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WELCOME to the Smoky Mountains Family Vacation Travel Guide!

So, let’s start with an intro from me.

My name is Amanda Bowers and I have lived in TN my entire 43 years of living. I spent a brief 4 years in Memphis while attending Pharmacy school a looooong time ago, but the rest of my life has been spent in the small upper NE TN corner of this world. I’ve vacationed and enjoyed the Smoky Mountains as far back as my memories go…I can remember going to Silver Dollar City when I was a kid. 🙂

Currently, we make 3-7 trips per year to the Smokies…I wish we could get there more, but the crowds are definitely getting to be a challenge so we try to go in off peak times. My favorite hotel is the Margaritaville in Gatlinburg, but we’ve stayed in Margaritaville Island Hotel as well. We have also stayed in the Park Vista for 10 years straight while attending conventions. Lots of opinions on it..mostly good. 🙂

Smoky Mountains Family Vacations

We have camped a few times and we love staying in cabins and staying in Townsend/Wears Valley when we can. I’ve got tons of favorite restaurants, but always up for finding new ones.

Here’s my faves right now:

Favorite Breakfast spot: Tennessee Jed’s (don’t wast time standing pin line at the Pancake Pantry…go across the street and have a truly homey experience at Tennessee Jed’s. Love atmosphere, family owned, amazing food experience. Their little girl is the cutest!!)

Favorite Hotel: Margaritaville GATLINBURG

Favorite Experience: Driving through Catalooche to see Elk

Favorite Hike: Elkmont Camp

Favorite Dinner: This one is tough…Local Goat is good, but sooooo popular we rarely get there. We recently discovered a great hole in the wall BBQ called Preachers Smokehouse. Sooo good. Great friendly atmosphere as well. Also love Elvira’s in Wears Valley is great! [Can you tell, I love the family owned down home environments, yet?]

In this Great Smoky Mountains Vacation Guide,  you will find the collection of articles we have put together to help you learn more about visiting the Smoky Mountain region.  

smoky mountains vacation guide

Smoky Mountains Family Vacation Guides

The Smoky Mountains are a sub range of the greater Appalachian Mountains and also form part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

The “Smokies” as they are sometimes called run along the Tennessee-North Carolina border and are home to the #1 Most visited national park: The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

We have lived the Appalachian Mountains our whole life and have been vacationing in the Smokies for more than 30 years. We hope you will be inspired to come visit us sometime after reading our stories.

These Smoky Mountains travel guides will help you learn more about the Smoky Mountains and aid you in planning the perfect Smoky Mountains Family Vacation. 

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Things To Do In The Smoky Mountains

ATV Trail Tours In The Smoky Mountains

“If you drive to, say, Shenandoah National Park, or the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll get some appreciation for the scale and beauty of the outdoors. When you walk into it, then you see it in a completely different way. You discover it in a much slower, more majestic sort of way.”

– Bill Bynum

Best Time To Visit The Smoky Mountains

There is no bad time to visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, it depends upon what type of Smoky Mountains Vacation you desire. 

Fall is the most popular time to visit the Smoky Mountains when the beautiful mountains begin to pop with color.  It is also the most crowded time of the year to visit and will require you to arrive early to the most popular trails and sites in order to beat the crowds. 

Winter in the Smoky Mountains is a great time to visit. While to does snow in the higher elevations in the Smokies, snow isn’t always on the ground so traveling through the Smokies is still possible throughout most of the winter months. Check the NPS site for road and trail closure. The best thing about the Smoky Mountains in the winter are the beautiful Smoky Mountains Christmas lights, holiday shows, and amazing food.

Spring in the Smoky Mountains is a great time for hiking because the waterfalls will be at their peak and the wild flowers will be in bloom. 

Summer in the Smoky Mountains is also a very popular time for families to visit Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the surrounding communities.  Outdoor activities, hiking, whitewater rafting, and Dollywood all make summer a great time to visit.

Cheap Flights to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mcghee-Tyson Airport: The McGhee Tyson Airport located in Knoxville, TN is approximately 45 minutes  to 1 hour south of Gatlinburg, TN and services most major airlines.  Recently Allegiant airlines added cheap flights to the Great Smoky Mountains Airport with their service out Pittsburgh, PA.

Asheville Regional Airport: The Asheville Regional airport is also located within an hour’s drive of the Great Smoky Mountains. Allegiant Airlines also offers cheap flights into Asheville from major airports in Denver, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and Detroit.

We recommend using Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flight to the Great Smoky Mountains from your location.

Things To To In The Smoky Mountains With Kids

If you are planning a vacation to the Smoky Mountains with the kids, here are a few articles to help you make plan the best things to do with the kids.  

As homeschoolers, we also love visiting the Smoky Mountains as part of our “school day”. There are multiple places to attend homeschool days in the Smokies including Dollywood and plenty of great attractions for field trips. 

Smoky Mountains Attractions

Smoky Mountains Restaurants

There are so many great places to eat in the Smoky Mountains.  Here’s a list of our favorite places to eat in Gatlinburg, TN. 

Where to Stay In The Great Smoky Mountains

There are three major gateway towns to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In addition to these three major towns, there are  several other small communities which offer lodging, camping, and cabins.

Camping is also available within the national park, but requires that you make reservations well in advance.  Here are a few resources to help you decide where to stay when visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. 

There is one lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains, LeConte Lodge.  The rustic lodge can only be reached via hiking on one of 5 trails within the park, reservations begin to be accepted on in August and bookings begin in October for the following calendar year and operate on first come first serve basis with a long waiting list.  For more details on visiting Mt. Leconte Lodge visit this website.

There are hundreds of hotels in the surrounding communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville for your family to choose from during your Smoky Mountains Vacation.

We are always updating and working on new information about family friendly resorts, hotels, cabins, and lodging in the Smoky Mountains. Here are a few of our current resources to help you plan your stay in the Smokies. 

Pigeon Forge Hotels With Family Suites

Smoky Mountains Campgrounds

Camping In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Camping within Great Smoky National park can be enjoyed in one of four ways.

  • Backcountry Camping
  • Frontcountry Camping
  • Group Campgrounds
  • Horse Camps

Traditional family camping in a tent is available at several campgrounds for those desiring to do frontcountry camping.   Both tent camping and RV camping is available within the park. Reservations are required and book up early so plan accordingly.  Visit the NPS website for more information and to schedule you reservation.

Outdoorsy RV Rentals – #1 Trusted RV Rentals. Low On Cost, High On Adventure. $1M Insurance Included. Plan Your Trip Now!

Smoky Mountains Cabins

Smoky Mountain Rental Cabin

More US National Parks Reading

What questions do you have about planning your Smoky Mountains Vacation?