This past winter I was able to plan a family road trip to the Smoky Mountains. We picked the Smokies in order to have as COVID friendly of a trip as possible. Despite it still being cold outside, we were able to spend a lot of time exploring the outdoors.
When it comes to where you should stay, a cabin is the way to go, especially if you’re looking for more privacy and phenomenal views. I found the cabin my family stayed in on Airbnb but there’s an abundance of cabin rental sites out there for the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area. When you’re looking for a place to stay try to get somewhere high up on a mountain. The higher you are the better the view.
Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have so much to offer and are very close together so don’t stress about where to stay as long as you’re comfortable driving.
Things To Do
Anakeesta is an outdoor theme park that has dining, zip lining, shops, a mountain coaster, and treetop skywalk. I absolutely loved the experience. The food and sweets were so tasty, the shops were full of fun knick knacks, and the tower and skywalk give beautiful views. This is a fun activity for families since there’s something for every age. Since we don’t have any kiddos in my family we didn’t take advantage of the play spaces for younger visitors and still stayed for 2 hours.
Fun fact: Anakeesta had some of the best hot chocolate my Mom and I have ever had, 10/10 highly recommend!
Exploring The National Park:
This is the obvious choice of what to do. I was worried because it was winter that it wouldn’t be as beautiful but it was still as gorgeous as I imagined. It’s super easy to just drive around Smoky Mountain National Park and go exploring. When you visit, allot at least a day (preferably with the best weather forecast) to explore the park.
If you like shopping and good food The Island is worth the stop. The island is technically considered an “amusement park” but mostly consists of food, shops, and a few sporadic rides here and there. One of my favorite stores we stopped in was Byrd’s Famous Cookies. The nice lady behind the counter gave us an abundance of samples and everything was incredibly delicious. The island is the perfect place to pick up touristy collectables.
If you’re in the market for anything and everything Christmas, be sure to check out the Christmas Place! There’s also a Christmas themed inn across the street.
Gatlinburg SkyLift Park:
Gatlinburg SkyLift Park looked super fun. Unfortunately, one of our family members has an extreme fear of heights and the only way to get up there is via a admittedly very steep chair lift ride. My family asked if there was another way up and we were told that there were no other options. The skybridge does look fun and great for someone looking for a little bit of an adrenaline rush.
The mountain coasters were always so much fun. I went on as many different ones as I could. My favorite was the Gatlinburg mountain coaster.
Dollywood and the Titanic Museum were both closed while we were there so unfortunately we didn’t get to visit, but I’ve heard good things about both places.
Ruby Sunshine Brunch Restaurant
This restaurant was so good it deserves an abundance of praise. Firstly, the restaurant is super cute and very welcoming. It’s up a floor from the entrance so it gives visitors a great view of the SkyLift park that’s right across the street. The waitstaff are incredibly nice and personable, which only added to the experience. My family agreed it was our favorite restaurant we tried throughout our vacation. The brunch/lunch food was delicious. Their website link can be found here.
That being said, a close second was Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, just for the sheer amount of food my family was challenged to consume. A great experience all around.
Smoky Mountains was a great pick for us to feel as COVID safe as possible while still being able to enjoy some type of getaway. While the drive from Wisconsin to Tennessee was a long one it was well worth the drive. I used the Roadtrippers app to create an itinerary to make our drive more exciting and I highly recommend it for people who’d prefer to get out of the car and explore on the way.