Okay, I realize that I’m not Oprah, so my opinion may not hold much weight if you are one of her millions of fans. I can’t give you ten iPods, a trip to Hawaii, a $600 plush bath robe, or your own private island, and I haven’t visited the country’s most extravagant and lavish restaurants and attractions. But in the spirit of the holiday season, I thought I would share a few of my favorite locations in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Cirque de Chine –This incredible exhibit of acrobatic skill, grace and excitement is one of the best live shows in Gatlinburg. For two hours, guests will be thrilled by hoop divers, “butterfly lovers,” and amazing musical acts like the ones seen in the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics. A show of five “flying motorcyclists” racing inside a 26 foot steel globe ends the night with audience members on the edge of their seats.
The Pancake Pantry –In my opinion, there is no better restaurant in Gatlinburg to get a fluffy pancake, sizzling bacon, or a savory omelettte, than Tennessee’s very first pancake house. The brick and oak interior is warm and inviting, and the food is absolutely delicious. With 24 different varieties of pancakes and a vast array of fresh meats, eggs, and hash browns, there is something for every taste.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies –I’ve talked about this attraction before because it is my absolute favorite place to visit (aside from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) in the area. The Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies houses over 10,000 exotic sea creatures and has sections devoted to the rainforest, ocean, coral, sharks and much more. Cuttlefish, sea nettles, octopi, piranhas, and stingrays are just a few of the interesting creatures visitors will see on an outing to this family favorite. The best part of my visit is always a ride along the moving sidewalks underneath all the wonderful sea life.
Driving the Cades Cove Loop –Taking a scenic drive around this 11 mile loop is the ultimate in relaxation on a nice day. I’m always on the lookout for black bears and deer, and even if I don’t catch a glimpse of some wildlife, the rolling hills and historic buildings are well worth the trip.