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Labor Day is upon us, the official end of a summer that for many of us never really got started.
While many people still took a summer vacation, many of the traditional summer vacation destinations were either closed or had their way of life significantly altered in the wake of the coronavirus.
Life in Sevier County has been no different than much of the rest of the nation – or at least parts of it. Major attractions began the summer closed, then opened with restrictions and then lifted many of those. By late July and early August, large crowds were the norm. The only clues that this summer was different were the many people abiding by the county’s mask mandate and the number of businesses instituting, encouraging and, occasionally mandating, social distancing.
And now summer’s end is here, though the heat index likely won’t concur until sometime in October.
So what can you do to celebrate? Here are 7 ideas for celebrating Labor Day 2020 in Sevier County.
7. Check out a moonshine distillery
Blow off some steam with a trip to one of the county’s legal moonshine stills. Look, 2020 has been pretty damn stressful and we’re heading into a fall and winter filled with unknowns. You need to take the edge off just a little. What better way to unwind than with a moonshine Bloody Mary stirred with a shine-soaked dill pickle? Please drink responsibly, social distance responsibly and get a designated driver, but get out there and get a little loose this Labor Day. You’ve earned it.
6. Race some go-carts
Look for some people, alcohol isn’t the answer. Either they don’t care for the stuff, or they care for it a little too much. For those people, a little competition is a good way to work out some anxiety. Now, if you have road rage tendencies, maybe go try some retail therapy or something. We don’t need any wound up Mad Max wannabes working out their 2020 frustrations on the track. But, for some people, a little healthy bumpin’ and racin’ is just the thing.
5. Go shopping
Plan for things to be a little different. Many stores are limiting the number of customers that can be inside at the same time. Be prepared to wait in line just for the right to shop. But, from a glass-is-half-full skew, once you get into the stores? It’s kind of nice. If you’ve ever been butts-to-elbows with strangers jockeying for 45% off outlet underwear, you know what I’m talking about.
4. Go golfing
Mini golf is one of the activities where you can manage your social distancing well. You’re outside. There’s plenty of room. And if the group behind you is getting too close, you can let them play through and then whisper cutting remarks behind their backs as they hack their way through.
“Oh, nice shot buddy. Everybody knows hitting it into the clown’s mouth is for suckers. They only want you to think it’s a chance at the hole-in-one. Don’t go chasing that fool’s gold, Tiger. Take your 3 and go hit it into the volcano.”
Also, you can use your club to enforce social distancing norms.
“Six feet, man. That’s two putter-lengths, this ain’t rocket science.”
3. Get outside
As much fun as it is in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, if you’re still, understandably, a little skittish about not wanting to catch the COVID, there are plenty of things to do in which your chance of human interaction is fairly slim. There are great hiking options, can we suggest maybe checking out some local waterfalls, picnic areas and more in the Great Smoky Mountains. Labor Day is always a great time to go tubing. Get out in the great outdoors, enjoy your holiday and stay away from people.
2. Take a drive
Go see the sights that made the Great Smoky Mountains a tourist destination in the first place.
Highway 441 offers a beautiful drive through the Great Smoky Mountains from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina.
There are several places to stop and enjoy the view along the way and you can judge for yourself, the size of the crowd and whether or not you want to get out of the car at each stop. You can stop and enjoy a meal by the rushing creek at the Chimneys Picnic Area on the Tennessee side and you can get out of the car and stretch your legs at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on the North Carolina side. There is also a great opportunity for animal watching, specifically elk. The vast majority of the elk I’ve seen in the park have been on the Carolina side near the visitor center.
1. Do something new
Look, we all get into a bit of a rut, even on vacation. When you come to the Smoky Mountains, you tend to want to maximize the fun so you do the greatest hits, the things you and your family have enjoyed in the past. Maybe it’s Dollywood. Maybe it’s a favorite hiking spot. For many who come to the Smokies, it’s an act of nostalgia. Maybe a father brings his kids to show them the same places his father took him. Maybe it’s a place the kids loved when they were little and we come back to experience that through a different lens. But the Smokies are vast. The options are not quite unlimited but nearly so.
This Labor Day do something different. Go to Max Patch. Feed some goats on a roof. Ride a mountain roller coaster. Whatever it is, get out there and add some new experiences.
We encourage you to do it smartly. Do it safely. But we promise you, there is something in the Smokies that fits your current comfort level for human experience and it’s quite a bit better than another day in the backyard.
Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.