Travel History

Tracy McCully

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Nashville & Great Smokies 2019

Year: 2019

We flew from Bangor on American Airlines via Philadelphia.  It was nice to have short flights.

Upon arrival we picked up our rental car and hit the road. It was not difficult to exit the airport and get on the highway.  We headed east to the Smokey Mountains area, about 2.5 hours.

We stayed at the Best Western Plaza Inn in Pigeon Forge.  I found that hotel rates were a little less expensive compared to Gatlinburg.  The entrance to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park is at Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is only about a 10-15 minute drive.  My take on Pigeon Forge is that it is purpose-built.  My guess is that Dollywood was built and then other attractions and hotels were built up after that to accommodate people.  It is not walkable.  You must have a car. There are lots of family attractions.  We took in the "Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud" as well as Dolly Parton's Stampede dinner show.  All along the parkway are things that kids would like such as "Ripley's Believe It Or Not", "Wonderworks", Titanic Museum, minigolf, gocarts etc.  It reminded me of Kissimmee in Florida.

Entrance into the Great Smokey Mountain National Park is free and there are tourist information booths where you can get all the info you need.  We just did a self-drive, the first day to Clingman's Dome and the second day we drove the Cades Cove loop.  Beautiful vistas and wildlife abound!  Warning: it's a very twisty-turny road so if you are prone to motion sickness this is not the trip for you.

We drove back to Nashville and on the way stopped and toured President Andrew Jackson's plantation, the Hermitage.  We dropped off our car rental and checked into the Holiday Inn Express Opryland. 

The Opryland area is about a 20min drive by highway from downtown Nashville. I chose this hotel because they offer a free shuttle in the Opryland area, a free breakfast, a free airport shuttle and there is a separate shuttle service that goes downtown for $10 per person roundtrip ($15 for multiple trips on same day).   Hotels in this area are cheaper than staying right downtown.

That evening we attended the Grand Ole Opry.  I purchased our tickets months earlier online before the artist lineup was even finalized.  It wasn't until we arrived that we found out Vince Gill would be performing!

Nashville has a main street, Broadway, which is "Honky Tonk Row".  All of the clubs have free entry and are thankfully smoke-free!  This street is a bit of a bombardment to the senses in that all of the clubs have their windows open and the music pours out into the streets.  There are also a lot of shops but these are mostly souvenir and western wear stores.  There aren't very many restaurants as most of the clubs offer food service.

Another popular area is "Music Row" which is where all the recording studios are located.  This street is further away so you may need to get a taxi or bus.

We went to the Country Music Hall of Fame, entry is $25 for a basic ticket.  You should allow a few hours to go through the 3 levels of displays.

On Sunday we walked through the Gaylord Opryland Hotel (quite a feat of architecture and no cost to walk through it) and we went shopping at the Opry Mills mall.

I really enjoyed this trip because we made a conscious effort to not have a schedule and to take time to relax.  The mountains were the highlight for me.