It started out innocent enough—my husband Nick and I were in need of a mini break from our sweltering apartment in Asheville, North Carolina. Gatlinburg,Tennessee sounded like the perfect destination for a night away. It turns out, the town offered us even more fun than we expected!
We checked into one of the many simple, yet comfortable hotels just at the edge of the strip and perused a map of the downtown. We picked out a few goal activities and set out walking. Nestled in the verdant folds of the Smokies, the town was picturesque, especially since the local architecture all leaned towards quaint Swiss chalet/Alpine wonderland.
We wandered through shops that offered kitsch and trinkets, glittering jewelry and purses, and of course plenty of rustic Appalachia inspired hunting and outdoorsman accessories. We sampled thimbles-full of moonshine at the Ole Smokey distillery and frankly felt a little giddy! That’s some strong stuff!
All of this was leading up to the real star of the day, the Gatlinburg Space Needle. Now, Nick is not one to venture to high places willingly, so it took the moonshine, some fresh peanut butter fudge and some wifely pleading to coerce him onto the elevator. The observation deck reaches over 400 feet high and offers up stunning 360 degree views of the city and mountains beyond. Nick inched tentatively to the edge for a photo with me, and then scurried back to the center where the subtle swaying from the breeze was less terrifying.
The adventure up the tower was enough for us to work up an appetite, so we splurged on a BBQ dinner at Corky’s, with plenty of red wine to accompany. The bartender was friendly and helpful, suggesting scenic drives for the next day and fun nightlife for the evening. We ended up strolling back down the strip, reveling in the people watching, live music and general bustle of the town. Ice cream from the Mayfield Dairy Bar was the perfect treat for the end of night as we meandered home, but wait–our fun wasn’t over yet!
The next morning we took a drive up into the tangle of narrow mountain roads that surround the city at the advice of one of the locals we came across. The crown jewel of the hills was Chalet Village, just off Ski Mountain Road. Even at their lofty height, Nick was enchanted by the amazing view and the rustic elegance of the property. Without a doubt, next time we return to Gatlinburg, we will be staying up in the hills!
Noella Schink is a travel writer from Portland, Maine, but she loved her year living in the mountains of Appalachia. She lives to travel, even if it’s only a night away to east Tennessee! Her favorite trips so far have been studying abroad in Auckland, New Zealand and touring several countries in a car rental in Europe. She hopes her blogs will inspire everyone to take some time off and see the world!