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.