I grew up traveling to Gatlinburg, Tennessee often as a kid as a place of escape from the Carolinas and a popular mountain destination. This year my best friend, Linda, and I both had decided we wanted to take trips for our birthday weekends since we had not gotten to do a much in the way of celebration last year. Linda being a huge mountain lover, suggested Tennessee. Needed a bit of thrill, we decided to head to roller coasters and apple fritters in Pigeon Forge. We found the cutest AirBnB run by ranch owners in Sevierville. Each cabin can sleep up to four people and overlooks the family’s horses and the Tennessee mountain range. Our first night in we found some dinner near by and unwound from the drive, while also making sure we had everything set for the next day.
When I was fourteen, my family and I traveled to Tennessee to visit Dollywood for the first time. Not being a big fan of rollercoasters at the time, I occupied myself in the park with the shows, snacks, and being fascinated with how clean the park was kept. Now being a long time fan of coasters, I was excited to visit the park as an adult and view it from a new lens. Our forecast for park day called for storms in the morning, so we decided to get there early in case we needed to duck into a museum. We had pre-purchased our tickets and parking pass online, so all we had to do was scan a QR code on the way in. Running from rain wound up being exactly what we had to do, as thunder boomed loudly over us almost immediately after we entered the park. Sadly for us, The Chasing Rainbows museum about Dolly’s life didn’t open until 11:00, despite the park opening at 10:00. Thank goodness for awnings! Once we finally got in the museum, it was fun to walk through and look at the items Dolly had complied there to commemorate her life. I remembered a lot of the museum from childhood, and it was cool to get to see what I had remembered accurately. The rest of our day was spent enjoying the rollercoasters and charm that Dollywood has to offer. While we were there on a Friday and it should have been busy, the forecast seemed to discourage a lot of people from coming. The longest wait we had was a little over two hours for the new “it” coaster in the park, but other than that we walked right on to the rides. Dollywood has a pretty generous “rain check” policy, so if you can go on a day when there’s a small chance of rain it could help decrease your wait times. If it winds up raining more than you like, you can speak with an attendant before mid-day to get a rain check, and you can return to the park with the same ticket the next day.
Since it had been awhile since I’d been in a theme park, I had forgotten just how tiring it was. After we left Dollywood we grabbed some local pizza, then spent the rest of our night watched HGTV. Hey, this is what turning 27 looks like! The next morning we headed into Pigeon Forge for some early morning mini golf ( a Linda favorite ) before heading into downtown Gatlinburg to visit the popular attraction: Anakeesta. I discovered Anakeesta on TikTok and got inspired to visit for their famous Treewalk, and I was definitely not the only one. I would highly recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time as Anakeesta has grown extremely popular and the line for tickets was rather long. Anakeesta is a village that sits on top of the mountain and that is accessible by chair lift or a bus. Not wanting to wait in the crazy-long line for the chair lift, we decided to take the bus up to the mountain. Anakeesta has several cute spots for food, a mountain coaster, a few shops, and of course the famous Treewalk, so it’s a great place to spend an afternoon in Gatlinburg. It is in the heart of downtown near the aquarium and other popular tourist destinations, so it’s very conveniently located if you’ve got smaller kids or if you want to explore downtown Gatlinburg. We finished out our visit to Pigeon Forge the only way you can: with a visit to The Apple Barn. If you don’t know about The Apple Barn, this restaurant has its own orchard out back where they grow their produce and then make the best apple products you can imagine (I daydream about the fritters quite often). Next to the restaurant you can find the general store where I always stop to stock up on their apple butter and other fun treats. You can also now order their products online which is so exciting; apple butter always makes a great gift!
A summer weekend getaway is always fun and this was was no exception. Anytime I get to travel with my best friend is a good time, but especially when it’s celebrating her birthday. Check out the links below to see all the stops we made on our travels through the Pigeon Forge area; happy mountain travels!
Five Oaks Farm Kitchen: https://fiveoaksfarmkitchen.com/
Big Daddy’s Pizzeria: https://www.bigdaddyspizzeria.net/
Mini Golf: https://losttreasuregolf.com/
Anakeesta Theme Park: https://anakeesta.com/
The Apple Barn: https://www.applebarncidermill.com/