2. You MUST stay at the Brookside Resort.
Returning to the Smokies as an adult, I think the Brookside had to have been one of the nicest places you could possibly stay in Gatlinburg. It’s right by the stream. Downtown, but not in the center of town.
But as I looked at the rooms on the Internet, they look like they might not have changed much in 30 years.
We decided to stay in a beautiful two-story log cabin perched on the side of a mountain. It has its own hot tub, two indoor whirlpools, two decks, a full kitchen, washer and dryer and pool table.
And yet, every time we drive by the Brookside with the waterfall pool and the big statue of a brown bear out front, I look at it with longing. They’ve added a large red, curving slide for the kids, too. Maybe next time.
3. You must go to Clingman’s Dome.
The ONLY hiking I actually remember doing in the Smokies was to Clingman’s Dome. To miss driving to the highest point in the park and then walking up to the dome is basically a sin.
But… well… we’re not going. We’ve hiked several other trails and we’re going to spend our last day relaxing.
4. You must buy homemade candy.
There’s nothing quite as nostalgic as watching the guy with the white hat push the taffy through the candy-making machine. You can buy a bag with 10 pieces of taffy for 98 cents. A big box is only $3.
The kids have a new love. Taffy.
5. You must eat your lunch on the back gate of the station wagon.
I couldn’t actually remember ever eating a meal in the Smokies. Did we go to a particular restaurant? Did my mom cook in the room.
Then, we were out hiking and it was time to eat lunch. We saw some other people spread a table cloth in the back of their pick-up. Then, I remembered. We would pack a lunch and sit on the tailgate of the station wagon.
The kids thought it was a blast to sit scrunched up in the back of the mini-van eating their turkey sandwiches.
When I was a kid, it seemed like all of our family vacations were to one place: the Great Smoky Mountains. I remember siting down with our family and reviewing all of the possible destinations for summer vacation. Then, it was decided. Gatlinburg!
This is the second time we have returned to Gatlinburg since we’ve been married. Part of our journey involves trying to recreate some of my childhood memories.
My family loves tradition. So when we went to the Smokies, there was no question about where we would stay or what we would do. Tradition.
Here are a few things on my list of “must do”.
1. You must buy a Crayoneer.
In my family, the story is legend. Here is how I remember it.
It was the last day of vacation. I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. I desperately wanted a Crayoneer… a thick, hand-carved writing instrument, with little colored crayon tips strapped to the side. You could switch out which tip you wanted to write with.
We were parked in front of a little road-side store where they sold the Crayoneers. They were $6 each. I had $1. It quickly occurred to me that there were six people in our family.
“If everyone would just pitch in $1, I could have a Crayoneer,” I said with all of the youngest-child-in-the-family cuteness I could muster.
Without much discussion, everyone reached into their wallets and pulled out the dollars. I marched into the store and returned to the car the proud and delighted owner of a brand new Crayoneer with it’s on blue denim drawstring bag.
I don’t know how many times we visited the Smokies, but I do know that over the years I managed to collect three Crayoneers.
My plan on this trip was to whip out my VISA and buy one for every member of my family. But after searching the downtown strip, the Arts and Crafts community AND the Internet, it seems the Crayoneer no longer exists.
When I typed the word on Google, it sadly replied, “Did you mean crayon?”
No. I meant Crayoneer. I want one.