4-State Road Trip Recap - Day 4/5
We really did incorporate a good mix of old and new during our stay in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge. So much has changed in the last ten years! Since we were staying right beside Ski Mountain Road, we decided to drive up and spend some time at Ober Gatlinburg!
Fun fact - when we first moved to Sevierville, we picked up a newspaper delivery route for quick cash. Our route was one that they couldn't really keep anyone on, and we soon found out why. Picture it - two Floridians in a Cadillac driving up an icy mountain in the dark to deliver newspapers. Yeah - it was a short-lived career and it left a few scarring memories... but the drive up Ski Mountain was a chuckle-worthy memory for us both.
DAY 4 and 5 - Tourist spots in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
Ober Gatlinburg is a year-round amusement park with indoor and outdoor features, food, drink, gift shops, rides, and much more. You can even take a ski lift to the top of Mount Harrison (3590 feet), where you'll be greeted with a live band - Mountain Grass - and they are FANTASTIC!
We've done the ski lift and all of Ober many times, but this time was quite different. The music was a new feature, and I can't say enough about how talented these guys are, BUT - my highlight... as we reached the top of the ski lift, we were greeted by a mama bear and her cub, waiting right beside the lift loading area. Cuteness overload! The staff must have said ten times not to approach the bear. Of course, I know better and did not - but you'd be surprised how many tourists feel that it's perfectly acceptable to walk right up for petting and photo ops. NO - especially not when a cub is around! But you can certainly appreciate them from a safe distance!
We ended up spending the better portion of our day on top of Mount Harrison enjoying the Mountain Grass band. We had so much fun we even bought their entire CD collection!
After we came back down the mountain, one of us (not me) decided to check out the mountain coaster. I'm forever thankful that he didn't guilt me into coming along as he promptly admitted I would've hated it once he returned from his adventure. It's a powerful partnership when one of you is willing to do the daredevil deeds, am I right?
After a day at Ober, we poked around a few gift shops as we made our way back to Pigeon Forge. I don't quite know when Bigfoot became such a thing around here, but I couldn't resist the photo op we found at one of the gem mines. We spent the evening reconnecting with friends who were tasked with recommending the best new burgers in the area. They hit the mark precisely by suggesting Bluffs Grill & Tap. Just a tip - when the locals warn you that the burger is BIG, listen to them! I have a feeling that Bluffs will be our regular place if we even end up living in the area again. It surely will be a regular stop when we visit!
Speaking of gift shops - wow, did we find the ultimate one! It's really all that and a bag of (apple) chips! I had taken notice of the signs for the Apple Barn before, but this was our first time going there. I had no idea that all of this was tucked back there, and I mean it when I say there is something for everyone here! You can find multiple restaurants and a creamery as well as a cider bar, winery, candy shop, Christmas store, and so much more. Everything is beautiful and everything smells amazing. You can pop in and out of all the various shops, stopping along the way to enjoy the orchards. Across the way, there is a lovely quiet stream, where you can spend a while admiring an array of feathered friends!
We had already sampled Mexican, pancakes, burgers, and southern comfort favorites. That leaves only one logical choice for our last dinner in Tennessee - BBQ! I'm a BBQ snob and I don't believe it's any good if it's outside of Texas. Sorry - just being real here! We went to Bennett's Pit BBQ just a block from our motel, and I have to say - they won me over! If you can get brisket THAT right - you have my praise. Ridiculously speedy, friendly service, and smartly priced. All around - a great meal to leave on!
At the end of our evening, and at the end of our time in Tennessee before turning around to head back home, there was one thing left to do. I discovered that one of my former Girl Scouts was working at one of the local old time photo studios - Wild Gals Old Time Photo in Pigeon Forge - and we had made an appointment to go in for a photo shoot. Not only was I thrilled to spend some time with one of "my" girls after all these years, but I was excited to commemorate our visit so creatively. Chelsea (my former Girl Scout/family friend) came in off-the-clock to help make sure everything went flawlessly, and it was just the best time. The photos came out great, but the memories were truly immeasurable.
We had ONE more must-do stop on the way back to Orlando. Where did we end up? Day 6/7 coming up next!
For a more visual recap of our 4-state road trip, check out our two-part video: