Spring Break in the Smokies

All over the country, schools are beginning to take their spring break vacations.  If you are in need of ideas of what to do during your week off then look no further than the Great Smoky Mountains.  There is so much to do and see that you can plan a fun filled vacation for the entire family. Check out what’s fun for spring break in the Smokies this year.

There are two big destinations in the Smoky Mountains that draw many visitors: Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg; and both for good reason. There are so many different activities and attractions for people of all ages. Let’s start with Pigeon Forge.

Pigeon Forge

Probably one of the most visited destinations in Pigeon Forge is Dollywood.  Founded by Dolly Parton herself, Dollywood is a come all, see all theme park and village.  Visit the amusement park for thrill rides, live shows, and games for the whole family.  Opening March 18th, there are 3 new roller coasters for 2017 and two new entertainment shows to check out. Also inside Dollywood are plenty of shops filled with arts and crafts from local artisans as well as antique shops, clothing shops, and of course souvenir shops.  Feeling hungry after a long day? The restaurants inside Dollywood serve up local fare and down home good cookin’ like mouth-watering barbeque. One could easily spend 2 days inside Dollywood just to take in all the sights.  There is a lodge to stay at or the campgrounds at Dollywood for RV and tent camping.

If high-flying adventures are your cup of tea then check out the Island Ropes Course in Pigeon Forge.  There are two different levels of climbing courses: one for smaller children under 48”, “Sky Tykes”, and one for bigger children and adults, the “Sky Trail Explorer Course.”  This ropes course offers over 30 obstacles; 2 zip lines; and a simulated “free fall”. They even have a night climb where everything is illuminated through blacklights. It’s one of the best and most visited ropes courses in the Smoky Mountains.

Pigeon Forge has some breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains. What better way to see them than from top of the Great Smoky Mountain Ferris Wheel.  Enjoy a relaxing, slow paced ride to the top of the wheel and enjoy the spectacular views of the mountains. OR you can see the Smokies while plunging through the tree tops at 25mph! The Smoky Mountain Ziplines and Canopy Tours are one of the top rated outfitters in Pigeon Forge for zip line tours.  With 7 different trails and over 4200 feet of cable you get to experience the Smokies like you never have before; 150 feet up in the air.  Zip line tours are available daily and last up to 2 hours.  Children must be accompanied by an adult and must be 8 years of age or older. 

Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, TN is another top destination in the Smoky Mountains.  Gatlinburg tends to cater to the older crowd with its many wineries and distilleries.  Moonshine is a staple in Tennessee and there are a few different moonshine distilleries that opened recently in Gatlinburg.  They offer free tours of the distillery but sampling will cost you a small fee.  Most are open daily and offer tours several times a day. 

A fun place to go for kids and adults is the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.  Rated one of the top 5 aquariums in the USA and the world, this aquarium has it all.  There are thousands of different species of sea life throughout dozens of exhibits.  Experience the tropical rainforest, animals of the coral reef, and an underwater tunnel that gives you a closer look at 12 ft sharks that inhabit the waters above you.  Plus much more! Spend the day exploring and learning about the wonders of the deep.

For the younger or more adventurous crowd, Gatlinburg has ample opportunities for whitewater rafting! Take a guided tour down the Pigeon River on Class III and Class IV rapids.  Depending on what kind of experience you want, the upper portion of Pigeon River has the more intense rapids, while down river is calmer.  In between raging rapids you can gaze up at the majestic Smoky Mountains from views like you’ve never seen before. 

Smoky Mountain National Park

You can’t explore the Smokies on spring break without actually exploring Smoky Mountain National Park.  There are plenty of outdoor activities for all ages to enjoy.  Hiking and biking trails wind throughout the park; 150 trails total.  You can kayak and canoe on the many rivers that wind throughout. Fishing is popular in the glistening streams, and you can watch hundreds of species of wildlife in their natural habitat.

Sometimes just taking the family camping for spring break is vacation enough.  There are plenty of campgrounds in Smoky Mountain National Park.  Back country camping is available if you are willing to hike a few miles to your destination campsite.  Other camping at developed campsites has restrooms and running water for your convenience.  There are also group campsites available for groups of 8 or more people, and horse camps if you decide to bring along your 4-legged stallion.

Campsites can be reserved online. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/grsm

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