The Gatlinburg Welcome Center is unique in that it is operated jointly by both the city of Gatlinburg and the National Park Service. In different areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are three Visitor Centers, and Gatlinburg also has a seperate Visitor Center, the first building on the right just inside the city limits. But this one is a joint venture. It is along the Parkway (U.S. 441) just before reaching Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge. Here in a single stop you can get information on all the touristy attractions and accomodations of Gatlinburg, AND official Great Smoky Mountain National Park information. There is also a nice gift and book shop.
A Gatlinburg Trolly Station stands beside the Welcome Center. Here one can park for free and catch a trolly into either Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or the Smokies, thereby avoiding driving in the heavy traffic, and the need to find scarce parking space.
First there were the mountains, the forest, and the wildlife. Then came the Cherokee Indians who made this area their hunting grounds. The first white pioneers, named Oglesby, crossed over the mountains from South Carolina. Their name was later shortened to Ogle - still a very prominent name in Sevier County to this day. By 1832 the first church was built along the banks of the Little Pigeon River and it was called White Oaks Baptist Church. As the community grew it became known as White Oak Flats.
Other people moved into White Oak Flats, including Radford Gatlin, who built a mercantile store. By 1855 the U.S. Post Office Department felt it was time to open a branch in White Oak Flats and sought permission to place a post office in the corner of Gatlin's Store. He consented on the provision that the post office be named "Gatlinburg," so the unincorporated community which had been known as White Oak Flats took on a new name.
Confederate sentiments were running high in many parts of the south during the mid-19th century, leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War. Most of the fiercely independent southern Appalachian mountain folk didn't identify with the plantation economy of the deep south. In fact, when the Civil War finally did break out, two out of three young men from Sevier County who fought in the war served with the Union forces, and the other third fought for the south.
Radford Gatlin was an outspoken advocat of succession and the Confederacy. Most Confederate sympathizers lived on the far end of the county; hardly any were here in the mountains. So it was that on a fateful night in 1860, Radford was dragged from his home by a group of masked men and beaten soundly. It is widely believed that the masked raiders were of the Ogle clan. Fearing for his life Gatlin fled town, but he left his name behind. To this day people still know the town as Gatlinburg.
Approximately 30 wedding chapels can be found in Gatlinburg and Sevier County. It has become the second most popular place to get married in America, surpassed only by Las Vegas. The chapels and the services they provide can vary widely in cost and quality. Some people walk in and get married wearing shorts and T-shirts, while others have a large wedding party decked out in tuxedos and gowns. The price for weddings can also vary from as little as $50 to several thousand dollars.
A Tennessee Marriage License is required. These are easily obtained at any courthouse in Tennessee. To accomodate the demand, the Sevier County courthouse has set up branch marriage license offices in both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
Fondest memory: Karen and I chose the Victorian Gardens Wedding Chapel in Gatlinburg for our own nuptials on March 30, 2002 (see our home page). The ceremony was intimate, tasteful - and inexpensive. With the money we saved over a big church wedding we took a 10 day honeymoon to England, Scotland and Wales.
The main street through Gatlinburg is Parkway, and it has ten traffic lights numbered 1 - 10, going north to south. Traffic light # 10 is nearest the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Traffic LIght # 1 is nearest Pigeon Forge. When giving directions in Gatlinburg virtually everyone uses the traffic light system. In other words, a business may be advertised as being at traffic light # 3, or between traffic lights # 8 and # 9.
Major side streets in Gatlinburg include River Road, Parkway East, and Airport Road (Also called Historic Nature Trail). These streets do not use the numbered light system. Also, don't look for an airport anywhere near Airport Road. The street got it's name because many years ago light aircraft sometimes used this road as a landing strip. The nearest small airport now is on the east side of Sevierville, about 14 miles away.
I went to the Smokies in search of bears. As a kid, my mom had taken me to Yosemite and Yellowstone where I remeber seeing bears -- especially at Yellowstone where they used to be very common due to the bad practice of dumps near the hotel or something like that. But I remember seeing lots as a kid, but not since then.
I heard the Smokies had a large population, but was told not to fool myself into thinking I would see any. But we were lucky. We saw quite a few, mostly up in trees in eating cherries (I think).
I love Gatlinburg,Cant wait to go back next year !
Fondest memory: You have to watch out for bears, we had one getting into the garbage 2 nights in a row at our hotel on Historic Nature Trail..
This is the pic. I took at the super 8 downtown(convention center)
I can not say enough about the Smokies Starter Kit that is sold inside the park at the visitor center. For first timers is a must! The kit costs 5 US dollars and it comes with tons of information about the park and things to do. It is really something you should consider getting if you want to make the best out of your vacation in the area.
The kit contains the following: Trail Map, Day Hikes Map, Auto Touring Map, Newfound Gap Road Auto Tour Booklet, Clingmans Dome Booklet, Cades Cove Tour Booklet, Laurel Falls Nature Trail Guide and several safety instructions fliers that will make your visit a pleasant one.
Favorite thing: Donation boxes are all over the park. Make sure you drop some change in there. Remember that the rangers are volunteers and they do not get paid. All the money are being used to preserve the park and its beauty. I was really sad to see how many cars were passing by these donation boxes without making a donation. We were the only ones putting some money in these boxes while visiting Cades Cove and the Cataloochee Valley.
Favorite thing: We got to Gatlinburg every chance we get. We started out staying in hotels but have discovered after having a baby, that cabins are the way to go. We have stayed at many different places. The good cabins have fully supplied kitchens. If u get a cabin/chalet be sure to take laundry detergent..they usually only give you 1 or 2 packs. Be sure to look at the pics online before booking and make sure the cabin is what you expect. So far we havent had any problems and most places are exactly what you see. We have heard stories of things not working etc. but the bigger name rental companies are quick to fix problems. Know that anything on ski mtn road is on the side of a hill....but u may see lots of wildlife. Anything outside town requires lots of driving and with gas prices you may want to look close to trolly stops. Here's a tip...find out how close the pool is to your cabin. My cousin went down in the summer last year and had to drive 1/2 mile to the pool...Not a good thing with kids! Also, 4th of July weekend...you may want to stay in Sevierville or tword the end of Pigeon Forge. We were down once on 4th of July. Leave early and plan on sitting in trafic A LONG time if u go in through the sevierville way. Leave early the morning you plan to leave....it makes a BIG difference. Try to get a local to give you some back roads too. We know some but I dont know thier names.
We always eat at The Log Cabin Pancake House. It is a must for me. It is even better if it is snowing and you want a nice warm place to eat a great breakfast.
Fondest memory: I have been going to Gatlinburg since I was a little girl so it is hard to pick just one memory. We live in Florida and it is beautiful here. However, my heart is in Gatlinburg, Tn. I love the mountains and I think the best part is just spending time with my loved ones over the years in a beautiful mountain town.
This picture is from Ober Gatlinburg. We have never been sking but it looks like fun.
This booklet comes in very handy if you visit the Cataloochee Valley. You will learn a lot about the valley and its settlers by reading and following the booklet itinerary while visiting the area.
You can get this at the entrance in the valley. Just lift the top of the box, take the booklet and put the money in the box. The booklet costs 1 US dollar and it is worth every penny!
Favorite thing: Brochures for tourists are free and plenty in Gatlinburg. Stop by one of the places/booths that have them on display and get as much information as you want about the area, places to stay, shows, attractions, etc.
The aquarium is a must see. Going through the tunnel with marine life all around you is AWESOME.
Fondest memory: The fondest memory I have is the clean crisp air and nice cool nights. What I miss most is the relaxing and calming effect Gatlinburg has on me. The breeze through the trees and the babbling of the river. I could just sit there for hours and listen.
Favorite thing: i haven't ever been to Las Vegas, but i think Gatlinburg isn't too far behind in the amount of wedding chapels you can find in one tiny little place. if you want to elope, i guess you could come here...
Fondest memory: Gatlinburg is a festive town, located right by the Smoky Mountains. A lot of shopping opportunities, restaurants, and attractions. Some attractions include Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, and Guinness World of Records. The town itself is very beautiful. The streets are filled with flowers and trees. A great place to take a walk.