Disclaimer – If you are reading this report with the hope of finding recommendations on several different restaurants, you will be thoroughly disappointed. Food wise, we are creatures of habit that tend to gravitate back to the same places everyday. That being said, hope you enjoy! :)
My family and I (which consists of an eight month pregnant woman – me, a laid back, up for anything 33 year old man – my hubby, a moody 13 year old boy – my brother, and an extremely opinionated 72 year old man, – my Dad) arrived around 2:00pm Wednesday afternoon and checked into our rooms at Marshall’s Creek Rest. We have stayed here every year for as long as I can remember. The rooms are clean, the operators are friendly and the price is reasonable. My Dad has actually been staying here since the ‘50’s and the same family still operates it. After unpacking, the bro, hubby and myself went for a short swim while Dad relaxed by Baskins Creek. Just a bit of advice for any other pregnant chickadees out there who decide that riding in a car for 5 hours is a good idea - swimming is a GREAT way to lessen swelling. After the swim, we changed and went to the Great American Buffet for dinner. I know that most reviewers will advise to avoid this place like the plague, but we actually enjoy it. The food is not spectacular, but is just regular ole buffet food. I think that some of the people who have been less than pleased with this place may have set their expectations just a tad too high. After dinner, we went to the Lidl’ Dolly’s outlet to look for a new quilt and a dress for our expected little girl. We found the dress with ease, but passed on a quilt as they seemed to be poor quality (think Wal-Mart bed-in-bag quilt). After shopping, we caught a show at Country Tonite. Although this is a really good show, I think $25 a piece is just a bit expensive. Nevertheless, the performers in the show work their tails off and it is obvious that they are really trying to make sure that every person in the audience has a good time. After the show we headed back to room to get ready for an early start the next morning.
Day Two –
We pulled out of the motel at around 8:00 and headed to the Smoky Mountain Pancake House for breakfast (I’m not sure why, but we have always called this place The Three Bears Pancake House – maybe because there are 3 bears on their sign). I had the sugar and spice pancakes, lil’ bro had the buttermilk pancakes, hubby went with the sausage, eggs and biscuits and gravy while Dad had the pancakes and eggs. Everyone enjoyed, but just a bit of advice born of experience from years past – do not order any of the fruit pancakes – strawberry, blueberry, etc. unless you can handle an extreme sugar high first thing the morning. To me, these choices are sickeningly sweet and would be better enjoyed as a dessert in the evening instead of the first thing to hit the stomach in the morning. After breakfast, we headed to Dollywood for the day and we were shocked that the price had gone up to $50 a person. WHOA! It’s true that you receive a whole day’s worth of entertainment at this place, but unless you are willing and able to indulge in ALL the parks has to offer (meaning the rides, shows, craft demonstrations, etc); I do not think it is worth it. For example, Dad and I were not able to ride any of the rides. Instead, we sat and enjoyed a couple of shows (Country Crossroads and The Kinfolks show) and the beautiful landscaping. Unfortunately, Naomi and the Wood Brothers had the day off. Since we do not have any small children (yet) the Veggie Tales, the magician, etc. did not interest us. The food in Dollywood is typical amusement park fare (with typical amusement park prices). We indulged in corn dogs and fries and funnel cakes. All three were good. At about three we left the park and went back to the room for awhile. Dad napped and the rest of us went swimming. What is it about swimming in a motel pool that makes it official that you are on vacation?? After changing we tried to go to dinner at the Old Mill, but they had an hour wait for a table. If there had been anywhere to sit, this would not have been that big of a problem, but I guess they do not provide benches in hopes that patrons will instead kill time spending money in one of the shops. So, we left the Old Mill and instead had dinner at Applewood. This is by far the best place we have found to have dinner, which brings up one of our few complaints about the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area. While you cannot throw a rock without hitting a pancake house, there seems to be a shortage of places that serve good country cooking for supper. Anyway, I had the chicken and dumplings, Dad had the catfish, hubby had the chicken breasts and little bro had the sirloin steak. With the exception of the steak being a little burnt, (we sent it back and he got chicken tenders instead. The waitress was great about it and took the steak off the ticket), all the food was excellent. After dinner, we were hoping to go through Roaring Fork, but it was already around 8:00pm and we figured it would be a little late. So, instead, we went walking through Gatlinburg. I never thought I would say this, but this is the part of a trip to the Smokies that I think I could do without. All of these shops sell pretty much the same thing and the crowds on the sidewalk are maddening. What was pretty neat though is the Tunes and Tales thing they are doing. As you walk the streets of Gatlinburg, there are little groups of three of four people playing music and telling stories. Since the music of the area is one of my favorite parts, watching these people perform was one of the highlights of the trip. On the way back to the motel we stopped by Aunt Mahalia’s for some peanut butter fudge. Just my opinion, but the fudge tasted like what I could get at the supermarket back home. If you really enjoy a good piece of fudge like I do, go to the Ole Smokey Candy Kitchen instead.
Day Three –
We had breakfast again at the Smoky Mountain Pancake House. Just to clear up a little confusion, there are actually two restaurants called the Smoky Mountain Pancake House. The one that we enjoy is a stand alone building with a red roof while the other sits in the middle of the Rodeway Motel. After breakfast, we headed over the mountain into Cherokee. We stopped at several of the pull-offs, had our annual picture taken by the Tennessee/ North Carolina state line sign and then went to the Mountain Farm Museum. This is always neat since Dad always falls into a trance of nostalgia and explains to us how all the equipment on the farm was used, why some things were they were, etc. If Dad ever decides to retire, I think he should come to work at this place as a tour guide! We then drove on into Cherokee, but this is the first time we just drove through and then turned around. We just didn’t feel like perusing yet another hundred gift shops. We headed back over the mountain to the motel for another swim. Then it was off for another excellent dinner at Applewood. After dinner, we went to see the Tennessee Shindig show. While this show was more reasonably priced, it was not as entertaining as Country Tonite. I can’t really explain why since both shows had all the same elements, but Country Tonite seemed to flow along seamlessly, while Tennessee Shindig seemed to try to cram in as much stuff as possible. Sometimes, less is more. Nevertheless, we still had a good time. However, I would like to gripe a little. At both shows, we were not allowed into the theater to find our seats until we were forced to group together for a cheesy group picture. If these places want to offer the cheesy group picture service, that is just fine, but at least give me the option to bypass it if I want.
Day Four –
Another breakfast at Smoky Mountain Pancake House. We were experiencing a little car trouble (my bro spilled some water in the back, which somehow caused the fuse to the power seats and windows to blow. I think technology is a wonderful thing, but it is awful to have your memory seats stuck as far back as they can go – hubby had to drive to the dealership since I could not even reach the peddles). However, hubby was able to quickly change the fuse and then we headed off for Cades Cove. I must have been around this loop at least 50 times in my life, but I am still awestruck by the beauty of it. We saw some wild turkey and deer, but no bears. We stopped to check out a few of the churches, cabins and the gristmill, but we were more interested in just absorbing the beauty of nature. However, my beauty absorption was interrupted by some of my fellow motorists. Now, maybe I am wrong to do this, but when we enter the cove, I shift down into 2nd or sometimes even 1st so that we can just chug along and enjoy the scenery. Apparently, some motorists would rather treat the loop like the Indy 500 and see how quickly they can make it around (same goes for the road over the mountain). I pulled over into the pull offs whenever I noticed a string of traffic behind me, but that did not stop some drivers from showing us their hostility. Now, I have to ask. Why in the world even spend time on these drives if you are not going to take it slow and enjoy? After exiting the cove, we headed back to motel for another nap and swim then out for another dinner at Applewood. After dinner, we went to a show at the Smoky Mountain Jubilee. This show has always been my family’s favorite. This show is not as flashy as the other two, but instead puts a real focus on the music. This show is more like an old time country music show than any of the others we have visited. After the show, we headed back to Gatlinburg and out on the strip one last time.
The next morning we had one last breakfast at the Smoky Mountain Pancake House, then hit the interstate. It was another lovely trip to our favorite destination and we are already talking about when we will be able to return!