A September 2002 trip
to Gatlinburg by Irene
Quote: Although bracketed between boisterous, teeming tourist towns of Gatlinburg, TN, and Cherokee, NC, Great Smoky Mountain Nation Park is a lush, hazy haven meant for exploring.
Gatlingburg slides down the slopes of the Smokies and plants itself on the banks of the Little Pigeon River. Amid the clusters of mini malls we sampled the wares of several restaurants including Duff's Nostalgic Eatery, Legend's by Max and TGIF Fridays's. The North China Restaurant snugged between boutiques and t-shirt shops is a fresh deversion from burgers. On a warm shiny afternoon we discovered the medival old world charm of The Village, a shopping complex disguised as a quaint Europen village complete with bright umbrellas and cobbled stone paths.
Pack you back pack and picnic hamper as you fill the car with gas for a visit to the Park. There are no amenities except picnic table, campgrounds and restrooms. Best accomadations are in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, where Dolly World reigns.
Look for discount coupon books at state Hopitality Centers and the Tourist office. They can give you as much as 15% off even on a one night stay(Sun-Thur.) Do not forget your hiking boots as the Smokies have almost 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail, water falls and almost 800 miles of Smoky Mt. trails. Handicapp trails are also available. Do not feed the bears.
Careful in Gatlinburg as food and drink prices are high and you just might end up paying a 25% tax on that favorite bottle of wine with dinner.
While in Gatlinburg, park the car and stroll, everything you need is within easy walking distance. Extreme congestion is in order for the weekends as Gatlinburg is becoming the Wedding Chapel of the Smokies.
Hotel | "The Edgewater Hotel"
We found a plus in the discount we received from the coupon in a travel brochure at the Hospitality House as we crossed the Tennessee State line. Our double room was only $59, but ah! there is an 11.5% room tax that goes with that. Our room was standard, clean, with cool aqua drapes and bed spreads. Inside our spacious pad, we had a huge dresser with mirror, table and chairs, small sofa and a sparkling bath with lots of little bottles and plush white towels. Past two queen-sized beds, a small sliding glass door opened onto a triangular patio with pool chairs and a miniature round table. Our view spread up the slope of the foot of our mountain across the roof of the indoor pool and we found escape from boisterous Gatlinburg with a restful, quiet room on the back.
Another plus with in this 7-story balconied hulk, was a two story parking garage for guests only at no charge, a major coup, as there is no parking in Gatlinburg on the street. After a slick ride on the glass elevator and a quick skip across the bridge to River Road we were in Gatlinburg, so who needs the car. We climbed a slight hill into the mini mall district and then it did not seem to matter that the hotel restaurant was closed. Superb location! Just one street up from River Road and we were on Parkway, US HWY.441, the main drag with restaurants galore.
We had decided that it just did not matter about the restaurant and lounge and this place was not too bad, and then we were ready to check out. Our check out person did not want to honor our coupon as we had stayed a Friday night and the coupon was good only Thursday-Sunday. Well that took a while, as the attitude was uninspiring. We finally settled on a compromise. My fondest memory of the hotel as we crossed the bridge the last time is the quiet angler wading in the shallow river while a small black bear drifts from the woods in search of his catch.
The Edgewater takes all credit cards and has a website.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 30, 2003
402 River Road
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738
Creeping into a deserted restaurant felt strange, and then we noticed the collection of waiters and waitresses in back. Well, it was way past the lunch hour. We seated ourselves at the long oval bar that dominated the center and a trim miniature waitress peeled away from the group. Michelle barely came to the rail of the bar as she served the beer and took our order for Reuben sandwiches ($6.95) with a side of coleslaw on one and potato salad on the other. She said that she thought the kitchen was still staffed and scurried off to check.
We admired the polished glass and brass bar and promised we would come back when the place was alive to maybe make new friends. Behind us the bar area was sprinkled with tall, round wooden tables with oak chairs to match. Dark green walls held numerous shuttered windows, now open, and across the bar, the restaurant portion was furnished with square tables, green cloths surrounded by two walls of green booths. We imagined a bustling crowd in a couple of hours.
Our sandwiches arrived before we could finish one beer and the smell was almost good enough to eat. They were crisp rye on the outside and warm and tangy on the inside with the cold of the slaw and salad to contrast. The menu had a collection of these tempting sandwiches along with a daily special for the sum of $6.95. Drink prices were in the acceptable range of $2.75 and the beer was nice and cool with head. Service was quick and bright with a smile. We spent all of $23 with tip. We will be back.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 10, 2004
Legends by Max Restaurant
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738
Restaurant | "Duffy's Nostalgic Eatery and Grog Shop"
Duffy himself plowed forward, offered a booth and with booming voice welcomed us with his rendition of the history of his establishment. Flourishing a menu, he bowed and asked for our drink orders. Other patrons seem to be happily munching away and we decide to order. The specialty of the house is Duffy’s Burgers, of course, with a smattering of steaks, chicken, and salad for us lightweights. We have an Alp Burger, an Italiano
Burger and Duffy’s Delight. You get the picture. Prices range from $7.95 for the biggest burger to $21.95 for the he-man steak. Duffy, alias Jim Taut, entertained us with jokes, impressions and a hearty laugh.
Alas, Duffy’s armor had a chink in it. Our platters arrived on Duffy’s arm in a flourish of hefty grunts. My chef salad looked adequate, with all the standbys, ham, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, with a thin dressing. Sitting the middle of Robert’s plate was a saucer-sized bun, a fistful of chips and a limp kosher pickle. No lettuce or tomato peeked from the edges of the bun and it seemed quite squished flat. He was not pleased, quickly sent it back and canceled his order.
Nursing our overpriced brews, we were surprised when a bohemian type entered the shop accompanied by his amplifier and guitar. Seems after 5pm until about 9pm Duffy provides easy-listening entertainment. He crooned some ballads from the '70s and a little hip rock from the '80s and was not bad. So we guessed you had to pay for all that nostalgia and the music show. Duffy will certainly take all your credit cards.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 16, 2004
Duffy's Nostalgic Eatery
6 Baskin Square
Restaurant | "TGI Fridays"
After a brisk walk down the promenade, we slipped up on an empty table on the busy patio and waited. Waiters and waitresses hummed past us, bus boys clanked and pushed the debris away. So we waited and Hal finally descended on us. He was courteous if not impatient as he took our order for a pre dinner drink. Our drinks arrived in record time in the company of a tray bulging with orders for the entire patio. This guy really did a great balancing act.. A dash around the patio and he is back to take the order. I thought the seafood medley ($13.99) looked good and Robert settled on the New York strip ($18.99) with a bottle of Merlot ($24.99; a little steep we thought).
As Hal buzzed away, the timbre of the crowd began to increase. Dinning guests invited other guests to their tables. Waiting guests perched on the planter boxes, others asked if they could sit at our table while they waited out the line 20 feet long. At the same time on parkway, the main drag became a stop-and-go parking lot dressed up with honking horns and loud greetings to friends. Sports cars rumbled their engines, and locals jumped from pick up beds to ambled from vehicle to vehicle.
Again Hal raced onto the patio and plunked down our steaming platters. Not bad we thought. Our meal was complimented with a basket of bread and two small bowls of tired salad; Robert also had a baked potato. Hal scampered away and returned with glasses and our wine and we did the tasting thing. Well, Robert immediately had his disapproving scowl in place. His steak, which must have shrunk, was curled up on the edges and he said quite tough and overdone. I was scoffing shrimp in a creamy sauce with angel hair pasta and loads of veggies. Robert finally tracked down Hal and asked for another steak, and we waited. I shared some of my dinner with Robert as the portion was generous and sipped the expensive wine, which was about to become more expensive. The replacement steak finally arrived and Robert seemed pleased until he sliced a bite and again the steak was returned; this time he did not want a replacement, but asked for the check. With all the noise of a circus surrounding us, he cancelled the dinner and asked for the bill. Only then did we discover that the town of Gatlinburg has a 25% tax on wine and drinks at restaurants. Friday’s takes all you credit cards, debit cards, and your cash, lots of it.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 16, 2004
TGI Fridays Restaurant
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738
Attraction | "Great Smoky Mountain National Park"
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is over 500,000 acres of forested rolling hills subdued by the smoky mists that hang on the summits and shroud the valleys. Sitting astride the Tennessee/North Carolina border, this 1934 gift to the people is the most visited park in the United States and well it should be.
We knew when we entered the park, slightly southeast of Gatlinburg on highway 441. At the border, life as Gatlinburg knows it stops, no sidewalks, no street lights, no shops, just us, the road and miles of green. Here you hike till you drop. We stopped at the Main Entrance and Headquarters, Sugarlands Visitor Center and were handed info packets at the door on trails, roads, and a history of the park. Inside we passed on a park film and theater to investigate behind the center. We found the first of more than 800 miles of trails, which includes 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The easy rambling Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail, for beginners and wheelchairs, lead to the sparkling Cararact Falls. On departure, we noticed the distinct sign with horse meaning we could rent horses in the park, with a guide. McCarter’s Riding Stable on Newfound Gap Rd. is one of 5 private stables available.
Around the bend we followed the Newfound Gap Road (highway 441) from northwest to southeast to eventually enter the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina. Getting there was all the fun. Leaving Sugarlands, we took the Gap road on a windy trek south through the dusky hills with a stop at Newfound Gap. Parked high in the sky, we gazed at the sky riddled with the misty slopes of the hills. Here a designated observation area with information on flora, fauna and the ancient formation of these worn mountains, gives access to the road to Clingman’s Dome, highest summit in the park (6,643ft.)
On the downside of the mountains, we followed the boulder-lined Oconalufee River spiraling south along the twisting highway 441 to the Oconalufee Visitor Center. Protective trees hung shade on the swirling water as it pounded its way over polished granite stones. We searched for a picnic haven and behind a cluster of saplings a small feeder stream bubbled through a meadow furnished with sun and a weathered table. After short visit in Cherokee, we pampered ourselves with a lazy foot soak in the cool river.
As part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the south Appalachain range, the Park nestles next to the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina and many years ago they beat us to naming the park. “Shaconage” is the name they gave the mist, which hangs over the hills. “Place of blue smoke.”
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 8, 2004
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Great Smoky Mountains National Park 37738
Attraction | "The Village Shopping District"
One step through the arched passage way and we were back in our favorite European village with 27 wonderful and unique shops for us to plunder. Cobblestone streets led to alcoves and tiny cluttered alleyways where art studios and Christmas shops lay in wait. There were clay pots at every door and terraced gardens sprouted masses of petunias and brilliant impatience. In the center square, wrought-iron tables clustered under shady trees beside red telephone booths and peaked gazebos. Salvaged church pews stood sentry at carved doors under heavy roof slates. Couch lights for street lamps lined the paths and hung from massive doorframes around ornate molding. Blazing hanging baskets hung from each façade. It felt like an old and different world.
Wrought-iron hooks held gilded business signs for shops like The Silver Tree(the place for the silver lover) and The Candle Cottage (where they sell every size, shape, and fragrance of candle you could need). We moved from the Jelly Jar to Garden Gate and then to the Hofbrauhaus, where we took respite in the second floor restaurant over the Cheese Cupboard below. Old World elegance oozes from these tidy shops. The Hayloft, a Gatlinburg tradition, offered up Western wear, while Verbena’s delved out pampering for the body, bath, and the home. After a stroll through the Thomas Kinkade Gallery and admiring the calligraphy in the Alice Moore Gallery, we had to admit we could not visit them all. Even my credit card would not hold out that long, but I just had to visit Cattitudes. Yes, it is all about cats -- they sell hundreds of items with a cat painted, sewn, or stamped on every one. But who can forget the signature shop, The Day Hiker, because this is where you find everything you need for that glorious hike through the Smoky Mountain National Park.
We took a rest in Fountain Square beneath bright umbrellas, I with a cool drink and Bob with a latte from Coffee and Company. It was so easy to believe we were some place we were not. Even the shoppers seemed to have slowed down and spoke in hushed tones. Was that another language I heard? We just people watched and they watched us I am sure. Just when we thought it would all is like this we followed Primrose Walk deep into the village and suddenly it became a modern parking lot just beyond the trees. Just like in the Great Smoky Mountain Nation Park or Disneyland the fantasy ends at the gate and here comes the modern world. The Village slogan is "Look for the Archway on the Parkway" and you can check out their website here.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 20, 2004
The Village Shops
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738
We loved this tiny piece of the Smokies experience, cruising slowly through drooping trees enveloped in a white mist. Our tunnel of trees wrapped itself around the climbing twisting road at the base of Mt. LeConte and lured us deeper and higher.
Small car parks popped out of the turns to invite us to investigate the restored cabins of the region’s first settlers or hike to view the tumbling 25 foot high Grotto Falls. Two room, original log cabins with one window and stone fireplaces told us how hard and sparse life with nine children could be. We took a small hike through the claustrophobic cabins and into the woods beyond and felt the isolation. In the Ephraim Bales cabin, Mr. Bales and his wife Minerva clothed, sheltered and fed nine children on a 70-acre mountainside.
Several other historic structures including the Alfred Reagan Place with a gristmill litter the roadside and are convenient for exploring. We found the colors of the Reagan homestead a little startling: lime green and yellow with a dash of lime sherbet.
Further, hovering hemlocks guarded our path as trailheads for Trillium Gap Trail and Bullhead Trail split off for the summit of Mt. LeConte.
Here we topped out and slowly dove into the Roaring Fork watershed as the air cooled and a bubbling stream rose to us follow down the trail. Ahead cars lined the narrow one-way trail and we investigated to discover “The Place of a Thousand Drips”, the birthplace of a new waterfall. A rising canyon wall hung heavy with moss and ferns while a dozen spiraling trickles of water wore away at the stone. As our path twirled down the mountainside a thunderous mountain stream kept us company. The lower we came down the mountain the faster and harder the stream ran. Slick boulders gave it a pathway and it splashed hurriedly to the next turn. The area was cooling, moist and quiet with only the sounds of tumbling water offering company.
Suddenly the exit was there and we were in Gatlinburg again but this time on highway 321 north of Gatlinburg headed for East Parkway.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 23, 2004
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738