As usual, the drive took longer than we expected since we stopped at REI and Diamond Brand Outdoors near Asheville. We had planned to have lunch somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway which we did but not a far along as we had hoped. In the end it didn’t really matter. The weather wasn’t great – lots of fog, drizzle and cool weather. Definitely not picnic weather.
One unfortunate thing about the park is that only two trails are dog-friendly – one at each main entrance. So we stopped at the southern entrance to give Maggie a walk and stretch our legs. There is a small reconstructed farm near the visitor centre – it made Ross Farm look palatial. A park ranger gave us some travel advice – things not to miss and we were on our way.
Since the mountains were foggy and it was getting late in the day we decided to drive straight across with almost no stops and find somewhere to stay for the night.
Well, imagine driving along the Cabot Trail and down into Cheticamp but instead of working wharves, houses and small local restaurants, shops and museums there are (inter)national chain restaurants, Guinness World Record, Ripley’s and wax museums, arcades, mini-golf and more “get your picture taken period costume” studios than you have ever seen packed onto one street so tightly that a fire in 1992 cleared a full block. One area is built to resemble an English village with tiny shops around a central courtyard
It was fairly busy on the holiday weekend but I kept thinking – it must be awful in July and August with the heat and crowds – the Smokies are the most visited national park in the US with over 9 million visitors a year.
These pictures don’t do it justice and as touristy as it is – you just have to see it to believe it. The next morning we drove on to Pigeon Forge – home of Dollywood – just to see it. It is much the same except instead of a narrow street it is a six lane highway and there are a lot of go-cart tracks.
Then we headed home, back through the mountains.
Restaurant where we had dinner.
Isabelle in the “English Village”
Amusements in Pigeon Forge
Go-Cart track in Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge – main drag looking towards the Smokies. In the summer and for fall colours the traffic is bumper to bumper.
Driving back into Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge – all the street lights are numbered – makes it easy to give directions.
More Gatlinburg – including the Hard Rock Cafe
Aquarium in Gatlinburg – we didn’t go.
Lots of little pedestrian pathways to more stores and restaurants. It was very walkable.
One of the Ripleys and the bottom of the Space Needle.