Trip Reviews

Visiting Cades Cove

On our trip out to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg I was really looking forward to visiting Cades Cove.  It did not disappoint!

We stayed in Townsend since we wanted an easy and less congested entrance into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This area is perfect for accessing Cades Cove!

Arriving early is your best bet for wildlife viewing and to avoid other people.  We left at 7:50 for our twenty minute drive to the cove with very little traffic.  This was the least busy park day we would have on our trip!  There were a few light rain showers that I think helped keep the crowds away that day.

I was driving on Laurel Creek road almost half way to the cove when a huge bear darted in front of our car and up the hillside.  He was bigger than I thought local bears would be and he was running faster than I thought they could.  I was very glad I did not hit him with the car and it reconfirmed why the speed limit is so low in the park.  After seeing the size/ speed of him I was rethinking my desire to see a bear in the park.

Cade's Cove

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Once you reach the gate the road through Cades Cove is eleven miles long and while it offers a couple of cut through roads plan on spending at least a couple of hours on it.

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Friendly Falls in Wears Valley

If you leave Pigeon Forge via Wears Valley road to Townsend you will have a very picturesque drive.  An alpine coaster, cabins, resorts and little shops line the road. Halfway to Wears Valley on the left is a little stop called Friendly Falls.

Friendly Falls

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Friendly Falls offers their location as a place to stretch your legs, enjoy a cold drink by the falls and you can even get married there.  We stopped on Sunday morning on our way to Townsend just before noon.  Usually I am about vacation on the cheap side, however there is something to be said about paying a small amount for some quiet time along a waterfall with a cold beverage.

Friendly Falls

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Admission is $2 for adults OR you can purchase something from the store and enter for free.  Cold pop is $2 and beer is $3.  They also offer items like hot dogs, chips, ice cream, or sandwiches.

You can wade in the river between the two falls, be careful the rocks are slick.  The water was very refreshing on a hot day!

Friendly Falls

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They offer gem mining for kids in a flume, tables and chairs for relaxing with your food/drink and even a resident chicken. There are areas decorated with gnomes and fairies.  It’s cute and it is prefect for relaxing.  We spent over an hour people watching and enjoying our beverages along the river.

You can find more information here: http://friendlyfalls.com/

2135 Wears Valley RdSevierville, TN 37862
+1 865-429-2139

 

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Cider Tasting at Mill Bridge Winery

 

After our very filling dinner at the Old Mill we did some shopping nearby to give our food time to digest before hitting the hotel pool.  We came across the Mill Bridge Winery and decided cider tasting looked funner than the hotel pool.

Cider tasting at Mill Bridge Winery

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Pigeon Forge The Old Mill Dinner

I had read good things about the Old Mill for dinner and knew we had to try it.  For tourist places that do not take reservations we try to arrive a bit earlier than normal for dinner.  I hate to wait an hour so if I have to arrive at 5:20 to eat at a decent time so be it.

A round 5pm I said to husband I know its early but we should head out to dinner soon.  We crossed the very busy 321 at a crosswalk because that road was crazy busy!  Going one block from 321 put us on the very quiet River Road and a nice trail along the river.  People were fishing and wading in the water.

Old Mill Pigeon Forge

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Super 8 Pigeon Forge

We recently spent a week in Tennessee this June.  To try to keep our trip lower cost I used hotel points for many of the nights we were on the road.  The Super 8 Pigeon Forge on Emert had good reviews and is in a good location.

If you have never been to Pigeon Forge I would describe to people as the Wisconsin Dells on steroids.  OMG!  Miles of mini golf, go carts, dinner shows and entertainment.  While there is a cheap/free (depending) trolley system this area is really not that walk able as things are spread out vs Gatlinburg.  I do not like to drive all over, I would rather walk to dinner so I was pleased to see our hotel was within two blocks of the Old Mill Restaurant.

If you do not walk to drive anywhere or really walk the hotel is behind Wendy’s, Arby’s, Ihop, Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins, etc.  I would recommend you make the short walk to  The Mill and so did the sweet lady who checked us in.

The Super 8 has exterior hall ways and four floors with an elevator.  I had the option of booking a standard king room or a king room with a jacuzzi tub and fireplace.  No thinking needed there, I want the tub!

Super 8 Pigeon Forge

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Our fourth floor room was very spacious.  It offered a sofa pullout bed near the door.

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Swamp Tour at Lake Martin

Lake Martin

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We drove over to the Lafayette area specifically to be able to spend some time on Lake Martin.  I read several reports that I did not need to book ahead but to see how the weather was and then call that day to reserve a spot on a tour.  BAD ADVICE!  Do NOT do this!  It might be December but tours on Lake Martin are in high demand.  You can imagine my surprise when the first available tour was two days later when we were to be in Mississippi. This was not looking good!

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Visiting Vermilionville in Lafayette

I had plans to spend around 24 hours in Lafayette on our trip.  We wanted to tour Lake Martin and then fill our time in around our swamp tour.  I gave the family the option to tour the Alexadre House, Vermilionville or the science museum.  They said they were house toured out and not up for thinking.  (Her words.) So we set off for Vermilionville.

Vermilionville is right near the Lafayette airport and situated along the river. The small village shows the life of Creole and Acadian historic life. They moved several original homes to this location and show life from the late 1700’s to 1890s.

Vermillionville

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Wander the Garden District

Christmas morning saw us with no concrete plans.  Old me would have had something booked, new me polls the family now.  The vote was to ride the street car to the garden district and poke around until we were bored.  I knew we needed the St. Charles line and our Free Tours by Foot guide had recommended boarding at the corner of Canal and Carondelet street.  Boarding there gave us the best chance to get a seat and not have to stand for the ride.  $3  a person gives you a 24 hour pass or $1.25 exact change each ride.

Canal street

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We rode the streetcar down to Washington Avenue. This would also be where you would want to exit for Commander’s Palace Restaurant.   Right across the street is Lafayette Cemetery.  Since it was a holiday the cemetery was closed but normal hours are 7-3pm daily.

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Christmas Eve Dinner on the Creole Queen

Last Christmas we had a bit of a hard time finding decent Christmas Eve dining options.  Eating at the hotel as a last resort is expensive and not really what I had planned.  This year I made sure we had something booked that we would all enjoy.

New Orleans had several options.  Reveillon Dinner are very popular and many restaurants offer them even on Christmas Eve.  They usually offer three to four courses for a fixed price.  Unfortunately for me, they were pricey once I removed the seafood courses I would not want to eat.   If you are looking for a great resource I used this website to see who had plans to be open during Christmas.  https://holiday.neworleansonline.com/traditions/reveillon-dinners

The other interesting option was to take a river boat dinner cruise on the Mississippi river.  I cannot do that at home in December!  Both the Creole Queen and the Steamboat Natchez offer Christmas Eve dinner cruises.

Steamboat Natchez offers boarding beginning at 6:30pm, cruising from 7:30pm until 9:30pm. Tickets are $80 for adults, $45 for kids (6-12) and $26 for kids (2-5).

Creole Queen offers boarding: 6:00 p.m. at the Riverwalk/Canal Street dock with departure: 7:00 p.m. and returning at 9pm. Adult with dinner: $77 Child (ages 3-12): $39 Child (ages 0-3): FREE

Since I suddenly remembered to book this the second week of December the Steamboat was sold out.  Creole Queen was closer to our hotel and I quickly booked three tickets for our family. In the end it worked out perfectly!

Creole Queen

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Fun Times at the French Market

I love a good artisan market and hunt them down when we travel.  New Orleans has one along the river on the edge of the French Quarter.  We visited twice during our trip.  The first time was Christmas Eve and then again on a Monday. Each time we found different items.

French Market New Orleans

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As usual, the market has t-shirts, souvenirs, art, music and food.

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