Where I’m from, a mountain getaway weekend is something artsy and quiet. It’s a retreat from the noise and a chance to explore Native American history while breathing in fresh air. In East Tennessee, apparently this is not the case. I had no idea what I was getting into when my friend and I took a weekend to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Now don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad places. They are just not the hippie-filled haven I grew up escaping to in California mountains.
I’ve grown to love the metropolitan town of Knoxville. As the home of University of Tennessee, it is very college-centric, and there are lots of artists, musicians, and crafty folks through the streets and filling up Market Square.A tag team of Makers Donuts and Remedy Coffee set me up for our journey up into the mountains, but they could not have prepared me for what I’d find.
Afternoon tea at Wild Plum in Gatlinburg was quaint and kitschy with tiny muffins for the table to share and a house specialty sweet tea – served hot or cold – aptly named Wild Plum Tea. The old home reminded me of grandma in all the right ways, and the simple menu was the perfect lunch. We had driven around the town of Pigeon Forge, and I was feeling very pleased with the mountainous views.
Next on our agenda was the Elvis & Hollywood Legends Museum in Pigeon Forge. This is where things took a turn. As we descended the hill into Pigeon Forge, I was greeted by an arcade, mini golf, pancake house, and go-karts, followed by an arcade, mini golf, pancake house, and go-karts in a never-ending repeating cycle that felt like I must be in an alternate reality. Wedged between mini-golf and an escape game, our Groupon find awaited us. “By the way, we are in the process of closing, so some of the exhibits have been dismantled,” the ticket taker warned us. They were not kidding. Several display cabinets were totally empty with the faint dust outline from its previous showpieces.
So that was a bust… Our touristy museum quota was filled at Alcatraz East, where we sunk our teeth deep into criminal history. One of my favorite pieces was the movie replica of Bonnie & Clyde’s 1934 Ford V8. Plus, it was a little more family friendly than the John Wayne Gacy exhibit.
After several more unexciting adventure points, we stayed overnight in Gatlinburg (hence the beautiful photo at the beginning of the post), and returned to downtown Knoxville for a little Sunday lunch before hitting the road and listening to podcasts the whole way home.