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Are you planning on visiting Pigeon Forge in the age of the coronavirus?
You might be wondering what to expect since the year 2020 has ruined more plans than a rain storm at an outdoor wedding.
But those looking to travel right now should be aware that the coronavirus has made its way to Pigeon Forge.
At the time of this writing, there are 61,960 cases of coronavirus in Tennessee. According to the TN Department of Health, 912 of those are in Sevier County.
Now, you might be reading this and thinking, “Get out there! Live your life! Don’t live in fear!”
Or you might be thinking, “Why is anyone vacationing right now? Stay home!”
You will find both of those sentiments in East Tennessee.
But if you’re someone who is looking forward to your Tennessee vacation and want to know what to expect, here are some best practices for a trip to Pigeon Forge and surrounding areas in the age of the coronavirus:
5. Be flexible, patient and kind.
What I’m about to say is going to be surprising, so brace yourself. Ready? Here goes.
I do not know the future.
People often ask if things will be better by fall, by Christmas or even by next spring. I wish I knew.
Do I think businesses will close down again? Not necessarily, but I also didn’t think my spring hobbies would consist of searching for toilet paper and sewing face masks.
The honest answer is that the situation is always evolving. If you’re tired of hearing about the coronavirus, you’re not alone. But remember that businesses and employees in the area are doing their best to keep you safe and keep themselves in business.
Wait times may be longer. Shop hours may be shorter.
Johnson Family of Restaurants recently announced they would be closing each of their restaurants one day per week in an effort to give their employees a break.
“From dealing with social distancing guidelines to increased foot traffic inside the restaurants to wearing a face mask for your whole shift in the middle of summer, it can be exhausting both mentally and physically,” the company said on Facebook.
Remember that all of us are adjusting to this new world. Be okay with waiting. The more we offer each other some well-deserved grace, the better off we will be.
4. Make reservations.
Many attractions are limiting capacity. Because of capacity restrictions, most of those attractions are requiring guests to make reservations or purchase tickets online ahead of time. Examples include Dollywood, the Titanic Museum and Soaky Mountain Waterpark.
Some of these attractions are posting availability on their website to help guests plan accordingly. But if you have your heart set on a certain attraction, I recommend buying tickets ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
If you’re eating out, it’s a good idea to call ahead for seating as well. Most area restaurants are also offering takeout options. For example, Mama’s Chicken Kitchen has a great online ordering system.
3. Bring a mask, and wear it.
A mask mandate went into effect in Sevier County last Friday and is expected to last through Aug. 3, 2020.
This means masks will now be required in publicly accessible indoor areas of commercial and public business establishments. Masks are not mandated outside, unless a place of business requires it.
It’s a good idea to bring your own mask. Most places have them available for purchase, but you may find a better deal for a better quality mask if you opt to plan ahead.
Area businesses are also expected to follow the guidelines of the Tennessee Pledge. The Tennessee Pledge currently has the following restrictions for restaurants:
- No more than 10 guests per table
- Tables should be spaced 6 feet apart
- Customers should be screened for illness
- Waiting areas should be marked to maintain social distancing
- Live music should not be permitted unless precautions are taken
- Bar areas should remained closed unless utilized to accommodate seated tables
2. Bring lots of water.
A lot of area attractions let you bring your own water. Depending on the attraction, it may need to be sealed. If it’s a refillable bottle, it should not be glass.
Be mindful as each attraction may have its own guidelines, but take advantage of being able to bring your own water and do it. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially if you will be wearing a mask in the heat. It will be hot.
1. Opt for some outdoor activities.
The CDC is encouraging gathering outdoors (with a social distance) or choosing spaces that are well-ventilated whenever possible.
Luckily for visitors, the Great Smoky Mountains are outdoors! This is a great opportunity to visit the world’s most visited national park.
Cades Cove is a hugely popular activity for visitors, and it’s a great way to practice social distancing since you can do the loop from a car (except on Wednesdays when it’s vehicle free).
There’s no shortage of outdoor fun in the Smokies. Opt for some mini golf, go tubing, or consider Dollywood’s Splash Country or even the area’s brand new waterpark, Soaky Mountain.
And if you’re looking for some good places to eat, here are a few examples of restaurants who offer patio seating:
- Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant
- Pottery House Cafe
- Mellow Mushroom
TheSmokies.com encourages everyone to be as safe as possible and follow the current CDC recommendations. Please remember to do your part in fighting this virus. Keep a social distance, follow the guidelines and be courteous to those around you.
Do you have tips for a Smoky Mountain vacation in the age of the coronavirus? Let us know in the comments!
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.