Mesmerizing Mermaids in the Smokies Memorial Day Weekend at Ripley’s Aquarium

Mermaids greet visitors at daily shows. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Don’t miss the mesmerizing mermaids in the Smokies Memorial Day Weekend at Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg! Back by popular demand and for a limited time guests to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies can enjoy live mermaid shows daily at 12:00 noon, 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m beginning Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend.

While you’re in Gatlinburg visiting one of the Top 5 Aquariums in the World, you can enjoy other daily live shows:

Halloween Crabs at Ripley’s new SWARM exhibit!

9:30 am    Shark Lagoon Dive
10:30 am  Penguin Feeding
11:00 am   Stingray Bay Dive
11:30 am   Marine Science Class
12:00 pm  Live Mermaid Show
12:30 pm  Marine Science Class
1:00 pm    Stingray Bay Dive
1:30 pm    Marine Science Class
2:00 pm   Live Mermaid Show
2:30 pm   Penguin Feeding
3:00 pm   Stingray Bay Dive
3:30 pm   Marine Science Class
4:00 pm   Live Mermaid Show
4:30 pm   Marine Science Class
5:00 pm   Stingray Bay Dive
5:30 pm   Penguin Facts
6:00 pm  Coral Reef Dive
7:00 pm  Stingray Bay Dive
8:00 pm  Coral Reef Dive
9:00 pm  Stingray Bay Dive
10:00 pm Coral Reef Dive

All new for 2015 at Ripley’s Aquarium is the SWARM exhibit featuring over 20 interactives and 12 exhibits with over 1,000 strange and bizarre animals like Halloween Crabs, Blue Blubber Jellyfish, Clusterwink Snails, and Flashlight Fish. And did we mention hundreds of Locusts, Live Crickets and other strange bugs? You can even get a Free Fish Manicure!

There’s nothing like Ripley’s Aquarium Shark Lagoon and incredible Underwater Tunnel! You get up close and personal to some of nature’s most awesome creatures. You can Touch-A-Ray and experience the ultimate Penguin Playhouse!

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies also hosts special programs like Sleep with the Sharks, PJ Party with the Penguins, and a Splash with Stingrays behind the scenes tour. And also don’t miss the Shark-Tastic Saturdays Early Bird Breakfast Tours. Now you know why this incredible place truly is one of the best aquariums in the world and it’s right here in the Great Smoky Mountains!


Dollywood Celebrates 30th Anniversary with “30 Days of Thanks” in May


Each day during May, 30 lucky Dollywood guests will win 2016 season passes.

Dolly Parton was in Pigeon Forge last week to announce Dollywood’s “30 Days of Thanks” celebration in honor of the theme park’s 30th anniversary this year. From now until the end of May, park guests can register to win prizes that include a daily giveaway of thirty 2016 Dollywood season passes! Each guest that registers at one of the kiosks placed throughout the park also earns a chance to win the grand prize of a Dollywood Summer Vacation!

The Dollywood Summer Vacation Grand Prize includes!

  • A two-night stay at the brand-new Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort (check-in date of August 7 or 8, 2015)
  • Four 2015 one-day tickets to Dollywood
  • Four 2015 tickets to Dollywood’s Splash Country
  • Four 2015 tickets to Dolly’s Pure and Simple Concert on Saturday, August 7 or 8, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.)
  • A special Meet & Greet with Dolly before the Concert
Entrants in the 30 Days of Thanks sweepstakes must be 18 years of age. Each guest may enter only once per day. Grand prize winner will be contacted on June 1, 2015. For more information on the sweepstakes and about Dollywood’s 30th Anniversary, visit

Dolly’s Pure and Simple Concert | Showcase of Stars Concert Series

Dolly Parton also announced Dollywood’s Showcase of Stars Concert Series that will take place in August and September. The entertainment icon herself will get the party started with four performances on August 8-9, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at Dollywood’s Celebrity Theatre. Her signature event titled Pure and Simple, will include some of her well-known favorites along with her newer releases. Dolly reported that individual tickets for her concerts are already sold out, but that group sponsorship tickets for 5 or more may still be available.

Kenny Rogers will be closing out the series at one show only on Sunday, September 27 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $50 for general admission and $100 for preferred seating. You must also have an admission ticket for the theme park. For ticket information and to purchase online, visit Dollywood’s Showcase of Stars. Other performance dates and entertainers have yet to be announced.

dolly-parton-imagination-library-heysmokiesTicket sales for the Showcase of Stars Concert Series will benefit Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The fundraising goal for the concert series is $1 million. Dolly Parton created the Library in honor of her father, who could not read or write, to help foster children’s imaginations and their love of reading. Imagination Library sends free, high-quality, age-appropriate books to over 750,000 children in the U.S. and Canada each month.




Trail Openings and Closings in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Visitors should be aware of some recent trail openings and closings in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail reopens just as Alum Cave Trail closes on weekdays until November 19, 2015 for needed restoration work.


One of eight new bridges on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Photo courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a unique 5.5 mile, one-way road through a very beautiful slice of the National Park and provides access to several trails leading to the summit of Mt. LeConte and LeConte Lodge. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail leads you into a majestic, natural sanctuary just three miles from downtown Gatlinburg.

Directions to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

At traffic light #8 on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail-Airport Road. Keep right past the turnoff to the left to the Park Vista Hotel and enter the National Park on Cherokee Orchard Road. You’ll pass the Noah “Bud” Ogle Self-Guiding Nature Trail. Go another half-mile to reach the entrance to the auto trail through the historic Roaring Fork Community.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail Highlights

  • Experience Forest Communities of Cove Hardwood, Pine-Oak and Old-Growth Hemlock.
  • Visit Historic Farmsteads: Ephraim Bales Place and Alfred Reagan Place.
  • See “Place of  a Thousand Drips” Waterfall.
  • Rainbow Falls Trail and Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls.
  • Note: Large motor homes, buses and trailer are prohibited.

PrintAlum Cave Trail will be open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as the Trails Forever Crew work during the week to restore several locations along the five-mile trail.

The summit of Mt. LeConte, LeConte Lodge, and the LeConte Shelter can still reached by hiking one of five other trails, three of which are accessed via Cherokee Orchard Road which leads to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Rainbow Falls Trail – 6.6 miles from the Rainbow Falls Parking Area on the Cherokee Orchard Road to the summit of Mt. LeConte. Rainbow Falls is 2.7 miles from the trailhead.

Trillium Gap Trail – 8.7 miles from Rainbow Falls Parking Area on the Cherokee Orchard Road to the summit of Mt. LeConte. Grotto Falls is 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
 The Boulevard Trail via The Appalachian Trail – From Newfound Gap hike north on the Appalachian Trail for 2.7 miles, then hike 5.3 miles on the Boulevard Trail to the summit of Mt. LeConte.
Bull Head Trail – Accessed via Old Sugarlands Trail near the Rainbow Falls Parking Area on the Cherokee Orchard Road. Walk .4 miles on Old Sugarlands Trail to Bullhead Trail. Then walk 6.4 miles to the summit of Mt. LeConte. Many folks hike up to Mt. LeConte on Rainbow Falls Trail and return on Bull Head Trail for a nice loop walk.
Brushy Mountain Trail via Porters Creek Trail – Porters Creek Trail begins in the Greenbrier section of the National Park located off U.S. Highway 321 about six miles east of Gatlinburg. Travel approximately 4.1 miles down Greenbrier Road to a traffic loop with a gate and trail sign. Walk 1 mile on Porters Creek Trail, then 4.5 miles to the intersection with Trillium Gap Trail with the summit of Mt. LeConte in another 3.6 miles.

Parking is limited at all of these trailheads so carpooling is greatly encouraged.

For more information about the restoration project for Alum Cave Trail visit



Tennessee Spirits at the Smokies Festival on June 27 Brings Together the Best Craft Distilleries in the State

tennessee-spirits-festival-heysmokiesJoin the Tennessee Distilleries Guild for its inaugural Tennessee Spirits at the Smokies Festival on Saturday, June 27, 2015 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Smokies Stadium Park in Kodak. Guests will enjoy sampling authentic, made-in-Tennessee spirits from over 20 of the state’s top craft distilleries.

We believe we have the best tasting spirits in the world and look forward to showcasing the wide variety of those spirits to the visitors and local patrons,” says Kris Tatum, Distillery Manager with the Tennessee Distillers Guild.

Tickets are on sale now online at or call the Smokies Ticket Office at 865-286-2300. Tickets are $35 per person and can be purchased online or at the door. Guests will receive a commemorative, five-ounce sample glass. To enjoy responsibly, designated drivers are highly encouraged to attend and will receive free admission and soft drinks.

tennessee-distillers-guild-logo-heysmokiesEnjoy fabulous food and live entertainment during the Tennessee Spirits at the Smokies Festival. You can meet with the folks who make your favorite libations like Jack Daniel’s head distiller, Jeff Arnett, from Lynchburg, Tennessee. You can also meet newcomers like Old Forge Distillery from Pigeon Forge and Sugarlands Distillery from Gatlinburg.

Tennessee Sales Tax-Free Weekend is August 7-9, 2015! Shoppers to Find Incredible Savings in the Smokies!

Tennessee’s sales tax-freetennessee-sales-tax-holiday-august-heysmokies weekend is scheduled for August 7-9, 2015 and shoppers in the Great Smoky Mountains will find incredible savings!

The state’s annual sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, August 7 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, August 9, 2015. Shoppers in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg will save 9.75% on qualified purchases.

Tourism polls rate shopping as the #1 activity for visitors to the Smokies, so it will be a super busy weekend and area retailers are gearing up for it. The shopping mecca, Tanger Outlet Center, in Sevierville will open early at 8:00 a.m. on Friday & Saturday; closing at 10:00 p.m. those days. Hours on Sunday are 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. Most area retailers and big box stores are also having great sales during this time, so your savings can be quite considerable!

A few words for the shopping wise during the Tennessee Sales Tax-Free Weekend: plan ahead and arrive early. Because of the crowds, this isn’t the time for browsing. Make a list of your needed items and get in and get out. It’s guerrilla shopping at its finest. This strategy leaves you time to relax and enjoy a great meal at some of the area restaurants. This season has seen the opening of quite a few new names like Harpoon Harry’s  and Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen in Pigeon Forge, and Quaker Steak Oil & Lube and Panda Express in Sevierville.

Qualified items for Tennessee Sales Tax Holiday include clothing and school supplies. Clothing and school supplies must cost $100 or less per each item. Accessories such as sunglasses, jewelry and handbags (not backpacks) are still taxable.

Computers and tablets are also included in the Sales Tax Holiday; they must have a purchase price of $1,500 or less. Computer parts and accessories, printers, storage media, software, video game consoles are taxable. Cell phones and business purchases are not included in the tax holiday and are taxable.

There is no limit on the quantity of qualified purchases. Shoppers may buy from online retailers or shop by telephone, mail or email during the tax-free weekend.

For more details and information, visit