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 www.gatlinburg.com.

Corn Mazes

What’s better than the fall colors cascading down the mountains as summer slowly turns into crisp autumn nights? I know what most of you were thinking and that’s nothing really, especially when you’re talking about fall. And that’s OK, but for some fall brings the outdoor fun of corn mazes in all different shapes and sizes. In the Great Smoky Mountains, there are quite a few of these attractions beginning with the Kyker Farms Corn Maze in Sevierville. It’s a great way to enjoy the autumn air and snuggle up to fire with smores and hot chocolate afterward.

So on with our list, here are some of the best corn mazes, as well as haunted corn mazes, in the Smokies – Tennessee and North Carolina:

Kyker's Corn Maze

Kyker Farms Corn Maze – Located in Sevierville, TN, this 5 acre maze runs from September 21 – October 28 with a haunted portion opening in October, running on Friday and Saturday nights through the end of the month. Kyker also features a “Tater Tot” maze for small children, a pumpkin patch, hay rides and much much more. There is also a petting critter barn and straw crawl for the kids. Check out Kyker Farm’s Website for up to date times and events. Located at 938 Alder Branch Road, Sevierville, TN  37876. Phone: (865)679-4848

Fender Farms Corn Maze

Fenders Farm Corn Maze – Head northeast to Tennessee’s oldest town – Jonesborough, and experience the corn maze at Fender’s Farm. The maze opens on September 14 and runs through November 14. There, you’ll find a haunted maze, animal shows, playground, milking parlor, calf roping, a cow train, horseshoes, wagon rides, and a zipline. If you can’t find something to do and entertain you at Fender Farms, well, you’re out of luck. Located at 254 Highway 107 in Jonesborough, TN or visit their website at fendersmaze.com.

Blue Ridge Corn Maze

Blue Ridge Corn Maze – The Blue Ridge Corn Maze in Brevard, NC boasts 6 acres of “Corn-fusion”, opens in July and operates through the end of October. *By appointment only July – August. They claim that their haunted maze is one of the best in the western North Carolina area. Located at 1605 Everett Rd. in Pisgah Forest, NC, they have tents for large parties and pumpkins and Black Angus beef for sale. Visit their website at blueridgecornmaze.com.

Eliada's Corn Maze

Eliada’s Annual Corn Maze – Eliada’s annual corn maze is a 12 acre maze and Western North Carolina’s largest. Besides a maze, come play with corn cannons, take a hay ride, a cow train, play in the giant sandbox filled with corn, ride a giant tube slides, and so much more! The maze will open September 7th and remain open each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through October 28th. The maze will open from 4-9 on Fridays, 10-9 on Saturdays, and 11-8 on Sundays. Contact Nora Scheff at 828.254.5356 x 303 or via email at nscheff@eliada.org.

Warriors’ Path State Park

Warrior's Path State ParkWarriors’ Path State Park is named for the Great Indian Warpath that cut through the area and was a trading and travel root for the Cherokee Indians that moved through the area.  People still move through the area and they now spend part of that time inside the boundaries of Warriors’ Path State Park.  Located on the shores of the Patrick Henry Reservoir, this man made lake provides a beautiful backdrop to the amenities that this state park has to offer.

Kingsport is a northeast town in the state of Tennessee.  With the Smoky Mountains providing a backdrop, you are minutes from Kingsport and mere miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The 950 acre park has become known for one of the most unique attractions in any state park in the state:  Darrell’s Dream Boundless Playground

The location of the park on the side of Patrick Henry Reservoir means that some of the amenities are naturally tied to the water.  Fishing, swimming, boating and a public marina are only some of the things that you can get involved in while you are at Warriors’ Path State Park.  You can also enjoy biking, camping, golf, hiking trails and horseback riding.  And then there is the Boundless Playground.

Boundless PlaygroundIn 2007 Darrel’s Dream Boundless Playground was opened to the public.  Darrell Rice, the president of the Friends of Warriors’ Path State Park decided that they wanted to develop a playground that would allow kids of all abilities to play and have fun at Warriors’ Path.  This playground is fully accessible to everyone.  Children with special abilities now have a place to play in the great outdoors.  They no longer have to sit on the side lines while they watch other children having fun.  Included with the playground, is the Lions Narnia Braille Trail which is designed for those children with impaired vision and the Anderson Treehouse – a FULLY accessible treehouse style structure.

Warriors’ Path State Park is a full service state park.  Plenty to do, plenty of activities and opportunities, this state park is designed with citizens of all abilities in mind.  Go hang out on the water, have a picnic in the shade, play in the water or go take in the Boundless Playground.  Either way you experience it, Warriors’ Path State Park is a delight and a special place for a group of special children that now have a playground that keeps them in mind.

Knoxville Zombie Walk

At the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Knoxville, Tennessee, had a zombie problem on October 22nd.  That problem raised public awareness and was a good time for all of the zombified attendees as the undead walked the streets.  Well, they are not really undead more like the living portraying the undead.  The Knoxville Zombie Walk is a themed event that gains attention and food donations for Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries (KARM).  People come to the event dressed in their zombie best, bring canned food as a donation to KARM and strut their stuff throughout the downtown area of Knoxville.

This is the second year of the event and it is getting bigger each year.  Before the walk they gave out awards for Best Make-Up, Best Zombie and Best Zombie Couple.  The pre-walk part of this event was as interesting as the event itself.  The staging area was Market Square in downtown Knoxville.  As the time for the walk approached zombies began to trickle in.  And though they were dressed up, very few of them were in character yet.  They stood around, chatting with friends and hanging out… dressed as zombies.  The amazing thing was the number of families that had turned out together to support this event and KARM.  There were groups of friends, whose zombie outfits were coordinated, there were people dressed as zombies and zombie hunters from the movies and there were families that had all the kids dressed up n their zombie best.  Even children too young to walk the event and instead were confined to their strollers were in on the action.

Most of the costumes were homemade.  But being homemade does not mean that they lacked in quality or imagination.  Simple makeup and a good zombie walk was all that some people needed to look the part.  Others had donned special-effects appliances to make them stand out from the crowd.  Every manner of dress was taken into account as well:  from wedding dresses and tuxes, to suits and cheerleaders, black tie was in effect for a lot of the participants.  Of course you had the more flamboyant as well, one person took a page from the comic books and arrived as Zombie-Spiderman.

Closer to the actual start of the walk, more than 300 people gathered around the stage and waited for the word to start the 2011 Zombie Walk.  One of the organizers made sure that everyone knew to place their food next to the hearse that had been brought in to transport the donations to KARM.  The zombies also got their rules before the walk started to make sure that innocent bystanders were not harassed, traffic laws were obeyed and most importantly there was no vandalism.  As the walk started and the shambling horde of bloodthirsty zombies started their walk toward the Old City, there was a pile of canned goods left to be taken to KARM.  The people that had been hanging out at the Farmers Market and the regulars at Market Square got a good show as 300 zombies started to amble through downtown and more importantly a worthy charity and food ministry got some well deserved publicity.