While the year of 2020 came and went with far fewer adventures than usual for everyone, 2021 is already shaping up to be more exciting in terms of travel (safely and smartly, of course).
For example, when a college friend invited me on a family vacation to a rural cabin in the smoky mountains, I jumped at the chance to start the year off with a safe change of scenery. And few sceneries rival the majesty of the Smokies!
Driving through Gatlinburg en route to our cabin in the Smoky Mountains
Thankfully, my friend drove us up the mountain we’d be staying in, as the angle we climbed is far too severe for my little Toyota to handle.
The day started off pretty gloomy and rainy. However, it was my first time seeing the view from our balcony in daylight. Talk about stunning!
Viewz from the balcony
Given that it’s January, it is too cold to enjoy my morning coffee from outside on the balcony, and so we’ve taken to sipping our coffee and enjoying the view from the kitchen window. Every couple of minutes, the Gatlinburg sky tram floats by. I continue to wave at it on the off chance the people aboard can see me, but that’s not very likely. Oh well!
When the rain cleared up and the sun came out, my friend’s parents suggested we make a visit to the Arts and Crafts district. Thankfully, this part of Gatlinburg is missed by most visitors, and since strict CDC guidelines are enforced, it seemed like a safe area to visit. The Arts and Crafts district is an 8 mile stretch of road containing more than 100 artists and their craft stores. Just drive along, spot a place that catches your eye, and hop out! While about half of the shops were closed for the off-season, we met whittlers, potters, and glass blowers who were all busy crafting. Each craftsman we visited was so friendly! They’d tell us how long they’ve been doing their craft, and would give demonstrations while explaining how the process works. One man in particular, Sparky, gave us a glassblowing demonstration where he crafted a glass hummingbird and a delicate Christmas ornament, telling us about his military awards and his friendship with Dolly Parton while flames fanned out around each delicate piece. We even got to take some goofy photos before heading back.
One of the pulloffs in the Arts and Crafts district with several craft stores
My friends taking part in one of the funny photo ops at the Arts and Crafts district
We thought about walking along the main strip in downtown Gatlinburg, but decided against it when we saw the crowds of people, only a few of whom were wearing masks.
We hung out and ate lunch at the cabin for awhile and chatted until my friend’s parents suggested a visit to Ober Gatlinburg. There was only about an hour of daylight left, but that was long enough to have a look around. At the entrance, the guy working there told us that we could go ahead and park for free because it was after 5pm- pro tip if you want to save some money at Ober Gatlinburg!
Inside Ober Gatlinburg
Inside Ober, there’s a huge skating rink surrounded by souvenir shops, it was insanely crowded so we booked it to the outdoor portion. They’ve got skiing and a water park which looks like it’d be really fun in the summer. It was chilly, but enjoyable to hang out and watch the skiers and snow boarders take on the slopes. Some flew, and some tumbled (that would’ve been me).
Skiers at Ober Gatlinburg, I wish I could do that!
If there’s one thing I know now, it’s that while I’ve always wanted to learn to ski, I’m actually determined to make that happen at some point!
After taking another lap around the inside of Ober, we decided to leave. There’s not much to do if you aren’t skiing or skating, but it sure looks like it’d be fun in non-Covid times!