Easy Southern Escapes: Gatlinburg, Tennessee (Beyond Dollywood)

by  Melanie Warner Spencer | Dec 4, 2015

Beautiful views, breweries and distilleries, and horseback riding through the foothills of the Smoky Mountains are just a few of the things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This popular wedding destination, located about 38 miles southeast of Knoxville has romance to spare -- not to mention a myriad of outdoor adventures and a picturesque downtown filled with shops, arts, and eats.

Activities: Again, there's no shortage of outdoor adventure in and around Gatlinburg. At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there's bicycling, camping, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding. The park also encompasses the Cades Cove settlement, which offers a shot of history with original cabins, a cemetery from the 1800s, wildlife viewing, and more active fun. For more urban pursuits, spend some time at the boutiques and galleries downtown, then check out who's playing at one of the many local live music venues.

Eating: There’s no shortage of pancake houses in Gatlinburg; we recommend you pick a new one each morning of your stay. Meanwhile, lunch and dinner are popular at Park Grill -- where fried mac and cheese bites with a spicy raspberry sauce and a hickory grilled hamburger or juicy filet mignon will hit the spot after a long day of adventuring. The rustically elegant restaurant at the Lodge at Buckberry Creek (see more below) focuses on local, seasonal fare. Even if you're not staying at the lodge, a meal here with more views of those Smoky Mountains is worth the scenic drive.

Drinking: Visit the Ole Smoky Distillery and Sugarlands Distilling Company to get your fix of moonshine. Beer lovers will want to hit up the lodge-like Smoky Mountain Brewery, while wine enthusiasts will want to set aside time to enjoy the five wineries on the Rocky Top Wine Trail.

Stay: The Lodge at Buckberry Creek epitomizes upscale mountain accommodations. Each of the lodge’s plush 44 suites ($180-$460 per night) includes a private balcony with incredible mountain views, cozy fireplace, and spacious soaking tub. The aforementioned fine dining restaurant onsite serves both breakfast and dinner, but packed lunches are also available when you're on the go. In-room massages are yours for the asking.

Getting There: Fly into the McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville and drive one hour and seven minutes to Gatlinburg.

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