Great Smoky Mountains Family Travel Guide

Every year over 9 million visitors enjoy thrilling adventure, spectacular entertainment, and delicious dining while surrounded by the gorgeous American splendor of the Smoky Mountains. The communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Townsend invite you to explore the western foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Once you’re here, you’ll discover the timeless charm and tradition of down-home Smoky Mountain hospitality!

People have been drawn for thousands of years to the amazing forested vistas and lush valleys of the Smokies. Learn about the area’s original inhabitants at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and witness the special relationship between nature and the native people at an outdoor performance of Unto These Hills. Most Smoky Mountain activity still takes place in the area’s natural beauty – from white-water rafting and horseback riding to hiking, fishing and golfing.

Spend a day with the family enjoying the spills and thrills at the area’s awesome amusement parks! Take to the skies on an exciting helicopter tour or hop aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for a little railway sightseeing. Want a little indoor adventure? Experience the incredible Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge and the mind-boggling marvels of WonderWorks. For some fun way inside, you can explore the breathtaking Forbidden Caverns!

When you’ve worked up a mountain-sized appetite, you need a country-style meal that’s just as grand! Racks of savory hickory-smoked ribs, platters heaped high with slow-cooked BBQ, and authentic Asian and Italian cuisines are all prepared especially for you. How would you like your supper served with a side of Smoky Mountain entertainment? Dinner theaters serve up nights filled with intrigue and laughs, toe-tapping musical ensembles, and thrilling Wild West extravaganzas!

Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap

Deals Gap is a popular and internationally famous destination for driving enthusiasts (of motorcycles and sportscars), as it is located along a stretch of two-lane road known as the The Dragon (or The Tail of the Dragon). The 11-mile stretch of the Dragon in Tennessee is said to contain 318 curves. Some of the Dragon’s sharpest curves have names like Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Wheelie Hell, Killboy (formerly Shade Tree) Corner, Mud Corner, Sunset Corner, Gravity Cavity, Beginner’s End and Brake or Bust Bend.

The road segment earned its name from its curves resembling the back or the tail of a dragon. The stretch bears the street name Tapoco Road in North Carolina and Calderwood Highway in Tennessee and is signed entirely by U.S. Highway 129. State Route 115 is included on maps, and is the name used by Tennessee Department of Transportation for highway contracts. Since part of the road is also the southwestern border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is no development along the 11 mile stretch, resulting in no danger of vehicles pulling out in front of those in the right of way. It mostly travels through forested area. Along the route, there are a few scenic overlooks and pulloff points.

The speed limit on the Dragon was 55 mph prior to 1992; however, in the 1990s and early 2000s, the limit was reduced a number of times until 2005 when a speed limit of 30 mph was signed along the entire stretch.

All Aboard for a Marvelous Family Journey: The Smokies

Take a ride that invigorates the senses. The Great Smoky Mountains by train will captivate and inspire the family. “All Aboard!”

There are plenty of thrilling things to do this coming fall, yet none perhaps more invigorating than feeling the vibrant sense of beauty in the Great Smoky Mountains.

A rewarding experience would be to plan a trip to North Carolina, where the family can spend a day touring the sites, most notably taking a train ride in the Great Smokys.

2020 Marked 85th Anniversary of Blue Ridge Parkway

2020 marked the 85th Anniversary celebration of the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway, running through most of North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway currently connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, spanning throughout the Smokys and Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina.

Nothing refreshes the senses and eases the mind than to take a train through the Smokys.

The adventure totally comes to life and makes a family vacation more than just a humdrum vacation. The sight’s,  smell, and sounds of this region by train transcend the soul. So during this 85th birthday, why not come to North Carolina and give this a shot.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Journey by train along the western NC mountains. Travel along cool, rushing rivers, over Fontana Lake on a high trestle, or through lush green valleys of rolling farmlands. Operating year-round. Departing from Bryson City half-day excursions. Special events and train/rafting combinations.

Great Smoky Mountains RailroadTravelers can make reservations for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad by calling 1-800-872-4681 or going online. The trains are stationed at the depot in Bryson City, in Western NC.

From Clayton, GA takes I-441 North to Hwy 74 West and follow the signs to Bryson City, Exit 67.

The address is 226 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713.

Book family and friends for a four-hour trip first-class style on the Champion car. Tourists must arrive on time, as to not miss the train. Then they are treated to premium service of a barbecue lunch, tea, wine, and coffee prepared fresh from the chef on board, the car’s private attendant. The engineer is there to tell some very informative information and stories of the history of the Smokys train service, as well as the history behind the Nantahala River, which flows alongside the train’s route.

The staff is renowned for doing a tremendous job of making the passengers feel genuinely comfortable, as they relax in a 1940’s style car.

This is certainly the place to take one’s family for an all-out unforgettable adventure.

The Great Smoky Mountains train service runs year-round. Depart for a 44-mile journey through the Nantahala George, reveling in the gorgeous scenery, including the Nantahala River.

Another marvelous route you’ll want to take advantage of is a ride near the Tuckasegee River-a 4 hour, 32 miles round trip, complete with a run through the historic Codee Tunnel, past a site where the movie, The Fugitive was filmed.

Get onboard first class on one of four train cars: the MacNeil, Champion, Dixie Flyer, & Silver Meteor Cars. These cars are climate controlled, as you breathe easy during the spring and summer months, and revel in the changing colors of fall, or smile at the glistening snow-capped mountains in the Smokys winter.

Ride and Dine:  Smoky Railroad Special Holiday Themes

Ride and dine in First Class (Adult $89 Child ages 2-12 $54, Infant $20), Crown Class (Adult $65, Child ages 2-12 $37, and Infant $9) or Coach Class (March-September & November-December: Adult $49, Child ages 2-12 $29; Fall Foliage October: Adult $53, Child ages 2-12 $31)

There are also packages for sleeping overnight and celebrating private parties or birthdays on your own Caboose.

Many events and activities are scheduled for the whole family year-round, including the “Easter Beagle Express” for Easter season, the “Lone Ranger Express,” “Day Out with Thomas,” and “Peanuts Great Pumpkin Patch Express” during Halloween, and “The Polar Express” during Christmastime.

A great way to rejuvenate the soul and awaken the weary spirit, this is a perfect opportunity to share the beauty of nature and the outdoors. The Great Smoky Mountains is a vital part of the Appalachians and Blue Ridge area, and a legendary park of wonder and awe.


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