What to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

Spring Break 2019 was spent in Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg.  Spring Break 2018 was spent in Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg.  Spring Break 2017….are you starting to see a pattern here?  We enjoy going year after year.  There are so many things to do.  You can spend as much money as you want or as little as you want and have a great time either way.

What we like to Do:

Oh goodness.  Where to start?  There is so much to do.

1.  Mini Golf.  We always end up playing mini golf at one of the many places to choose from.  One of our favorites is Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf, where you ride the mining train to the first hole.   There are two 18 hole courses to choose from. Crave Golf Club is one of the newer attractions in Pigeon Forge.  There is an indoor and an outdoor course that put a new twist on how you play.   They also offer mini bowling, which we’ve played the last two years.  If you are craving (pun intended) something sweet, grab a milkshake or a treat from the candy store.

Riding the mining car to the first hole at Professor Hacker’s.
The “twist” on how you play at Crave. Spin to see what you have to do…putt on one knee, close your eyes, etc.

 

Cocoa cliffs milkshake at Crave.

 

2. Parrot Mountain. Parrot Mountain is a sanctuary for birds that have been abused or just need a new home.  We went for the first time in 2018, and it was a request to go again this year.  I cannot say enough good things about it.  It is such a neat experience.  There are so many birds…parrots, toucans, peacocks.    In one area, you can feed, hold, or pet several of the birds.  We have not eaten there, but there is a snack bar area if you get hungry.  If you are really liking these birds, there is a baby bird nursery where you can pet the babies and make one yours if you’d like.

So much fun. Pretty sure we were having a deep conversation in the bottom right pic. Some of them will talk to you though…”whatcha doin?” has been my favorite.
Feeding the lorikeets nectar.

 

3. Anakeesta.  Anakeesta is a theme park located in the heart of Gatlinburg that offers several things to do.  Start by riding the enclosed gondola [one of us was a little apprehensive, so we did this the first time up] or the open-air chair to Firefly Village  where you can grab a bite to eat or do some shopping.  Take a humbling stroll along the Memorial Forest Walk area and read about the devastating 2016 fires and the resiliency of the people of Sevier County.  Sit in one of the many rocking chairs and take in the beauty of the mountains.  If you have little ones [or big ones…the boys may have checked it out], they will love to play in the Treehouse Village Playground.  Then, it’s on to the Tree Canopy Walk which is a series of sky bridges amongst the trees.  This was especially cool in the evening.   If you are feeling really adventurous, try the mountain coaster or zipline adventure.  One of the great things about visiting Anakeesta is the admission price is good all day long, so if you want to go back for dinner or to watch the sunset you can definitely take advantage of the opportunity!

Our daytime trip to Anakeesta.
Beautiful sunset from atop Anakeesta.
Tree Canopy Walk at night.

 

4.  Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.  Now, it has been a couple years since we went to the aquarium, but I’m sure we will make it back soon.  I hear they have a new glass bottom boat adventure that we need to check out.  I think my favorite part is the Penguin Playhouse.  The penguins are just so cute and always look like they’re having fun.

5.  Escape rooms.  While there are several of these to choose from too, we opted for Kryptology Escape Rooms in Pigeon Forge.  We did Da Vinci’s Challenge, and although we didn’t escape (bummer!) we had a blast.  I felt like it was family friendly, and the staff was great!

We had to blame someone for not escaping…sorry babe! 😉

 

6. The Island in Pigeon Forge.  We always end up here, if for no other reason than to take in the sights and sounds.  This is one place you can go that won’t cost you a dime, yet you will leave still having had a great time.  The dancing fountains are so pretty to watch.  There are so many stores to wander in and out of.  The Beef Jerky Outlet, Sweet! candy store, and the Parrot Mountain store (because you know…we didn’t get enough of the birds when we went to Parrot Mountain) are some of the stores we always seem to go in.  If you are wanting to spend some money, there are plenty of activities like The Island Ropes Course, The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, or the Island Mirror Maze to name a few.

Dancing fountains with The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel in the background.

 

7.  Chimneys Picnic Area.  Back to Gatlinburg for this one.  This is one of our favorite areas, and also won’t cost you anything.  It’s so serene, but full of rocks to climb on.  Just be careful…they are slippery when wet!

Cades Cove, gem mining at the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine, racing at Nascar Speed Park, and taking the challenge at Magiquest are a few more of our favorite things to do.

Stay tuned for our favorite places to eat, shop, and hike.

Weekend Getaway – Asheville, NC and Biltmore Estate

 

Dan recently surprised me with a weekend getaway to Asheville, NC.  I had no idea where we were going until we got a little closer.  All he told me was the weather forecast, how long a drive it was, and to request a certain Friday off.   We’ve went on plenty of trips, but never one that I didn’t know the details of.  I was pretty excited, and honestly didn’t try to guess the destination.  The Biltmore Estate has been on my list of things to do, and it didn’t disappoint.

Day 1:  We had plans to leave Friday morning after getting the kids off to school, so of course there was a two hour fog delay.  After a little re-arranging, we headed out around 8;30.  It was about a seven hour drive which, for us, is not bad at all.  We usually drive everywhere we go.  If you prefer to stay on property there are several choices.  The Cottage on Biltmore Estate, The Inn on Biltmore Estate, or Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate.  Dan had booked us a room at the Country Inn & Suites  near downtown Asheville, and about 15 minutes from the Biltmore Estate .  When we arrived I found out that we had tickets for the Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore.   How romantic 😉  Before making our way there, we went to Bone & Broth for dinner.

Steak Frites for me, and Lamb Chops for Dan.

 

On to the Biltmore.  A little history before we get started….George Vanderbilt started building the house in 1889, and it was finished in 1895.  He was single when the construction started!  The house boasts 65 fire places, along with 35 bedrooms, and 43 bathrooms.  If you are interested in the history of it at all, I would highly recommend doing the audio guide.  It was very informative.

Driving onto the property.

 

Choir performing for the Candlelight Christmas.

 

One of the many Christmas trees throughout. This one was in the banquet hall.

 

These fireplaces were also in the banquet hall, and although they are massive the room still felt cozy and was one of my favorites.

 

I pretty much had to share this picture since it has Jennifer and Ginger on the list. I do not want a puppy or a horse, however!

 

Looking like a tourist, listening to my audio guide.

 

This picture was in the basement on our way to see the bowling alley, indoor swimming pool, and workout area.  How crazy is that since this house was built in the late 1800s?!

One of the 1st residential bowling alleys, the workout area complete with showers, and the swimming pool which still has the original underwater lighting!

 

That wraps up day 1.  Our tickets were for 9:15PM, and we finished  the tour up at about 11:30 , to give you an idea of how much time you will need.

Day 2:  We were up fairly early to eat the complimentary breakfast.  We’re always willing to save a little money, so we can go on more trips. 🙂  Then it was back to the Biltmore to tour the grounds and gardens.  Unfortunately the rain from day 1 continued into day 2, but we made the best of it.  A little info on the grounds, the estate covers 8,000 acres!  Sounds like a lot, right?  But, it originally covered 125,000 acres.  Since we were visiting for the Christmas tours, we didn’t see a lot of the gardens.  The flowers and plant life in the conservatory were beautiful, however, so I can imagine the gardens are as well.

This is the front of the Biltmore house, although it doesn’t capture the enormity.

 

 

A few of the flowers and plants in the conservatory.

 

After leaving the garden area, we drove over to Antler Hill Village & Winery where we had reservations for lunch at Cedric’s Tavern.  There are a few restaurants to choose from on property, along with some shopping, and an exhibit on The Biltmore Legacy.  Also in the Antler Hill area is the barn where you can see some of the farm equipment that was used in the 1900s, woodworkers, and blacksmiths.

We shared the fish & chips, and bison burger.

 

That wraps up day 2 at the Biltmore Estate.  It is somewhere we both said we would visit again in warmer weather to experience the gardens in bloom, and more of the property.  There are also several outdoor activities to choose from when the weather permits, such as hiking, horseback riding, and river float trips to name a few.

We weren’t finished yet though….on to Asheville for a comedy bus tour with Lazoom .  We learned some things about Asheville we otherwise would not have, all while laughing and having a good time.  We enjoyed the downtown area.  It was very walkable, albeit a little hilly (or maybe we just need to get in shape), so many stores to look in, coffee shops like City Bakery where we enjoyed a cheese danish and coffee.  Dinner was at white duck taco shop, and no trip would be complete without a stop at an outlet mall.  We didn’t have much time there, but the Asheville Outlets looked like we (who am I kidding…I really mean I)…I could’ve spent some more money…er, time there.

Me and the man responsible for this trip.

 

If you have the chance to visit Asheville and the Biltmore Estate, I would definitely do it.  It made for a great weekend getaway, and it’s only a short 90 minute drive from the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area if you happen to be visiting that area, and want to venture a little further away.