Great Smoky Mountains #1 – Bears & Dixie Stampede

Back in April/May I went to the Great Smoky Mountains for my sister’s birthday. It is apparently the most visited national park in the US (who’d have guessed?) and known for being a very expansive mountainous area. A big plus is that it’s free to go in and definitely worth a wander round. We went for a long weekend and stayed at an Airbnb in Pigeon Forge. PF is basically Blackpool in a forest setting haha. It has one main road that features many shops, mini golfs, restaurants and dinner shows (so many dinner shows). A unique thing about the area is that the county is a dry one and therefore very family friendly (and you will definitely see a ton of families visiting the area). It’s located in the south of the US and over the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.

This post is about day one of our trip and what we got up to! We started by waking up in our truly unique cabin haha. We went for the most kitsch one possible and boy oh boy it was like a flashback to the 90s. A highlight for me was getting to watch Pocahontas on VHS and actually rewinding the tape, it’s the little things! My sister wanted a full bear experience and so once we saw all the decor including a bear table, bear salt/pepper shakes, bear rug – it was perfect! If you do visit try to get out of the main hustle bustle/hotels, I think a cabin really amplifies the whole experience!

We started the day by grabbing some breakfast at the Pancake Pantry. It was a very cute place where all the waitresses were a little more elderly and the food was truly delicious. It’s a popular place so get there early or expect a queue. I went for the sweet potato pancakes (the favourite) and they were scrumptious.

Our next stop was heading to the visitor centre. I will always recommend going to these no matter what park/state you’re in as they have the most up to date information. From there we found out about Cades Cove and decided to do that loop. It’s a valley in the park that you drive around and stop off at different sights/locations along the way. Before the park it was home to different settlers and you can learn more about their homes and lifestyle as you go through. Everyone told us that seeing bears was pretty unlikely but on this loop alone we saw nine! For most of the road it’s one lane so therefore you know if wildlife is up ahead as a traffic jam will suddenly appear. You can see below the madness that happened when someone spotted a bear and all the people ran from their cars!


Cades Cove took us a good few hours and then we went to a dinner show – Dolly’s Dixie Stampede! There are a few of these dotted around the south and it’s essentially a horse riding show where they serve you food. I’ve been to many of these before like Buffalo Bill’s and Tournament of Kings so kind of knew what to expect. This one focuses on the Civil War and divides the audience up by the South and the North (if possible try and be on the South as they are way more rowdy due to you actually being in the South). The show was entertaining and not as patriotic as I was expecting – and the food was pretty decent too! All in all I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a night activity.

After that we headed back to our cabin and either fell asleep or watched a VHS, I’m not sure. The next day we drove out of the Tennessee range and headed into the North Carolina part to do some hiking and further afield exploring. I’ll put that up on Wednesday and link it here so you can check it out!

Discussion

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