January is usually a time when we sit at home huddled under a blanket wishing it was no longer winter. Yes, all of us have a tinge of that seasonal disorder in the winter in which, here in the north, our vitamin D levels are lower because of the major decrease in the amount of sunlight during the day. This year, however, we decided to do something about it and made plans for a winter weekend vacation in Gatlinburg–our first for this time of year. In this blog post, I will be sharing our experiences from this trip that is now two weeks past. Here goes:
We arrived in Gatlinburg much earlier than anticipated in large part because our area was set to get hit with some measurable snowfall in the morning hours; therefore, we elected to leave the previous evening and drove to Lexington, Kentucky, where we stopped–a little past the halfway point–and got some sleep at a hotel just off I-75. Since we left so early we got into Gatlinburg–after making a stop in Pigeon Forge at The Old Mill–and made it to our planned destination in plenty of time for their BOGO lunch special: this would be the rebuilt Alamo Steakhouse.
This is an old western-themed steak restaurant, and we instantly noticed that new building smell as they’ve only been opened a few months. The atmosphere is felt as you walk around the inside with its architecture and photos of old Americana-esque images. The food delivered, however, on my end not as much: The San Antonio chicken would’ve been much better if it wasn’t a bit dry, and the partially unmelted cheese on top made for quite the contradiction. My wife had the steak, and naturally, it was the best part of both of our meals with the only exception being maybe those beer-battered french fries that were mighty tasty. Our server was quite a hoot, cracking jokes and making for a good experience overall. Would we return? Yes. But now I know what I need to order in a…ahem, STEAK RESTAURANT!
Arts and Crafts Community
Even though it was raining we decided to head to The Arts and Crafts Community to check out one of my wife’s favorite shops in The Covered Bridge: Custom Creations by Beth. Both of us love her artwork so that means I don’t have much of a problem with my wife wanting to buy one of her paintings. We decided to purchase a painting of hers of a mountain scene at Newfound Gap that is one of her favorites. She could’ve probably picked any scene from that area and hit a home run, but we loved this one, and it is proudly hanging on an opposite wall in our bedroom of another picture of hers we bought two trips ago.
I wrote in our planned itinerary as well about how excited we were to return to Zoders in order to stay in one of their remodeled rooms by the creek. The room did not disappoint. We had a nice comfortable bed with the floors replaced with hardwood vinyl and two sinks–one inside and another outside the bathroom that was added. While the room passed inspection, we were a bit disappointed with a few things: First, the WiFi was simply incapable of being accessed for any amount of time; Second, there was no Visitor’s Information Channel in the room, which is ironic given that this was the very first place we saw this programming on our first visit to Gatlinburg. I know these two are small beans when you look at the overall picture, but WiFi is still essential for business and researching on-the-fly, and VIC is a great time-waster in a hotel for many visitors to The Smoky Mountains, so we can’t give Zoder’s an excellent rating this time around. Still, though, I would recommend this place because it’s in a quiet location, and you can still walk downtown if you’re able-bodied.
After taking our initial walk downtown to dive into a few shops we figured out that we wanted to eat at Big Daddy’s Pizza for dinner, but I just wasn’t ready to eat yet being that we had a late lunch. Based on where we were on the Parkway, we knew it would be a bit too much to walk all the way back to the hotel just to kill a half-hour, and then walk all the way to the other side of town to Big Daddy’s; so, we decided–since the weather was cooperating a bit–to head down the Gatlinburg Trail to where the bridge crosses the river. We took a few photos of the dreary, but still very beautiful landscape, and made our way back into downtown Gatlinburg. And it was now that we had worked up quite the hunger–enough for some wood-fired deliciousness.
Big Daddy’s Pizzeria
Ah yes, Big Daddy’s Pizzeria, a rediscovered gem of a restaurant serving great wood-fired pizzas and amazing Dough Daddies. I’ve described how much we enjoy those appetizers in previous posts with their hard outer crust but yet doughy center that pairs perfectly with their in-house marinara. YUM! The best part of their pizza has to be the crust–the oven gives it a flavor not found in your standard pizza joint. The toppings are above average too even if was just a bit greasy for just having red peppers on it, but the excellent crust contradicts any minor misstep with the overall product. I’ll still take Best Italian in the Elks Plaza as our favorite pizza, but Big Daddy’s has a highlighted bullet next to its number on the pizza charts.
Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon. I didn’t anticipate the rambling of this post, so I am going to break this band up for the sake of not making you sit and read a 3,000+ word post of my entire trip. I will give you a sneak preview for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter: We changed our plans for dinner the next day and enjoyed an excellent meal at a new favorite of ours and braved the temperature drop in going to a few of our favorite places. Thanks for reading!