Cades Cove Stargazing Event on October 8! View our Amazing Milky Way Galaxy!

Don’t miss the Cades Cove Stargazing Event on Saturday, October 8, 2016! Come view our amazing Milky Way Galaxy! If you’re a Neil deGrasse Tyson wannabe, or just a fan, then this is the event for you! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has partnered with the Smoky Mountains Astronomical Society to offer a 2 1/2 hour stargazing program this fall.

Cades Cove Stargazing Event October 8

The FREE program begins at 7:30 p.m. at the orientation shelter at the entrance to the Cades Cove Loop Road. A National Park Ranger will lead guests on a 1/3 mile walk to the viewing area. Please note that vehicles are not allowed to drive to the field for viewing so carpooling is highly encouraged.

Join experienced astronomerswith LOTS of awesome telescopes, and explore our galaxy. The amazingly low light environment of remote Cades Cove is one of the best locations to explore the  autumn skies. With a little help from Mother Nature, here’s hoping for clear skies and the unique opportunity to view stars, planets and constellations. Join a National Park Ranger and discover how the constellations received such interesting names and their significance to our human history.

“People will be amazed at the vast depths of this planetary world and all that they can see in complete darkness,” says National Park Ranger Mike Maslona,  “This program mixes astronomy, legends, and the beauty of the stars to create a worthwhile exploration into the wonders of the heavens.”

 PLANNING TIP! Remember the seasons are changing here in the Smokies so a warm jacket, hat, and gloves are a good idea for this adventure. Bring along a flashlight and binoculars. A lawn chair and blanket will add comfort to your outdoor nighttime experience.

Even if you only have a passing interest in the heavens this event should not be missed! In case of inclement weather. the program will be cancelled. Please call 865-448-4014 on the day of the event to confirm. Visit Smoky Mountains Astronomical Society to learn about other stargazing events throughout the year.

Fall Colors in the Great Smoky Mountains! 2016 Autumn Color Forecast and Guide

It’s beginning to look a lot like Autumn! We’re ready for the big show of fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains and we’ve got your 2016 Autumn Color Forecast and Guide so you can get the most out of Leaf-Peeping Season in the Smokies!

Fall Color in Great Smoky Mountains | 2016 Autumn Color Forecast and Guide

The Oconaluftee River in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Most folks want to know when is the “peak” of the fall color in the Smokies? Well, the answer is that it depends on just where you are at a particular time. Luckily, there’s not singular “peak ” in the Great Smoky Mountains. You can experience “peak color” throughout the month of October and on into November because of the range of elevations in the Park. From 875 ft. (at the mouth of Abrams Creek) to 6,643 ft. (at Clingmans Dome) you have several opportunities to view the fall colors at their best.

On this first full day of Autumn 2016, it’s still mostly green in the Highlands with a few pops of color here and there. And great news! Park Rangers report that this could turn out to be a banner year for a big show of color with indications that areas above 5,000 ft. will be looking pretty good in a few weeks.

“Some of our most vibrant seasons have happened after there has been a drought and we get several days of good fall rains and we’ve had some explosions of color after that,” says Dana Soehn a National Park spokeswoman reporting yesterday to WVLT-TV’s Kyle Grainger, “For the first day of fall, we are about where we should be, especially at the lower elevations, but that change is around the corner.”

Former Park Ranger and author Rose Houk writes in her book Exploring the Smokies, “It isn’t frost so much as sunny, clear, warm days combined with a drop in temperature at night, that will produce the finest colors. And in a year when that combination occurs, there is no better place in the world to be than in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” We couldn’t agree more! And current weather predictions expect a cool down and possible rain within the next week or so!

With 130 different species of trees living in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can plainly see why Autumn in the Smokies is so spectacular! As a general rule, the peak of colors can be at some certain elevation in the Smokies between October 15-30. Here’s your guide to a few of the highlights:

SPRUCE-FIR FOREST (above 4,000 ft.) and NORTHERN HARDWOOD FOREST (4,500 to 6,000 ft.)
@ Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome and Blue Ridge Parkway

  • American Mountain-Ash – This northern species is found only above 5,000 ft. and you can’t miss the bright orange-red berries of this small tree. It can be found in the parking lot of Newfound Gap and in the Clingmans Dome area. It’s said that when the striking fruits appear that the fall colors will soon follow in the highlands.
  • Witch-Hobble or Hobblebush – One of the first shrubs to change colors to both yellow and red, even on the same bush. Has large, roundish, heart-shaped leaves and flat clusters of red berries.
  • Pin Cherry – This northern species turns a pinkish red and has bright red berries. Also called the Fire Cherry because it needs an area disturbed by fire, windstorm or some other event to become established.
  • American Beech – A common tree up to elevations of 5,800 ft. with yellow to orange brown leaves. It’s easy to recognize because of its smooth gray-colored bark. Many small beech’s dry, beige leaves persist throughout the winter.
  • Yellow Birch – One of the most dominant trees you’ll see from 3,500 to 5,000 ft., with yellow leaves of course! The bark of this tree is a shiny, yellow-silvery color and peels off in shaggy, papery curls.
  • Mountain Maple – This northern species fall color is from orange to red and is common from 3,000 ft. to the highest elevations in the Park. North of the Smokies, the Mountain Maple doesn’t grow as tall and is considered a shrub.

COVE HARDWOOD FOREST (below 4,500 feet) @ Cataloochee Valley, Foothills Parkway East, Greenbrier, and Oconaluftee.

  • Sugar Maple – Not only does this wonderful tree yield the sap to make everyone’s favorite maple syrup, its leaves in Autumn turn to vibrant oranges and yellows that wow the eyes. The Sugarlands Valley, between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and and Chimneys Picnic Area was named for the abundance of Sugar Maple trees in the area.
  • Red Maple – The Red Maple is probably the most common trees in the Park since it grows at the lowest elevations all the way up to 6,000 ft. Its fall color ranges from yellow to red. Red Maples have red twigs, buds and fruits. You’ll notice this tree’s bright red flowers that bloom from February to April each year.
  • Sweet Gum – This tree’s star-shaped leaves and round, spiny fruit make it easily recognizable. It prefers moist areas along streams below 2,000 ft. The Sweet Gum’s fall color can range from yellow to red to purple all on the same tree.
  • Yellow Poplar or Tuliptree – One of the most common trees in the Park below 4,000 ft. These trees grow big and straight up so they’re easy to spot. Spectacular stands of giants can be found along Little River Road and Laurel Creek Road. When the sun hits the tree’s leaves just right, they seem to glow a brilliant, golden yellow.
  • Black Cherry – The dark fruit of this tree is a favorite of bears. It’s quite common below 5,000 ft. and its bark resembles burnt potato chips. It fall foliage is yellow to red.

Continue reading…

5 Top Arcades in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge! Win BIG Prizes and have Super Fun!

We know you can’t go on a Smoky Mountain vacation without a little arcade action (sorry Mom!) so be sure to visit our friends when you’re in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN. We rank FACE Entertainment’s 5 Arcades in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge as top-notch! Not only can you win big prizes, you’ll have super fun in a squeaky clean environment with the friendliest staff in town! And did we mention the cotton candy, popcorn and go-karts?

5 Top Arcades in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Pets Without Parents donation boxes at FACE Entertainment locations have raised over $2,500 for the local animal shelter.

HeySmokies gives a big shout out to each of the 5 locations in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for displaying our donation boxes for Pets Without Parents. In the first year of the donation box program, the FACE Entertainment locations have collected over $2,500 in donations and distributed more than 4,600 of HeySmokies’ colorful round stickers!

Here’s where you’ll find some of the best arcade entertainment in the Smokies! Arcades are open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.

Big Top Arcade in Pigeon Forge
3275 Parkway, Pigeon Forge
865-365-4243
Under the Big Top you’ll have your choice of the latest and greatest driving games, skill games, shooting games, and redemption games. Folks really do win ipads all the time here! Go green at Big Top Arcade – no more tokens, no more tickets; it’s all on a re-loadable Playcard that you purchase…and better yet, they’re offering some great deals and discounts to double your fun! Connect with Big Top Arcade on Facebook!

Rockin’ Raceway in Pigeon Forge
2839 Parkway, Pigeon Forge
865-428-3392
You can’t miss the giant jukebox on the Parkway and inside you can’t miss the 50’s style fun! With more than 150 of the latest arcade games along with one of the Smokies’ fastest slick track go-karts, you’ll have a rocking good time at Rockin’ Raceway! Connect with Rockin’ Raceway on Facebook!

Arcade City at The Island in Pigeon Forge
131 Island Drive, Pigeon Forge
865-286-0149
It’s the hottest arcade at The Island in Pigeon Forge! Located next to Timberwood Grill. Get your re-loadable, green Playcard and have super fun and perhaps win some great, big prizes! Connect with Arcade City on Facebook!

7D Dark Ride Adventure at The Island in Pigeon Forge
131 Island Drive, Pigeon Forge
865-286-9006
Experience the the thrills and chills of a roller coaster ride, shooting gallery, and more! Ride all 3 rides for a most excellent time! Check out 7D Dark Ride Adventure at The Island on Facebook!

7D Dark Ride Adventure at Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler in Gatlinburg
903 Parkway, Suite 104, Gatlinburg
865-277-0247
Another great location at traffic light #8 on the Parkway at Ole Smoky’s Moonshine Holler. A great all-round entertainment venue in the heart downtown Gatlinburg. Connect with 7D Dark Ride Adventure in Gatlinburg on Facebook!

Climb Aboard Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for 5 Sensational Seasonal Excursions!

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City, NC offers 5 sensational excursions to enjoy the autumn season and have holiday fun! Ride the rails through the Smokies – All Aboard!

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

When you leave the historic Bryson City Depot, you’ll enjoy one of two roundtrip train rides; either along the Nantahala River and into the Gorge to the popular Nantahala Outdoor Center, or along the Tuckasegee River into the western Carolina countryside and to the town of Dillsboro, NC. Choose from a wide variety of seating classes and train cars to fit any budget and preference. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is happy to announce the return of their fully restored #1702 Steam Engine!

The Halloween Masquerade Train 
October 29, 2016 @ 8:00 pm
The special “Bootlegger Edition” of the Halloween Train is for guests aged 21 and older and costumes are required. A delicious buffet dinner and drinks make for a spooky fun celebration. Tickets are $104 ++ per person.

The Carolina Shine & Dine Nantahala Gorge Excursion
Through September 29,  2016 @ 10:30 am daily
Through October 30, 2016 @ 9:00 am & 2:00 pm daily
The Carolina Shine First Class train fleet car has been newly renovated to feature copper lined walls along with the history of moonshining  in the mountains of North Carolina. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has partnered with Madison County’s Piedmont Distillers to offer a rail trip filled with delightful tastings of modern moonshine flavors paired with an authentic, Southern barbeque dinner. Adults only; tickets are between $99 ++ per person to $116 ++ per person depending on date of trip. For more info, visit Caroline Shine & Dine Excursion Schedule and Tickets.

PEANUTS™ The Great Pumpkin Patch Express
October 1 – 30, 2016
Fridays @ 3:30 pm; Saturdays & Sundays @ 12:00 noon and 3:30 pm
Fun for the entire family! Kids, put on your Halloween costumes and join Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Lucy for an exciting excursion aboard The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad to the Great Pumpkin Patch where you can select your own pumpkin to take home! Everyone will enjoy a reading the Charles M. Schultz classic, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” For more info, visit Pumpkin Patch Express Schedule and Tickets.

Steam Engine No. 1792 Photo Special Train
Saturday, November 5, 2016 @ 7:00 am
This historic train departs from Dillsboro, NC at 8:00 am (recommended you arrive an hour early) for an all-day excursion into the Natahala Gorge and returns by 3:45 pm. Two photo run-bys will give guests the opportunity to deboard and position themselves to capture their best possible photos. Tickets are $129 ++ per persons aged 13 and up, $99 ++ per children aged 2-12 years, $29 ++ per child aged 23 months and under. Includes boxed, deli sandwich lunch.

THE POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride
November 11, 2016 – January 1, 2017
This wildly popular excursion, where guests are transported through the wilderness for a special visit to the North Pole, is set to the sounds of THE POLAR EXPRESS motion picture soundtrack. Sip on warm cocoa, snack on yummy treats and hear the magical story on your journey northward to where the child in all of us is delighted to find Old St. Nick himself awaiting your arrival. He even has a special gift for each child. On the return trip Bryson City Depot have fun singing along to your favorite Christmas carols. For more info, visit THE POLAR EXPRESS Schedule and Tickets.

 Be sure to connect with Great Smoky Mountains Railroad on Facebook!

Take A Hike With The Wildland Trekking Company! Go Outside and Play!

The upcoming cooler days make for the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy nature, and our friends at The Wildland Trekking Company would love to take you on a guided hike or backpacking trip for the time of your life! They even offer an Inn-Based Smoky Mountain Hiking Tour where guests spend the day on the trail and the night in some of the finest accommodations in the Smoky Mountain region!

Take a hike with The Wildland Trekking Company Smoky Mountains

With a global reputation for exceptional outdoor adventures, Wildland Trekking’s seasoned guides provide a comprehensive orientation instructing you on all the necessary mountain know-how. Gear heads will love the top-of- the-line equipment used on the trip. Foodies will be amazed at the trail cuisine the expert guides prepare over a campfire.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park lovers will be pleased by the variety of hikes offered by The Wildland Trekking Company. Guides are available for 5 to 12-hour day hikes, 3-day kayaking and backpacking trips, and extended backpacking trips while the pampered hiker will love the Inn-Based Smoky Mountain Hiking Tours. Wildland Trekking’s basecamp in Asheville, NC is the starting point for hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Wildland Trekking Company LogoThe Wildland Trekking Company also offers 3 to 5-day Greater Appalachia Circuit Hikes throughout Western North Carolina. Visit all the awesome sites that could not be squeezed into the Smokies. Choose from waterfalls to vistas on their amazing tours which boasts delicious lunches prepared on the trail by your personal guide. After the hike enjoy specialty restaurants and lodging in the Asheville area. Wildland Trekking also offers a fantastic 4-day backpacking trip in the famously beautiful Shining Rock Wilderness in the nearby Pisgah National Forest.

The Wildland Trekking Company’s Mission Statement: To provide exceptional hiking adventures to North America’s most beautiful and wild landscapes, and to contribute significantly to the conservation of these special places.

The Wildland Trekking Company takes pride in its staff enjoying their work every day. By working to enrich the lives of their clients and guests they also find enrichment in their own lives. This is evident by their excellent rating for guided hikes by TripAdvisor. One could say the goal of enriching their own lives and others comes naturally when surrounded by the beauty of the Southern Appalachian mountains. The company works to provide for future generations with donations to the American Hiking Society, The Conservation Alliance and other worthy causes.

The memories created on the trail will last a lifetime and tug at your heart to return to the mountains again and again. Ready for your hike? Visit The Wildland Trekking Company for more information or give them a call at 800-715-HIKE (4453). Be sure to check them out on Facebook!