Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area

Discussion in 'Budget Board' started by mrudman, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. mrudman

    mrudman DIS Veteran

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    Thinking of taking an early summer trip to Gatlinburg area with dd's (12 and 10), and was wanting some opinions.

    I haven't been to that area since I was about 14 yrs old, so not sure what the area offers now.

    Planning on staying in a cabin, which on average seem to run about $200/night. I'm thinking maybe 5 nights/6 days? We'd be driving, and it would take about 8 hrs each way... most of the first day and last day would be spent driving, so we'd have 4 full days there. Does that seem like a good amount of time without it being too short/too long?

    I don't want to spend a ton on this trip.. was just wanting to get away for a little while, but ultimately saving for a cruise in summer of 2014.

    Anything that is a must-see down in that area? I'm not looking to spend much beyond what the cabin and food will cost us, so would love to get some feedback on free/very cheap things to see.

    We're nature lovers, so know that we'd like to do some hiking.. maybe go see Cades Cove, etc.

    I do remember there being some cement sledding that I remember doing.. is that still available? Thinking dd's would love that.

    Any other ideas?

    Thanks!
     
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  3. Juliee8

    Juliee8 Mouseketeer

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    We went a couple summers ago and stayed for 4 nights, although we were in a hotel. We did alot of swimming and hiked to several of the waterfalls, which were beautiful. We also went to the Aquarium, which was the kids absolute favorite!
     
  4. North of Mouse

    North of Mouse DIS Veteran

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    We go to the Smokies every year, and camp in the park near Gatlinburg. We don't do a lot of the commercial things in Gatlinburg, or area. Our main things are seeing the mountains, hiking, biking in Cades Cove, etc.

    We did go on the *bobsleds* that you mentioned up Ski Mtn. but it has been several years so don't know if they're still there.

    Also, if you like horse rides, they have those available right at the park entrance.

    It's a beautiful place, have a nice trip.
     
  5. amberlynnhawkins

    amberlynnhawkins Missing WDW like CRAZY!!

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    Cades Cove for sure - pack a picnic lunch. If you want, try some outlet shopping in Pigeon Force/Sevierville. If you go there, I HIGHLY recommend eating at the Apple Barn. The Aquarium in Gatlinburg.
     
  6. mickeystoontown

    mickeystoontown DIS Veteran

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    We visit Pigeon Forge every Thanksgiving since our daughter now lives just an hour away. We stay at the Twin Mountain Inn in a family suite and it usually runs about $90 per night which I thought was a great price for it being a holiday.

    I agree with others, definitely drive through Cades Cove. It's a beautiful area. Make sure that you stop and walk to the different churches and homesteads in the cove. I did a mini trip report review last year. I need to see if I can find the link and post it for you.

    The one thing that I'd say to stay far far away from is the Jurassic Boat Ride in Pigeon Forge. What a ripoff!
     
  7. mickeystoontown

    mickeystoontown DIS Veteran

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  8. ccgirl

    ccgirl DIS Veteran

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    One of our favorite places. We have timeshare there and go every other year. The "cement sledding" you are referring to is at Ober Gatlinburg. Check out their website.

    Cades Cove is great but we like just getting in the car with the little grill and driving through the Smoky Mountains and pull off in one of the picnic areas. Last year we ended up at the Appalachian Trail on the N. Carolina Border. It was so cool and a great view!

    There are lots of threads on Gatlinburg - do a search and see what you come up with.

    Have a great trip!
     
  9. MSSANDRA

    MSSANDRA DIS Veteran

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    We are about 4 hours from the area and quite familiar with the lay out. You are quite right that the area can be quite expensive if you are not careful. We love staying at a cabin and always cook a big breakfast and grill every night. A hot tub is a great way to enjoy the cool evenings on the deck if you can request a home with one. If you really want to spend no extra money, avoid the PF strip and Gatlinburg strip. So many fun looking thing begging your kids to come!! If you like to hike, lots of time can be spent in the Smokey Mountains, it not a day or so drive is plenty for most people. Depending on where your house is, you may or may not have room to play outside and explore the area a little bit. Some houses have a pool table or a game system. We have never really planned a really budget trip there but we do enjoy some time at the house. Take movies, board games, special foods etc. If you choose to add a few costly items to your trip, we really like the aquarium. Costly but we spent a half day there and really had a great time. Dollywood is good entertainment value. If you enter after 4 or so one day, you enter the next day free. It's not WDW but it is good clean family fun. There are some really good breakfast/pancake houses that are not too expensive if you get tired of cooking. Also of you ride through the Smokey Mountains, you will find yourself in Cherokee. It's a tourist style Indian Reservation but the kids might like to look around but beaware there are lots of ways to spend money here too. There is also a casino but kids are not allowed it at all I do not believe. Have fun! As long as the kids know the focus is low cost, you can have a lot of fun there.
     
  10. tinkgirl1984

    tinkgirl1984 Mouseketeer

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    Just wanted to mention that a trip to Cherokee that way may not be an option. There was a landslide on 441 a couple of weeks ago. The road isn't projected to be open again until sometime in the summer. Also, there are a million things to do, but Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge in general are money traps. It's nothing like it was 15 years ago :) There are rides, go carts, putt putt, souvenir shops, etc. everywhere. You can definitely take up a day with a trip to Cades Cove. If you do want to spend money on activities, my top picks would be Dollywood, the Titanic museum and the aquarium. I think you can probably get discount tickets for all of those through AAA if you're a member. Also, if you want to try a pancake place, The Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg is hands down the best. If you have specific questions, I'd be happy to help. I live about 35 minutes from Pigeon Forge. I'm there a lot.
     
  11. luvmy3

    luvmy3 <font color=green>When I drink I find its easier t

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    I don't mean to hi-jack the thread, but can someone tell me what the weather is typically like at the end of March. We are looking for something to do for Spring Break and PF looks perfect for us.
     
  12. CluelessDisFan

    CluelessDisFan DIS Veteran

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    We're also from OH and drove down in September for a 4 day trip. I think it's perfect amount of time. I second the Ripley's aquarium. It's very cool! If you're looking to save money, like we did. Go to the national park, and ignore all the tourist trap things in Gatlinburg and pigeon forge. We like to hike, but with small kids it can be kind of difficult. So we drove up through the national park, there are some very cool look out points. Go to the visitor center a park ranger can help you decide which trails would be best. I would think easier trails would be best, I know when I was that age at the Smokies I hated hiking. We enjoyed Laurel Falls, and Cataract Falls trails.
     
  13. mrudman

    mrudman DIS Veteran

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    Thank you all for the replies! :)

    After googling some of the places mentioned, I think we're definitely going to have to take this trip. I casually mentioned it to dd's and they're super excited about going.

    Thanks for all the tips on places to go, and places to avoid! Definitely will visit the Cades Cove area.

    Want to make this a laid back/cheap trip, so thinking we'll spend most of our time just driving around and seeing the area, or hiking some of the trails.

    But thanks for the idea about visiting the aquarium.. younger dd is obsessed with penguins, so I know she'd love that. And not sure how I didn't think of horseback riding, but know both dd's would love to do that as well.

    Thanks again!
     
  14. Katlyn

    Katlyn DIS Veteran

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    Horseback Riding is also available at Cades Cove Stables. In Oct, Our 9 yr old gdaughter was with us and that's the one thing she wanted to do the most. We rode the Horses (30.00 per person) then spent the rest of the day exploring Cades Cove. We packed a picnic lunch and had a great time but we always do since that is our must do when we are up there. She enjoyed The Aquarium and Dollywood too.
     
  15. ccgirl

    ccgirl DIS Veteran

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    If you have time, I would definitely do Dollywood. We went last year for the first time and absolutely loved it. We did as a PP suggested and went after 4pm one day and got in the next day for free.
     
  16. DisneyDiana

    DisneyDiana DIS Veteran

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    Dollywood is fabulous. I think it is worth spending some extra money to go at least for the day. I much prefer Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge. We rent a beautiful condo for about $ 160 a night that is a half mile outside Great Smokey mountain National Park. We love our vacations there just as much as Disney. One of our favorite areas to picnic is the Chimneys area. You will love it!
     
  17. MSSANDRA

    MSSANDRA DIS Veteran

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    If your child likes penguins, you really need to go to the aquarium there. They have a wonderful exhibit! They have the crawl tubes you can go through and be face to face with the penguins and they even take them for strolls around the museum.SOOO cool to have them just walk past you! I really think that you may want to consider trying to save and budget and try to add a few things to do. It really is not like the beach where you have the beach for free or a hotel with a pool. It's going to be walking/ ridding through the mountains or hanging at your cabins.
     
  18. mrudman

    mrudman DIS Veteran

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    My younger dd would absolutely freak (in a good way) if one walked by her. Do they let them out every day, or just every so often?
     
  19. MSSANDRA

    MSSANDRA DIS Veteran

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    I wish I knew. They did it twice while we were there during the Summer but it was early am so not too busy yet. They did have scheduled feeding times for them too. It really is one of the better exhibits we have seen anywhere and we had done a lot.
     
  20. disneybound31

    disneybound31 DIS Veteran

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    If you go to the red/white striped candy shop right on the Gatlinburg strip (u will see it easily if you are strolling on the same side of the strip as the Ripley's Believe It or Not) they make fresh saltwater taffy on a neat machine in front of a huge window...the candy maker will almost always offer spectating children FREE, wrapped warm pieces of fresh taffy that he pulls right from the machine...

    The skylift across street is not super budget, but it is a fun adventure to the top of the mountain with neat souvie picture opportunity...

    There is a great free movie at the Sugarlands Visitor Center just a few miles inside the National Forest after leaving the Gatlinburg Strip...

    Check Groupon and Living Social for Knoxville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlingburg deals...I have a Groupon for half-off 2 hour horseback ride for 2 people...makes it $30 total for 2 people. Not bad deal...

    Also, there are free coupon books on almost every corner or hotel and business lobby...lots of restaurant BOGO meal deals, putt putt coupons, skylift coupons, etc.

    Don't pay to park in strip lots--you can find free lots a couple blocks off strip and then safely walk down to strip and walk along both sides window shopping and checking out quaint shops for inexpensive souvies...
     
  21. richkaryn

    richkaryn Mouseketeer

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    We live about 3 hours from there and have camped in the Smokies twice in last year and a half and visited Wilderness at the Smokies this past Labor Day weekend. While there last, we discovered this amazing pizza place called "Mafia House Pizza". There were certificates for it on Restaurant.com not that long ago, but I haven't checked in a couple months.
     

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