Gatlinburg Weekend Guide

A weekend here surrounds you with rolling green hills, gentle whitewater and Southern hospitality.
By: Erica Walsh
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Nestled among the misty blue peaks of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A weekend here surrounds you with rolling green hills, gentle whitewater and Southern hospitality.

"Log Cabins soak up the view of Mt. LeConte in the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee."

Photo by: William Britten

William Britten

Where to Stay

Perfect for family stays, the Bearskin Lodge combines rustic mountain charm with state-of-the-art amenities. Located in Gatlinburg at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it's perfect for those who plan to spend their days outdoors, but long for the creature comforts at night. Children will love the outdoor pool and lazy river while parents will love ending the day with a glass of wine and the vista from their personal balcony.

Combining Adirondack style with Southern hospitality is the Buckberry Lodge. Located atop 26 acres of Smoky Mountain country, guests of the lodge can soak in the scenery from their private decks or at the outdoor pavilion on the banks of Buckberry Creek. The shops and restaurants of downtown Gatlinburg are just a short walk away and Buckberry Lodge's 46 suites guarantee luxury comfort without the crowds of a larger hotel.

For a more intimate Smoky Mountain getaway, book one of the four luxury guestrooms at the Foxtrot Bed and Breakfast. Each room offers a private bath, breathtaking views of Mt. Leconte, gourmet breakfasts and a variety of relaxing spa services. The bucolic chalet-style exterior of cedar and stone provides the perfect ambiance for a romantic Gatlinburg retreat.

Where to Eat

The Pancake Pantry claims it became Tennessee's first pancake house in 1960, and whether you call it a flapjack, blintz, crepe, griddle cake or johnnycake, there's no better place to enjoy a stack covered in butter and syrup. The menu features over 23 kinds of pancakes, including the ever-popular sweet potato pancake and a new take on pigs-in-the-blanket featuring sausage-stuffed buttermilk pancakes. The Pantry will even pack you a to-go brunch for the park.

Enjoy pitchers of margaritas and authentic Mexican food on No Way Jose's deck overlooking the Little Pigeon River. The unique vegetables and tropical fruit fajitas for two are perfectly followed by the chocolate margarita mousse, made with coffee, chocolate, tequila and Kahlua.

Enjoy some Southern cooking and Tennessee microbrews at Gatlinburg's Smoky Mountain Brewery. Try the pan-fried trout in a lemon, butter and caper sauce or the one and only Smoky Mountain BBQ Ribs. Part ski lodge, part Bavarian beer hall and set amidst the mountains, the casual fare and atmosphere are perfect for a Friday night in Gatlinburg.

Homemade lemonade and iced teas, fluffy coconut pie and decadent chocolate-chip cheesecake are just a few items on the menu at Ruth and Gerry Childress' Desserts & More. During the day, specialty sandwiches and paninis are made to order. If you're visiting Gatlinburg in the fall or winter, the creamy hot chocolate with fresh whipped cream is the perfect hand-warmer for ending a day in the mountains.

What to See & Do

There are more than 800 miles of hiking trails inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park; adventurous hikers can climb the crests of mountains while more relaxed park goers can watch the sunset along Clingmans Dome Rd. A perfect Saturday can be spent hiking Ramsey Cascades, an 8-mile roundtrip hike that meanders through the park's old-growth forest of towering cherry, hemlock and tulip trees before arriving at 90-foot waterfalls. Between auto tours, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and the ranger-guided programs at the Smoky Mountain Field School, there truly is something here for everyone.

Located about 30 miles inside the park is Cades Cove, a historic cluster of 19th-century cabins, churches and mills. Step back in time and visit rural Appalachia; cars are welcome to circle the 11-mile loop, but on Saturday mornings from May through September, the cove is peacefully open only to hikers and cyclists.

In 1912, the Pi Beta Phi sisters founded the Settlement School, aimed at providing practical and academic education for the Appalachian poor. Additionally, it contributed to a rebirth of Appalachian arts and crafts. The school expanded over the years and eventually became the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, an airy studio and gallery located in downtown Gatlinburg. Spend an afternoon touring the studios, browsing the gallery and gift shops, and watching artists master their crafts.

Get a panoramic view of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains atop the 1970 landmark Space Needle. Perfect for kids, there's also a two-level entertainment center below the needle fitted with games, laser tag and a virtual reality roller coaster.

Travel Channel Insider's Tip:

Head to Gatlinburg during the height of fall foliage to see the misty blues and purples of the Smoky Mountains come alive with vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. During the first two weeks of October, leaves above 4,000 feet are at their peak colors; the remaining weeks of October present the Smokies at their very best since a majority of the mountains lie beneath that altitude.

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