Many resort areas are season-specific and while most do offer off-season activities, the main season is typically a narrowly defined window of three to four months. However, this is not the case in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where a wide variety of family-friendly entertainment and adventure can be found year-round.
Gatlinburg is a pleasant and scenic four-hour drive from the metro area. The route winds through the foothills of northeast Georgia, the mountains of North Carolina and the amazingly beautiful-during-any-season Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Nestled in a valley and surrounded by the Great Smokies, Gatlinburg is truly a unique destination for winter, spring, summer or fall travel. Throughout the year there are any number of scheduled festivals, performances, exhibits and outdoor adventures that are certain to be of interest to almost anyone. And, the natural beauty that surrounds the town is an ever-changing canvas of colors and textures. Whether from the vibrant green hues of spring, the blazing crimsons, oranges and reds of autumn or the stark contrast of evergreens against a backdrop of freshly fallen snow, the valley and mountains are a constant visual delight.
Obergatlinburg Ski Resort and Amusement Park, likely the most well known of Gatlinburg’s attractions, was recently ranked by AOL Travel as one of the top 10 ski destinations in America. Accessible from the center of downtown via an aerial tram that provides incredible views, or by vehicle via Ski Mountain Road, Obergatlinburg offers skiing and tubing in the winter months; and in spring, summer and fall, the resort offers water slides and other warm weather activities. Indoor ice skating, dining, arcade games and carousel rides are offered year-round in the resort’s clubhouse that overlooks the town.
The pedestrian-friendly downtown boasts an array of amusement and entertainment venues that are also open year-round. Most are within walking distance of several centrally located parking lots and the mass transit center. Visitors can choose from the Aquarium of the Smokies, golfing options, comedy and vaudeville shows, 3-D theater and rides, haunted experiences, museums and arcades. There are also many fine, casual and fast food dining options to fit any budget.
Accommodation options are just as varied as the entertainment and adventure options, and range from campsites and cabins to in-town lodges overlooking the river that flows parallel to the strip. I highly recommend renting one of the many chalets that dot the landscape of Ski Mountain.
Mountain Laurel Chalet Rentals lists more than 150 privately owned cabins and chalets with exceptional valley and mountain views.
Some properties are literally built onto the side of the mountain and tower four to five levels above their foundations. Easily accessible from the national park, Obergatlinburg or downtown, the cabins provide guests with privacy and allow families or groups to enjoy dining and relaxing together. Even with accumulated snow and frigid temperatures, our group enjoyed watching the sunrise and sipping coffee on the deck of our chalet, and when evening came, relaxing in the hot tub with a view of the city below was a special treat.
Those planning a visit to Gatlinburg are strongly advised to visit www.gatlinburg.com, www.obergatlinburg.com and www.mtnlaurelchalets.com to make arrangements and to plan an itinerary that includes the must-see and do options on everyone’s list. There’s so much to see and do in and around Gatlinburg that valuable time may be wasted if there is not a plan in place upon arrival.