Waterfalls offer a special treat for Smoky Mountain hikers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, TN is filled with stunning scenery and popular hikes and trails. But if you’re in search of spectacular waterfalls, the park’s Roaring Fork Trail area offers up two beauties.

Strap on your hiking boots and enjoy a moderate 5.4-mile roundtrip hike to Rainbow Falls. Although it’s a hefty hike to get there, the trip is worthwhile. The 80-foot tall waterfall is the highest single-drop falls in the national park.

Meanwhile, the Trillium Gap Trail leads to the 25-foot high Grotto Falls. Here you can even walk behind a wall of water as it cascades to the ground.

And while Rainbow and Grotto Falls are the most spectacular, the Place of a Thousand Drips is equally amazing, particularly after a rain - as dozens of smaller waterfalls create a picture you won’t soon forget.

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail offers a unique lesson in history with a number of old cabins, barns and working tub mills that have been preserved and restored. Visitors can experience the early settlers’ ingenuity firsthand at the Noah “Bud” Ogle homestead which features a handcrafted wooden flume plumbing system as well as one of the few working tub mills still in existence.

For more information on Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and accommodations at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort, visit www.westgatereservations.com.




Gatlinburg gears up for fall color season

Children will soon be heading back to school and fall is just around the corner. Yet fall doesn’t really begin in the Great Smoky Mountains until the leaves start to change!

Temperature, rainfall and other factors all affect the timing of the autumn color season. So there’s no perfect prediction on when the autumn hues will arrive. But one major factor is simply elevation. The leaves first start to change at higher elevations in the Smoky Mountains and the stream of color works its way down the mountainside.

Fall colors typically start arriving in late September or early October at an elevation of 4,000 feet. The first trees to change include Yellow Birch, American Beech, Hobblebush, Pin Cherry and the Mountain Maple. As the height of the fall foliage season sweeps across the area, you’ll find hues of orange, red and yellow paint trees like the Sugar Maple, Sweetgum, Red Maple, Scarlet Oak and various Hickories.

The Gatlinburg area offers a variety of places to enjoy the glorious fall colors. One of the most spectacular views is at Cades Cove inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For information on the Gatlinburg area and discount resort accommodations at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort, visit www.westgatereservations.com today.


Gatlinburg one of America’s most picturesque towns

Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is the gateway to America’s most visited national park. Now the picturesque village has also been recognized as one of the country’s prettiest towns.

Forbes.com recently ranked Gatlinburg in its list of the Prettiest Towns in America, along with other destinations such as Newport, Rhode Island; St. Augustine and Key West, Florida; and Taos, New Mexico.

Towns that made the list were recommended by experts from the Travel Channel, National Geographic, Fodor’s and others. Towns were ranked not only on aesthetics but also memorable activities and destinations nearby.

Forbes.com had this to say about Gatlinburg:

“With its charming, quaint old buildings in the center of town, its dramatic mountain backdrop and the only ski resort in Tennessee, Gatlinburg has become a popular tourist destination for regional fun-seekers. Located on the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg benefits from its location as a tourist draw and reinforces it with attractions such as an aerial tramway, an aquarium, whitewater rafting, hiking, and even a haunted house. But let’s not kid ourselves: as pretty and irresistible (as) the town is, the real draw in this part of Tennessee is the nature. ‘The wildflowers around Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are absolutely spectacular in the spring as they burst with wildflowers at their peak,’ says Zain Habboo, National Geographic’s director of travel.” 


Family fun abounds in Gatlinburg’s Smoky Mountains

Gatlinburg and the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains offer up the perfect setting for a family vacation. From a fun-filled town loaded with shops, eateries and attractions to the spectacular national park, Gatlinburg is designed for you to step back and enjoy a leisurely getaway.


Natural beauty abounds and the Great Smoky Mountains provide the ultimate backdrop as well as ample recreational opportunities. Head up the aerial tramway of Ober Gatlinburg for a breathtaking view from the top. Or simply jump in your car and drive through the national park where you’ll also find hundreds of miles of hiking trails. From easy and moderate pathways to more difficult climbs, you’ll find trails that will take you through the woods along rushing mountain streams or up a rocky hillside to a scenic vista overlook.


Check out a zipline adventure and experience the woods, hills and hollers with an exhilarating flight over the wooded canopies of the Smokies. Or kick back and relax while casting your fly in a trout-filled mountain stream.


Of course, you’ll also find plenty to do while just strolling through Gatlinburg. Stroll along the riverwalk or visit Herbert Holt Park or Mynatt Park. Walk down the parkway where you’ll find restaurants and sweet fudge shops, museums, artisan & craft shops and more. Look further and you’ll discover attractions like an Aquarium, mazes, mini golf, go-carts and more.


With original artworks and more than 400 shops, you’ll find everything from jams and jellies to leatherwork, woodcrafts, clothing, jewelry and more.


Don’t Miss Dolly’s Homecoming Parade in Pigeon Forge

Everyone loves a parade. And when Dolly Parton returns to Pigeon Forge, TN - home to her popular Dollywood theme park - she brings a grand parade along with her.

The 27th Annual Dolly’s Homecoming Parade is set for May 11, 2012. Like most parades, the Pigeon Forge Dolly Parade will be filled with colorful marching bands, lots of entertainers, floats, baton twirlers, myriad horses and much more. Of course, Dolly Parton will also be front and center in the festivities, sitting atop her float, leading the parade through town.

Pigeon Forge expects more than 50,000 visitors to turn out and line the parade route along the Parkway for this annual event. The parade kicks off near traffic light #6 and continues north on the Parkway to traffic light #3.

The parade traditionally begins at 6:00 P.M. and visitors are encouraged to arrive early for the best viewpoints.

Dollywood to Open for 2012 Season on March 24

The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area offers plenty of year round excitement and adventure for the entire family. But it seems that things really kick into high gear with the warmer days of spring.

The trees and wildflowers in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park burst into bloom and the wildlife awakens from its winter slumber. Meanwhile, the area’s biggest attraction - Dollywood theme park - re-opens beginning March 24, 2012. The attraction, long considered one of the world’s best theme parks, offers amazing entertainment, extraordinary attractions and plenty of thrills, including the all new Wild Eagle roller coaster opening for the 2012 season.

Dollywood’s entertainment includes more than 30 performances daily, including Sha-Kon-O-Hey!-Land of Blue Smoke, a musical celebration of the people, spirit and heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains that features eight songs written by Dolly Parton. Other music includes country, bluegrass, classic rock ‘n’ roll and southern gospel.

The 2012 operating season begins with the kickoff of the park’s Festival of Nations (March 24 - April 30).  Featuring a world of entertainment, the Festival offers food and entertainment from around the globe. This year’s event includes clowns from Ukraine, Los Pampos Gauchos - a family act from Argentina, Spirit of the Dance featuring Irish dancers, stilt-dancing from Germany, and more.

Throughout the season, Dollywood hosts five of the South’s largest festivals and other events, including:

KidsFest: June 22 - July 29, 2012

Barbeque & Bluegrass: May 26 - June 10, 2012
Dollywood Nights: July 30 - August 12, 2012
National Southern Gospel Harvest Celebration: October 3 - November 3, 2012
Smoky Mountain Christmas: November 10 - December 30, 2012

For discount family resort accommodations near Dollywood, visit www.westgatereservations.com.




Enjoy Gatlinburg’s Smoky Mountain SpringFest

Spring is just around the corner in the Great Smoky Mountains. That means birds will be chirping, flowers will be blooming, trees will be full of new growth and the abundant wildlife will start stirring from their winter slumbers.

Spring also means it’s a great time to visit Gatlinburg, TN, where you’ll find ample entertainment and activity in addition to the spectacular glories presented by Mother Nature.

It all kicks off with a 3-month long SpringFest celebration that begins March 9 and runs through June 3. Gatlinburg visitors can experience the beauty and wonder as the area begins its transformation from winter to spring. The city’s streets will come alive with baskets of beautiful blooming flowers and live entertainment is frequently found along the quaint sidewalks of the downtown Parkway.

A popular activity in Gatlinburg is shopping and browsing the many hand-made crafts and other wares uniquely created by members of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community.

Another springtime tradition is the 62nd Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, April 25-29. Designed for hikers and nature lovers, there’s no better way to experience the area’s delicate wildflowers bursting into full bloom. This 5-day public program offers more than 150 hiking tours along trails ranging from easy to strenuous. There are also a variety of exhibitions, demonstrations, classroom lectures, and even some motor excursions through the national park.

Gatlinburg’s Ribfest & Wings is another springtime celebration, featuring the sweet smells of hickory smoked barbeque. This event, held April 26 from 5-8 pm, offers up more than 20 vendors ready to serve up their best barbequed ribs and wings as well as free entertainment.

Springtime remains one of the very best times to visit Gatlinburg before the busier summer and fall color seasons. For information on lodging and accommodations at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort, visit www.westgatereservations.com.


It’s Ski Season at Ober Gatlinburg

Great Smoky Mountain National Park remains the most visited national park in the nation. While a vast majority of its more than 9 million annual visitors arrive in the summer and fall color seasons, winter offers up a unique opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts.

That’s especially true for those who enjoy winter sports activities. Ski season opened at Gatlinburg’s popular Ober Mountain on Jan. 3.

Ober Gatlinburg features nine trails serviced by two quad lifts, one double lift and one surface lift. The Resort also offers terrain for all abilities, from beginners experiencing snow sports for the first time, to seasoned experts headed to the moguls and the terrain park.  

Snow tubing is another popular activity at Ober Gatlinburg in addition to skiing, snowboarding and ice skating.

For more information about Ober Gatlinburg, the aerial tramway, restaurants, shops and more, visit www.obergatlinburg.com/. Or if you would like to learn more about discount Gatlinburg resort accommodations and vacation packages, go to www.westgatereservations.com.

Saddle Up Festival Celebrates the American West

Break out your cowboy hat and boots and get ready to experience a special taste of the great American West in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Pigeon Forge, located near the mountain village of Gatlinburg, brings the great American West to life with its 12th Annual Saddle Up festival, Feb. 23-26, 2012. The celebration salutes the American West through cowboy musicians and poets, a hearty chuckwagon cookoff, and even a two-stepping cowboy dance.

The entire family will enjoy this four-day festival filled with entertainment and plenty of cowboy-themed activities. “Stories and Strings” is a new concert featuring a variety of top country western performers who will discuss their influences, demonstrate their styles and play, performing together for the first time.

The list of 2012 Saddle Up entertainers includes: R.W. Hampton, Stephanie Davis, Saddle Cats, Cowboy Celtic, Kent Rollins, Ray Doyle, Andy Nelson and Chuck Pyle.

If you’re looking for discount resort accommodations or discount family vacation packages in the Great Smoky Mountains, visit www.westgatereservations.com.



Ball Drop & Fireworks Highlight Gatlinburg New Year’s Celebration

While much of the nation focuses on the crystal ball drop in New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve, the city of Gatlinburg will be celebrating with its own special ball drop.

The Smoky Mountain village will welcome the arrival of 2012 with its 24th annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks Show at the base of the Space Needle.

The ball drop from the 342-foot-tall Space Needle at midnight on Jan. 1, 2012 will be followed by music and a dazzling fireworks display choreographed to the music. The event is a Gatlinburg tradition and many restaurants and attractions also offer special celebrations.

It’s all part of the nearly 4-month long Gatlinburg Winter Magic festival that also includes an extravagant display of holiday lights throughout Gatlinburg’s famous downtown Parkway. The custom designed displays feature millions of new LED lights that reduced the city’s energy costs for the 120-day program by 95%.

Displays include animals indigenous to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park such as deer, rabbits and squirrels as well as fanciful snowmen, dancing fountains, children and a rocking horse.

For information on Gatlinburg events, discount attraction tickets and discount family vacation packages, please visit www.westgatereservations.com.


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