Travel Diary: Smoky Mountain Weekend

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Last weekend my husband and I had the pleasure of spending two nights in the Smoky Mountains, thanks to a Groupon I found in August. This was the perfect weekend getaway and had a great mix of different things to do as a couple, despite the area being very family-friendly. Here’s a recap of our stay, some travel tips, and a few downsides. If you’ve been to the area, let me know what you did. We are already looking forward to another trip to the Smoky’s!

Where We Stayed: 

Like I said, I found a Groupon for a two-night cabin rental at Elk Springs Resort. We selected “Above The Mist,” a one bedroom cabin with two decks and an outdoor hot tub.

The cabin was one of many on the property in Sevierville, TN which is close to both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but not on the Elk Springs Resort property. We had no trouble finding it using the GPS on our phone, but Elk Springs also provided directions via email.

Check-in couldn’t have been easier. We simply entered a code into the door and walked in to our gorgeous home for the weekend. Although it was very well equipped, here are a few tips if you stay here:

-The kitchen has plates, utensils, and basic cooking supplies. But as we were trying to make breakfast Saturday morning we realized we didn’t have any cooking spray or butter, and didn’t have any potholders to remove the cooking sheet from the oven. We improvised and cooked our eggs in bacon grease, which actually was delicious. 😉

-The towels and linens were not luxurious. I’m sort of a towel and linen snob, so I’d advise bringing your own towels. We also brought our own pillows.

Each cabin has an outdoor grill and you can park right in front. Check-out was just as simple as check-in. Although we had the Groupon for our stay ($250 for 2 nights) we were a little disappointed with the steep taxes and fees charged by the resort (almost $150)! In hindsight, we don’t feel as though we got a great deal using the Groupon as opposed to just booking straight through the Elk Springs website which offers lots of special offers and discounts.

What We Did: 

Laurel Falls Hike – this was a short (2.5 miles RT) hike within Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We arrived around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and already the parking area was full. The trail is paved, but it was heavily populated. The trail inclines as you make your way to the falls and had amazing views of the fall foliage. If you decide to hike here, arrive early and be prepared to hike with lots of others on the trail.

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Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster – what a fun experience! This rollercoaster lets you control your own speed. We went around 1 p.m. and only waited about 15 minutes to ride. However, the staff, especially the woman who sold the tickets, were not very friendly so be aware. We both went as fast as we could during our ride and it lasted about a minute and a half. Overall, a little pricey but fun to do. Not sure it would be on our return visit list of activities.

Boot Store – buy one pair and get TWO free is not a joke! We went to the Gatlinburg location and left with three pairs of boots for $400.

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The Island – this was a great place to visit. Tons of shopping, restaurants, and things to do. If you plan to visit, be sure to check out the website for coupons and discounts!

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Our Eats & Drinks: 

Crystelle Creek – a dog-friendly steakhouse! We brought our dog Jack and enjoyed our meal on the heated patio. There was live entertainment on Friday night plus sports on the various TV’s. I had an 8 oz filet and my husband loved the catfish. Be sure to try the garlic rolls and the homemade desserts!

Ole Smoky Moonshine – free moonshine tasting of over 10 flavors and walls upon walls of moonshine for purchase. If you go to Margaritaville or The Island’s website, you can find a coupon for 10% off your purchase. This was SO fun!

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Margaritaville – we only stopped in for a quick drink and thankfully, didn’t have to wait for a seat at the bar. Touristy, but a good way to pass the time while waiting for dinner or take a break from shopping.

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen – if you choose to eat here, CALL AHEAD and ARRIVE EARLY! At 5 p.m. on Saturday, there was already a 3+ hour wait. We finally sat down around 7:45 p.m. and there were still over 130 parties on the waiting list. They do not take reservations. If you’re planning to hang out on The Island, make Paula Deen’s your first stop to put your name on the list, then explore The Island while you wait. The food was delicious and we were happy we waited. However, service is FAST. We were given our check at 8:22 p.m., not even 45 minutes after we sat down! Everything is served family style and no take-out is allowed. Price was very reasonable considering how good the food was.

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