The 550 Crew had the privilege of traveling down to Tennessee recently. It is definitely one of the most beautiful and undisturbed areas of the country. Traditions run deep for sure and their culture shines through with down home warmth and friendliness. Me and my family’s roots are in Tennessee, so it was a great time getting to reconnect with the area and show my children where we are from.
We started out in Gatlinburg where we stayed at the River Terrace Resort with a room overlooking the Little Pigeon River and downtown Gatlinburg. The room was great and even had a fireplace where we could warm up after a chilly evening. Downtown Gatlinburg is one of my favorite towns I’ve ever been to. Located right in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains it is full of small town charm and character. There are many great food options, shopping, and even some miniature golf for the kids.
I’ve got to admit that one of the highlights for me was the Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine. They have a great little location right on the main strip where you can go in, learn a little about the history of moonshine in Tennessee, watch it being made, and even enjoy free tastings of each of their 12 different styles of moonshine. I personally enjoyed the peach and of course the White Lightening the best. It’s all available right there in their shop for purchase. They also have a great little stage right outside their doors were a band was playing some great bluegrass music. My daughter couldn’t get enough of the banjo. Guess we’ll have to get her started playing one of these days!
The next morning we woke up and headed over to Dollywood in nearby Pigeon Forge. At first we wondered how much our one and a half year olds could do at a theme park but Dollywood didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of stages with music playing, small rides, and tons of crafters to keep us well occupied all day even if we didn’t hit any of the big coasters. I’d definitely recommend Dollywood to any families looking for a good time. On the way back we took some time to look around Pigeon Forge. Wow how that little town has grown. It used to be not much more than Dollywood, a go kart track, and a few cheap t-shirt shops. It has grown tremendously. Hotels, restaurants, mini golf, tons of go kart tracks, shows, shopping, etc lining the main street for miles and miles. Plenty to keep a family entertained for a long weekend.
The next day we headed for the hills. We drove through the Smokies over to Cherokee, NC and back. What a great scenic drive. We happened to be there at just the right time of year to see the trees changing color and leaves falling. There are tons of hiking trails in the area. It was a bit wet the morning we drove through and with little kids we just did a few short hikes. The way the fog laid out in the valleys was incredible. We took some pictures and video but there was no way to do the beauty of it all justice.
We got back into Gatlinburg early so we decided to head on up to Sevierville and checkout Smokey Mountain Knife Works. They claim to be the largest knife store in America and I don’t doubt that they are. I’m a big knife collector so walking into this place was like a dream. Each brand of knives laid out in their own area.
Walking further in I realized there were more levels, and more rooms, it just kept going. Each area was staffed by several employees who were very knowledgeable and friendly. It was really great to be able to ask questions and look at knives without having to hunt down a employee every time. They were really on the ball. After maybe an hour or so my wife asked what I was going to get. At that point she had even picked out a knife she was getting. I was overwhelmed to say the least with all of the options. I ended up deciding on a Smoky Mountain Knife Works Exclusive Case Black Diamond Trapper. Having had it for a few days now its really a well made knife and fits great in my ever growing collection.
Heading west the following day we stopped by my grandparents old farm outside of Cookeville. I used to spend a few weeks every summer there and have some real great memories. It was great to see the old house and barn again and show it to my wife and kids. It has changed a bit for sure but it was great to see it still there. Grandpa would be proud to know that the house he built with his own hands is still there and looking good. I wish I still had the opportunity to come and spend a few weeks a year on the old farm and give my kids that experience. Maybe something to consider in the future.
The following day we headed on over to Lynchburg because no trip through Tennessee would be complete without a stop by good old Jack Daniels. We took the tour which was amazing. I’ve been on a lot of tours of breweries, wineries, and distilleries, but this was probably the best. They explained every step in detail from the wood they burn and use in filtering all the way to the bottling process and everything in between. Our tour guide Ron was fun and seemed like he really had a good time with his job. Lynchburg is in a dry county but through a few legislative loopholes they are able to sell a few of their small batch whiskeys right there on site. I picked up a bottle of the Jack Daniel’s White Rabbit Saloon. Haven’t cracked it open yet while I wait for the right occasion, like Friday maybe!
The one thing I’ve got to say about Tennessee is that the people there are awesome. It’s some real southern hospitality in action. It was a pleasure each day to interact and meet these fine folks. I encourage anyone reading this to try and make it a point to swing through Tennessee they next time you are close by and spend a few days. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed. Thanks for reading.
… one more thing … I ran across this sign while at Jack Daniel’s which I guess is one of their mottos. It’s something that I think we should all embrace and something I’m bringing back with me to 550 America. It’s something I already knew, but to have a constant visual reminder of why we strive to do everything the right way never hurts to have hanging overhead.