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First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

Mundelein, Illinois
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First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

This is our first trip to KY/TN/NC. We’re leaving May 17, so first weekend will include Memorial Day. Our main goal was the Smokies. After reading travel books, we’re now interested in also exploring NC side. Here’s our specs: We want to avoid tourist traps, theme parks, so will bypass Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Cherokee, Maggie Valley (Apologies to all who enjoy them. We’re just finally without kids!) We’re not campers or hikers, love scenery, driving and then stretching legs for the view. We’re driving a Grand Am with low “curb catcher”. At the end of the day, we like a place where we can have a couple beers/wine. Expect to pay around $100 for room. So, here’s our tentative 2-3 week itinerary from Chicago:

1. Leave Sunday, overnight in Louisville KY

2. Monday: I65 to Bowling Green or Nashville. Bardstown & distilleries. Overnight in Bowling Green or Nashville depending on exploring

3. Tuesday: I40 to Crossville, exploring on way. Fall Creek Falls if we have time. Overnight in Crossville (Crossville is only must-do stop.)

4. Wednesday: In town until later afternoon. (If we don’t leave until 5:00, is it reasonable to drive to Maryville/Alcoa to get close to GSMSP? What about Knoxville? Or should we stay overnight to see Fall Creek Falls if we haven’t yet?)

4a. Overnight in Crossville, Knoxville, or Maryville/Alcoa

5. Thursday: explore wherever we are, ending up in Townsend area. Overnight in Maryville/Alcoa or Townsend

6. Explore GSMSP: Cades Cove, etc.

7. Friday: Drive Foothills Pkwy to Fontana Lake area, then ending around Bryson City/Sylva (Is this too ambitious? Should we instead stay in Fontana and explore down to Robbinsville? We don’t want to be driving all day.)

7a. Overnight in Bryson City/Sylva (Note this is now Memorial day weekend! We don’t want to be caught in M-Day traffic, what can we expect? Would Cherokee be reasonable option if can’t find lodging around Sylva? Should we consider opposite direction: Robbinsville, although Rt 129 is “Tail of the dragon/motorcycle heaven”) Really need some help!

8. Saturday: Hard decision! All the scenic byways look great – falls, rivers, etc, but I have no idea how much time to allow or where to stay. Should we head to Asheville and use it as 2-3 day basecamp? Stay in Highlands and explore 64? One book says 64 is not maintained/bad road though scenic. Rt 74/19, 1310, Brevard, Cashiers, Blue Ridge Pkwy? Help!

9. Sunday & Monday: Asheville (Figure would be good place to enjoy holiday weekend without worrying driving. Being from Chicago, we’ve learned to avoid road on holidays – crowds and drinking. Is it the same in NC?)

10. Tuesday: Starting return trip. Figure we’ll take 40 to Knoxville… or should we skip K-ville and head up to Cumberland Gap on 25E? Overnight in Knoxville or around Cumberland Gap/Pine Mtn

11. Wednesday: Head for Cumberland Falls. Overnight around Cumberland Falls. Williamsburg/Corbin/London?

12. Thursday: Up to Lexington. Explore Bourbon trail, horse country, maybe Red River Gorge, Natural Bridges

13. Thursday & Friday: Lexington

14. One more night in Louisville or Indianapolis

15. Home

THANKS FOR ALL SUGGESTIONS! ps: I'm also posting this in KY & NC forums.

Boston...
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1. Re: First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

Here's my #1 comment: For your main goal being the Smokies, I find it somewhat surprising that you're only spending one or two days there out of more than two weeks. Of the places on your itinerary I've only been to Nashville, Fall Creek Falls (one quick visit), and the Smokies region, so I can't offer a whole lot of perspective on the first and last segments of your trip. However, you might agree that if you're driving all the way down here to visit the Smokies you may want to spend more time in the Smokies.

Falls Creek Falls is an hour away from Crossville, pretty far off your route. If you really want to see it, then it would make sense to overnight there then cross over into North Carolina via the Cherohala Skyway, or really rearrange your itinerary and stop in Chattanooga.

I'm not going to go any further into details, since my real suggestion would require are large rearrangement of the itinerary.

Kristian

Heart of it all
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2. Re: First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

I would also recommend the Biltmore, if you are going to Ashville. We also enjoyed the Great Smokey Mountain Rail trip, which took 1/2 a day. We love going to Gatlinburg, too. We stay in condos looking down over the town. It's the best of both worlds, quiet and peaceful, yet you can see it. Have a fun trip!

Cincinnati, Ohio
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3. Re: First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

I envy you being able to take a few weeks away alone. We are getting there, but not quite yet.

I can help you some with the Crossville to Townsend, Cades Cove and on to Fontana sections of your trip. You mentioned 2-3 weeks, so where is the third week?  That would allow you lots of extra time to explore the Smokies. Not that I’m biased. 

Google Maps says it is one hour and 20 minutes to Maryville from Crossville, so I would say yes definitely doable, even leaving around 5 or later. Going to Townsend isn’t much further, the surroundings are beautiful, and it would put you that much closer to Cades Cove. The Cove will definitely give you the beautiful scenery you are looking for. Make sure to get out and explore the cabins and churches, as well as the Visitor Center. There is so much to see here, so really take your time. Start exploring early as the Cove can get quite crowded.

The trip from Townsend to Fontana is also very doable. Leaving Townsend you will pick up the Foothills Parkway and take it to 129. There will be beautiful scenery along the way, so take your time and enjoy! At the end, turning left on 129 will take you over the Tail of the Dragon, before you reach Fontana. It is unavoidable on your way to Fontana using this route. I checked the website for the Tail and as of now there are no organized rally’s over Memorial Weekend that I can see. I find that hard to believe, but maybe, because it is a holiday weekend, the riders know there will be extra tourists in the way, so the riders stay clear?

http://www.tailofthedragon.com/calendar.html

This is pretty much where my advice comes to an end. I have not been to Sylvia or Robinsonville, and Bryson was so long ago, I really do not remember much.

Just looking at the pictures of Sylvia, it looks a little more picturesque than Cherokee. I’m going to have to think about exploring it myself.

I have been up on the Blue Ridge Parkway only once, and that time we stayed in Maggie Valley. The Valley is a cute little place and I wouldn’t think over touristy for what you are looking for. We visited sliding rock in the Pisgah National Forest briefly on that trip too. If you want info on where we stayed on that trip just let me know.

Well, hope I helped you some. You might post over on the North Carolina forums too. There are some great people on that forum that can help you.

Have fun and let me know if you have any more questions about the Tennessee part of your trip!

Mundelein, Illinois
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4. Re: First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

Today's been "one of those days" so this is just a shout-out to the first 3 TA's. Our schedule is flexible (except for Crossville), so we're open to suggestions. Think we'll leave Chatanooga for another trip though. I'll have to check out the GS train. Another reviewer said it was quite fun. Could be good option if it's rainy. G'burg seems to leave no one in the middle - either people love/hate it. (Hmm, maybe another rainy day option?) I'll keep an open mind. Haven't mentioned Biltmore to my S.O. yet, but I do owe a trip to Europe. Wonder if this would buy me time LOL! Later, my friends.

Boston...
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5. Re: First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

"Think we'll leave Chatanooga for another trip though." Totally, that makes the most sense for this kind of trip. Do leave it for another trip, though! :)

Actually, it's my feeling that a good number of people are so-so about Gatlinburg. They may be okay with the touristy stuff but aren't as cool with the crowds and traffic, or just don't see that there's a lot for them to do there. But really, if you're not into touristy stuff, Gatlinburg really won't be you're thing. For a rainy day, maybe...

Germantown...
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6. Re: First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

Gatlinburg is a wonderful town.I would not come all the way down and not go to it,Some posters on here,Dont like Gatlinburg and will go great lenths to keep people away.

It has alot of CHARM,If you get a chance please at least give it a try.Its not as bad as others seem to think.Actully the ones that talk bad about Gatlinburg have even saif they have NEVER been there only passing thru.SO how in the world can you even make a judgement and tell otheres to stay away,When in fact they havent been.

Gatlinburg is alot of fun.And have alot of neat shops and great Restaurants there Like The Pancake Pantry.ETC..

Bay City, Michigan
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7. Re: First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

I'd stay in Corbin, at the Cumberland Falls lodge that is located right in the park. You can walk to the falls from it. It is a historical lodge and has beautiful scenery all around it, lot of activities to choose from. We stayed here a few times over the years and really enjoyed it.

Boston...
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8. Re: First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

I don't think anyone can deny that (a) a large percentage of people do not like Gatlinburg for their own various reasons and (b) it is very touristy and commercialized. The poster stated that she doesn't want to visit touristy areas, and seems to be going to great lengths to avoid that. On that basis I think it is fair to point her away from Gatlinburg, especially since she explicitly stated in her original post: "We want to avoid tourist traps, theme parks, so will bypass Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg..."

This is an example of a positive post being less helpful than a negative one.

9. Re: First trip to KY/TN/NC: Itinerary help??

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