For those of you who are wondering if Gatlinburg has recovered from the fire in 2016, the answer is yes. You can clearly see the businesses that got new roofs, but the main strip is back up and running. While we were in the area, we window shopped, because that’s one of the fun things to do. While walking around the strip we found the Donut Frair, located in the Village Shopping, they had the best donuts and pastries! We actually went there twice, the first time I got a regular glazed donut, the second time I got an apple pillow, which is their version of an apple turnover. Lee got an éclair both times. Needless to say we were very happy with our choices. I highly recommend going there.
Parking is always fun when heading into small towns. The first night we rode the bike, thinking we could easily park in the parking garages. Nope, many parking garages don’t allow bikes, even the Harley Davidson Store had to buy a small piece of land to allow customers to park in. We did find an open lot behind Anakeesta, where we could park the bike and truck, they key is getting there first thing in the morning, when the lot isn’t full yet. The other option is to park at the Gatlinburg Visitor Center and take the trolley into Gatlinburg, it costs 50 cents per person and drops you off at the Aquarium. The truck easily fit there and we didn’t have to worry about getting hit.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not Aquarium was a fun aquarium to walk through. They had some nice exhibits, especially the walkway tunnel where the marine life swims all around you and the penguin exhibit.
Anakeesta is a new attraction, opening in September of 2017. It’s on top of a mountain, so we had to take a chondola (chair lift), to the top of the mountain. Once up there, we had a great bbq sandwich at the Smokehouse, and walked up the memorial garden and then walked through a 16 bridge tree canopy. The fire had burned this part of the mountain, and you can see the scorched trees. They also have signs along the walkway talking about the heroes of the fire, how the community came together to save Gatlinburg and also talked about the animals and trees that are benefited after a fire.
Fun Fact Time: Did you know Smoky the Bear was a real bear?
In 1944, the US Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol to prevent forest fires. In 1947, the popularity of Smoky the Bear grew and his slogan “Only YOU can Prevent Forest Fires!” was born.
Then in the Spring of 1950, in the Capitan Mountain, NM, firefighters found a young bear cub hiding in a tree, who although survived was badly burned. The firefighters named him Smoky. News about the cub spread and Smoky was given a home at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. He became the living symbol of forest fire prevention.
Smoky died in 1976, had was returned to the Capitan Mountains and buried there.