Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

A Smoky Mountain Winter

Cider, snowflakes and more in a national treasure



During Winterfest (which runs through Feb. 26 this year), Pigeon Forge Parwkway (U.S. 441) glitters with snowy lights. Photo courtesy Pigeon Forge CVB

 

Winter in the Smokies: the idea conjures up images of snow-covered cottages, smoke curling from chimneys – a veritable Christmas card scene. Colored lights sparkled; silver snowflakes glittered; Christmas carols floated on the chilly air … but Santa would have needed wheels rather than runners when I visited the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee last November.

 

Approximately 70 million people visited national parks last year – 10 million of those visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Covering more than 800 square miles of North Carolina and Tennessee, the park is known for stunning scenery and the characteristic blue haze that gave the mountains their name. Oh, and its biodiversity: with possibly as many as 100,000 kinds of living organisms, the park encompasses the largest collection of undisturbed old-growth trees east of the Mississippi, and animals abound, including more species of salamanders than any other place in the world.

The symbols of the park and its most iconic residents are the black bears. In the fall they participate in what is known as the “shuffle.” At this time, the bears feed almost non-stop, stocking up for hibernation, gaining from three to five pounds a day. (More like the “stuff-full!”)

With 150 trails in the park covering 800 miles (including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail) and 384 miles of mountain roads – there’s plenty of territory to travel.

The park has 10 campgrounds and more than 100 back-country sites, but the only lodging within its borders is LeConte Lodge – and that’s strictly for the sturdy, as it can only be reached by hiking at least five miles. There are no restaurants in the park either, although basic groceries are available. Not to worry: most visitors stay in nearby towns, and there are plenty of accommodations and eateries there.

Don’t count on snow for Christmas, but when it happens, photographers grab their cameras.


The Three Ss: Suppin’, Sleepin’ and Shoppin’ Enterprises catering to these fundamental needs stretch from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge to Sevierville, and it’s hard to tell where one town ends and the next begins. You’ll find high-end galleries and some gourmet restaurants, but the best choices in the area are home-cooked or home-created.

The level of crafts and folk arts you’ll find here is unparalleled. You’ll discover artists preserving traditional crafts – people such as Pastor Jimmy Morrow, a snake-handling Pentecostal preacher, who creates folk dolls, makes kudzu baskets, paints in primitive folk style and tells amazing stories in a dialect that has almost disappeared from the country. I met him in Cosby at Maria Holloway’s Country Home Quilts.

Maria’s shop is a rainbow of fabrics but the highlight is a bed piled high with quilts; most are machine-pieced but hand-quilted by a select group of women who meet Maria’s high standards and have nigh-infinite patience. Among the beauties on the bed were a Postage Stamp quilt with more than 8,000 one-inch pieces, and a stunning Cathedral Window quilt that took more than 2,000 hours to complete.

Black bears do live in the mountains, but they aren’t alone. Hundreds of trolls can be found high on Rocky Top Trail at Five Arts Studios, where the Arensbak family creates figures with roots in Danish folklore. Ranging in height from 5 inches to 5 feet, these friendly forest folk are made primarily from natural materials found in the mountains.

Not far from Five Arts is the Carver Orchards with its 40,000 apple trees. Through the season, the market there will have 126 varieties of apples for sale. Do visit the Carver Applehouse Restaurant for home cooking accompanied by apple fritters and apple cider.

Chicken and dumplings like you wish grandma could have made are a warm treat on a cold day at Carver’s Applehouse Restaurant.


Another popular spot is the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant in Sevierville. Like Carver’s, you’ll find apple-inclusive favorites but lots of other good things, as well. For baked specialties, stop at the Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge. Try their biscuits and other delicious treats made from grains stone-ground in the 130-year-old mill next door. Prepare to stand in line at all three restaurants, a testimony to tastiness.

All sorts of accommodations are available – from the swanky Blackberry Farm (Walland) to very affordable motels. For bed and breakfast fans, the Buckhorn Inn (Gatlinburg) also offers gourmet dinners. For aerie elegance, check out Gracehill B&B (Townsend) – spectacular view. Also near Townsend, Richmont Inn B&B offers a great view, as well as an homage to Sequoyah and the Cherokees who once called this area home.

Traveling families will enjoy Wilderness at the Smokies Hotel and Waterpark Resort in Sevierville. Between the waterparks (indoors and outdoors) and the mega-arcade, it may be hard to get the kids out of the hotel.

Hologram ghosts haunt Scrooge in Dollywood’s musical adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.”

 

There are, however, more attractions in the area than you can shake a stick at. Top of my list is Gatlinburg’s Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, rated in the world’s top five aquariums. This isn’t Colorado, but you’ll find skiing, snow tubing and ice-skating at Ober Gatlinburg. For grown-ups, there are wine tastings at Sugarland Cellars and moonshine tastings at Old Smoky Moonshine in Gatlinburg, with more at Old Smoky and Old Forge Distillery in Pigeon Forge.

Introduce yourself to Dolly Parton’s statue in Sevierville, then head for Pigeon Forge for her magnum opus, Dollywood. The big seasonal special, “Smoky Mountain Christmas,” runs through Jan. 3. Four million lights trim the buildings and trees, and a variety of shows feature holiday themes. Don’t miss the musical adaptation of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with holographic sprits including Dolly as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Her brand-new hotel, DreamMore Resort, is nearby – be sure to ask about special packages including theme park tickets.

For a cool Christmas drive-thru, visit Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland north of Sevierville. Hundreds of thousands of lights dance and twinkle to music, from pop songs and carols to the “Hallelujah Chorus.” In addition, there are a number of theaters in the region – much like you’d find in Branson.

So why not just go to Branson? There are many subtle, small distinctions, but the biggest difference is those gorgeous Smoky Mountains. I loved the area so much, I went back in February. No Christmas lights – but this time I found snow. And I found that – no matter what the season – this Smoky Mountain region is wonderful.


► Helpful links 

mypigeonforge.com

tnvacation.com

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

A Sip of Central Texas

Next time you’re in the mood for a wine-centric getaway that’s not too far away, consider heading down to explore the vineyards found in the Lone Star State.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Friends to Follow

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

September 2017

Join us for "From Plant to Paper to Page," a three-day workshop by our upcoming exhibiting artist Megan Singleton! Participants will learn the basics of making paper by hand from local...

Cost: $350

Where:
[Artspace] at Untitled
1 NE 3rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: [Artspace] at Untitled
Telephone: 405.815.9995
Contact Name: Holly Hodge
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

OKCMOA’s Roof Terrace gives visitors the ultimate downtown experience every Thursday evening from April through October with live local music, the best views of downtown OKC, a relaxing...

Cost: $5

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Contact Name: Becky Weintz
Website »

More information

Organizations making a positive impact on the health of Oklahomans will be honored at the 2017 Champions of Health Gala. All proceeds benefit the Oklahoma Caring Foundation, a non-profit...

Cost: TBD

Where:
Cox Business Center
100 Civic Center
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Caring Foundation
Telephone: 855.628.8642
Contact Name: Ben Johnson
Website »

More information

In this installment Jerrod Smith, creator and owner of The Society and Weldon Jack talks about how he balances art and his businesses followed by a performance by Gall.

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary's Showroom
1146 N Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.604.0042
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come find your lost shaker of salt on the Oklahoma River - Hawaiian print shirt optional but recommended! View the evening ferry schedule online for evening departure times, and pay regular...

Cost: $6-15

Where:
All OK River Cruise Landings
Oklahoma City, OK  73109


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Website »

More information

Ever wanted to go to church with your favorite Christian artists? The Big Church Night Out Tour is not your typical tour - it’s going to be a time of meaningful worship that also will include...

Cost: $18-$100

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 South Lewis
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »

More information

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Walk A Mile in Their Boots will help bring awareness to childhood cancer. At The Toby Keith Foundation/OK Kids Korral, we see children fighting the battle of their lives. We are asking our...

Cost: Race $25-$35, Activities: Free

Where:
Chatenay Square
10600 S. Pennsylvania Avenue
, OK  73170
View map »


Sponsor: The Toby Keith Foundation
Telephone: 405-271-6552
Contact Name: Lauren Polchinski
Website »

More information

Join a weekend of the arts in Guthrie, Oklahoma's landmark historic district! Stroll among the artists, taste fine wines from featured wineries, listen to live music at the two bandstands,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Guthrie
Guthrie, OK  73044


Telephone: 405.282.7778
Contact Name: Tera Dahlby
Website »

More information

Saturday cartoons aren’t just for the children anymore. Share the classics with your crew every Saturday on an Oklahoma River Cruise. Kids 6 and under ride free.

Cost: $15 (free for kids 6 and under)

Where:
Exchange Landing
1503 Exchange Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Website »

More information

Come find your lost shaker of salt on the Oklahoma River - Hawaiian print shirt optional but recommended! View the evening ferry schedule online for evening departure times, and pay regular...

Cost: $6-15

Where:
All OK River Cruise Landings
Oklahoma City, OK  73109


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Website »

More information

Witness the miracles at The Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital at our inaugural gala event: Miracles on 39th Street. Join us to celebrate our beautiful new four-story, 100,000 square...

Cost: $500

Where:
The Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital
6800 N.W. 39th Expressway
Bethany, OK  73008
View map »


Sponsor: The Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital
Telephone: 405.789.6711
Contact Name: Melissa Richey
Website »

More information

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags