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Even though spring has just begun, families are looking for exciting and enjoyable summer vacation ideas. Why not plan to spend a week for a Smoky Mountains family vacation in East Tennessee near the most visited National Park. You can enjoy nature, have a great time at one of several water parks, enjoy the mountain culture and shop to your heart’s content in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. If you are thinking of what an ideal Smoky Mountains Family Vacation would be like we have a plan to include everything.
You’ll likely want to relax on your first day in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. This might be the best time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, depending on the weather, of course. Many families enjoy visiting historic Cades Cove, a broad valley surrounded by mountains on the Tennessee side of the park. The cove features buildings that date back to the first settlers who arrived in the early 1800s. The cove is also famous for its wide variety of wildlife such as deer, black bears, wild turkeys and many other inhabitants. You can complete the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Trail by car or bike in just a couple of hours.
Your family is probably ready for some excitement now. If the weather is hot, you’ll enjoy cooling off at a water park in the area. Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Theme Park, adjacent to Dollywood Theme Park, is a 35-acre outdoor venue that has won awards from the water park industry. If you’d like a somewhat quieter water park experience, or the weather isn’t conducive to outdoor activities, the Wilderness of the Smokies Waterpark in Sevierville, just south of Pigeon Forge, offers indoor as well as outdoor activities.
If you’ve done any research at all on Pigeon Forge, you’re familiar with Dollywood. This theme park is co-owned by entertainer Dolly Parton, who grew up near Sevierville. It features traditional theme park roller coaster and kid-friendly rides in addition to shows, events and displays focused on the Southern Appalachian culture of the area. You and your family can easily spend an entire day here, and may even decide to extend your stay another day.
You’re probably ready for some downtime again, so why not check out some of Gatlinburg’s attractions? The Ripley’s entertainment venues offer something for everyone in the family. Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the flagship museum, has entertained visitors with amazing artifacts for nearly a century. The Guinness World Records Museum and Ripley’s Haunted Adventure are two more interesting attractions your family will enjoy. The Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is where you will want to spend your afternoon.
You can’t leave the Smoky Mountains without some souvenirs. There is no shortage of shopping with the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community, shops in the Old Mill Square, and Sevierville outlet malls. The Mountain Mall on the Parkway in Gatlinburg offers 28 shops featuring clothing, foods and mementoes, while The Incredible Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge will help you remember your visit throughout the year.
Places to eat
In addition to the numerous fast food and chain restaurants available throughout Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, your family can sample some unique eateries. The Little House of Pancakes in Gatlinburg is a favorite with locals and visitors alike, while Pigeon Forge offers a cozy setting and Southern favorites at the Old Mill Restaurant beside the Little Pigeon River. You can also choose from seafood and Southern-style buffet restaurants in both towns. No matter what foods your taste buds prefer, you can find a restaurant to satisfy them.