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Hi. My name is John and I have a parking problem.
Well, it’s not so much a parking problem as it is a competition problem. I like to win.
I like to win a lot.
I like to win stupid little competitive games that I’ve made up in my head, games in which no one else knows they are competing.
My favorite game? Parking.
I like to pull into a full lot – say Wal-Mart on Black Friday and like Ahab pursuing his white whale, I want the best spot in the lot and I’m willing to waste a hell of a lot of time to get it.
When I do get the prime spot, I declare to my family – or just to myself – that I am a parking God and all other parkers must bow before me. I stride confidently into the store, chest thrown forward, shoulders back, just a hint of a strut. Nothing too gauche – I am a magnanimous God, after all.
If I don’t get a good spot, I pretend that I don’t care at all about parking and quickly change the subject.
I say all that to tell you this, competitive parking in Gatlinburg is a fool’s errand. It’s for suckers.
You find a halfway decent spot in Gatlinburg; you take it with a smile. Park your car, pay the price and run laughing at all the fools willing to sit in congestion for the whiff of a chance of a better spot.
What about free parking?
“Pay?” you might ask. “My good man, where I come from we only pay to park in people’s yards at college football games.”
In Gatlinburg you pay and you like it.
Free parking in Gatlinburg is a myth. It’s a prevarication. It’s a canard. It’s a damnable lie
Oh sure, you might find a free spot along River Road. You might tempt fate and get lucky but you’ve got better odds hitting it big in Vegas.
Lottery winners look at the odds of getting a free spot along River Road and pass. You’ve got better chances seeing Blake Shelton working the fry-o-later at Ole Red’s then you do landing a primo free spot on River Road.
Here are your parking options in Gatlinburg:
1. Parking at your hotel
When you’re staying in Gatlinburg, this is the best option: Get a hotel that includes parking in the cost. If you do this, look at your car when you’re ready to leave the city limits.
2. Parking at your restaurant
This is only an option if you plan on eating and leaving. Restaurant parking spaces are valuable commodities and they aren’t about to hold one while you’re down the block playing laser tag.
3. Pay to park
This is the most realistic option. There are several pay lots in town. If you’re comfortable doing a lot of walking, I always target the one down by Hillbilly Golf to avoid hitting the main drag traffic. I’d rather park in the river than sit in that traffic.
Also, if you’re planning on parking and walking the whole strip, I prefer to park at the lower end of the strip, which is built on a long incline. It’s better to walk up the hill while you’re fresh and before having eaten a meal, then you just roll yourself back down to the car.
Since I don’t walk as much as I used to, I almost always park at the pay garage right across from Ole Red’s. Most of the stuff I like to do is near that end.
There’s also a good garage behind Ripley’s Aquarium if that’s going to be one of your main attractions. If you do have to park on the outreaches and get tired walking, the trolley is always an option.
4. Park at River Road
In my younger days, I’d always take a stab at River Road. I even got a spot a few times – usually off season. And then, if I didn’t, I’d park in one of the pay lots on the upper end. There’s a risk in this, though.
The spaces in the pay lots towards the top aren’t as plentiful and in the busy season. You may find yourself having to work your way back down through traffic and settle for one of the parking garages you passed up earlier.
River Road parking spaces are located next to the river along River Road which runs from Ripley’s Aquarium to the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Gatlinburg wasn’t built for driving. It’s a freaking nightmare. My recommendation, get out of the car as early and often as possible and enjoy the city the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
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