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non touristy kid friendly activities

Detroit MI
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non touristy kid friendly activities

We'll be visiting Gatlinburg in mid August, traveling with three kids under the age of 8. We'll do some of the touristy things, Dollywood, etc., but we're really going for the mts. and environment. Want to make this an eductional experience, too!

Also, going to the N.C. side. Any suggestions for non touristy kid friendly activities? Anyplace to hear some good mt./country music? Thank you.

Chillicothe, Ohio
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1. Re: non touristy kid friendly activities

I would think just about anything you do outside of the National Park is going to be considered "touristy." I enjoyed going to Cataloochee, NC part of the park. Kind of like Cades Cove on a smaller scale (historical buildings), and great place to see Elk. Maybe a trip to Cherokee would be educational for your kids. I've never been there, and I'm sure it can be touristy, but any other Indian Reservation I've ever been to was a good learning experience.

Detroit
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2. Re: non touristy kid friendly activities

Hello neighbor! My bf and I got back the other night from a 5-day road trip to Gatlinburg. We too, went for the mountains and history aspects of the area.

I would recommend taking one of the driving tours - the National Park stations or welcome centers have all the maps and information you would ever need. Plus the rangers are very helpful and can customize an iternary for you. There is one driving tour we went on that is behind stop light #3 in Gatlinburg. It had stopping points for perfect "Kodak Moments" as well as short hikes to some of the most beautiful waterfalls. There was also preserved historic homes/farms that you can tour.

Cades Cove is also a must! It's a 2-3 hour long driving tour, but totally worth it. We parked at the start of the tour and hiked some of the historic dirt roads. It was 90+ degrees so on the road out of the area we stopped to have lunch near the river with some waterfalls and took a dip in the refreshing water.

We also took a day trip to Asheville, NC. It was a beautiful city and the drive in the mountains was awesome. I don't know how much fun that city would be for your kids. It's very similar to Ann Arbor, but alot more hippy-ish. Some great art galleries, though. And they do have several museums.

Personally, I found the touristy stuff to be very tacky and irritating. We tried to avoid that area as much as we could. Our first day we arrived, we did go to the Ripley's Aquarium. It's no comparison to Shedd, but it's worth checking out.

Hope you have a great time!

Columbia, South...
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3. Re: non touristy kid friendly activities

Surprisingly, Dollywood can be somewhat educational, depending on what you choose to focus on while you're there. They have lots of shops (music, blacksmithing, soapmaking, baskets, etc.) where the shopkeepers are legitimate artists who love to talk about their work. Some of my favorite memories from Dollywood have been just learning from those people!

Good luck finding much else educational in Gatlinburg! Cades Cove would be fun, but get there early, as the traffic is BAD in the summer and you could end up sitting there while the guy in the car in front of you from Florida takes pictures of every tree. Seriously! The Abrams Falls hike would be a good one for kids (depending on their age). It's mild, not too long (a few miles?), not too hilly, and they get to see the falls which are pretty. In downtown Gatlinburg, the Ripley's museums are your best bet, particularly the Believe it or Not museum and the Ripley's aquarium. The museums can get pricey for 5 people, but hey, you're on vacation!

The Front Porch restaurant in Cosby has been featured in National Geographic... has bluegrass music and serves Mexican and country food. I haven't been in there yet, but supposedly it's a truly diverse mix of people, family friendly (someone correct me if I'm wrong!), and the best party most people haven't heard of. Take the road from Gatlinburg toward Cosby, the restaurant sits on the highway on the right.

If you want to venture back toward Knoxville, consider a baseball game at Smokies Stadium (exit 407 @ I-40, beautiful stadium, and always fun for me), the women's basketball hall of fame in Knoxville, or the Museum of Appalachia (in Norris, I-75 exit 122)... it's a living history museum, great reputation.

Darke Co. Ohio
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4. Re: non touristy kid friendly activities

Try the Roaring Forks motor trail from Gatlinburg, you can hike to Grotto falls from it, Thats about 1.4 miles each way on a rough trail so take decent hiking shoes and water.

Also visit the Smokie Parks web-site, www.nps.gov/grsm

gatlinburg
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5. Re: non touristy kid friendly activities

Check out MYNATT park on the south edge of Gatlinburg joining the national park. It's a real nice place for the kids, they can get there feet wet in the stream and they even have a under 12 only fishing area.

Cincinnati, Ohio
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6. Re: non touristy kid friendly activities

Hi - The National Park has a Junior Ranger Program that has just added new activities. We did this when our son was younger and he loved it. Go to http://www.nps.gov/grsm/pphtml/forkids.html to find out more. There are lots of ranger led programs that are educational as well as fun.

Have fun! We just returned today - boo hoo

smokiesgrl

Sedalia, Ohio
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7. Re: non touristy kid friendly activities

The Sugarlands Visitor Center has a "scavenger hunt" book available for kids of all ages. They associate the 'hunts' with specific trails.

Detroit MI
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8. Re: non touristy kid friendly activities

Wow! Thanks for all the great tips. So glad I found this site. It's so helpful.

new orleans, la
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9. Re: non touristy kid friendly activities

We just returned from a 6 day trip to the Smoky Mountains yesterday. I have a 2 year old a 5 year old and a 7 year old. We didn't spend one second in the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. I was just shocked at the traffic and the lines outside every restaraunt and attraction. We avoided it like the plague. We stayed with Majestic Mountain Vacations. We had a absolutely beautiful 3 story cabin, brand new, with outrageous views from every room. It slept 14 with a game room and loft. It was called Mountain Seduction. We paid $1200 for the week which I thought was really reasonable. We spent every day in the park. One day we went to Laurel Falls which is a very easy 1.5 mile walk. It is paved and you can take a stroller but we didn't. The big kids ran the whole way and our little girl rode on daddy's shoulders half of the way. The falls are gorgeous but everyone stands on the bridge and it is crowded. We just hiked down the falls a little way and had a picnic by ourselves below the falls. We also went to Mingo Falls in Cherokee which has stairs to it. It was gorgeous. We did Cade's Cove but we were very unimpressed with it. The traffic is unbelievable and people will stop in the middle of the one-way road to take a picture so traffic backs up for hours. One day we rented tubes in Townsend and went down the river. That was a lot of fun. It was $12 to rent a tube and they would shuttle you up the river as much as you wanted.

My biggest recommendation would be to spend all your time in the park. That is the one place in the area where you won't have to deal with crowds. There are usually crowds at the falls but you just have a hike a little bit further up or down and you will be by yourself.

Have fun.

Cincinnati, Ohio
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10. Re: non touristy kid friendly activities

Hi 422phos - Sorry your experience in Cades Cove was so bad. We were in G-Burg last week and I can not imagine sitting in the Cove for hours in that heat even in an airconditioned car. We spent almost the whole week in the mountain streams.

My family loves Cades Cove, but then we are usually not there in the peak month of July. We always go early in the day, and in other times when we have gone, (Various months Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Feb. April, May over the years) have not had the hours of traffic - at least when we have been there. Unless there is a bear spotting. Not sure how this Aug. would be, but it would have to be better than July since that is peak. We picnic and fly a kite, and walk the Cable Mill Area. We have also taken the Abram's Falls hike. Hope you'll try it again.

Smokiesgrl