We just got home today from our vacation that began in Gatlinburg, and I wanted to share our experiences. We were only in Gatlinburg for 2 days, because it was a part of a longer trip, but it was nice to spend a few days there and do a few things that were new to us. Our trip was on a motorcycle and part of an 11 day road trip that took us 2700 miles through 10 states - so much fun! One of the highlights for me was riding the entire Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Dr. - I'll post about that in the NC and VA forums. We also had a cool experience at the end of the trip in Indianapolis, IN when we rode in the Miracle Ride, a charity ride for their children's hospital - a separate posting in the Indianapolis forum on that, but let me say that a real highlight was getting a hug from Rupert of Survivor fame, who was a part of the event (I love that guy!).
As far as Gatlinburg, it was a different kind of visit than we usually do, because we did things in town, rather than the national park. Since we were heading to the BR Parkway, we decided not to go out into the park, but enjoy some of the town attractions and restaurants. We stayed at the Edgewater Hotel. It was OK, but we really like the privacy of cabins more. The two best things about it were the location - so easy to walk everywhere - and the covered parking. We didn't have to pay for parking or move our bike much, which was great with the holiday traffic. We had a lot of fun playing the mini-golf that's on the strip that has holes that feature the history of Gatlinburg - who knew that Gatlin, the town's namesake, got ran out of town? We also enjoyed eating at Linebargers (sat on the balcony and did people-watching while we ate) and Applewood's at the end of the strip (my favorite meal in Gatlinburg on this trip!) I also got to experience Pancake Pantry that everyone raves about and thought it was quite good. It was our last meal before heading to 3 days on the BR Parkway, and it was a great send-off!
The worst part of the trip was our own fault. In a weak moment last winter, we had signed up for a timeshare tour with Bluegreen Resorts - hence us staying at the Edgewater, instead of our usual cabin. We were scheduled for that presentation on Sun. morning, and it took the whole morning. The presentation was 2 1/2 hours long, and while our presenter was pleasant and made it fairly interesting, it got ugly at the end. We really did sign up to learn more about how timeshares work, and not just to get the free hotel room, because we had toyed with the idea that it might be something we were interested in. However, once we heard about the structure of how it works, we realized it wouldn't fit the way we like to travel. We told our presenter that, and she immediately called someone over to give us the hard sell. He was rude, condescending, and confrontational from the first minute. It was an ugly conversation. He ended up walking off and not shaking my husband's outstretched hand. SO. . . lesson learned - a time share offer is NOT worth it. It almost ruined the day for me because I was upset at how we were treated when we had tried to be respectful to them, and it basically shot half a day of our vacation time. I will never do that again.
One other thing that we did that was complimentary with the timeshare deal was go see The Miracle in Pigeon Forge - which presents the story of Christ, beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We had a terrible time getting to PF, due to a wreck on the highway - took us about an hour and a half to go 5 miles. However, it was an interesting experience, and we were glad we had chosen the tickets with our deal. We ate a quick meal at the Legends restaurant next door before it started and was surprised to see our waitress get up and sing a number (and then come back and fill our glasses!) which made it fun. We bought the backstage tour pass for The Miracle ($5) and was really glad we did, because it made the show so much more interesting to see how they do all the special effects. The production had lots of fun features, like flying angels, real animals (snake in the Garden of Eden, camels, horses, sheep), lots of dancing and singing. Some of the acting and singing left something to be desired - it felt at times like everyone was trying too hard, but I know they were passionate about their story, and I appreciated their efforts. I probably wouldn't go back, unless it was to take my grandchildren - I think kids would really be awestruck by the production and would recommend it for them.
So it was a nice visit, not the best time we've had in Gatlinburg, but a reminder to me that the best reason to go to G'burg is the beauty of the Smokies and all they have to offer. The town stuff is nice, but for us, we really like the park experiences better.
When we got home today, my Trip Advisor backpack was in our mail - I told my hubby that I needed that when I was in PP so all the TA people would recognize me :) I'll wear it next year when we come back!