My family & I recently returned from Gatlinburg & loved it! We arrived on Monday after driving in from Middle TN & checked into the Fairfield Inn on River Road. While not the absolute best, nicest, or most updated motel, it was sufficient for sleeping & was very well located for all that we wanted to do & where we wanted to eat. After checking in, we went to the Aquarium which was pretty cool. I've been to several across the country, and this one rated right up there with the best of them. We went after 5pm as we had found some $3 discount coupons for after 5. That evening we ate at Best Italin Pizza & Cafe. YUM! Their garlic rolls are excellent as was our pizza. The next morning we ate at Log Cabin Pancake House which was excellent as well. We decided to do the tram to Ober Gatlinburg that day which provides a fantastic way to see the surrounding area, and while up there, my sister & I did the scenic chair lift which was fun. That afternoon we walked around Gatlinburg on the Parkway. It was hot! We were hoping to get a break from the heat, but no such luck during this mountain experience. After our "tour" of the Parkway, we decided to get in the air conditioned car and head up into the Nat'l Park on Newfound Gap Road. So beautiful! We went to Clingman's Dome which was slightly cooler but cloudy. In fact, we saw rain clouds roll through the valley & up to the parking lot which was pretty neat. We did not make the hike to the top of Clingman's Dome however. My sister & I went part way up & decided to turn back because it started raining & we were not prepared for that. That evening we tried out Bennett's BBQ. It was good. The BBQ sauce was a little different but it was fine. Wednesday we went Whitewater Rafting with Smoky Mountain Outdoors. Awesome experience & HIGHLY recommend the company! Our guide was an expert & was the lead guide/raft for our trip. After rafting, we stopped at Carver's Applehouse for lunch. Wow!! I love apples & this place was excellent!! Came home with some apple butter. Later that afternoon we went to Pigeon Forge to The Christmas Place which is a great store if you love all things Christmas! For dinner that night, we went to Smoky Mountain Brewery which was really good. Thursday we decided to head back up into the National Park but this time to Cades Cove. Again, excellent. Before we left Gatlinburg, we stopped at KFC and picked up our lunch for a picnic. We did the auto tour & almost saw a mama bear & 2 cubs and had our picnic there in Cades Cove which was very enjoyable. We then drove to Metcalf Bottoms & went wading in the stream. Ahhh!!! Nice & refreshing! We stopped at a couple of falls along the way & ended up at Laurel Falls. The hike was hot and stuffy (late afternoon) with no breeze. We were minutes behind 2 bear sightings. When we finally made it back into the falls, they were beautiful! It definitely felt better back in there & we were splashing water on our faces to cool off. We then proceeded back down the trail where we were once again minutes behind a bear sighting or 2. Heard one rustling in the vegetation on the cliff but never actually saw him. We finally made it back to the bottom where lo and behold, a bear came walking out of the woods, crossed the road, under the fence/guardrail, went up the ravine & started walking along the trail we just came off of not even 5 minutes ago! It was awesome to see the bear & made our vacation complete! I'm not quite sure what we would have done if we had come face to face with the bear on the trail. HA! The bear, thankfully, seemed to ignore all of the people with their telephoto lenses that had stopped traffic. Whew! That evening we ate at Cherokee Grill. Friday morning we packed up & ate at Mountain Lodge Restaurant before we headed back to Middle TN. Excellent place! Their homemade cinnamon rolls are most excellent!! Overall it was a great trip, just wish it had been a little cooler. Thanks to everyone on Trip Advisor for all of your recommendations. We had a great trip because of your insight!