48 Hours In The Great Smoky Mountains

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48 Hours In The Great Smoky Mountains

We love to travel. So much so that after a crazy, drama-filled trip around the world (see my last post), we came home and started making plans for Memorial Day Weekend. Being 12 weeks or so away from adding a new baby into our family, we thought this was a great last weekend to fly the coupe. After briefly considering a flight to Montreal, we talked ourselves off the ledge and did something a little more local.

I’m convinced no matter where you go with a toddler you can find ways for them to enjoy the journey. He loves to sit in his stroller and enjoy the views, eat yummy food, and run wild when he has the chance. My husband is new to Tennessee and had only ever been to Dollywood and a drive through Cades Cove, so it’s been high on our list to get to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. I hadn’t been in years and was pleasantly surprised by all the changes.

So here was our simple, yet action-packed weekend itinerary:

Night 1

We headed over around 2pm on Friday to do a couple things before dark. We dropped the dog off at my sister’s in Knoxville and made it in time to check in to our condo and get some dinner. Quick note on lodging: One of the main reasons I wanted to take my husband was so he could experience the “cabin stay” culture of the Smokies. I honestly was super bummed that this proved to be way out of our price range. I remember being able to book a group cabin at the current rates for our small family. So we skipped the cabin and rented a condo with a pool in the complex. This worked out great for us and the location in Pigeon Forge was ideal.

We ate a quick dinner at Mel’s Diner. Right off the Pigeon Forge strip, this place is known for its throwback decor and music, awesome burgers, and breakfast all day. We chose this because we already had two breakfast places to hit up and we needed to try their breakfast. We love a good diner breakfast and miss this about our city days. The food was great and the service was fast! We were back at the condo in time for a quick swim before Elliot’s bedtime.

This was the first of three meals of pancakes. It’s vacation, right!? It doesn’t look like he minds!

Day 2

We made this our Gatlinburg day. We headed over before breakfast and waited in line at the Pancake Pantry for about 30 minutes. This was a must-do! Again, we love breakfast and having grown up coming here, then living in Nashville with another location, I just needed my husband to try the awesome pancakes and French toast. As we waited, my husband took a stroll around the strip. The wait went by quickly and again we had fabulous food and fabulous service.

Next, we stopped by Skylift Park. This has changed significantly since I was last there and made it much more worth doing, although the price has gone up significantly as well. We rode the chair lifts up and walked the Skybridge taking in some amazing panoramic views. We called ahead and made sure they had stroller parking and strapped Elliot into his Becco carrier and he enjoyed the ride! It’s worth noting that they tell you your ticket is good all day, but when we went back to ride again, we had to wait in the entire line (with people still buying tickets) and it just wasn’t worth the wait in the heat. Wish they had a faster way for you to do it twice.

Just passed my husband is a glass floor portion — it was a bit creepy, but we did it!

We walked the rest of the strip passing candy shops and t-shirt vendors and if it weren’t for my gestational diabetes, this is where we would have had a funnel cake or ice cream or some yummy treat, but alas we made our way to lunch at Bennet’s BBQ because my husband loves BBQ. After we ate, we rode the Gatlinburg trolley. This is a free ride around the area, but doesn’t run super frequently, so we would have skipped it had we not happened upon one. There are other great attractions on the strip like the aquarium, Ripely’s Believe It or Not, laser tag, small rides, etc., but with a toddler and a short trip, we just looked around and enjoyed the sights!

Night 2

We did a quick drive into the mountains, but canceled our plan to hike because I’m seven months pregnant and got tired. We headed back to Pigeon Forge thinking we might be done for the evening. As we passed The Island, we decided to stop. To be honest, I hadn’t really wanted to go because I just didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but I’m glad we did it. It was a neat experience. We watched the fountain show, had some coffee, did the SkyFly ride, and walked around. Again, a ton of other things to do if you have bigger kids, but with a small toddler, we skipped a lot of things. The SkyFly ride was similar to Soaring at Disney and they had a parent swap system for us to ride one at a time while the other parent watched the show from a small room with the baby. Cool extra. For dinner, we headed over to the Local Goat, but the wait was insane (good thing we have one here), so we ended up at Pucketts, which was a nice fast meal.

Day 2

This was our Pigeon Forge day. We started the day with breakfast at the Old Mill and it did not disappoint! My husband was in breakfast heaven all weekend. Since most of what Pigeon Forge has to offer is for older kids and teens, my only must-do was making my husband do a go-kart race. He’d never done this before! We found a cheap track and he nervously watched the group ahead of him do it; when his time came, he was a pro and had a blast.

We’d heard great things about the Titanic Museum, so we bought tickets for this experience. My sister had just visited the museum in Belfast (where the Titanic was made) and said TN’s was way better! The queuing and entry system is a tad excessive and made us wait way longer than I wanted, but once we got started, it was fine. We spent about two hours here and it was very stroller friendly. Elliot enjoyed looking around and even drove the ship for a moment…straight into an iceberg, but he’s in good company, I guess.

Captain Elliot

And no Smoky Mountain trip would be complete without a stop at the outlet mall on the way out. I’d suffered through a lot of walking in the heat, so I deserved a little treat, lol. Although the outlet is a lot of walking in the heat as well!

What are some other awesome finds in the Smokies we missed?

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I’m Christy, a Tennessee native with a big city heart. After spending most of my life in middle TN, I’ve lived in NYC for most of the last decade. After moving a dog, husband, and baby into my one-bedroom apartment, we decided we needed a bit more space. So, we decided to head back south for the luxuries of square footage, a yard, and moving our baby out of a closet. We are excited to now call Chattanooga home. My husband is Indonesian, so we have the cutest whasian baby you could ever meet; in fact, you can follow him on Instagram @ourwhasianlife to experience all the cuteness. When not writing here, I’m writing for my online ministry called More Abundantly (check it out at www.moreabundantly.org). It was created out of my desire to see women in the US and Indonesia grow in their relationship with the Lord and become more fulfilled in this crazy life.

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