An insider’s guide on what not to do when visiting Gatlinburg, the surrounding area
As someone who lives near the Smokies and frequents the main strip every chance I get, I can tell you from first-hand experience that there are several ways to approach a visit to Gatlinburg. Or really any vacation for that matter. But no matter how you approach it, a vacation is an endeavor of diminishing commodities. So here I humbly offer some of my greatest Gatlinburg misses so you can learn from my mistakes.
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RELATED VIDEO: What Not To Do in Gatlinburg: Our 6 Tips
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1. Don’t fall for a tourist trap
These days, nearly everything under the sun is reviewed online – restaurants, attractions, you name it. And there are a lot of temptations to spend your hard-earned vacation dollars along the Gatlinburg strip. Tourist traps are a dime a dozen, as are less-than-great eateries. Reviews can take some of the adventure out of a vacation, but as someone who once got food poisoning from a back alley Thai place on the way to the Six Flags Over Georgia theme park, sometimes adventure ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
2. Don’t skip the local gems
I am often perplexed by people who travel long distances and wind up doing the same stuff they can do at home. For example, we have Pizza Hut at home. Places like Shoney’s, Pizza Hut or McDonald’s are fine. Really, they’re fine. But I always say live a little and try something you can’t get back home. Delauder’s BBQ, Three Jimmy’s Good Time Eatery and Crockett’s Breakfast Camp are among my favorite spots.
3. Don’t stop at every gift shop in Gatlinburg
Some folks love vacation knick-knacks – at the mountains, at the beach or in France. You see shop after shop after shop selling the same things in basically the same price range. If they do a good business, good for them. But I’d pick one or two curio shops and then move it along.
4. Don’t pass on the specialty
Don’t go to restaurants with a particular food in their name and not at least try the specialty. You don’t go to Smoky Mountain Trout House and order the barbecue, at least not on the first visit. Certainly, if you’ve been a couple of times, you have my permission to experiment. But if you’re walking out of the restaurant and someone says “How’s the trout?” You darn well better be able to answer.
5. Don’t fall for freebies
Look, I understand the allure. A free room. Maybe a free meal. Or perhaps something else awesome? All in exchange for giving up two hours of your time to hear a timeshare pitch. However, know what you’re signing up for. They don’t want to give you more time. They want you to share your time with them. Sometimes, these aren’t time sharers, they’re time thieves. Remember, the clock starts ticking on your vacation the minute you leave the driveway. You only have so many hours left. Therefore, try not to waste any of them being bombarded by carefully vetted buzzwords that are designed to break down your better judgment unless you just enjoy that sort of thing.
6. Don’t leave your cars and trash bins unlocked
Never forget, This is bear country, and unfortunately, black bears in the area have learned to associate cars with food, and they absolutely know how to open doors. The same goes for garbage cans. This, of course, is dangerous for both people and bears, so be sure to lock up whenever you visit the area, and never purposefully offer food to a black bear.
7. Don’t forget to pack your patience
Keep in mind that Gatlinburg is a tourist town. It will likely be crowded, especially on the weekends or holiday seasons. Streets may be crowded and restaurants may be short-staffed. Your trip will be what you make of it, so make sure to be patient and expect delays here and there. Still, I’m sure you’ll still enjoy a great Smokies vacation as long as you plan ahead and set your expectations accordingly. Make reservations where you can, buy tickets in advance and avoid peak times for best results.
What are things YOU would recommend not to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee? Let me know in the comments, and view the web story version of this article here.