Have you ever taken a vacation and then realized about half way through that you needed that vacation more than you initially realized? That was this trip for me.
If you haven't been to the Smoky Mountains
in the Fall, get out your calendar and
book a trip for Fall of next year.
The trip was intentionally scheduled to celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday. He had never been to the Smoky Mountains, and my Mom really wanted him to see the fall colors on the mountains for his birthday.
Although, I'd be lying if I said that was the only determining factor for this vacation destination. We were also mindful of the Coronavirus and wanted to still have a nice place to relax, should everything shut down again.
So we booked the cutest cabin in the woods a little ways from the hustle and bustle. It had a great view, so each morning Dane, Lenna, and I would sit out and watch the sun come up.
We'd have a nice slow morning, make a nice breakfast, and then get started on our day. The first day, we just stayed at the cabin. I think we were all exhausted from the 9 hour drive the day before, and just wanted to unwind. So we played pool and took full advantage of the hot tub that overlooked the most beautiful Fall foliage.
There's so much to do in the nearby towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We walked around Gatlinburg the second day and had lunch outside at Mellow Mushroom. Their pretzel bites with beer cheese dip is always one of my favorite appetizers.
The next day we had yet again another slow morning watching the sun come up, but then headed to Asheville, NC to the Biltmore Estate. We had a reservation at 1pm, but it was about a 2 hour drive. A beautiful drive!
Not a lot of social distancing here, but they did require masks inside of the home. Dane and I opted out of the audio guide, but my parents each paid the extra $10 to hear the history of the family. I just wasn't sure how Lenna would do.
I anticipated she would get fussy and we'd have to walk away many times to quiet her down so others could enjoy their tour. -It's too expensive to have a fussy toddler ruining your experience! But of course she was awesome, as usual.
The home allows strollers, but you won't be able to go past the second floor with it. One of the employees offered to fold it up and have it waiting at the base of the grand staircase for us, so we jumped at the opportunity, and put Lenna on Dane's shoulders for the remainder of the tour.
The grounds has many gardens, but we only visited the terrace with a beautiful view of the mountains, and the first garden the pathway leads you to. I look lots of notes and gathered a ton of inspiration for my own garden (on a much smaller scale of course).
Cades Cove -Smoky Mountain National Park
The best times to capture the sight of a bear in Cades Cove is either early in the morning, or late at night. So the night before our trip to Cades Cove, my Mom and I stayed up to make biscuit breakfast sandwiches to go. We thought it would be a fun way to eat breakfast since we were all having to wake up extra early to be there when the park opened.
Even getting there 30 minutes before the park opened, we were pretty far back in line. But with the beautiful scenery, we didn't mind taking it slow. And we even spotted 2 bears!
As you drive through, there are lots of old homes, villages, and churches you can stop and walk through. Lots of history!
We finished the afternoon with a nice picnic lunch in a park in Gatlinburg.
Laurel Falls Hiking Trail
The next morning was raining pretty good, so we planned to spend another day at the cabin. But then last minute decided to take a hike in the rain anyway.
We had heard of the beauty of Laurel Falls, so we put on our rain jackets and hiking boots and headed out. It was about 30 minutes from where we were staying.
Because of the light rain, there was a nice 'smoky' look to the trail.
The path wasn't as crowded as we had seen it on sunnier days, so we were glad to have gone when we did. Especially because the path was so narrow, too many more people and it would've been borderline dangerous.
The hike was peaceful, but definitely wet. Lenna's carrier has a built-in canopy, so we gave it a shot to keep her dry and she fell asleep. She's definitely completed her first hike as a champ!
Another trail to a beautiful waterfall is the Cataract trail. This one isn't as well known. It has basically no elevation change, so it's great for kids or older adults. There's a beautiful creek that runs alongside of it, and plenty of beautiful foliage.