Park Grill

Fine Dining in Gatlinburg

The Park Grill in GatlinburgGatlinburg has a lot of traditions.  If you are looking for the traditional live show in the Smokies, it is Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre.  If you are looking for a great traditional attraction, it is Ripley’s Odditorium.  And if you are looking for that special place to eat then you need to give the Park Grill a shot.  A great menu, combined with tradition and a familiar mountainy look have made the Park Grill a tradition for thousands each year.  They come to enjoy the food, be waited on by an amazing staff and soak in the feel of the mountains and of Gatlinburg itself.

The Park Grill is a sprawling log cabin.  The beams on the inside, the ones  that hold up the roof, are full timbers, like a traditional log cabin.  Whole logs, bigger around than a man.  The interior is sparsely but eloquently decorated.  The booths and tables are designed to give you privacy in a public setting and the staff is there to make sure that you have a great time while you are eating at the Park Grill. From the moment you walk in the door you will know that you are in for something special.

The Park Grill is one of those iconic buildings in Gatlinburg. If you drive down the Parkway, as if you are headed to the National Park, you will see the Park Grill on the left hand side of the road near traffic light 10.  There is parking in front of the restaurant and there is parking in the rear as well.  Of course, seeing as you are near to a lot of the hotels and motels in town it is always nice to stretch your legs and walk to the restaurant before a wonderful meal.

The food though is what they are famous for.  From their world class salad bar to the specials that are indicative of the mountains.  Rainbow trout, Moonshine Chicken and other items dot the menu.  Their steaks are amazing and their ribs are to die.  The ribs come on a plate that they are almost too big to for.  Hanging off the side, the ribs have been given a signature rub and they have been cooked for hours so that the smoky goodness has been cooked in.  But it is their desserts that stick with you.  In particular the Jack Daniel’s Crème Brule.  This dessert of custard with the crunch sugar torched to a crunchy brown on top is a staple on their menu.  They move fast so order yours when you sit down and get ready to taste Crème Brule perfection with just a hint of Jack.

The Park Grill needs to be on your list.  It needs to be a stop you make in the Smokies at least once.  And I bet, after you eat there once, that you will go back each time you come back to the mountains.

Park Grill
1110 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN

Ripley’s Moving Theater

Ripley’s has several attractions in Gatlinburg.  One of those, that brings the people in year after year is the Moving Theater.  This is called a 4D experience due to the fact that the seats you are sitting in move along with the action on the screen.  This gives you that completely immersive experience of being in the movie.

The concept is pretty easy to grasp.  You buy a ticket at the box office, the way that you would at any other theater.  You choose the show you want to see and then you step into the lobby to wait your chance to go into the theater.  But when you enter the theater, this is where the traditional experience at a movie changes.  You pick your seat in a line of chairs that have seat belts and hand holds on them.  You sit down and strap yourself in.  The movie starts and the cation starts as the chair you are in begins to jiggle, shake and move in correlation to what you are seeing on the screen.  Swaying left and right, the action sequences that are being played out in the short film you watch is even more impressive due to the fact that you are moving along with the action.  The 3D effects that you are experiencing with your eyes is made all the more amazing when your equilibrium is set into motion by the motion of the chair you are sitting in.

Ripley’s Moving Theater is easy to spot.  The top of the theater is adorned with a gigantic animatronic T-Rex.  Certainly they have had shows in the past that featured dinosaurs of every size and the T-Rex will make sure to be visible and loud enough that you will hear him before you see him.  The Moving Theater is located right on the Parkway and if you are walking the strip, you will pass this landmark at some point.  ALso, if you are looking for Ripley’s Haunted Adventure then you will find the Moving Theater located right next door.

Bring the kids to Gatlinburg’s only 4D experience.  Step off the Parkway and into the cool recesses of a theater.  Strap yourself into one of the seats and prepare to take an adventure.  With 3D glasses in place the fourth dimension, that of movement, awaits you around the next action sequence and chase scene.  Get your blood flowing at Ripley’s Moving Theater.

Ripley’s Moving Theater
904 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN

Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community

There are several staples in the Smoky Mountains: gem mining, hiking, waterfalls and craft shops.  In Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community (GSACC) is the home to 100s of crafts and artisans that have established a community on Glades and Buckhorn roads right outside of town.  Potters to woodworkers, painters to glass blowers, crafts of every shape and size.  People from all over the country come to the GSACC to shop and pause in wonder at the amazing works of art that are being turned out in and in some cases handed down to the next generation.

When you visit Gatlinburg, you will see signs for the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community everywhere – plastered on some of the buildings and on each and every trolley.  Finding the GSACC is just as easy.  When you get to traffic light #3 turn up 321 and head toward Cosby, TN.  You are going to travel 2.7 miles from traffic light #3.  This will put you at the traffic light that is the turn off to Glades Rd.  Once you have made the left hand turn onto Glades, you are now in the GSACC.  You are now ready to experience one of the best arts and crafts communities in the southeast.  As you drive along Glades road you will find that you are passing small galleries, craft shops and in some cases small craft malls.

The owners of these shops are the artists and crafters.  In most cases the person that turned out the works of art that you are viewing is the person that you find sitting behind the counter.  The best part is that in some cases you might catch them working while you are at their shop.  You can watch the painter put brush to canvas and get creative, you can watch the potter at their wheel turning clay into a vessel or a vase or maybe you will be able to watch the woodworker with chisel in wood discovering the creature or creation that is hiding in the grain of the wood.

As you watch them work, take the time to talk to them about their craft.  There is a reason that they are working in public.  They want to talk about their art form.  They want to explain to you why they work in the medium that they work in, they want to talk.  Get them in a discussion of the piece that catches your eye.  They will tell you the story of the photograph they took that they created the painting from.  Instead of rushing through each of the shops at a break neck speed, try spending time in each shop.  And if you have the kids with you get them involve din the discussion.  Let them ask questions and you might find that you have opened their eyes to a whole new world.

Next time you find yourself in Gatlinburg, head to the Arts and Crafts Community.  Follow one of the trolleys out of town to Glades Road and spend the day touring hte craft shops that line both sides of the road.  Get some early Christmas shopping done and don’t be afraid to ask questions and get to know the artists that run the shops.

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!


History of Gatlinburg

Despite how they may appear, the Great Smoky Mountains weren’t built around Gatlinburg, Tn. Still, when you come through town, it might seem as if the mountains were strategically placed on the outskirts of downtown, surrounding it like a fortress.

The beginnings of Gatlinburg are two-fold – the actual first settlers of the area, and the first business that brought about the booming tourist town that many have come to know and love. The first settlers that are said to have laid claim in the area were Martha Jane Huskey Ogle and her family (five sons and two daughters, her brother, Peter Huskey, and his family) in 1807 when they settled what is now Gatlinburg to honor her recently deceased husband William.

In 1802, William Ogle had selected a piece of property to build a home for his family, telling them that he had found “The Land of Paradise” in the mountains of East Tennessee. While preparing to bring his family here, he fell ill, most suspect malaria, and died in 1803.

Over a century later in 1916, Andy Huff built the Mountain View Hotel in Gatlinburg, Tn to house timber customers. Upon completion of the hotel, Gatlinburg was unofficially incorporated. Huff later expanded the hotel to provide food and lodging for tourists coming in to vacation among the Smokies. From there, it’s all been written about as stores sprung up along the parkway like wildflowers and tourists came in droves.

When Huskey Ogle’s family settled the area, it was known as White Oak Flats. This is largely due to the numerous white oak trees native to the region. Her late-husband described it as a “Land of Paradise”. Soon after, families with familiar last names like McCarter, Reagan, Whaley, and Trentham began settling the area as well and many of their descendants make the Gatlinburg area their home today.

Gatlinburg itself derived its name from Radford C. Gatlin – owner of White Oak Flats’ second general store. Despite the name recognition, the flamboyant Gatlin was eventually banished from White Oak Flats in 1854 for his Democratic Party affiliation.

Over the next century very little changed in Gatlinburg, even with the onset of the Civil War. The first public school didn’t form until 1912 and it wasn’t until the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that the area started to feel some of those much-needed tourism dollars. A number of mountain-dwelling families began moving closer to town to take advantage of jobs in new hotels and restaurants brought about by the burgeoning tourism industry. Though World War II brought a bit of an economic slowdown, by war’s end the tourists had returned and Gatlinburg had to grow or get run over, literally.

Following the town’s incorporation in 1945, Pi Beta Phi, in conjunction with the University of Tennessee, established a program for emerging Tennessee artists during the summer. What came out of it was the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Arrowmont is now nationally regarded and offers year-round classes and workshops for college credit. Areas of study include: ceramics, fibers, metals/jewelry, painting, drawing, photography, warm glass, woodturning, woodworking, sculpture, and book and paper arts. The public is welcome year-round to visit the school’s five galleries, resource center and book and supply store.

Elijah Lawson Reagan established a woodworking business in Gatlinburg in the early 20th Century. It’s pertinent because it’s believed to be the oldest working business of its kind in the history of the Smokies. Up until the 1920s he worked with simple hand tools before harnessing the power of the Roaring Fork to operate with electric power. Of the instruments he used, a water-wheel was built and he installed a turbine and generator which powered his operation. He also furnished electricity to his neighbors until the Tennessee Valley Authority supplied the valley with electricity. The shop is still making fine furniture in the Reagan tradition today.

Religion also played a large part in early Gatlinburg, Tn beginnings and was important to its settlers. Most settlers attended services outdoors or in neighbors’ homes. Although this area was settled by Presbyterians, their first church was Baptist. The Sevierville Baptist Church reached all the way to White Oak Flats at the time convening in the early part of the 19th century at Baskins Creek. Many assume that this is the present day location of the Ogle cabin. A second church was built on River Road under the direction of Reverend Richard Evans, near the mouth of Mill (now Le Conte) Creek.

In 1837, a new church was formed and named White Oak Flats Baptist. The congregation met in a log cabin on Baskins Creek. The cabin also served as a school. The congregation later changed its name to the Gatlinburg Baptist Church in 1932 before constructing a stone church at the same location in 1951. As the town grew, Gatlinburg First Baptist decided to move in 1991 to its present location on Highway 321.

One other notable businessman was Noah Ogle. By most accounts Ogle was Gatlinburg’s first merchant when he established a business in 1850. The site is now home to the Riverside Hotel. Ogle later moved the store to the intersection of River Road and the Elkmont Highway in 1910 before his son took it over in 1916. Officially, the E. E. Ogle and Company store housed the Gatlinburg Post Office until 1925. Grandson, Charlie A. Ogle, and great grandson, Charles Earl Ogle, took over operations respectively, expanding the business through any means necessary downtown. It was said that if you needed anything, Ogles’ was the place to get it. Today, Gatlinburg’s Mountain Mall now stands where the general store once did, and still offering most anything tourists could want.

To get to Gatlinburg coming from Interstate 40 (Nashville, Knoxville, Asheville), take exit 407 toward Winfield Dunn Parkway for 8.5 miles. Continue to US 441 and follow it 13.2 miles to Gatlinburg.

Coming from the south (Cherokee, NC), head west on US-19, turn right onto US-441 N/Tsali Boulevard and continue to follow it 34.8 miles to Gatlinburg, Tn.

4th of July and New Years in Gatlinburg

Not only does the town of Gatlinburg offer some of the area’s best attractions (i.e. Ripley’s Aquarium), it also knows how to throw quite the party. Each New Year’s and Independence Day, Gatlinburg is the site for two of the biggest celebrations for each respective holiday.

Each has become an event that visitors will travel in droves to be a part of, or stay up at night to catch a glimpse of on television.

For the New Year’s Eve crowd, including us locals, experiencing the celebration in Gatlinburg ranks right up there with seeing the ball drop in Times Square – you have to see it at least once. And if you do decide to go, just follow the crowd. The space needle in the middle of downtown is where all the action takes place. Starting around 11 p.m. on December 31, vendors start handing out free party favors such as whistles, funny glasses, hats, streamers, etc. This all builds up to the midnight crescendo when Gatlinburg’s own ball drops at the top of the space needle downtown and fireworks light up the night sky to mark the coming New Year.

For those of us who have been a time or two, the best places to go are old hat. So, if this is your first New Year’s in Gatlinburg, try to find a place near the space needle. Many people use the parking garage as a birds-eye-view for the celebration/fireworks display. If you’re not staying in Gatlinburg that night, but just want to do a bit of partying, find a parking spot along River Road and the commute out should be an easier one.


Gatlinburg also bills itself as the town with the first 4th of July parade of the year. Starting at midnight on the evening of July 3rd, the annual Gatlinburg Midnight Independence Day Parade brings in 90,000 to 100,000 spectators each year with their patriotic celebration.

You’ll want to leave a bit early because the town of Gatlinburg closes all the streets at 11 pm. It’s not uncommon for it to take 1-2 hours to get in and out of town because of the number of people that come in for the parade. As far as the best place to view the parade, basically anywhere downtown along the main strip is a prime place. So if you’re not directly in the middle of downtown by the time fireworks start don’t sweat it too much. If you’re in the vicinity of downtown, you’ll be able to see plenty. The parade is also the same at the beginning as it is at the end of the route.

All five military branches are recognized during the parade for their service to our country…. It’s definitely one of the highlights.

And if you didn’t get enough fireworks during the New Year’s celebration, Gatlinburg also does a fireworks show on July 4 just after dusk. It’s about a half hour show that you’ll be able to see from as far as the lift at Ober Gatlinburg.

If you’re planning on being in Pigeon Forge for the day, you can stop by their event which usually features a free concert and is of course FREE, like the Gatlinburg fireworks show. They’re both a great way to spend time for the entire family and can be a great reminder of why we celebrate the Fourth.

Gatlinburg’s Smoky Mountain Springfest

In most Smoky Mountain towns winter seems to always go out like lion, so when spring comes along it’s no wonder that Gatlinburg welcomes in the new season with a slew of events aimed at getting people outside and aptly named Springfest.

Beginning in mid-March and continuing through the first week of June, Gatlinburg’s Smoky Mountain Springfest celebration transforms town from a wintery wonderland into a blooming, colorful display of Smoky Mountain wildflowers. The streets are practically overflowing with baskets of flowers and plants in bloom. The aroma of pansies, daffodils, tulips, mandevillas, lantanas, and wave petunias are just a few of the many varieties of wildflowers that bloom in the area and can be seen throughout Gatlinburg during Springfest.

In actuality, Springfest really kicks off with Ober Gatlinburg’s Easter Sunrise Service. Celebrate the season against the beautiful backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ober provides free tram rides up the mountain beginning at 6 a.m. and continues every 15 minutes until the service begins at 6:30 a.m. Complimentary parking is always provided at the resort as well. The Ober Gatlinburg Restaurant will serve a breakfast buffet from 7 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.

One of Springfest’s more delectable events is Gatlinburg’s Ribfest & Wings cook off. If you aren’t a fan of the smell of hickory-smoked barbeque, or just BBQ itself, don’t come in to town. If reading this is making your mouth water, get there early.  It’s not just a competition though; everyone gets to sample each vendor’s secret sauces on delectable ribs and wings from some of the best grillers in the Southeast. The festival also doubles as a street party featuring live entertainment, great music, lots of fun and those oh-so-good barbeque ribs and wings sizzlin’ on the grill.

If it’s getting more in touch with nature that you crave, the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage & Greener Living Expo is geared specifically for hikers and nature lovers who want to see Gatlinburg’s wildflowers in their native environment – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This five-day educational program, hosted by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the University of Tennessee Botany Department, includes walks, exhibitions, demonstrations, lectures and guided auto trips into the wonderful season of spring in the Smoky Mountains.

Need an excuse to buy a few local crafts during all the Gatlinburg Springfest events? How about doing some early Christmas shopping at the town’s Easter Arts & Crafts show? The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community artisans put their unique gifts up for show and sale annually at the Gatlinburg Convention Center during the final weeks of April.

Spring events continue with the Scottish Festival & Games, which has been moved in recent years from Gatlinburg to Maryville College in Maryville, Tn. The annual Scottish Festival & Games is a gathering of local clans and features traditional Scottish athletics, bagpipe competitions, Highland dancing, Border collie demonstrations, haggis hurling, Scottish entertainment, along with food and various Scottish crafts on the grounds.

Gatlinburg also offers its own Fine Arts Festival that features a panel of juried artists from around the country. Delicious local fare and music are a large part of this festival that takes place in downtown Gatlinburg, usually on a weekend in mid-May. Festival proceeds go to benefit the Sevier County Arts Council.

To learn more about these and other events in Gatlinburg, call 800-56-VISIT (568-4748) or visit the town’s tourism website at