A recent guest, Jeff Crutchett, recently sent me a picture of a bear that he spied outside his cabin (pictured left), and a co-worker dubbed him “Mission Impossible Bear.” Are you humming the theme song too? In response the photographer said, “Really? I always think of Yogi Bear saying ‘What pic-a-nic basket?'” Just one thought of Ranger Smith grilling Yogi about stealing from Jellystone campers, and today’s post was born–the Art of the Picnic.
Summer in Gatlinburg and the Smokies is a mild, beautiful season of warmth and green; however, as temperatures begin to creep downward and fall approaches, I find myself searching for ways to spend more time outdoors. What better way to enjoy the fall foliage than a picnic? Whether homemade or store bought, picnics offer time with the whole family or maybe just a relaxing romantic day at the Park. Here are some of our favorite spots to both find the food and savor the day:
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Those of you that read this regularly know how much I adore the National Park. Picnic space is no exception. Most sites offer a table and an elevated park grill; park picnic areas are located at Big Creek, Chimney Tops, Cades Cove (approx. 27 miles from Gatlinburg), Collins Creek, Cosby (approx. 23 miles from Gatlinburg), Deep Creek (approx. 47 miles from Gatlinburg), Greenbrier (approx. 6 miles from Gatlinburg), Heintooga, Look Rock, Metcalf Bottoms, and Twin Creeks. Download a park map to view the location of picnic areas. Some areas remain open year-round. Please remember that feeding bears and other wildlife is illegal. Clean your picnic area thoroughly after your meal.
2. Pack Your Lunch. Gatlinburg’s only grocery store, Food City, offers a variety of freshly made and refrigerator-case products perfect for packing your own picnic lunch. From rotisserie chickens to potato salad, banana pudding and more, Food City offers something for everyone. My favorite treat is the fresh antipasto bar located in the deli which includes cured meats, olives, roasted garlic, pepperoncini, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and various cheeses. Call (865) 430-3116 to order ahead.
3. Gatlinburg City Parks. The City of Gatlinburg maintains 3 parks for the use of residents & visitors alike. Amenities like grills, covered pavillions, horseshoe pits, fishing streams, disc golf, walking trails and more make City Parks a great alternative for large family groups and reunions. Pavillion prices are $25 – $35 for up to 4 hours & $35 – $45 for 4+ hours. For information, Click Here.
4. Desserts & More. Located in The Village(near traffic light #6 in downtown Gatlinburg), this cafe offers homemade desserts and sandwiches, quiche and more. Freshly squeezed lemonade, a sandwich on freshly baked bread and Chocolate Tiramisu is my favorite picnic for a trip to the Park! In winter, try potato soup with bacon, cheddar & green onion. See the menu & call (865) 277-7285 to order.
5. Bypass the Crowds. Looking for a spot for the two of you but want to stay close? Try the Gatlinburg By-Pass. Only a few blocks from the busy streets of Gatlinburg, the 6 mile, one-way road offers a quiet getaway. Lush, old growth forests & private corners along the way offer opportunities for a romantic picnic beside a babbling brook. To locate the Gatlinburg By-Pass, Click Here for a downtown Gatlinburg map.
6. Wild Plum Tea Room. Named for the wild plum trees surrounding the restaurant, the Wild Plum’s menu includes sandwiches and house salads. Choices change daily. Desserts are a must, & our favorite is Amaretto Bread Pudding. Specialty chicken salad & iced wild plum tea make the perfect picnic lunch. The Wild Plum Tea Room is open from March to mid-December. Read a review & call to (865)436-3808 to order.
7. The Spur. If you’re looking for a convenient spot just to pull over and eat the sack lunch you just picked up in the drive-thru. Try the “Spur.” This is a local nickname given to the 5 miles of divided highway (441) that stretches between Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge. The road is divided by the Little Pigeon River. There are pull-offs scattered along the way, and you can climb down to the River and enjoy your burger on a rock next to the water.
8. Gourmet Goodies. Every year, untold numbers of couples in love choose Gatlinburg for their wedding and honeymoon. How do you let the happy couple know you’re thinking of them if you can’t attend their wedding? Try a Gourmet Picnic Basket. The Gourmet, Healthy Gourmet, and Grande Gourmet Picnic Baskets are hand-arranged & delivered to the newlyweds’ cabin by a local florist. Prices range from $69 to $109 and include fresh fruits, cheeses, nuts, sausage, olives and crackers in a bow-tied wicker basket. Order yours online today.
9. Your own Back Yard. Rent a cabin in Gatlinburg and chances are that your cabin will come with fully-equipped kitchens including cookware, flatware, glassware. In addition, your home away from home will likely come with a grill and a space for outdoor dining on the deck or a picnic table that takes advantage of a view. For years, my husband and I have spent our anniversary having gourmet picnics on the livingroom floor while watching one of our favorite classic movies for the 10th time. Rent a cabin and treat yourself to a feast of your own making. The best part? Once you’re stuffed, the couch isn’t far away.. One of my favorite cabin kitchens is found at Misty Mountain View.
10. Mountain Edge Grill. Enjoy great salads, soups and sandwiches. House specialties include white chicken chili soup and the buffalo burger platter. Box lunches are available. Mountain Edge Grill is located in Baskins Square (near traffic light #6) across from The Village. Don’t forget to look up–they’re on the 2nd floor. If you don’t have time for a destination picnic, pick up a boxed lunch from Mountain Edge Grill and enjoy a little people watching from a downtown Parkway bench. Call (865)436-0013 to order in advance.
This blog is sponsored in part by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg, TN. For more information on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.