Smoky Mountain Escape

Smoky Mountain Escape

By Rhonda Briggs

ROAD TRIP! These two simple words can either conjure up emotions of elation or dread depending on who will be in the car. For dedicated road trippers, simply planning and preparing ahead of time can make for a great adventure.

This summer, escape the brutal Texas heat by taking a road trip through Tennessee to the Eastern tip of the state for a visit to Pigeon Forge. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge is a small town packed to the brim with entertainment for all ages.

Chances are if you’ve heard of Pigeon Forge, it’s because of Dollywood, the theme park created by Dolly Parton. Though known for her big hair, petite stature and voice, the singing celebrity’s park encompasses a bit of everything. Dollywood combines thrill rides and theatrical shows along with skilled craftsmen providing live demonstrations of glass blowing, candle making, woodcarving and more.

While Dollywood is probably the most well-known attraction in town, it is not the only reason to visit. Crime enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Alcatraz East Crime Museum. Although the museum includes Alcatraz in its name, it does not solely focus on the historic prison (although the building façade did take some inspiration from it).

Museumgoers will experience American crime history from Jesse James to Al Capone. Hands-on, interactive displays throughout the museum will keep kids of all ages engaged as they pass through the five themes of the museum which include forensic science and law enforcement. Take the Top Detective Challenge to see if you are able to follow the clues and crack a crime case just like your favorite detective.

While you are on the hunt for clues don’t miss seeing items such as the white Bronco made famous during the O.J. Simpson chase or the submachine gun from the movie Scarface. A new temporary exhibit titled “Ivory, Tortoise Shell and Fur: The Ugly Truth about Wildlife Trafficking” educates visitors on the criminal activity of poaching around the world, including right here in America. The exhibit gives visitors an honest look at the effects this activity has on our world and informs visitors how they can help stop these practices.

After spending a couple of hours brushing up on our justice system, you’ll probably have worked up an appetite. Head across the street to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen for a down home Southern family style meal prepared from recipes created by the famous TV chef.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every meal is served family style and each table receives enough choices that everyone will be able to have their favorite. Lunch and dinner options include Chicken-Fried Pork Chops, Beef Stew or Georgia Fried Catfish with a side order of creamed corn, squash casserole or mac and cheese. Be sure to save room for desserts. As part of the meal, each person receives a choice of banana pudding, seasonal cobbler or Deen’s famous Ooey Gooey Butter Cake. After dinner stop in the retail store to pick up a souvenir or your own cookbook to replicate the recipes at home.

At the end of the day, relax in an island inspired room that only Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Island Hotel can offer. The natural elements of the Smoky Mountains inspired the décor with natural stone fireplaces in each room (operational during the winter months) and private balconies that let you step out for a breath of fresh mountain air. Soothing tropical colors and driftwood furniture make you feel as if you are living out one of Buffets’ songs.

To add to the island feeling, head to the Chill Bar and Rooftop pool for a relaxing view of the city, including the nightly fountain show and an ice cold beverage of your choice. If you prefer to skip the crowds, mix your own drink creations right in your own room. Frozen Concoction makers are included in each room along with a coffee maker to get you going the next morning.

For even more relaxation, schedule an appointment with the St. Somewhere Spa. This full service, on-site, spa can treat you from head to toe and massage every knot in between. Choose the Margaritaville Signature facial or the Volcano Hot Stone Message or simply have your hair shampooed and blown out. A little pampering will leave you feeling rejuvenated.

On your way home to Texas, take a detour through the southern half of Tennessee and visit the small town of Lynchburg about an hour and a half south of Nashville. Home to the famous Jack Daniel’s Whiskey distillery, this small town will transport you back into the old days where living was easy and time stood still.

Even if you are not a fan of whiskey, take the time to visit the distillery. Both dry and tasting tours are available and provide a great history lesson about Jack Daniels and the whiskey he created. After a distillery tour, stop by the Lynchburg Hardware General Store for an Old No. 7 souvenir as well as a gift to take back home to your buddy.

For a delicious lunch, make reservations at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House and Restaurant. The century old home has served visitors since 1908. Don’t expect to sit alone with your family in this restaurant. Large tables seat guests together to enjoy a home-style meal of southern vegetables like green beans, okra and sweet potatoes along with cured ham or fried chicken reminiscent of the meals served during the home’s boarding house days.

Family fun and entertainment await you in this beautiful setting. Create memories with your loved ones while you relax and simply get away.

And remember, the destination is not as important as the journey but you can’t go wrong when your destination is Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains. This is a road trip worth taking.