Things to do in Gatlinburg- For Kids!

local fun for kids banner

When vacationing in Gatlinburg, many visitors look for something fun to do with their kids. There are a range of activities to participate in from hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to riding bumper cars in downtown Gatlinburg. There are many cheap or free things to do in Gatlinburg also if you are on a budget. At the Nantahala Outdoor Center right before the National Park in downtown Gatlinburg, kids can climb the rock wall while you shop for new camping gear.Climbing_with_NOC_(001) The NOC is a great place for the whole family. There are several Ripley’s attractions throughout downtown Gatlinburg  including Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies with an interactive kids area, live mermaid diving shows and a specially designed kid friendly penguin exhibit, Davy penguinsCrockett mini golf, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze and Candy store, Ripley’s Moving Theater, Ripley’s Fun Zone, and the famous Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. Ober Gatlinburg also has a lot to offer not only in the winter months, but in the summer months as well. Ride the Aerial Tramway from downtown Gatlinburg up to Ober Gatlinburg and enjoy the best views of the Great Smoky Mountains. After you get to the top, visit the Wildlife Encounter where you can see Bears. While on your visit to Ober Gatlinburg spend a few hours Ice Skating, ride the Alpine Slide, the Scenic Chairlift, the Blue Cyclone Rapids water slide and Ober’s Lightin’ Raft Ride and alpine slideShoot-the-Chute. There is also a fun-filled Amaze’n Maze and a Kiddie Land and Rides for children.

Gatlinburg also offers Zip-lining, Whitewater Rafting, hiking, biking, horseback riding and fishing noc raftingspots. You may book zip-lining and white water rafting trips through the NOC in downtown Gatlinburg as well as rent bicycles for the day and get information about where to go fishing. The Sugarlands Visitors Center is also a great place to take your children for free where the whole family can learn about the history of the park and go through the wildlife museum inside the Visitors Center. Get information about the Junior Ranger program and the activities that your children may participate in for free. Cades Cove is also an excellent place to take your family in the park. Take a ranger led hayride through Cades Cove for $14.00 per person.


Mynatt Park, one of Gatlinburg’s City parks, is near downtown Gatlinburg. Take the family to the park for a picnic lunch, to play in the river, play on the jungle gym, or even play a fun game of tennis or basketball. All kids live candy, so while downtown visit any of the local Candy stores where the candy is made on site. Watch Saltwater Taffy being made at Ole Smoky’s Candy Kitchen.


Stay with ERA In The Smokies and easily access all that Gatlinburg has to offer for the entire family!

Ten Cheap or FREE things to do in Gatlinburg-2013

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1. Driving Trails- Enjoy nature and view wildlife on these driving trails: Trail of the Dragon, Balsam Mountain Road, Cades Cove Loop Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Upper Tremont Road, Newfound Gap Road and the Cataloochee Valley.


2. 8 mile driving loop around the Arts and Crafts Community- With more than 120 working artisans this loop is the nations largest organization of independent artisans.

arts and crafts

3. Historic Structures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park– There are over 90 structures preserved or rehabilitated in the park. You can see them in Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Oconaluftee and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

4. Free Wine Tasting- Try locally made wines at these wineries: Smoky Mountain Winery, Sugar-lands Cellars, Ole Smoky Winery and Moonshine Distillery

5. Sugar-lands Visitor Center- Pick up maps and see exhibits of Mountain life and culture as well as all of the different species of animals that can be found here in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

6. Outdoor Activities- Bicycling, Camping, Fishing, Hiking and Picnicking. There are many places in the park to enjoy multiple activities such as the Chimmeys Picnic area, the Greenbrier Picnic area, the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic area and Cades Cove.biking

Seasonal Events:

7. Winterfest– This event brings the opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills, share ideas and compete against other posts and crews and have fun.

8.Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival– Beginning in September, the people of Gatlinburg celebrate the Autumn colors by decorating and entertaining guests and start out with the Fall Craftsman’s Fair.

9. New Year’s Eve Ball Drop– Celebrate the New Year at Gatlinburg’s 26th annual Ball Drop and Fireworks Show around the intersection of the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg and the Historic Nature Trail at the Base of the Space Needle late Tuesday night, December 31, 2013.

10. Gatlinburg Festival of Lights Christmas Parade- Celebrate the Christmas season at Gatlinburg’s 38th annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade at 7:30 p.m. on Friday December 7, 2013. There will be over 100 parade entries, helium balloons and marching bands from Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama. gatlinburgchristmasparade

CANDY! Local candy stores in the Smokies

Everyone LOVES…..


Candy has been around since the cave man, who would eat honey off the honey comb. Over 3000 years ago, chocolate became known when the cacao trees reached the tropical lowlands of southern Mexico. It was then that cacao began to be used for culinary purposes. Candy as Americans know it has been around since the 1800s. The first packaged box of Whitman’s Chocolate hit the scene in 1854.  Gatlinburg, TN is known for their numerous local candy stores. Candy Stores have been in Gatlinburg since the 1930s. Downtown Gatlinburg is the right place to be for a delicious homemade sweet treat. There are many myths about candy, but none as infamous as the myth that there is no such thing as healthy candy. The truth is, many treats such as lollipops, candy canes and gummies have no cholesterol or fat, making them a healthier treat than many people realize. Gum drops, most licorice products and many hard candy varieties are fat-free and have little to no cholesterol, plus, they are low-calorie. For example, a cup of candy corn contains fewer calories than the same amount of raisins.

Salt Water Taffy is a big candy item here in the Smokies. The first recorded documents of Salt Water Taffy are dated from the latetaffy making 1800s. Salt Water Taffy got its name in 1890 in Atlantic City, New Jersey when an ocean wave came ashore one night filling Mr. Bradley’s candy store on the Boardwalk full of ocean water. The next day, a small girl came into the store asking Mr. Bradley if he had any taffy. He replied, “Yes, I have salt water taffy.” Mr. Bradley’s mother overheard his remark and thought the name fit perfectly. In the early 1900s, this new candy was seen at County Fairs and soon many stores were opening. Salt Water Taffy came to the Great Smoky Mountains in the early 1950s and has since been a big attraction for travelers. Is it real “salt water taffy?” You decide.

Below is a list of local candy stores in Gatlinburg and surrounding areas.

  • Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen-774 Parkway, Gatlinburg,TN 37738ole-smoky-candy-kitchen
  • Glades Homemade Candies- 1402 E Parkway #9, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • Kilwin’s Chocolates- 645 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • Mountaineer Kandy Kitchen- 1001 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • Peaches Sweets and More- 849 Glades Rd., Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • Aunt Mahalia’s Candies- 611 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • Unbearably Sweet- 651 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • Log Cabin Candy Kitchen- 329 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • Old Mill Candy Kitchen-177 Old Mill Ave, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863kilwins
  • The Funnel Cake Co.- 631 Baskins Creek Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • Country Candy Kitchen- 3341 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
  • Smoky Mountain Candy Makers- 2880 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
  • The Lollipop Shop of the Smokies- 3609 Outdoor Sportsman Pl, Kodak, TN 37764


aunt mahaliasold mill candy kitchen

Rising Star Talent Competition!

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Do you have what it takes to be a star? The city of Sevierville is hosting another Rising Star Talent National Competition again this year. The event will be held at the Sevierville Convention Center June 26-29, 2013. Singers, dancers and musicians will travel from throughout the region to compete for cash prizes during the four day event. Soloists and group performers of all ages will perform at this event.

Rising Star Talent Productions got its start in the summer of 1985. Five parents of young competitors came together to create a talen competition that would encourage pride and confidence in the minds of young people. The first competition ever held was in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1986. Rising Star’s founding and current directors are Gail Jordan and Sharon Jordan.

There is no charge for admission into the Rising Star Talent National Competition, so bring the whole family to enjoy a night of family friendly competition and entertainment!

Rising Star Talent Productions Mission statement:

“We will provide a competition that enables competitors to meet or exceed their expectations in the dance or vocal field and inspire them to strive for excellence.”

Rising Star Talent Productions Goal:

“Our goal is for all performers, teachers, and family members to have an enjoyable experience in the world of talent competition. We want all who participate to leave Rising Star feeling fulfilled and rewarded for a job well done. Our staff is professional, friendly and courteous and is known to treat you well.”

ERA In The Smokies provides luxurious cabins and excellent customer service. Come see young talent and stay in your favorite vacation rental!

Spring Break In The Smokies

Click Here to Subscribe by Email!This year at Spring Break, don’t follow the crowd to the beach, follow the fun to the Smokies!

Go Swimming in the SmokiesGo Swimming

At Spring Break in the Smokies, the outdoor pools usually aren’t opened yet, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on swimming!
Indoor Swimming Pools– There are two indoor swimming pools in the area that can accommodate you for just a couple dollars per person. The indoor swimming pool at the Gatlinburg Community Center is open every day, even in winter and spring. Check their website for hours of operation and prices. The Pigeon Forge Community Center also offers an indoor swimming pool. Hours are: Monday, Wednesday, Friday- 8:00am – 8:00pm; Tuesday, Thursday- 6:30am – 8:00pm; Saturday- 10:00am – 5:30pm; Sunday- 1:00pm – 5:30pm. The Day fee for non-residents in $6.59 and includes access to the entire community center, including basketball courts, racquet ball, bowling, and more. Call 865-429-7373 for more information.
Indoor Water Park– There is an indoor water park as well, with a little bit of extra watery fun! The Wild Bear Falls Water Park in Gatlinburg “is the ultimate indoor/outdoor water park experience. Not only is there 60,000 sq ft. of watery fun for kids and adults, the water park also features an entry-level pool for toddlers. For those that are in need of a break from the water or want to recharge, there is a snack bar, gift shop and an arcade on the mezzanine level. High above the fun, the mezzanine also permits you to take in the action below or keep an eye on your family.”

Visit a Theme Park

Dollywood opens on March 23 this year, with endless opportunities for family fun! On hot days, water rides are available. Roller coasters and rides provide plenty of thrills, including the still new Barnstormer and Wild Eagle Rides. The Festival of Nations is hosting the Cirque Shanghai. Shopping, shows, food, and dozens of children’s activities round out the experience. ERA In The Smokies can help you with discounted 2-day passes if you stay in one of their cabins or chalets!

Enjoy the Spring Weather and Wildlife

Hiking To Chimney TopsPerfect Hiking Weather
Thousands of people flock from far and wide to enjoy all the amazing hiking trails of the Great Smoky Mountains. While a novice might expect summer to be the best time for hiking, anyone who has been hiking in summer knows that spring and autumn are the best seasons for hiking by far. In summer it can get quite warm, and when one is hiking, this increases the body heat as well, and can work up quite a sweat! In the spring, the beautiful color of new leaves fills the Smokies, the birds and animals are flitting about, the wildflowers are coming out in profusion, and the temperature is perfect. On a perfect spring day, it may seem just a bit warm down in the town of Gatlinburg, but as you climb in elevation in the Park to get to the trails, the temperature will drop a bit. When you get out of your car to begin the hike, you will probably feel a bit chilly. Just put on a light jacket, and start hiking! Within about ten minutes, you will likely be getting pretty warm again. Just remove your jacket, tie it around your waist, and continue on your hike! See some more hiking tips.
Waterfall Season
In spring, the frequent rainfall and melting snow contribute to gorgeous, roaring waterfalls! If you are one of those people for whom waterfalls hold a mesmerizing attraction, the Smokies is the place for you! From small cataracts cascading along the side of the road, to huge falls of 50 ft or more, the Smokies are riddled with waterfalls. Meigs Falls and Place of a Thousand Drips are accessible by car-ride, and tons of others are available by hikes, long or short!
There are wildflowers for every season, but none holds such a profusion of color and scent as spring-time! If you visit us during the last weekend in April, you can take advantage of the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage to assist in your discovery of our spring wildflowers! “The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is an annual five-day event in Great Smoky Mountains National Park consisting of a variety of wildflower, fauna, and natural history walks, motorcades, photographic tours, art classes, and indoor seminars. Most programs are outdoors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, while indoor offerings are held in various venues throughout Gatlinburg, TN.”

Have a Boardwalk Experience

Both in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the main strips play host to such a variety of attractions, a walk down either could keep you entertained for days! The term boardwalk brings up images of shopping, eateries, ice cream, fudge, mini-golf, go-karts, shows, and more! Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer all this and more.

See a Show

There are so many show here in the Smokies, you could never see them all! Some of our favorites fall loosely into three categories, although most shows contain all three elements in some degree!
Sweet Fanny Adams
“On your next visit to the Great Smoky Mountains, head for Pat & Don MacPherson’s Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre, Gatlinburg´s ONLY Musical Comedy Entertainment Attraction and the OLDEST Purveyor of Professional, Live-On-Stage, Original Musical Comedies, outrageous humor and hilarious fun in the Smokies.”
Comedy BarnThe Comedy Barn
“The Comedy Barn® Theater, located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee , is the award winning family comedy variety show in the Smoky Mountains. Our show features magicians, fire-eaters, jugglers, ventriloquists, clean family comedians, live country and gospel music as well as fun barn yard animals.”
Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud
“Howdy! Welcome to the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge. You are just in time for the big ole barn dance tonight and boy, is it gonna be a wild one. Seems somehow someone invited BOTH the Hatfields AND the McCoys to the party! Everyone knows just how well those two families mix so you might be able to guess just how busy our newly elected sheriff is gonna fair in the next few hours.”
Dixie Stampede
“Searching for family fun and adventure during your vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee? Join Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction in Pigeon Forge, TN for a family feast and fantastic show fun for all ages. Filled with friendly North and South competition, thrilling horse riding stunts, spectacular special effects, phenomenal musical productions plus a mouth-watering four-course feast complete with a delicious dessert!”
Lumberjack Feud
“Pigeon Forge has a new attraction, and it’s not your ordinary dinner show. With competing ESPN Lumberjack Athletes, you won’t want to miss the “Rowdiest Good Time Dinner Show in the Smokies!”
Smoky Mountain Opry
“The Smoky Mountain Opry is the area’s largest musical variety show featuring music from Big Band Swing through today’s country.  See the most talented cast of singers, dancers, comedians, and musicians the Smokies has to offer! Marvel at our special effects, laser lights, pyro, giant video screens, dazzling costumes, and high flying musicians!”
Smith Family Dinner Theater
“Since 2004, the theater, located at 2330 Parkway in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, has been treating visitors to a stage show heavily steeped in Southern music and culture. For two hours each performance, the Smiths charm their audiences with their unique brand of music and comedy in an intimate, familial style.”
Country Tonite
“Looking for true Pigeon Forge entertainment? Look no further as we are celebrating our 16th Spectacular season in Pigeon Forge, Country Tonite launches a BRAND NEW PIGEON FORGE SHOW – which means new production numbers, new choreography, new lighting effects, new side-splitting comedy, and new costumes.  Country Tonite’s 2013 season promises to surpass all expectations as they combine your favorite country classics with hot new country hits and hilarious country comedy in this fast paced show.”

Hollywood Wax MuseumSneak In Some Educational Fun
Hollywood Wax Museum
“Come Play with the Stars! The all-new Hollywood Wax Museum is part of the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center entertainment attraction at 106 Showplace Boulevard in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. If you’re waxing for fun in the Smoky Mountains, get into the action with your favorite stars at the largest Hollywood Wax Museum in the United States. From Michael Caine to Michael Jackson and Lucille Ball to Lucy Lui, you’ll find classic and current stars ready and waiting to take pictures with you. In addition to posing with the stars, you’ll learn about their pets, pet peeves, accomplishments, charity work and more. The two-story Pigeon Forge Hollywood Wax Museum also includes themed tributes to film genres including western, action, romance, sci fi, comedy, and horror. The Wax Museum near Dollywood in Pigeon Forge brings you into the world of celebrities like never before.”
Titanic Museum Attraction
“Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge is a half-scale, permanent, three-deck reproduction. The museum houses 20 galleries to display hundreds of authentic, priceless Titanic artifacts that were either carried from the ship and into lifeboats by passengers and crew or were found afloat soon after the sinking and quickly salvaged by rescue boats.”
“WonderWorks Pigeon Forge began as a Top Secret research laboratory on a remote island in the Bermuda Triangle. As legend has it, the world’s greatest scientists – led by Professor Wonder – were given the task of creating a man-made tornado and harnessing the POWER of it. During this experiment, something went awry and the power of the tornado was unleashed throughout the laboratory. This created a swirling vortex that was strong enough to rip the laboratory from its foundation. It was carried thousands of miles away and landed upside-down on the top of a theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Remarkably, all of the experiments remained intact and functional.”

Enjoy the View
This area is famous for it’s gorgeous mountain views. There are multiple ways to enjoy the view, including just driving down the road!
National Park Scenic Overlooks
Take a drive through the National Park and you will find several pull-offs at various scenic overlooks. Take a few minutes at each one to take in the view and take a view pictures.
Get up High, Stay Close to Town!
Take the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway and enjoy the view all the way up to the top of Ski Mountain. The view from the parking lot at the top is phenomenal in its own right! Ride the Gatlinburg Sky Lift to a height of 1,800 ft on Crockett Mountain and fin another spectacular view. Ride up 407 feet in a glass elevator to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle, which affords a 360 degree view of the surrounding city and mountains!
Take a Hike, Take a Picnic
An especially great way to enjoy the view is to be a part of it! Hike up to the top of one the peaks in the National Park and gaze out at the beauty surrounding you. You’ll be hungry by the time you get up there, so be sure to pack a small lunch to enjoy when you arrive! Our favorite spots for a mountaintop picnic are the top of the Chimney Tops Trail and Charlies Bunion Trail.
Check out the view from the hot tub at Southern Comfort!Rent a Cabin With a View
The best way to enjoy the view is from the deck of your very own Smoky Mtn Cabin! Sit out with your favorite drink and your favorite person and relax. Or jump into the hot tub and feast your eyes from there. Just imagine, getting up each morning to the spectacular vista of the Great Smoky Mountains, taking your lunch out on the deck, reading a book in a rocking chair in the fresh air, soaking in the hot tub while listening to the crickets and all with those beautiful mountains right in front of you! Sigh…. heaven! The folks at ERA In The Smokies can help you find just such a cabin to make your Spring Break the best one ever!

Winter Wildlife: Doe a Deer

Subscribe to A Day In The SmokiesMost of us probably assume that there isn’t much wildlife to see in the winter. In the Smokies, however, winter is a perfect time to view wildlife such as deer, as the trees have lost their leaves. This makes it easier to spot deer through the trees.

White-Tailed Deer in the SmokiesHere is what the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to say about our local white-tailed deer:

White-tailed deer live throughout the Smokies, but are most commonly seen in areas with open fields such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley.

Deer living in the southern Appalachians give birth in late June. Newborn fawns have no defense beyond camouflage. Many are lost to predation during their first few days. By their second spring, males begin to grow antlers. They fully develop in August, and in September, the bucks fight for mating rights. Mating occurs in November. The antlers fall off by mid-winter.

Deer browse for nutritious foods. The diversity of plants growing in the park provide excellent food sources. When favored foods disappear, deer switch to more common, less nutritious plants. If nothing else is available, they will eat poison ivy or rhododendron. Acorns and nuts are important fall foods.

Deer populations can change quickly. Local over-population leads to widespread disease and starvation. Predation by coyotes, bears, and bobcats help reduce threats associated with overpopulation.

Foraging In WinterAccording to the Adirondack Ecological Center,

Winter activity, mainly foraging, is more likely in late afternoon. After snowfall, the winter diet consists of woody browse – the twigs and stems of seedlings, saplings and shrubs. An adult white-tailed deer requires approximately 5-7 lb of food per day. Energy demands vary seasonally, and are greatest for pregnant and lactating females, for males in the autumn rut, and for all individuals during severe winter weather.

So this winter, when you’re in the Smokies, don’t be discouraged! Pack up a lunch to take in the car, or get take out, and take a drive into the Park! Cades Cove is an especially good place to see deer. Go during the warmest part of the day. Begin about lunch-time, and drive slowly! You’ll be traveling through at the perfect time to see plenty of deer! Enjoy, and take pictures! How many deer did you see on your last drive through Cades Cove? Did you see a lot of deer in another part of the Park? Tell us about it!

Groundhog Day 2013 and Winter Activities

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Check out!Our favorite groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, says we are going to have an early spring this year. As exciting as that is, let’s enjoy winter while we can! In an effort to encourage you to take advantage of the remaining winter weather, we thought we would remind you (and ourselves) of all the great things to do in the Smoky Mountains during the winter.

Play in the Snow!1. Play in the Snow. We know this one is obvious, but we couldn’t very well neglect to mention it, could we? What happens if you get to Gatlinburg…and it snows? Well, you play in it, of course. What happens if you were hoping for snow and don’t see any when you get here? Well, you have to find the snow. Snowfalls of an inch or more occur on average only one to five times per year in the valleys of the Great Smoky Mountains although Gatlinburg has already had two of these snowfalls in December alone. In the high country, over five feet of snow falls most years. For all the best places to play in the snow, visit our snow post.

See Rainbow Falls!2. Tour the Waterfalls. Winter can be the best time for enjoying waterfalls. Waterfall flows are higher because of greater amounts of snow and rainfall. In addition, there is less uptake by forest plants. Waterfall views and opportunities for photography also improve after the trees have dropped their leaves. Visit our winter waterfall post for some of our favorites.

Where have all the black bears gone?3. Take in the Wildlife. Winter is one of the best times for wildlife viewing in the Smokies. Once the trees have shed their leaves, views into the forest are much longer. Wildlife like elk and deer are active for longer periods during the daylight hours because of the cooler temperatures. What wildlife other than bear and dear might you see? Otter, bob-cat, red fox, gray fox, mink, red squirrel, coyote, and lots of birds. Visit our winter wildlife post for all the details.

Ski at Ober Gatlinburg!4. Skiing Anyone? Ober Gatlinburg offers 8 ski trails serviced by two quad and one double chairlift which keeps you out of lift lines and on the slopes. When temperatures drop, their snow-making equipment blankets 100% of there slopes. Slopes are maintained with the latest in snow-grooming equipment to provide a smoother, more consistent surface creating enjoyable skiing conditions. For more information on skiing in Gatlinburg, visit our Let’s Go Skiing post.

Winter Wildflowers!!5. Winter Wildflowers. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts approximately 100 species of plants that are restricted to a single region of the park. Many of these species are only found in the southern Appalachian Mountains, but some have been documented only inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Think wildflowers only bloom in the Spring? Visit our wildflower post to find flowers year ’round.

ERA In The SmokiesSo never fear…you can always find something to do in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains even in the dead of winter.

This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. 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.