Exciting! Bustling! Energy! All of these words describe Gatlinburg, Tennessee! I could not wait to put my feet on the streets.
It was a sunny, hot day when the van driven by my brother-in-law Willie pulled into the parking lot of the hotel. There were four of us–sisters Shirley and Nell, Willie and myself. We were anxious to explore everything the little town had to offer.
Gatlinburg is a mountain resort city located in Sevier County, Tennessee. In 2000, it had a population of 3828 residents. I would surmise it is much larger today. Resting on the border of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, it is hemmed in by high ridges, abundant greenery and calm waters.
The main traffic artery, Route 441, runs through the center of the town. The ride is slow . . . cautious and with constant lookout for foot traffic, crowded streets and vacation-minded pedestrians. Numerous unique shops line the streets . . . from restaurants to studded boots, wide-brim cowboy hats and mouth-watering chocolate candy . . . one of my favorites.
Pigeon Forge is 6 miles to the north and the Great Smokey Mountains 2 miles to the south. Gatlinburg owes its beginning to Cherokee hunters and South Carolina native William Ogle. In the late 18th to early 19th centuries, they hewed and notched logs in the flats and erected a cabin. Ogle, however, succumbed to malaria fever and did not see his labor reach fruition.
Gatlinburg bears the name of Radford Gatlin, whose store became the first post office for the town around 1856.
Our First Day
After checking into the Quality Inn in Pigeon Forge, we jumped into the van and toured downtown Gatlinburg. The hustle and bustle of vacationers was exciting and energizing! They hurried about seemingly, with no special destination other than to find out everything the city offered. Later, we had dinner at a Chinese Restaurant, where a pleasant waiter with a deep sense of humor waited on us. As we devoured our food–everybody was hungry, we chatted about what we had seen, were seeing and would see. The meal was topped off with a walk across the street to Ben and Jerrys for ice cream.
Later, as I climbed into the spacious bed and snuggled between the crisp, white sheets, I wondered what the next day would bring.
The continental breakfast was not my version of continental … because we had everything from hard boiled eggs to pancakes and syrup. After eating heartily, we visited several antiques shops. This is what we all love to do–rather than visiting shopping malls. Why? When you see one mall … you have seen them all. Each, with very minor differences, is a replica of the other. However, with antique shops, one sees uniqueness, carefully selected items, quality, the old and the new and … good deals! Gatlingburg and Pigeon Forge were no exceptions! Sister Ruby beat-out all of us in deals … coming away with books, dresses and jewelry. I found a beautiful French painting for my townhouse and a book entitled “Start Late, Finish Rich” by David Bach. Somehow, I enjoy the “money thing.” Shirley and Willie have so many antiques that it is very difficult for them to find something to fit in their 5000 square foot house. Really, I kid you not … their house is a mini museum.
The highlight of the day was a visit to “Dixie Stampede”— a western show backed by the style, quality and money of Dolly Parton. If you have not been there. It is a “must see.” Situated in a large area about the size of a football stadium, surrounded by bleachers … bleachers with a backside to relax on and a table in front to eat on … and that is exactly what you do–eat and lots of it, the seemingly hundreds of well-trained waiters and waitresses “plop-down” food like soup (which you drink from a small bowl), hot biscuits, baked potatoes, baked pork, cornish hens and apple turnovers in front of their waiting audiences. And … you get to eat while watching spectacular horses, skilled riders, costumed servers, singing and dancing, trick riding, pig-chasing and … racing ostriches! The costumes are spectacular! Dolly really “did herself proud.”
The show ends with a heart-warming song by Miss Parton. It urges that we see ourselves as one country, united by more than that which divides us. I brushed back … a couple of tears.
Because Shirley and Willie had a meeting to attend, Ruby and I were able to sleep-in, but emerged just in time to attend the Soul of MOTOWN at The Grand MAJESTIC. That was truly my “cup of tea.” I am a die-hard Temptation fan, a Michigander and a lover of all Motown sounds! Wow! Nothing could have pleased me more!
There are five young men, one being a relative of Temptation lead singer Dennis Edwards, and a polished, well-trained, sophisticated young lady. Their moves were very “motownish,” harmonies superb and choice of songs “right-on.” We sang, danced in our seats and reminisced of the “good old days.”
Plan a trip to Pigeon Forge and hear songs of The Temptations, The Platters, The Drifters, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The Commodores, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Sam Cooke, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, The O’Jays, Lionel Ritchie, Boyz II Men, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Aretha Franklin, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and more!
Afterwards, Ruby, “the family picture-taker,” made pictures of them and … with them. Visit their website at http://www.thegrandmajestic.com/.
After breakfast, it was check-out time and … the good times were about to end.
One last item … have you ever seen an upside-down house? Well, get ready for one in Pigeon Forge. I visited it on my walk around the town… had a peek at the “magical museum,” chatted with the greeter and ate my favorite chocolate-covered peanut candy. Time did not permit me to schedule one of the shows. Well … I had to leave something for the next time.
Gatlingburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee are cities that should be on every American’s vacation itinerary. It has a “strip” of its own–not the Las Vegas Strip, but nonetheless—a strip. Take a walk or ride on it, you will be happy that you did.