Wednesday’s breakfast dessert was peach surprise. Each course is brought to you freshly prepared.
Eight Gables offers a romantic candlelight dinner on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 7pm. Three course meals are served on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while a four-course meal is served on Saturday evening. Price is $30 per person plus tax for the three-course meal, and $40 per person plus tax for the four-course meal. Reservations are required and the menus are pre-fixed, featuring local, southern cuisine. Smart casual dress is required for dinner.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Tuesday night dinner. Our servers, Rebekah and Jeremy, were extremely friendly and each time they stopped by our table, we found something to chat about.
Our three-course meal started with Mandarin Orange Salad, which consisted of fresh spinach greens, sliced almonds, and mandarin orange pieces covered in a vinaigrette dressing. It was light and refreshing. Our main course included skewered barbecued gulf shrimp with cheesy grits in a puff pastry and sautéed seasonal vegetables. Dessert included a frozen fruit parfait, which had alternating layers of real cream, fresh strawberries, and strawberry flavored cream. Neither of us could finish ours, as it was so rich. I can’t believe I left dessert!!
Lunch is served Tuesday through Friday in the Magnolia Tea Room at Eight Gables from 11:30am until 2:30pm and is open to the public. Freshly made breads such as banana nut, pumpkin, zucchini, or cranberry start your luncheon. Some lunch menu items could include homemade soups, pasta salad, chicken salad, croissants, or other gourmet meat sandwiches. Picnic lunches are also available for your days’ excursions or for that quiet afternoon lunch near a mountain stream in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Don’t forget the specially made desserts that are made daily and are available to all guests in the Main House from 7:30pm until 10pm. A good cup of coffee, a yummy piece of pie, and a rocking chair, surrounded by woodlands. What could be better?
Eight Gables Inn
219 North Mountain Trail
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738
Attraction | "Ober Gatlinburg"
The Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway has been providing an outstanding view of the Smoky Mountains since 1973. Based at traffic light # 9 in Gatlinburg, you can ride one of the two aerial counter balanced cars from downtown Gatlinburg to the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and Amusement Park, which is on Mt. Harrison.
The cable cars themselves are a different sight in the U.S. Built in Switzerland by Von Roll, the cable cars travel about 17mph, and travels 11,000 feet (2.1 miles) to the mountain station, which is at an elevation of 2675 feet. Each car will hold up to 120 people with one attendant and leaves about every 20 minutes. The total ride takes about 10 minutes in which you will meet the other cable car at the halfway point. Be sure to wave at the folks in the other car!!!
Upon entering the cable car, go to the front or back middle section for the best view of both sides while traveling up or down the mountain. The octagonal cable car has glass windows completely surrounding it; but if standing on the sides, you can only see the side you are facing (especially if you are short). The open windows at each end provide a slight breeze in the summer time as you travel up or down the mountain. The cable cars are wheel chair accessible as is Ober Gatlinburg.
When you arrive at Ober Gatlinburg, there are several activities to occupy your time. You can ice skate in the indoor arena, play miniature golf, ride the Pirate Ship (Memorial thru Labor Day only), take a scenic chairlift even further up to the top of Mt. Harrison, or cool off in the Blue Cyclone Rapids as you ride your inflated air raft down through 600 feet of water! Other than getting wet with my clothes on, the water would have felt extremely good on this HOT August day! Two downhill alpine slides on 1800-foot tracks allow you to experience bob sledding! A small fenced area allows kids to play while under their parent’s watchful eyes.
A few shops are also located at Ober Gatlinburg as well as a snack bar and restaurant.
A black bear habitat is visible on the left side as you arrive. It costs an additional $2 per person. We caught a glimpse of the bears on our arrival/departure trips and they were quite content sleeping on the shaded concrete that surrounded them on this hot afternoon.
Riding the tramway roundtrip is $9 (adults), $6 for children ages 7–11, and 6 and under are free. All attractions require coupons, which are $2.50 each. A booklet of 10 can be purchased for $22.50. However, if planning to participate in many of these events, purchase the daily activity wristbands for $18 (adults) and children $14.
For us the tramway ride, seeing the Great Smoky Mountains and the mountain chalets as you slowly ascend up the mountainside is the highlight of Ober Gatlinburg.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 20, 2003
Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738
Attraction | "Ripley's Aquarium of The Smokies"
Ripleys Aquarium of the Smokies is one of the best deals going in Gatlinburg for people of all ages! It is both entertaining and educational . . . and what better way to cool off on a hot summer day????
Upon entering the aquarium, you are greeted by a giant crocodile, turtle and humpback whale skeletons suspended from the ceiling. Looking down onto the first floor, you will see the Discovery Center, which is geared towards children’s activities and also an area where you can hold a horseshoe crab. As you enter The Tropical Rain Forest you will find an array of exotic amphibians/fishes such as the red-bellied piranhas, poison dart frogs, and four-eyed fish.
The Coral Reef exhibit contains many brightly colored fish in a simulated coral reef environment. Another neat display was The Schooling Fish tank, where the water was a deep blue and hundreds of fish were swimming swiftly in one direction.
Next you walk across Shark Lagoon where the walls/ceiling resemble the sky. You would almost believe you were standing at the edge of the ocean with the rippling water splashing around you. I remarked to my husband that this would be the closest we would be to a beach this year!! Here you could look into the water and see people below inside the underwater tunnel.
Rounding the corner, immediately to the left, a monstrous tank filled with hundreds of beautiful tropical fish comes into view. Dive shows are held here every two hours. Check the LED screen for times. As we walked past, a diver was actually in the tank feeding the fish while another diver was interacting/fielding questions from the audience.
At this point you have an option of going into the Underwater Tunnel or into The Gallery of the Seas. We took the moving walkway, which slowly shuttles you through the world’s longest underwater tunnel. Here you will experience giant sharks, sawfish, jewfish, moray eels, stingrays and a multitude of other sea life swimming beside and over top of you. We stepped back from the moving walkway several times so we could dottle a little more.
Next is the Gallery of the Seas which has a living coral reef exhibit. Within this section were jellyfish, octopus, tiger fish and giant spider crabs. The jellyfish were my favorite and my husband especially liked the tiger fish.
An exhibit chronologically depicting the sinking of The Titanic was on display. 28 interactive exhibits and demonstrations tell the events of its tragic iceberg collision. Here you can experience the feeling first hand of the third class passengers aboard The Titanic as the water rushed down into the stairwell and you can feel the frigid water conditions on that fateful night. It brings to light the ever popular movie and puts into perspective what the people aboard The Titanic experienced as they scrambled for their lives that night.
Make time to visit the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. You will thoroughly enjoy it!!!
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
88 River Road
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738