We had an OK time while we were here, but I probably won't center my trip around it again. We wanted a winter getaway where our daughter could see snow. Since we can't predict the weather, we came up to Gatlinburg with the notion that even if it isn't snowing, the ski resort will have man made snow and places to play. They delivered on the snow, but the play time was disappointing. We arrived at 9:30 am to find out that all but the 7pm tubing session was sold out; far too late in the evening for us- and that was the primary reason for our visit. Again, after reading other reviews I think I dodged a $75 waste of money given the size of the crowds.
We paid for a session of ice skating just so we could "do something" once we found out that tubing was a bust. Staff lacked any real charisma for their job or the guests. The rental skates we were given were functional...albeit a bit worn out. They cleared the ice every 90 minutes or so to resurface. The rental session is for 3 hours of skating. I saw no way they were tracking how long you had been on the ice. They also didn't appear to be doing anything to limit the number of people on the ice. There were times when it was quite crowded.
We took the scenic chair lift to the top of the mountain. The ride was long- about 15 minutes each way---an eternity when the temp is a balmy 25 degrees and the wind is blowing. They could really benefit from some more services at the top of the mountain. Right off the lift they try and push a souvenir photo on you. The man who showed of our photo was off-putting. The second we said we didn't think we wanted it, he said "Deleted...it's gone". There is a small outfit selling hot beverages (girl working was quite disinterested)- $2 for coffee, hot cider, or powdered hot chocolate. The views are spectacular. They could have benefited from some sort of heat source way up there. Too much to ask for a few heat towers or a fire pit? I think they would jump at the chance to sell hot dogs and marshmallows to roast around the thing.
I don't see how they can call themselves an "amusement park". I am sure in the summer it is just quite sad. The place shows its age. The prices are steep for what you get. The interior "mall" area is confusing. It could benefit from centralized ticket sales...and a map directory. We had to go to the "information" booth for directions anytime we needed to find something. I would have rather spent the day exploring the national park. Next time we go looking for snow we will likely save the 4 hour drive and go to Stone Mountain in Atlanta instead.
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