DISCLAIMER: A huge "thank you" to Gatlinburg Falls Resort for hosting my family and me.
Have you ever visited a place that just felt like home, even though it wasn't? A place where you can unwind, relax and leave the day to day struggles behind. A place to make memories and laugh with your kids without having to worry about school or work or all the little things that bare down on us.
A place far removed from the sirens and traffic and busyness of the city. A place that feels like your very own little slice of heaven. A place with beautiful, serene views that you never tire of.
For me, this place is the Smoky Mountains. Every time my tires hit the Sevier county line, I feel like I'm back home. I see that beautiful mountain range come into view and all the worries of life fade away and my only concern is where to focus my attention first.
Being a native Tennessean, trips to the Smokies were a yearly occurrence as a child. Even now, I remember the feeling I had when we would get right on the outskirts of the main strip that runs through Pigeon Forge; the anticipation and excitement that would well up inside me as the putt-putt golf courses and fun roadside attraction started coming into view.
I can remember the feeling of driving "up the mountain" to get to Gatlinburg proper. The sheer awesomeness (for lack of a better term) of the mountain faces and the flowing creeks and the trees with their beautiful foliage and the longing to actually spot a bear. Even as a kid, I knew this place was magic.
The smell of funnel cakes and yummy street food permeate the air as you drive down the parkway. The sound of live music being played by a band and the smiles on the faces as you drive by.
The quaint artisanal shops and hand made candy shops are forever ingrained in my mind and I am so glad that I have a chance to share this amazing, wondrous place with my own children., because about a year ago, that was almost not a possibility when Gatlinburg became the victim of a horrendous wildfire.
The damage was pretty bad, and it looked very bleak, but I'm pleased to report; in the three times we have been to Gatlinburg since the fire, nothing has changed.
The people are still as friendly as ever, the scenery is still just as breath-taking, the homes that were lost are rebuilding bigger and better than ever. If anything, the fire has only strengthened the resolve of this beautiful, close-knit community. Gatlinburg is still open for business.
If you've never been to the Smokies... what in the world are you waiting for?! Within a day's drive for most of the eastern United States, the Smokies are the number one family destination in the south. For me, it's one of those places you can visit several times a year and never get tired of or run out of things to do and see.
On our most recent family adventure to the Smokies, we were fortunate enough to be hosted by the amazing folks at Gatlinburg Falls Parkside Resort. Voted #1 family resort in The Smokies, Gatlinburg Falls boasts over 400 cabins scattered throughout the Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Wear's Valley areas.
Whether you need a cozy one bedroom cabin or a monster 18 bedroom mountain mansion, Gatlinburg Falls has you covered. Amenities vary from cabin to cabin, but you can be assured no matter where you choose to stay, you will be surrounded by first-class accommodations and the best customer service anywhere.
The cabin we stayed in, Cypress Lodge, boasts 4 king sized master bedrooms, with a full bath in each room on the top floor. A fully furnished kitchen with updated appliances, enough dishes for a small army and seating for a family of 8 plus bar seating. I light up just thinking about the memories that were made over morning lattes at this bar.
Adjacent to the kitchen is a beautiful living room, complete with a fireplace, (electric, of course, for safety) a half bath, for convenience and a broom closet stocked with everything from extra blankets and pillows to an ironing board. (yes, people still use those things)
The entire bottom floor is a kid's dream come true. (The grown-up kids loved it too) With a pool table, air hockey table and several full-sized stand-up game consoles, there was never a cry of "Mooommmmm, I'm bored!" like in years past.
This floor also has a full theater room with a wall-sized HD screen and a surround sound system that will literally knock your socks off. (yes, I'm old, I use old people vernacular, sue me) The entire cabin is equipped with wi-fi (it actually works on all three floors of the cabin, which is tough to find that high in the mountains)
There's also a bunk bed downstairs for late night slumber parties and a deck off the entertainment room with a Jacuzzi tub that would easily fit six people. This floor of the cabin got lots of use, to say the least.
The only other place that got as much use as the game room would probably be the beautiful deck. It sounds so cliche', but watching the sun rise over the mountains is truly an experience one MUST have before they die. Even the kids were in awe of the beautiful show Mother Nature provided for us each morning.
I know I say this every time I go to The Smokies, but this was truly an adventure I will never forget. The views from any and every vantage point were amazing. The kids were good, there were no vehicular emergencies as in years past, (the time we glazed our brakes driving through the National Park), the weather was nice, even for winter in the mountains; there was just the perfect amount of snow on the ground, but not the roads... It truly was one of those "pinch me" moments.
I crossed several things off my bucket list on this trip... Share a blanket with the hubby on the deck of a beautiful cabin in The Smokies while the sun rises, get my obligatory picture in front of the sign at the entrance to the National Park, step out of my comfort zone and explore new places, say "yes" to every adventure, no matter how crazy and the best of all, just be in the moment and enjoy whatever life has to offer.
If these chairs could talk, oh the tales they could tell. The stories shared and memories made here will last me a lifetime... or until the next time I can make it back.
For more info on Gatlinburg Falls, and to stay up-to-date on all their seasonal specials, you can follow them on Twitter, "Like" them on Facebook and see all their beautiful pictures on Instagram.
Keep an eye out for next week's post when I will be sharing my list of fun, free, family-friendly things to do in The Smokies. You can subscribe to my weekly emails here, if you like or you can find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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