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Trip Report 6/15-6/18

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Trip Report 6/15-6/18

Prior to our trip to Gatlinburg, I got more involved with Trip Advisor and got some information on here. We were in Gatlinburg for two full days and wanted to give a report on various parts of our trip. Hope this helps others who are planning a future trip:


The weather was not as hot and muggy as I thought it would be. While it was warm, being a little higher up than Indy (where I live), might have helped with the humidity. Then again, maybe it was just a little cooler than normal.


We stayed at the Econo Lodge Inn and Suites. This was located just off the parkway at stop light #7. The only problem, there is no more stop light #7! As such, we were lost when we arrived Friday night. Luckly we found it shortly there after. If you stay at this place, drive to traffic light #8 which has a left turn arrow. After turning, go down a few blocks to just past the Subway resturant and turn left. Go one block to the next street and turn left again. The hotel will be on your right.

This hotel was actually two buildings. The hotel was clean and the rooms were nice for the price. The pool was also clean and not too cold. The main building is what you see in all the photos, the second building is in the back. Parking was plentyful and easy, they give you a parking pass so they must control their lot. Patio rooms are nothing great. The view is that of the back of the main building. You cannot really see the strip from the second, larger building. You do have awsome views of the mountains and space needle which is really neat. The breakfest is two cereals (one being Fruit Loops), donuts, coffee, milk, bread, and fake orange juice (likely a concentrated mix). The location is perfect for hitting the main drag of the strip. For the money, I would suggest staying at this hotel.


Shoney's--We ate at Shoney's both days. Shoney's breakfest bar is the best value in my opinion. While I wanted to try the Pancake Pantry, they seemed to be your typical resturant. If you want eggs, bacon, etc., it all cost extra. Shoney's had decent food both days. I think the breakfest bar is only around $7.00 which I think is a good deal, especially for folks who like to eat a lot.

Best Italian--I love pizza. I really love gourmet pizza. I was really looking forward to an awsome pizza at Best Italian, but was really disappointed. The pizza at Best Italian was ok. It was nothing fancy at all. If you want pizza, continue reading below for a great place. Best Italian is not for pizza in my opinion. Now my wife had their lasagna and loved it. She said it was some of the best she ever had. The view from their outdoor seating area was AWSOME. A creek view, good weather, and an umbrella for shade. I honestly think it is the best outside/patio eating I have ever had. The only downside outside the just OK pizza was the price. I honestly felt the prices were too high. For a pizza place, the price WAS too high. There are other pizza places that offer much better prices. Luckly our waitress was able to offer us a smaller pizza that was not on the menu, which helped knock off a few dollars. I can tell you that if we got back to Gatlinburg, I will not be eating a full meal at this place, it is just too costly in my opinion. As far as their garlic rolls, they were really great.

Ogles Brick Oven Pizza--This place is located off the main drag. They are just down the street (can't think of street or direction) of Winery Square. Their resturant is very neat looking. We got a booth, but they have a sunroom area with small tables for seatings for couples. While it just over looked the street, the view wasn't too bad in my opinion. This place offers free breadsticks which are nothing more than just bread. The dipping sauce is very tasty. Their pizza is also very good. Not only that, price wise they are a very good deal. The breadsticks are actually free. Ogles offers a much better pizza product for a much better price than Best Italian. It is worth the drive to eat at Ogles.

Damon's Grill--We eat at an Indy area Damon's every week. It is the only place with great burgers on our side of town. We have never had a bad meal at our Damon's. Please note that the Gatlinburg Damon's is different. For starters, they offer ground sirloin burgers. I don't know what beef our local Damon's uses. Also, the bread served in Gatlinburg is black, similar to Outback. While it was a good bread, it sucked when compared to the nice butter rolls our Damon's serves as a bread product. The service at this resturant was also very good. The only downside was the cook. The cook was either in a hurry or scared to overcook the meals. My well done hamburger had a hint of pink in it. Sorry, but when I say well done, I say that knowing it might get a bit burnt. My wife's medium-well was more rare-medium and had to get sent back. The lady behind us also sent her meal back to be re-heated as well. The cook needs to be re-trained or fired.

La Carreta Mexican--I don't eat Mexican food, only my wife does. We went there and their prices were fair. She got some Mexican dish and said it was very good. I did notice that they seemed to offer _nothing_ in terms of just say a hamburger or chicken strips. Most Mexican places up here have a small American selection for picky folks like me. From what I could tell, they did not list this on thier menu.

Ice Cream--We tried a little ice cream place located in The Village Shopping Mall. That was a mistake. My hot fudge sundae was good, but very small in size. My wife's smoothie was decent size and she said it was good. My guess is you can find cheaper ice cream at some of the other stores. I would skip this place.

Over all, all places we ate at were clean. We were seated quickly, but since we were eating later than normal, that might have played a part. All service was fast and friendly. The only downsides were the worthless cook at Damon's and the sky high price of Best Italian and the ice cream place.

Things to do:

National Park: By far the best because it is FREE!! We drove to Cades Cove the first day. I was not really impressed. It was an ok thing to do and we got our stamp for our Passport books. What was more cool was the drive back. We saw people pulled off and we actually got to see a bear on a steep incline just off the road. The second day we decided to hike to Laurel Falls. I highly recommend this hike. It is just over 2 miles on a paved, not-to-steep incline trail. The one thing I would suggest is taking a can of bear pepper spray. I forgot mine at home. I actually purchased it for a later trip out west only to find I won't be able to bring it with me even on checked backage. It is considered a HAZMAT item and not allowed on planes. In fact, I would pack and carry at least two cans of this stuff.

Smoky Mountain Gold and Ruby Mine--This place is located on the southside of the park in Cherokee, NC. We did this as kids a very long time ago. Even though I am in my 20s, I really liked this place. There are $1 off coupons for a "bag of ore" all over Gatliburg in certain tourist books. I think I paid $17 for a bag of dirt to pan for gold. I found a little bit of gold and I guess it is real. It was a really fun time and I think kids would love it. Instead of going to the casino just down the road, you can actually buy a 5 gallon bucket of dirt for $100 if you are willing and have the time. An ounce of gold is going for $654 at this time. You might get lucky!!

Hillbilly Golf--A really cool miniture golf course in town. It does cost $9 for an adult.

That was our trip. I really like Gatlinburg and the surrounding area. For a 6-7 hour drive, it is not too bad of a place to go and visit.

Asheboro, N.C.
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1. Re: Trip Report 6/15-6/18

Thanks for the trip report. We really love Hill Billy Golf.

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2. Re: Trip Report 6/15-6/18

Thanks for the post. It's kinda nice (maybe not the right word) to find someone who was not impressed with Best Italian's pizza. We, too, loved the patio dining, although we had a terrible waitress. She came back maybe once to our table after we had our food. We could have walked away without paying & I'm not sure she ever would have known it. Like you, the pizza was"ok". That was 2 years ago & we haven't been back.

We love Hillbilly Golf! We go there everytime we're in town! Thanks again for the report; I love to read them!

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3. Re: Trip Report 6/15-6/18

Thanks for the trip report. I always love reading them! It was nice to have reviews of several different restaurants. It's always good to get another person's view. I actually haven't ever eaten at The Best Italian. For a couple of years I thought that we had, but, in fact, we had eaten at The Gondolier Italian Restaurant in the same shopping center as Food City out 321. That place is really great and not too steeply priced. I do plan to try The Best Italian sometime soon. The outdoor eating sounds fabulous.


Thibodaux, LA
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4. Re: Trip Report 6/15-6/18

thanks for sharing your experiences. i am leaving SATURDAY WOO HOO and am taking in as much as i can. i am surprised you weren't too pleased with cades cove though....it's usually the highlight of everyone's trip and i know i personally love it there. but i guess to each his own. i want to try out the gold mine thing. my godchild will be with us and he's two, and i think he will LOVE that!

thanks again for sharing!!

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5. Re: Trip Report 6/15-6/18

Thanks for the review. Surprised by the lukewarm review of Best Italian. We were there a few months ago, and will definitely be going again on our return this week. Our entire crew loved the place. A large pizza easily fed 5 of us, and my wife loved her salad. The garlic rolls were amazing, and it was the least expensive restaurant outing for our group of 6.

Our experience with the Pancake Pantry was anything but typical. I'm just glad they don't have one in my hometown, because I would be in there every weekend. I agree that Shoney's is a good value for breakfast, but I can eat there anytime. When in Gatlinburg, I like to hit the local places that I can't get here.

Chillicothe, Ohio
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6. Re: Trip Report 6/15-6/18

good report. some different places not too many others seem to give reviews on. what did you pay for the hotel?

just a side note: as a biologist, i really dont reccommend the use of bear spray in these situations. You're not going to be encountering grizzly bears in the smokies, which is what bear spray was developed for. OC spray has been proven in many situations to affect black bears differently (read- it's not as effective)than it does brown (aka grizzly) bears. (there are soem newer sprays that claim to be usable on black bears, but i haven't heard much about their effectivness). not to mention, in cases like this, there are many people on the popular trails, and what would happen if spray got into someone elses eyes? or your own eyes? wind direction plays a major factor, and you're not always going to be upwind. OC spray would cripple a person and make them vulnerable to attack if there is an aggressive bear around. It's best to use the advice given by park rangers. the oc spray is good if you're back country camping out west and no-where near other people and you're familiar with bear behavior. but on a hike like this, it's not needed.

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7. Re: Trip Report 6/15-6/18

"Thanks for the post. It's kinda nice (maybe not the right word) to find someone who was not impressed with Best Italian's pizza. We, too, loved the patio dining, although we had a terrible waitress."

Our waitress was awsome. Of course we ate a very late lunch on both days 1:30-2:00, so no place was really busy.

"we had eaten at The Gondolier Italian Restaurant in the same shopping center as Food City out 321."

I was really shocked they had a Gondolier. I did not realize this till _after_ our trip. Back in the mid-90s we took a trip to Clearwater Beach Florida over spring break. Right across the street was Gondolier Pizza. I recall their match books back then only showing three or four locations in Florida, Georgia, and maybe SC. Sure enough, this is the same place. I went to their website and it looks like they have branched out over the last 10 years. Strange how time goes by and stuff. Next time we hit Gatlinburg, we are hitting Gondolier and Ogles for sure!

"Surprised by the lukewarm review of Best Italian. We were there a few months ago, and will definitely be going again on our return this week. Our entire crew loved the place. A large pizza easily fed 5 of us, and my wife loved her salad. The garlic rolls were amazing, and it was the least expensive restaurant outing for our group of 6."

I dunno. It was _very_ costly compared to other places. I expect tourist towns to be somewhat on the high side, but this place just had flat out high prices. The pizza was nothing to brag about. Being in Indy, we have a few high end pizza places, so maybe we are spoiled. Given my wife's review of their italian dishes outside pizza, sounds like a great place for an italian dish.

"I agree that Shoney's is a good value for breakfast, but I can eat there anytime."

The Indy area Shoney's all closed up shop years ago. It was by far the best breakfest bar in the city. I think more people liked platter breakfest like Cracker Barrel, Denny's, and Bob Evans. We currently have two breakfest places here: American Buffet and Golden Coral. I have not tried either so I can't comment. To me, Shoney's is a local place!!

"what did you pay for the hotel?"

It was less than $100/night. I think the first night was $80 something followed by $90 something on the weekend. As far as the OC, I honestly don't think it will affect bears that differently. Since I can't be trusted with a gun in the park, I do advise everyone to carry a can. I always think it is better to have bear spray than to need it and not have it. There are always the two legged humans that sometimes attack for various reasons. I actually thought about wind and such while I was hiking (having worked in law enforcement, I am much more aware than most folks) and noticed that on our hike, the trees were thick enough and the wind was still enough that wind would not be a factor. It is just one of those things I would rather have than be without. The chances are I would never need it, but it still is nice to have something available. Hell, you could even keep it in your hotel room/tent/rv for protection from thugs.

Barnesville, Georgia
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8. Re: Trip Report 6/15-6/18

I also carry spray hiking. It is more for my own comfort as I understand it may not be totally effective.

I agree that it could be useful against the really dangerous predator in the forest or in the hotel room-other humans. And I would use it if need be.

But my guess is you would be open to lawsuits if you use bear or dog spray on a human, even in self defense. I ride bicycles a lot and I think I remember some warning on the dog spray can that it is not for use on humans.

But then that is our skewed society today.

9. Re: Trip Report 6/15-6/18

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