5 Unique Dining Experiences In The Great Smoky Mountains

One of the most frequent questions we get here at Timbercreek Cabin Rentals is “What are some of the best places to eat?” While our cabins certainly come equipped with full kitchens that enable our guests to prepare meals without having to leave their property, we know there are times when you and your group will want to have breakfast, lunch or dinner out on the town. So this week, we’re passing along a few ideas for categories of places to eat – each of which offers its own distinctive advantages.

  1. A Music Theater

These days, many of the music theaters in Pigeon Forge offer dinner shows, including the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, the Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery Dinner Show, Biblical Times Dinner Theater, Dixie Stampede and Lumberjack Adventure. Most of these places offer a multicourse meal that includes some sort of soup, main course with sides, dessert and beverages. The menus are fixed but usually offer enough variety on one plate to please any palate. There’s usually some sort of pre-show activity going on while the meals are being served, and then guests are allowed to continue eating while the main show starts.

  1. A Picnic In Cades Cove

Stop at one of our local supermarkets, stock up on provisions and pack a lunch for two or more before you head into the Cades Cove section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Whether you’re bringing sandwiches, fried chicken or salads, you can find any number of shady spots along the one-way 11-mile Cades Cove auto loop to pull over, spread out your feast and dine al fresco, surrounded by rolling scenic valleys and majestic mountains.

  1. Have Some Pancakes

There are lots of pancake restaurants in the Smokies, from Sevierville to Gatlinburg, all offering up full breakfast service in addition to traditional pancakes. A few names to look for include the venerable Pancake Pantry in downtown Gatlinburg, Crocketts Breakfast Camp, also in downtown Gatlinburg, and any number of locations of Flapjacks restaurants throughout the county.

  1. Themed Restaurants

Often, good food can be enhanced by a strong centralized theme that ties in the restaurant’s service, décor and atmosphere. You’ll find such experiences at places like Hard Rock Café in Pigeon Forge, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Gatlinburg, The Park Grill in Gatlinburg and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at The Island in Pigeon Forge.

  1. Local Favorites

There are some restaurants that have developed a following over the years, both by locals and by long-time visitors to the area. These are places not only known for having good food but also for offering an overall great dining experience to guests. Look for eateries like The Peddler Steakhouse, Best Italian and the Greenbrier Restaurant in Gatlinburg; the Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge; and Applewood Restaurant near the Apple Barn in Sevierville.

A Day In Your Timbercreek Rental Property

Maybe you’ve stayed in one of our Tennessee cabin rentals before, or maybe you currently have a reservation with us for a weekend or week in the near future and are looking forward to coming back. If so, then you know what a great experience it can be. But if you’ve never stayed in one of our properties in the past, we thought we’d whet your appetite a little this week by painting a pretty picture of how a typical day might go. We do this to point out many of the features our cabins have to offer and also to offer up a few suggestions for places to go and things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains area.

In the morning, you can enjoy the luxury of not having to wake up to an alarm clock since you’re on vacation, right? We know a lot of you are coffee drinkers, so you can head into the kitchen and get a fresh pot brewing in the coffee maker. Depending on the season, you might enjoy your morning cup of joe out on the wraparound deck, where you’ll typically enjoy stunning mountain views, or you can find a quiet spot like a loft or a front porch swing while you let the caffeine get you charged up for the day.

And since our cabins come with full kitchens, you can make your own breakfast as well. Whether you’re making omelets or cooking up batches of waffles or pancakes, you’ll have all the utensils and cookware at hand. Of course, we do recommend making a stop at one of the local supermarkets on your first day in town to stock up on food essentials as well as additional supplies of toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, etc. Our cabins do come with starter supplies of these items, but you may want to buy more once you’re here or bring your own from home.

Weather permitting, we strongly recommend you head into Great Smoky Mountains National Park and spend at least one half-day hiking. There are hundreds of miles of trails to choose from, and if you enter the park through the Wears Valley entrance, you’ll be close to several popular hiking destinations, including the Walker Sisters Cabin. Spend the morning (if the weather is warmer) taking a scenic hike and enjoying the peace and quiet of nature. And hopefully, you’ll spot some wildlife like deer or bears from a safe distance.

After your hike, you could hit up any number of restaurants in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, which offer everything from national chain restaurants to independently owned eateries that serve up a wide variety of cuisine – from Southern cooking to pizza to foods of varying ethnicities.

Some folks like to come back to their cabin to rest for a little bit in the afternoon, especially if they have younger kids with them. If the little ones are to big for a snooze, then there’s still lots to do in the cabin, from playing pool in the game room to playing video games on one of the flat-screen TVs to even playing some old-school board games and puzzles, depending on what each individual cabin owner chooses to provide in his/her property. If you decide not to eat out on the town, you might rustle up some noontime grub like a sandwich or even grill some hotdogs out on the charcoal grill.

The afternoon might be a good time to check out a local attraction. The options are seemingly endless, from Dollywood theme park to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies to dozens of music theater shows. There are also lots of family amusement centers offering go-cart tracks, miniature golf courses, arcades and more. One alternative to going to an attraction would be shopping. In the Smokies, you’ll find hundreds of specialty shops, craft studios, outlet mall stores and more.

You can either eat dinner out at a restaurant or head back to the cabin, where you might fire up some steaks or chicken on the grill. After dinner, you can wind down your day with more game-room fun, a movie on the big-screen TV or a soak in the outdoor hot tub, especially in fall or winter.

Get Your Geek On In The Smokies

There used to be a day when being a geek was about as uncool as a person could get. That was back during the days when nerds wore pocket protectors and thick-framed glasses. These days, those thick-framed glasses are actually cool-looking and so is being a geek. From role-playing games to mental challenges to brain-expanding knowledge, there’s no shame in letting the world know what makes you tick.

So if you proudly wear the geek label, you should know there’s plenty for you to do when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains. Of course, you should try to get some fresh air and check out the national park, but if you insist on seeking out fun of an indoor nature, we have a few suggestions for places to visit that might help you tap right into your inner nerd.

The MagiQuest attraction in Pigeon Forge offers several family-friendly activities, including a 5,000-square-foot mirror maze adventure, and an interactive black-light miniature golf course. But of more interest is the MagiQuest live-action role-playing adventure, in which players embark on quests and adventures in an enchanted fantasy world using magic wands to solve the mysteries of the game. Meanwhile in MagicQuest’s The Vault attraction, participants have to twist, turn and duck their way through a laser beam challenge before the timer runs out.

Similarly, you’ll find several escape-room attractions in the area that are conveniently located within an easy drive of our cabins in the Smoky Mountains. At The Tomb, for example, in Pigeon Forge, guests have 45 minutes to escape a haunted Egyptian tomb and must work together to solve clues and overcome a number of ingenious challenges to beat the clock.

That’s not the only place around that requires solving riddles, puzzles and brainteasers in order for participants to escape captivity. At The Escape Game, located at The Island in Pigeon Forge, players have a choice of four different adventures – Gold Rush, The Heist, Prison Break and Classified. At the Trapped Escape Game in Sevierville, adventures include Capone, Haunted Cabin and Asylum, and at The Captured live-escape experience, things take an eerie twist as you try to solve your way out of either The Cellar or the Scarlett’s Room challenges.

If you really want to spaz out to amazing things, don’t miss visiting the WonderWorks attraction in Pigeon Forge. This self-proclaimed “museum for the mind” provides a self-guided tour of six different Wonder Zones – Natural Disasters, Physical Challenge Zone, Light & Sound Zone, Space Discovery, Imagination Lab and Far Out Art Gallery. Each of these zones is home to multiple hands-on and interactive exhibits that make learning fun. Have a seat in the Earthquake Café, land a space shuttle orbiter or see how high you can climb on the rock wall.

Have A Magical Day In The Smokies

There are plenty of magical places you can visit in the Great Smoky Mountains. But if you’re looking for something to do that’s magical in the more traditional sense, you’re really in luck. There are three different venues in the Smokies that offer magic shows on their stages. These shows are all family-friendly, and all although each offers its own unique spin, they are all sure to leave you feeling mystified and entertained.

Terry Evanswood & The Wonders of Magic

Master illusionist Terry Evanswood has been wowing crowds in the Smokies for nearly 20 years. In fact, he’s now the longest running headline act in Pigeon Forge. These days, his Wonders of Magic show is a big draw at the WonderWorks attraction, where he amazes young and old with tricks that range from close-up sleight-of-hand to large-scale illusions. Evanswood is a past winner of the coveted Merlin Award (the Oscar of magic), and he is the only member of the Society of American Magicians to be endorsed by both David Copperfield and Harry Blackstone, Jr. His show is at 5:30 and 8 p.m. through mid-August, and then shows will generally be at 7 p.m. every night except Sundays.

Magic Beyond Belief

The Smoky Mountain Opry Theater is where you’ll find this full-scale production starring critically acclaimed magician and singer Darren Romeo. His show features a menagerie of animals (including rare white tigers), large-scale illusions, vocal performances, celebrity impressions, comedy and a huge tribute to his mentors – Siegfried & Roy and Harry Blackstone, Jr. Romeo’s show takes place at 3 p.m. every day except Wednesdays and continues through October.

Impossibilities – An Evening of Magic, Mindreading and Mayhem!

If you’re looking for magic in Gatlinburg, head downtown to the Space Needle attraction, which is home to the Iris Theater. That’s where you’ll find magical comedian Chris Collins and master mentalist Erik Dobell starring in Impossibilities – An Evening of Magic, Mindreading and Mayhem! This production features stunning magic, reality-shattering mind reading and hilarious comedy. With a combined 40-plus years of magic experience, Collins and Dobell have traveled the world with their award-winning show and have appeared on multiple television shows.

Whether you decide to see a magic show in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, you can book one of our Wears Valley, TN cabin rentals and be close to either destination. We think you’ll find staying in our cabins to be a magical experience in its own right thanks to beautiful views, great locations and tons of amenities.

What To Look For When Booking An Overnight Rental

There are a lot of vacation rental companies in the Smokies and an even greater number of individual cabins, cottages, chalets and condos from which to choose. So if you’re planning a trip to this area, how do you even begin to go about deciding which company to work with? It’s often hard to tell based on advertising alone which overnight rental business you should choose, which is why this week, we’ll be taking you through some of the main factors you should consider when choosing your accommodations in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

An obvious place to start when browsing different rental options is to look at each company’s inventory and decide if that business has cabins that are convenient to the things you expect to do during your visit. If you plan on spending a lot of time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park or if you’re more interested in scenic view cabins, Gatlinburg might be the best choice for a location. Meanwhile, if you plan to spend a lot of time at Dollywood or the music theaters, you might want to locate yourself closer to Pigeon Forge. If outlet mall shopping is your prime objective, consider something closer to Sevierville.

Once you’ve narrowed down a few properties that are conveniently located according to your travel plans, look at what those individual places have to offer in the way of amenities. Do features like outdoor hot tubs, indoor whirlpool tubs and fireplaces play an important role? Will you need an onsite washer/dryer to do a load or two of laundry while you’re in town? What kind of views does each property have? Is it easily accessible in winter? Does the cabin offer free WiFi service? Is there a game room in the cabin? Not all properties offer all these amenities, so you want to look carefully at the amenity descriptions for each place you’re considering.

You also need to do a little research into the company you’re considering working with. Read online reviews and see what other customers have had to say about that particular rental office. Do any of the companies you’re considering have any complaints filed against them? Also carefully review the respective rental policies and make sure there are no terms you can’t adhere to. And when booking a property, make sure you fully understand the terms regarding paying deposits, paying balances, checking in, checking out and what the rental office and owners are and are not responsible for during your stay. Having all parties on the same page going into a rental agreement usually benefits both sides.

Of course, price is always a factor. But be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Just because one company’s rates are lower doesn’t mean it will offer you a better experience. Often, you get what you pay for, as with everything else in life. You’ll want to find a price structure that works within your budget, but also check each company’s website to see if they offer any deals or discounts. Most places offer price breaks for groups as well as travel during the off-season.

The 5 Best Times to Visit The Great Smoky Mountains

Each year, some 10 million people visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and an even higher number spend some amount of time in the neighboring communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. That’s because in addition to the beauty and unspoiled nature of the national park, the outlying areas offer travelers so many options for having a little bit of vacation fun – from theaters and attractions to shops and restaurants.

But planning a trip to the Smokies usually involves choosing a time of year to make that journey. Honestly, any time is a good time to visit the Smokies, but some are better than others. Factors like number of visitors, weather conditions, special events and prices all come into play, which is why this week, we’ll put in our two cents when it comes to prioritizing the best times to head to the mountains.

  1. Autumn – This is almost a no-brainer. That’s when the leaves are changing colors, and the weather offers a mild transitional period between the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Most of the area attractions (except for water parks and the like) are still going strong, and there are lots of craft fairs and other fall-themed special events taking place. It’s one of the peak tourist times of the year, but if you visit during the middle of the week, there won’t be as much congestion as on the weekends. Many families traveling to the Smokies in autumn plan their trips to coincide with their children’s school fall breaks.
  2. Spring – As in autumn, the weather is much milder, but in spring, the tourist numbers haven’t quite reached full strength yet, so you can take advantage of shorter lines at restaurants and attractions. Plus traffic isn’t so bad either. If you visit the national park, you’ll get to see all the blooming wildflowers and other natural signs of spring’s arrival, and it’s the season when Dollywood theme park opens for the year. A lot of folks schedule their travel to coincide with their kids’ spring breaks.
  3. Summer – Obviously, this is the peak season, because it’s warm, and most families get their biggest chunk of vacation time in summer. Everything’s open for business, from music theaters to water parks, and it’s prime time for doing things in the national park like fishing, camping and hiking. Yes, the days can get a little warm and humid, and traffic can get fairly heavy in summer, but it’s not the most popular season to visit the Smokies for nothing.
  4. Winter – Those who come to the Smokies in winter may miss out on a number of attractions that aren’t open rest of the year, and yes, it can get a little chilly around here in winter, but lodging rates tend to be lower in this traditional off season, and Smoky Mountain Winterfest is a huge draw. The annual festival offers four months of winter- and holiday-themed special events as well as millions of lights on display from one end of the county to the other.
  5. This weekend – Why not? Not every trip to the Smokies has to be a huge family vacation. If you live close enough, maybe you just want to get away with the spouse for a couple of days or take the kids to play somewhere for the morning or afternoon.

And next time you’re looking to book overnight accommodations in the Smokies, remember that Timbercreek Cabins offers special deals throughout the year. So no matter which season you decide to travel, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to save a little money in the process.

Experience the Gravity of the Situation in the Smokies

We could drop some heavy science on you and go into a lot of detail explaining how gravity works. But suffice it to say we all know it’s the force that keeps us all safely on the surface of the earth. Because of gravity, we have the well-known saying “What goes up must come down.”

The cool part is that there are several attractions here in the Smokies that have taken that principle and made it work to their advantage, offering experiences that allow their guests to surrender to the force of gravity but have an awful lot of fun in the process. This week, we’ll give you a few ideas for how that works.

Try a bungee jump. 

There are several attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg that offer this activity that’s not recommended for the faint of heart. Imagine climbing the stairs to the top of a multi-story tower, where you climb into a harness and then take one big leap of faith off the edge of the platform. It’s a straight freefall down toward the safety airbag, but fortunately, that springy bungee cord will snap you back up before you make contact. You’ll get a few good bounces in before operators gently lower you to the ground.

Ride a zipline.

Gravity is still the primary force here as you harness up, clip onto a zipline trolley and then coast your way along the line from point A to point B. The greater the difference between those points, the faster you’ll go, although the weight of the participant plays a role too. See? Even physics is fun when you think about it…

Visit Outdoor Gravity Park. 

This unique attraction in the Smokies used to be known as Zorb, and although the name has changed, the basic principle remains the same. Participants get inside a giant inflatable ball and roll downhill. When it was Zorb, riders used to tumble and flip as the ball rolled downhill, but now they put 10 gallons of water in the ball, so riders are able to stay sitting upright inside the compartment, sliding down the hill as the ball turns beneath them.

Get wet on a water slide. 

This is the more old-fashioned way to slip and slide your way to outdoor fun in the Smokies. Two of the more notable places you’ll find them are at Dollywood theme park and Dollywood’s Splash Country. Dollywood has rides like the Slidewinder and Daredevil Falls, both of which put riders in a vessel of some sort but make going downhill on the water a lot of fun. Or at Splash Country, you can try any number of slides that utilize rafts, tubes or just the cushion of your own derrier to help you twist and turn your way from the top of the slide to the bottom.

When you book your next stay with us at Timbercreek Cabins Gatlinburg this summer, keep all these options in mind and get ready to have fun with gravity!

5 Smoky Mountain Travel Essentials

Have you had a chance to visit the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee yet this season? If not, we hope you’re making plans to come see us some time later in the summer or even this fall. If you’ve been here before, you know there’s a lot waiting for you to do, see and explore.

If you’ve never traveled to the Smokies before, we have a few suggestions this week for things to bring along on your trip (or acquire once you’re here) that will make the experience a little more enjoyable, especially if you’re staying in one of our Wears Valley, TN cabin rentals. 

  1. Smart phone

Does this mean we think everyone in the family should have their faces buried in their phones the whole time you’re in the Smokies? Of course not! But having a smart phone means you’ll have access to Google Maps or some other navigational program, which will come in handy when you’re traveling to the Smokies or to any of your other destinations while you’re in town. There’s often a lot of traffic on our roads, so it’s helpful to have that little computerized voice calling out your turns and exits so you can keep your eyes on the road.

Also, you can use your phone to purchase tickets to local attractions, find coupons or generally find out what restaurants, shops and activities are closest to your accommodations.

  1. Travel Guides

Once you’re in town, stop by any brochure rack and chances are you’ll find any of several different brands of local guide magazines and coupon books. Using these can be great informational resources, and they offer money-saving deals on admissions to attractions and meal discounts. If you don’t want to carry around a lot of printed material, most of these publications have online versions where you can access that same information.

  1. Cabin Supplies

Our rental cabins come with a starter supply of disposable items like toilet paper, paper towels and dishwasher tablets. However, you may find that you need a little more of those things to get you through a full week. So bring some additional supplies from home or purchase them from one of our local markets if you think you might run out. Also consider bringing some laundry soap if you plan on doing a load or two of laundry in one of our in-cabin washer-dryer units.

  1. A Bathing Suit

If you’re visiting here in summer, this is a must. Whether it’s a local swimming pool, national park swimming hole, TVA lake, water park or even the hot tub at your overnight rental cabin, chances are that you’re going to want to get wet at some point. Pack that bathing suit and be ready to wear it.

  1. Sunscreen

Along the same lines, you don’t even have to go swimming to risk getting too much sun exposure here in the Smokies. If you’re thinking about taking a hike in the mountains or even spending a day at Dollywood theme park, your exposed skin is going to get more than enough of the sun’s harmful UV rays. Bring some sunscreen and make sure you protect your arms, legs and face on those sunny days.

Free Ranger-Led Programs in the National Park

We understand that vacations can cost a dollar or two, especially if you’re planning on treating the whole family to several days’ worth of food and fun. This week, however, we’ve got some great suggestions for ways everyone can have a good time in the Great Smoky Mountains, and it won’t cost mom and dad a dime.

Which brings us to one of the main advantages of visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the summer. It should go without saying that the Smokies are the main attraction around here, but in addition, the park service offers dozens of unique, interesting and fun programs for visitors of all ages. The best part is that the vast majority of them are absolutely free. These programs are led by park rangers, so participants get special insight into everything that makes the national park special.

Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find taking place within the next week on the Tennessee side of the Smokies, which means they’re all easily accessible from our cabins in Gatlinburg, TN as well as Pigeon Forge and Wears Valley.

A Walk in the Woods

6/22 – 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Sugarlands Visitor Center

This is an easy stroll along a scenic wooded trail that starts at the visitor center.

Evening Program: Most Dangerous

6/22 – 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Cades Cove amphitheater

Learn about the most dangerous animals in the park and how you should behave when you meet them in this entertaining and humorous program.

Cades Cove Night Hike

6/23 – 9 to 10:30 p.m.

Orientation shelter at entrance to Cades Cove loop road

A park ranger will lead you on an evening walk to discover the night creatures of Cades Cove. Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. Bring a flashlight.

Highland Homeland

6/23 – 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Noah Bud Ogle cabin, Cades Cove

Learn about the families who once called Cades Cove home. Demonstrations and activities will vary throughout the season.

Islands in the Sky

6/24 – 1 to 2 p.m.

Forney Ridge trailhead

Learn about what makes the high-elevation forest of the Smokies one of the most interesting and endangered ecosystems in the Eastern U.S.

Junior Ranger: Explore Cades Cove

6/24 – 1 to 1:45 p.m.

Cades Cove Visitor Center

Join a park ranger for a hands-on exploration of the Smokies.

Evening Campfire

6/25 – 8 to 9 p.m.

Cosby campground

Join a ranger for a traditional evening campfire. Topics vary from night to night, but you’re guaranteed to learn something new about the Great Smoky Mountains.

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains

People who visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park go there for a variety of reasons, but it’s generally agreed that the single most popular activity in the Smokies is hiking. It’s something that family members of all ages can participate in, and there’s no better way for a person to immerse him or herself in the beauty and tranquility of unspoiled nature. So if you’re staying in one of our secluded Gatlinburg cabins this summer, consider incorporating hiking into your travel plans.

But whether you’ve never hiked in the wilderness before or you’re a seasoned pro, a little bit of cautionary information always bears repeating. For starters, always make sure you have enough water, especially on hot, humid days. If you’re going on a short hike of just a few miles, you can probably get away with carrying a bottled water or two. Longer or overnight treks might require more elaborate solutions like a reservoir backpack.

Also make sure you’re properly clothed for the distance and the elements. Sturdy hiking boots or shoes are always recommended for sometimes-unstable surfaces like gravel or rain-soaked paths. Many trails also have embedded rocks and tree roots that can make for tricky footing. And pay attention to the temperature. Wear cool, breathable fabrics on hot days, and be sure to wear multiple layers on cold days to prevent hypothermia. And if rain is in the forecast, pack a poncho, just in case.

Now let’s pick a trail. Did you know there are more than 850 miles of hiking trails in the national park, covering both Tennessee and North Carolina? That’s a lot of potential footsteps, so you’ll need to make a few decisions about what you’re looking for in a hike before you pick a destination.

If you’re not accustomed to hiking or physical activity, keep it simple. You can find short, level nature strolls near the Sugarlands Visitor Center or hike the relatively short, paved trail to Laurel Falls. Also, the observation towers at Clingman’s Dome and Look Rock are fairly short, paved hikes from the parking areas to the observation decks.

Among the most popular hiking destinations in the national park are Charlies Bunion (4.0 miles from trailhead); Alum Cave Bluff (2.5 miles from trailhead); Andrews Bald (1.8 miles from trailhead); Rainbow Falls (2.7 miles from trailhead); and Chimney Tops (2 miles from trailhead).

Alum Cave Bluff, by the way, is about halfway up Mt. LeConte. Many folks stop at the bluff to rest or treat it as their outright destination. Chimney Tops, you should know, is fairly short but a very rigorous and challenging hike that pays off with remarkable views.

What you choose to see on your hike also has a great bearing on your trail selection. You can go for views, waterfalls, old-growth forests, historic sights, wildflowers and more. If you’re hiking with children, also note that the park has several kid-friendly hikes to offer.

We’ll end with another caution: Always stick to the designated trails, even if you’re an experienced hiker. Most cases of missing persons in the Smokies originate from people wandering off the trails. It also increases your chances of crossing paths with a black bear. So stay safe out there, but more importantly – have fun!