NASCAR Speedpark

NASCAR Speedpark brings lots of speed and family entertainment to the Smoky Mountains each season.  The fastest track in town, mini-golf, climbing walls, a huge indoor arcade and of course a NASCAR themed gift shop make this a must for NASCAR fans visiting the Smokies each year.

Here is just part of what you can do at the NASCAR Speedpark in Sevierville, TN:

  • Smoky Mountain Speedway – This is the biggie!  A quarter-mile track with 3/8 scale karts.  This is as close to real racing as you will find in the Smokies.
  • The Competitor – A short oval track with side-by-side racing.
  • The Intimidator – This track is chalenging enough to be named for Dale ‘The Intimadator’ Earnhardt himself.
  • Slidewayz – A 750-foot slick track.  Get ready to drift.
  • Family 500 – An hourglass shaped track designed for people of all ages.
  • Young Champions – Another family friendly track.  Measuring 1,100 feet long, this is a great one to take the kids on.
  • The Qualifier – This is a beginner track.  Great for those younger members of your family that need to learn how to drive a go kart.
  • Baby Bristol – This course is designed for the youngest NASCAR fans in mind.  A 200 foot starter track that really gets your kids blood pumping.
  • Speed Bumper Boats – Double seat bumper boats with electric motors.  This outdoor attraction is only open seasonaly based on the weather.
  • Speedome Arcade – Find all of the best racing arcade games ever made.
  • Rock Climbing Wall – 4 rock walls of indoor challenge.  See if you ca make it to the top and then see if you can make it to the top before your kids do.
  • Dragon’s Lair Fantasy Golf – 2 18-hole golf courses of min-golf fun.
  • Speedway Draft – This is a small roller coaster with your little one sin mind.
  • Starship 3000 – If you remember the gravitron from your hometown fair, then you are in for a treat at NASCAR Speedpark.
Again, thi sis only a small list of the many things that await you at the NASCAR Speedpark.  They have special going all the time that will give you and arm band for unlimited rides on their most popular tracks and rides.  This attraction can turn from a short stop into a whole day of fun.  If your kids are wanting a place where they can play for hours, this is the spot.  If mom and the girls want to spend the day shopping, NASCAR Speedpark is located right next to the Tanger Five Oaks Outlet Center – let mom drop you off.  You and the boys can spend all day riding go karts and having a great time in the beautiful outdoor location.  Of course, if you are a NASCAR fan then thi sis the one place that has to be on your bucket list when you come to the mountains. Many NASCAR legends have stopped by to visit this location and occasionally they will have signing while those stars are in town.

NASCAR Speedpark
1545 Parkway
Sevierville, TN

Ober Gatlinburg

Great skiing isn’t just found out west or in the northeast portion of the country… A trip to Gatlinburg, TN and the Great Smoky Mountains means you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding in the heart of the south as well!

Ober GatlinburgThe Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort has been known for years as a place to visit for ski-enthusiasts in Gatlinburg, Tn, offering guests numerous slopes with which to test their skills. In all, they can experience skiing or snowboarding on eight different trails, and at contrasting levels of difficulty. You’ll also get a bird’s eye view of the Smoky Mountains, with spectacular views of snowy peaks, wintry forests, and illuminated skylines around each turn!

Do you’re just starting out in the recreational sport, or have never skied; it doesn’t matter, the staff is here to help! The Smoky Mountain Snow Sport School, at the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, can provide guests with lessons for individuals or groups. This is a fun way to bond together as a group, or a family.

And if you don’t have a pair of skis, Ober has you covered. Their rental shop has everything you need – clothing and gear available for rental in a variety of sizes, for both kids and adults!

Ober GatlinburgDuring the spring and summer months, Ober Gatlinburg’s Amusement park is filled with fun and excitement for the entire family! Enjoy the Alpine Slide, indoor ice arena, and scenic chairlift. Who needs snow to have fun? Take a trip down the waterslide, push some quarters in the arcade, ride the bumper cars, and do some bungee jumping, Oh, and I failed to mention the velcro jump wall, the shooting range, and mini golf course!

Now, if you plan on skiing in Gatlinburg, Tn at Ober during your next vacation, then you have two options of getting up to the resort. You can either ride the aerial tramway (which happens to be the largest aerial tramway in America) from downtown Gatlinburg or you can drive up the mountain on Ski Mountain Road. Simply turn at traffic light No. 9 on the south end of Gatlinburg (closest to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) and follow the winding road (Ski Mountain Road) all the way to the top. And be sure to bring some cash with you to park once you get there. The earlier you go the better. There are three tiers of parking lots at the resort and if you get there early, you have a better shot at getting a parking spot at the top near the resort. Otherwise, it’s a short hike from the lower parking lots, but the locals call that the warm up!


Miniature Golf

Davy Crockett Mini GolfThere is something about a good game of miniature golf that brings people together.  Whether you are looking for a day out with the kids or you are a local looking for a nice afternoon out with friends, there is just a togetherness that is formed when you take to the mini-links with friends and family.  The Smoky Mountain area has many options when it comes to your mini-golf needs.  Standard courses, themed courses and even some venues that have a lot more to offer than just golf, both sides of the Smokies have mini-golf and they are all fantastic.

HillBilly GolfGatlinburg – This is one of the oldest in Gatlinburg.  You start out taking a ride up the mountain to start your golf experience.  With two courses, Hillbilly Golf has been making history for families for decades.  Located right as you get into Gatlinburg, near traffic light 1, It is easy to find and easy to walk to.

Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure GolfPigeon Forge – Lost Treasure Golf is located in the center of Pigeon Forge.  Two courses of adventurous fun, this course is built around all the adventure movie fun that you ever saw in the movies.  This venue is easy to spot, look for the plane that hangs in the air over the courses and the train that takes you to the start of each course.

Tropical Gardens Mini-GolfAsheville – In Asheville you can step into a tropical setting as you participate in a great round or two of mini-golf.  Animals from the jungle dot the landscape as you work your way through the challenging courses.  The landscaping is fantastic and may actually be as big a draw as the courses themselves. Of course, you can’t putt with a plant.

Old MacDoanald’s Farm Mini-GolfSevierville – Right in front of Tanger Five Oaks Outlet Mall is Old MacDoanald’s Farm Mini-Golf.  This is a Ripley’s attraction and they have brought their knowhow in making family attractions into the creation of one of the best min-golf courses that you will ever play.  Three courses at one location means that you can spend the better part of an afternoon playing golf while the shopper sin your party shop and shop and shop.

Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater RaftingIt is no surprise with the amount of water that flows out of the Smokies, that whitewater rafting is a hugely popular pastime in the Smokies.  Companies occupy almost every major river from the North Carolina side of the Smokies to Tennessee.  Find an outfitter in any of the towns or at shops like the Nantahala Outdoor Center that line the roads.  Here are some things that all of the whitewater rafting companies have in common:

  • Expert Guides – You are not going to be left to your own devices while you are on the river.  Each boat gets its own trained expert guide.  They are there to make sure that not only do you enjoy the trip in safety but to guide your boat so that you get to experience all that the river has to offer.
  • Some of the rivers are controlled by dams  – The whitewater rafting companies depend on the water control from those dams to make sure that you have a great trip.  These companies send boats down the river have been working with these dams for years, they know the best times to go so that you have an amazing experience.
  • Transportation – You park at their office.  They load you and your family and friends onto a bus.  The boats go on top, you go inside.  They drive you to the point that you will start on the river.  When you have finished the trip, soaked and out of breath from the fun that you have had, they pick you up again and bring you back to your vehicle that has been parked in security at their office.
  • Know what to expect – If this is our first whitewater trip or your first time down a new river, it is nice to know what to expect as you step into the boat.  You will know turn by turn, from the discussion you have in the outfitters before you start and from the guide in the boat what is coming next.  This knowledge won’t keep you from feeling the adrenaline surge of dropping into the rapids but it is nice to know what to expect.

Each of the rivers has its own nature and terrific qualities.  The turns, the rapids the structure of the river change day to day and at times if the water is right, the amount of adventure might be double what it was the last time you were on that river.  Find the whitewater company you like and try every river they have at their disposal.  Explore the rivers of the Smokies.  Get wet and have a blast!

North Carolina Arboretum

NC ArboretumIf you’re from Gatlinburg, or East Tennessee, you’ve likely made the short day trip over to Asheville, NC to eat, shop, visit Biltmore, etc. If you’re an outdoors-type person, or more specifically, if you’re into trees and plants, one place you should know about is the North Carolina Arboretum, if you don’t already.

To become more familiar with trees, plants and nature, visit an arboretum. The North Carolina Arboretum is dedicated to providing insight into the trees, plants and nature of North Carolina – especially those located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The arboretum’s revolving yearly exhibits ensures visitors a chance to see something brand new with each visit. The North Carolina Arboretum puts on a revolving show throughout the year, from the exhibits in the Baker Exhibit Center to the gardens outside there’s always something new and interesting to learn.

NC ArboretumThe arboretum’s sustainable shelter project has been on display since the fall.  This particular exhibit gives examples of how people can use recycled materials and natural fibers in their daily life.  One such example is the garden shed which not only captures rain water, but also recycles the water that you use when you are tending to garden plants.  Not only is the garden shed an exhibit, it’s actually being used in the upkeep of the gardens around the shed itself.  Another exhibit shows how mud-daub houses are made with natural materials. All these exhibits demonstrate the arboretum’s views about how these materials can be used to help benefit the planet. More scientific explanations for the need of sustainable shelters will be available in the exhibit hall as well.

Besides the educational aspects of the arboretum, there are also a slew of recreational opportunities.  Numerous trails wind around the grounds of this 434-acre facility.  In all, there are 65 acres of cultivated gardens in this park.  From the winding path in the one of the most unique bonsai gardens in America to the straight trails at the quilt garden, the arboretum’s natural beauty will ease your mind and put your cares at ease while you explore the grounds.

NC ArboretumA huge collection of sculptures also calls the arboretum’s gardens home.  This outdoor art collection reflects the culture of the region and is all a representation of the area’s local artists.  Take a self-guided tour of the art walk. There are brochures to get you started. The two indoor facilities also house collections of arts and crafts. Paintings of the natural landscapes in the area to mountain crafts are just a few of the noted works.  Be sure to visit the arboretum website before your visit so that you can make the most of your time at the North Carolina Arboretum.

The arboretum is centrally located in Asheville, NC, and only minutes from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  The cost to enter is $8 per vehicle so it is also a very cost effective place to visit during your Smokies vacation.  The North Carolina Arboretum is a natural history museum that you definitely want to add to your itinerary.

Biking the Smokies

If you brought your bike with you into the Smoky Mountains you are in for a treat.  Even though bikes are not allowed on any of the trails in the National Park, there are plenty of places to bike while you are visiting.

  • Biking in Cades CoveCades Cove – This is possibly the most biked area of the GSMNP.  Due to the low elevation and the gentle rise and fall of the roads makes this a great place to bike for the whole family.  You don’t have to be an experienced bicycler to enjoy a trip around the 11 mile loop road in the mountains.  Also, the park service shuts down motor vehicle traffic in Cades Cove on Wednesday and Saturday morning so that the bicyclists have the area to themselves, until noon.
  • Cataloochee – Another great place to take a bike.  The roads inside the valley are flat and give you plenty of space to ride around and enjoy the pristine beauty of this location.  While you ride you will be able to take in the not only the natural beauty but the wildlife that calls this valley home.
  • Newfound Gap Road – Not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced,  if you are a serious ‘biker’ this is a grueling uphill climb from the Sugarlands visitors center to the top of the mountain.  Be sure to keep the drivers in mind and use the pull-offs to keep traffic flowing.
  • Foothills Parkway – The Foothills Parkway has long been a source of consternation to the people of Tennessee, but if you have a bike with you, you will be hard pressed to find a more beautiful place to ride in the mountains.  After a brief climb from Townsend, you will hit a nice relatively straight road that doesn’t see a lot of traffic and is a great place to put some miles on your bike.
And if you are looking to do some mountain biking, don’t be sad because you can’t tackle the trails in the GSMNP.  The state parks and national forest on both sides of the mountains provide plenty of trails that you can get on for the adventure of biking on the mountain.  These areas are designed for mountain biking and you will have room to enjoy yourself while practicing this extreme sport.

If you didn’t bring a bike, there are places where you can rent a bike while you are in the area.  One of the most popular is the Cades Cove Campground Store.  Either while you are staying in the campground or while you are visiting Cades Cove for the day, a bike from the campground store will give you a way to cruise around the campground or to tackle the Cades Cove Loop Road.  Also, if you are in one of the towns around the Smokies and you need an accessory for your bike or a repair, there are a number of bike shops ranging from small mom and pop stores to mountain bike shops that can help you replace a chain or a set of brakes.