Part 2 - Missouri to Tennessee
Day two of my travel started in St. Louis, Missouri and ended in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. If you day one of my trip that included Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri, check out Part 1. As I mentioned in Part 1, Gatlinburg was the destination we had budgeted the most time for. We had a long list of things to do in Gatlinburg, so we set aside two days to get it done.
It was an 8 hour drive from St. Louis to Gatlinburg, but it was well worth it. From the second you enter Gatlinburg, which is pushed up against the Smokey Mountains, there are things to see. The streets are lined with shops and attractions (see photos), beckoning every passerby to stop.
The great thing about Gatlinburg is, if you did not have anything in particular planned upon arrival, you can always find something to do simply by looking left or right as you are driving. There are shows, restaurants, souvenir shops, rides, museums, aquariums, and more. As you make your way deeper into Gatlinburg, it looks as if you are in a tiny village. The streets are narrow, people are walking everywhere, and the attractions are packed closer and closer together. This is the part of town that we were most looking forward to. On this part o the street are all of the Ripley's attractions. There is the Ripley's Odditorium, which is a museum displaying odd things. There is also a Ripley's Guinness World Record Museum, where you can see a large amount of strange, and non-strange, world records. By far the greatest Ripley's attraction, in my opinion, is the aquarium. The aquarium boasts a large number of marine animals, as well as an awesome viewing area for sharks and other larger marine animals.
Things to Do in Gatlinburg, TN
I mentioned all of the Ripley's attractions, but I am going to go into a bit more depth, especially with the aquarium. The full name of the aquarium, for GPS and Searching purposes, is Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Hands down, one of the greatest aquariums I have had the pleasure of experiencing.
As far as aquariums go, especially those in heavy tourism areas, the prices (which you can see on their website) are reasonable. This aquarium has a lot to see and kept my son, who was 7 months old at the time, occupied for a couple of hours.
What sets this aquarium apart from most other aquariums is their conveyor belt. Yes, conveyor belt. At one point, you can step on a slow moving conveyor belt that takes you around there largest tank that houses a number of fish and other marine life, as well as their sharks. This feature allows visitors the perfect opportunity to view the sharks and other marine life without the hassle of bumping elbows with the other visitors.
Gatlinburg - Pigeon Forge - Smokey Mountains
So, food. For the love of God, go to Johnny Rockets, especially if you have never been there. It is a casual burger place, made to like like an old-school diner. My wife and I had not seen a Johnny Rockets since leaving Rhode Island for Colorado over 3 years prior to this trip. We could not resist. If you like burgers, as well as a restaurant easy on the wallet, check it out. It is right on the main street amongst the attractions.
The Smokey Mountains
Picturesque. Majestic. Breathtaking. I could keep going, but it would probably be better if I explained what I am referring to. The Smokey Mountains. Do not leave the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area without visiting the Smokey Mountains.
The road that will take you to the mountains is something out of a book, or a movie (see photo). It is exactly what you would expect a forest/mountain road to look like. Lined with trees, winding, and offering a cool mountain breeze. It is almost worth the drive to the mountains just to experience the drive itself.
What's great is that you are able to drive up the mountain, and the fact that there are multiple stopping places along the way to the top that offer breathtaking views (see photos). The Smokey Mountains may not be the highest mountains, but that does not make the views any less spectacular. An added plus is the fact that parts of the mountain are pet friendly.
Where to Stay
As I mentioned in Part 1, and in all my blogs for that matter, do your research. Gatlinburg offers a plethora of hotel accommodations. There is a hotel for every budget. My wife had stayed at the Bearskin Lodge on the River on a previous trip and loved it. We were going to stay there, but unfortunately they do not accept pets.
So, we decided to stay at the La Quinta, as we usually do now. The La Quinta was in Pigeon Forge, but as you can see from the map above, Pigeon Forge borders Gatlinburg and the hotel was literally minutes the aquarium and museums. Although we were not in Gatlinburg, the street the hotel was on is lined with restaurants, attractions, and shops.
As I mentioned in Part 1, La Quinta hotels are great because of their spacious rooms, pillow top mattresses, rewards program, and of course, complimentary breakfast.
Next - Things to Do Across the US Part 3
Soon to come will be Part 3 of Things to Do Across the US. Part 3 will feature day four of the trip: Tennessee to Pennsylvania. On day four we drove from Gatlinburg to Hershey, Pennsylvania. I had never been to Hershey, and my wife was looking forward to going again. If you haven't noticed, my wife has travelled quite a bit, unlike myself. Be sure not to miss Part 3, coming soon.
DISCLAIMER: I did my research, so you should do yours. While I hope my blog helped you, do not take my word for anything, especially those involving prices, weather, etc. I take no responsibility for anything that may go wrong on your trip (although hopefully all will go well).