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Planning a new trip can be overwhelming even if you’ve been an avid traveler or good at planning. No matter the destination, it can be daunting to decide which spots to visit, what food to eat, and where to stay.

When planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, you might feel overwhelmed as there is a lot to see and do in the Smokies. Ensure you don’t leave everything to the last minute. This article will take you through all the steps to plan a spectacular vacation to the Smoky Mountains.

Step 1: When to Go?

Selecting a travel date is the most time-consuming part of any trip. Whether you’re traveling solo, with family, friends, or a random group of tourists, deciding which date suits everyone is challenging. When traveling to the Smoky Mountains, you want to make sure that you plan to make your reservations in advance. If you are traveling during the busy season, the summer season, there will be more tourists than usual vying for the best spots in town.

In summer, you want to book the shows you want to see in advance. You also don’t want to pick a season when most activities like hiking, helicopter tour, fishing, or waterfall walks would be unavailable. So when and how you plan your trip depends on which activities interest you.

Step 2: What to Do?

The area covered by the Smoky Mountains spans over 500,000 acres, and there is something for every kind of tourist. There is a range of destinations to visit in the Smoky Mountains. Gatlinburg is the gateway to the mountain range. Access and approachability to nearby attractions depend on whether you’re staying at one of the Gatlinburg hotels on the strip or a cabin in the mountains based on what activities interest you. There’s a lot to do in the Smoky Mountains, from fishing, bicycling, having picnics, and taking walks to camp and wildlife watching. If you’re not too excited about spending the entirety of your trip surrounded by nature, there are shopping centers and restaurants for you to try as well.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Anyone who’s visiting the Smoky Mountains has to visit the National Park. If you don’t, it’s like you go to New York on New Year’s Eve and don’t see the ball drop at Times Square. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a wide range of activities. It is one of America’s Most Visited National Park and has beautiful areas like the Cades Cove, Clingmans Dove, and Newfound Gap. There are hiking trails, white water rafting, fishing, camping, walking through wildlife retreats, exploring historical sites, and having a picnic surrounded by natural scenery.

Cades Cove

The Cades Cove is an 11-mile road in the Smoky Mountains National Park, perfect for a long drive. It’s even more beautiful when the flowers are in full bloom during the spring season, and the black bears, white-tailed deer, and turkeys are roaming around. There are some resting stops along the way as well.

Newfound Gap

The Newfound Gap is a mile-high vantage point and is great for overlooking the Smoky Mountains. At 3000-feet, you can get a nice view of the lush green hills and mountains. And there are a few streams along the way as well. There are several jeep tour services that you can book in advance to take you up to the Newfound Gap.

Pigeon Forge

Of course, you don’t have to spend the entire trip strolling around the Smoky Mountains National Park. There are many other places to visit, like the town of Pigeon Forge, which has loads of options for tourists.

Titanic Museum

The Titanic Museum at the Pigeon Forge houses a half-scale model of the Titanic’s exterior. There’s also an artificial iceberg next to it. You have to buy a ticket which allows you to get a passenger boarding pass. This pass is named after an actual passenger who was on the Titanic. You can visit the Memorial Room and learn about the person’s history on your boarding pass. It’s a fun learning experience for people of all ages. There is also a special kids tour at the Museum, perfect if you’re traveling with children. 

French Broad River Helicopter Tour

There are two types of helicopter routes, the Lake View flight and the Extended Lake flight. The Lake View flight takes you beyond the French Broad River to Douglas Lake. With a flight of up to 1500-feet, you get a clear birds-eye view of the Smoky Mountains and a small flight over the Douglas Dam. The Extended Lake flight goes beyond the Lake View route to fly right above the Douglas Dam and towards the lake. Both routes are perfect for awe-inspiring views of the Smokies.

Coaster Ride

Although there are so many coaster rides in Tennessee, the Rocky Top Mountain Coaster ride is the only one in the world that has four uplifts. The ride goes through several tunnels, takes mind-boggling 360-degree turns, and gives a breath-taking view of the Smoky Mountains. It is even better if taken at night.

Dollywood Theme Park

You thought the National Park was the only big park in Gatlinburg? The Dollywood Theme Park pays homage to the iconic country star Dolly Parton. It’s perfect for a family and has great quality rides and amazing music shows.

Ober Ski Mountain

Located on Mount Harrison is Tennessee’s only ski resort. It has nine slopes for skiing, a terrain park, a mountain coaster, and an ice-skating field.

Step 3: Where to Stay?

Once you’ve decided on the places you would like to visit, it’s time to choose accommodation. Ideally, it shouldn’t be too far away from all the attractions you want to see. There are plenty of options – a cabin or a condo. Depending on the size and needs of your group or family, make sure to do your research and book in advance. You can find amazing accommodations in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, or the Wears Valley. Every town has its charm and activities, so you would have a lot to do. You can also book a cabin in the mountains – a good choice for those looking for a quiet retreat.

Step 4: What to eat?

Depending on where you booked your accommodation, there are plenty of restaurants. There are so many places to eat some great southern cuisine—plan on trying out local food and ask restaurants for their special dishes. You can also go for a picnic in the National Park and cook your meal, but nothing beats the unique flavor of a new dish that you won’t find at home.

Step 5: How to reach the Smokies?

You can reach the Smoky Mountains by car or airplane. There are no public transport options available, so those are your only two options. Most cities in the Southeast are within a 5-hour drive of the Smoky Mountains, so it wouldn’t be a hassle to travel by car. Of course, there is the Tyson McGee Airport in Knoxville for travelers coming from afar. Once you’ve reached the Smokies, moving around in a car is better. There are some jeep services as well in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

Final Verdict

Smokey Mountain Vacation will be a great experience for the adventure and thrill-seekers and those who want to enjoy nature. Planning ensures your trip goes smoothly. It is better to start planning at the earliest. Try to do as much research as you can on experiences, areas, and venues on your itinerary, restaurants to try, rides and trails to take, places to stay, and their rental rates. It is also better if you can book most things in advance, so you don’t have to deal with last-minute delays. Booking in advance might get you special discounts or features, as well.

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