Following our two excursions to Kentucky and Lynchburg, we took it easy leading up to Christmas Day. However, on December 26th we were ready for another adventure, so we drove east into North Carolina and visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
If you're able to choose your approach to the Smokies (which straddles the TN / NC state line), I highly recommend the North Carolina approach. 1. It's more scenic. 2. The traffic is sparse (unlike in Gatlinburg, TN; see below).
My girlfriend's mom's car was decked out for the holidays.
Cue the cute photo op.
At the North Carolina visitor center there's an old mill and other historical buildings to look around.
But no one comes for the buildings - they come for the view. (Note - this is the North Carolina side).
The state line runs through the crest of the mountains.
This view is technically from the Tennessee side (near the sign seen above).
The Appalachian Trail scurries along the state line through the park and beyond. We decided to leave our hike to Maine for another day.
John Rockefeller's memorial plaque to his wife.
One of the reasons I don't recommend the approach from the Tennessee side is because this is all you see. The nice views are at the top, near the state line, or on the North Carolina side.
This sign was pretty much the cutest thing in Gatlinburg, TN, the tourist trap town that assaults you as you leave the park on the Tennessee side.
If you think this is bad, you should(n't) see Pigeon Forge. Mercifully, my camera decided to temporarily die, but trust me, these two towns are the bane of Tennessee. Who comes to the mountains to go to laser tag or the arcades? Unfortunately, more than a few.