Mountain Trip 2022 was certainly one for the books! Seven of my closest friends chose a quick getaway over MLK weekend to the Smokies. A short 3.5 hours from Charlotte, NC, we all made our way up on Thursday. We settled into our cabin which was perched on North Skyline Drive, above downtown Gatlinburg. It was impeccable. It’s a five bedroom, five bath house which sleeps 12 guests. The floor to ceiling windows allowed for amazing natural light. The fireplace made for a cozy atmosphere and the open kitchen was great for spending time watching movies, playing games and fixing meals. The weather was chilly during our stay so the hot tub and outdoor fireplace created bonus places to hang out. I would absolutely stay in this cabin again.
On Thursday evening, we ventured downtown to have dinner at Loco Burro. It was surprisingly delicious. We ordered a variety of Mexican dishes from fajitas to burritos and of course added a few margaritas, which packed a punch. Following dinner, we grabbed groceries for the weekend from Food City. It was conveniently close to the downtown area and the cabin.
Friday started out with a huge breakfast, cooked at the house, which was equipped with all the necessary cookware and utensils. We made a plan for the day and hit the road. A good thing to know - Ubers and Lyfts do not come easy in Gatlinburg. We knew it was best to avoid taking cars into town, especially with the combination of driving on steep mountain roads and potential drinking during the day. We called a few taxis and piled in. Our first stop was Sugarlands Distillery. The best deal in town, in our opinion - $5 for a tasting of 12. Their flavors change daily so it’s always good to check the menu. The $5 then becomes a coupon for $5 off your purchase. Three giant circular bars sit along the left side of the space, with as many as 20 people being able to fit around one of them. Bartenders at Sugarland are full of energy and make the tasting fun and enjoyable.
Ole Smoky Distillery was next on the list. Tours are available four times during the weekdays for $35 per person. The one-hour tour requires you to book in advance and fills up quickly. It includes a tasting of 13 samples. Unfortunately, we didn’t sign up for tours but we did enjoy another tasting, consisting of seven samples, pre-selected by the bartender. Ole Smoky is a smaller establishment with the bartender serving, at most, ten people at a time. They have deals for purchases, like free coolers or roller bags with the purchase of three or more bottles. Check their site or in-person for details.
Next up, lunch time at Mellow Mushroom. After downing a few slices, we walked down a few blocks to Gatlinburg Axe House. It was entertaining with this group. We split up in teams for friendly competition. After about an hour of axe throwing, we walked a little ways to Anakeesta.
Anakeesta is a mountaintop park with shopping, dining, a mountain coaster and zip lining. Tickets
can be purchased at the bottom of the mountain and you choose to take a chair lift, chondola or trolley up to Firefly village. Admission gets you all-day access to the park. We went up around sunset so we were able to enjoy the views with Christmas lights surrounding. We walked along Treetop Skywalk which consists of 880 feet of connected bridges, hanging 50-60 feet high. After our tour of the mountain, we rode chairlifts to the bottom and continued on to the cabin. Game night consumed the evening.
On Saturday, we had another large breakfast before driving 20-minute to Pigeon Forge. The first stop was Tennessee XXX Moonshine. The sampling was six flavors of your choosing. Only about half a mile away was Old Forge Distillery. This seemed to be the most efficient of all the tastings we experienced. Everyone was given 10 sample cups. The bartender went down his line of bottles, if you wanted to sample, you set your cup on the counter and he filled it. He was entertaining and was spot on with the flavors.
The group felt like more excitement was needed, so we went to the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. Over one mile long, making it the 2nd longest mountain coaster in the U.S., it was the first to be built in the Smokies. We purchased tickets and boarded our separate rail cars. The ride was exhilarating, even in the 40 degree weather. We made our way back to the cabin for dinner and football.
Early Sunday morning, we all woke up and headed back home. Our collection of moonshine still sits in the liquor cabinet but always brings back fun memories of this trip. Give Gatlinburg a shot next time you’re looking for a mountain getaway!