Butterflies & Diamonds: Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

At the beginning of August we visited Gatlinburg Tennessee for a three days trip where we ended up getting engaged.We visited Dollywood, stayed in Gatlinburg, and hiked in the Great Smokey Mountains where we saw some elk! If you’ve ever wanted to visit this wonderful city then you have come to the right place to learn more. We have your recommendations, a few stories, and many photos.


The Trip There


When we were first going to Gatlinburg we took the long route (by 30 min) as we wanted to drive through the mountains and not on 75 around/through them.

Lesson: there are lots on animals in the mountains. Stop and take a gander.

Great Photo Means Bad Driving… For Us.

We continued into The Great Smokey Mountains when we saw a scenic overlook.



Overlook Great SMokey Mountains

We thought the clouds looked awesome, we took selfies. Then we realized we were driving towards the clouds. Then we realized that we had just seen a motorcycle crew stop and put on rain gear. Then we realized we were in trouble.

It rained.



If you’ve ever been to Gatlinburg you know it is tourist town central. We traveled during peak travel times and for that reason all AirBnbs and most hotels were taken. Being a last minute proposal trip, we didn’t plan well. Never the less, we enjoyed ourselves.

Old Smokey Barrelhouse


When we arrived, we walked down the strip. Old Smokey Barrelhouse caught our eye. When we walked by this place, we noticed their distillery was in the front right where you could see and see it we did. It looked cool and made us walk in. (great marketing ploy guys) As we were walking around we heard talk of a $5 whiskey tasting and decided that we might as well do it, it was vacation after all.

MadLady’s Faves: Cookies & Creme, Peach, Maple
(least fave: double barrel)
MadMan’s Faves: Regular, Coffee, Maple
(least fave: pecan)

We first thought that we would get to ask for the ones we wanted to sample (that’s how the places in Atlanta work) but that was not the case.

We got to try them all (by all I mean 15. By 15 I mean 15 half shots). I found some new favorite flavors, MadMan found out how much he hated a few.

Dick’s Last Resort

We walked past a few places and stopped at Dick’s Last Resort. We thought the name was odd so we read the menu, liked it, and went inside. We didn’t take the time do do our normal google review search. My mistake. 

Oh my.

The food was good. They were nice. We got mocked. The Hats. 

In short, you should go.

Tourist Trap

When we left it was 9 pm. We were full and had two boxed of amazing leftovers and had re-hydrated ourselves in hopes of staving off headaches. It was time to explore. We visited:

  • a museum
  • a glass maze
  • put put
  • many shops

Gatlinburg is a tourist town, and one that does have lots of fun things for even the adults to do. One thing it is not, is a frugal town. We spent more on this trip than we do on most other longer trips, and this trip was only three days.

Notes and Other Lessons Learned:

  • If a box says beware… BEWARE.
  • Not all boxes are mean
  • MadMan is bad at mini golf.
  • I am worse.



Dollywood is a sight to be seen. It was fun and there was never a long wait. There was one ride down all day, and I was very sad about that; however, overall the park was in great condition and everything looked nice. There are’t many photos of this place. Why? We were having too much fun. And we locked our phones in a locker. I do, however, have some tips to help you plan your trip there.



  • Pay for a moving locker – these are lockers that you can store your stuff in all around the park. You can bring your stuff to the next ride and keep it there or store it in one place and come back. They were $7 a day for us, well worth the price as some rides don’t have bag storage.
  • Bring a Day pack – much like hiking, theme parks require certain things. We brought food, water, a towel, and sun screen. We used it all. I would advise doing the same. They didn’t mind our sandwiches although outside food is technically prohibited.
  • Get there when it opens – an obvious for regular park goers. This helped us avoid the line of some of the popular rides and made sure that we got to ride everything.
  • Wear good shoes – again, like hiking, you’re gonna want good shoes. I advise bringing some strap on sandals for the water rides but otherwise I would wear some good walking shoes.
  • Spares in the Car – We brought spare towels and clothing in the car. This was great because we had other things to do that day and didn’t like being in wet and sunscreen covered clothing. We used the towels to cover our seats as well.

The Recommendations:

Our opinions as of August of 2017. Some places might be closed and some might have gone down hill. I will try to keep it as up to date as I can, but I suggest googling recent reviews. Consider this list a starting point.

Food & Drink:


  • Ripley’s Museum – Nostalgic for me. I loved these places as a kid.
  • Mirror Maze – there are tons, but this is the one we went to. It was cheaper and still fun. It was bundled with the mini golf. They don’t have a website, but they do have a yelp. NOT fancy.
  • Mini Golf – again, there are many of these but this one was cheaper and bundled with the mirror maze. About $12 I think for two of us. They don’t have a website, but they do have a yelp. NOT fancy.
  • Dollywood – Ride everything! So much fun!
  • Alum Cave Trail – We got engaged here. It’s amazing. And hard. Read about the trail hike and get some tips here.

What’s Your Favorite Part of Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge?

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