Gatlinburg Getaway: Easy, Fun & Family-Friendly


When summer boredom starts to set in with the kids (and mom needs a break), a getaway is in order. East Tennesseans are lucky to have the Smokies on our back doorstep. Gatlinburg, in particular, offers families easy and fun adventures without breaking the bank. Those are just some of the reasons this little mountain town has been welcoming visitors for more than 70 years. The new Embassy Suites by Hilton Gatlinburg Resort hosted Knoxville Moms to see what keeps people coming back year after year to this beloved mountain destination.

View from Embassy Suites GatlinburgOur adventure began with a planned hike and “stream school” courtesy of Smoky Mountain Guides. We met our team, Kindel and Mark, at the Embassy Suites Guide Room conveniently located in the resort lobby. With six kids ranging in age from seven to 13, it might have been tough to get them interested and excited about an afternoon of exploring. But Kindel and Mark’s enthusiasm was contagious. They talked directly to the kids about where they would be going and what they would be seeing.

The Guide Room at Embassy suitesGuide Room at EmbassyGuide Room VanEven better, they drove us in a giant van to the Noah Bud Ogle Cabin where we would begin our hike. That meant the moms could sit back and relax. Kendall and Mark even put together a scavenger hunt to keep the kids engaged. Armed with their scavenger hunt lists and colored pencils those kids hiked with a focus that surprised this seasoned mom. We all learned about a variety of trees, stinging nettles (yikes!) and the elusive salamander. Our hiking destination was LeConte Creek. Every kid (and adult) hoped that would be where we saw a salamander up close and personal.

The crystal-clear water was cold, but that didn’t stop any of us. We all scrambled over rocks and splashed in the stream. Our efforts finally paid off! It was pure mountain magic when the kids got to hold the salamander in their hands. What better way to celebrate our find then taking a dip in the chilly waters on a hot summer day!

Hike with Guide Room
Hike with Guide Room 2

There were happy, tired and hungry kids on the way back to the Embassy Suites Resort.  We arrived just in time to enjoy the complimentary evening reception complete with drinks and snacks. The moms sipped glasses of wine and the kids noshed as we all recapped our favorite parts of the afternoon. (The salamander was a clear winner!) Afterwards it only took a few steps to get to our dinner destination—Firefly Cove located at the Embassy Suites. The restaurant offers sophisticated menu choices with enough variety for pickier tastes (kids’ palates included). I thoroughly enjoyed the steak frites with truffle fries.  When the kids got antsy, we sent them out to the beautiful and modern courtyard located at the center of the hotel. We could keep an eye on them while we finished enjoying our meals. We turned in early because another day of adventure awaited us!

Embassy suites courtyard
Embassy suites outside (2)
Embassy suites outside (2)
Embassy Suites Lobby

We all woke up feeling rested thanks to our sweet (and suite) room. My children shared the pullout couch in the living room area and I blissfully slept on the king size bed in the separate bedroom. We got ready for our day exploring some of the Gatlinburg attractions and headed downstairs to the complimentary breakfast complete with made-to-order omelets. Once fueled up we planned to hit some of the classic spots before the heat of the day. Hillbilly Golf has been beckoning tourists for over 50 years with its unusual course on the side of a mountain. In fact, you ride a funicular to get to the first hole. Competition was fierce but fun! Yours truly came in dead last and I have the picture to prove it.

Hillbilly GolfNext up was Ripley’s Mountain Coaster which was so close we could walk.  My little guy begged to go full speed and I (mostly) obliged him. Afterwards we decided to venture further afield to the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community. It’s a series of shops and galleries along an eight-mile two-laned loop road. Our destination was Split Rail Eats. This local spot blends modern favorites and Southern classics. Did I mention the kid’s menu? It’s a cozy café and during our visit there was even live music. Split Rail also boasts Gatlinburg’s only self-serve beer tap wall although my eyes were aimed at the coffee bar. The Almond Joy iced coffee special was just what I needed to perk me up before our next activity.

Split Rail EatsBack at the Embassy Suites Resort, we put on bathing suits and sunscreen to spend the afternoon at the resort pools. The main pool has a zero entry and splash pads for the little ones. Our kids went straight to the spiral water slide where they spent most of their time.  Meanwhile, the moms set up camp on umbrella-shaded lounge chairs.

Pool SlideEveryone decided to check out the lazy river which was located next to the main pool.

Lazy River at Embassy Suites Trees surround the pools so it was such a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. The kids decided to check out the indoor pool which was equally awesome. It’s also zero entry with splash pad features. The best part is the huge windows and doors kept wide open—no hot and humid indoor pool! 

Indoor splash area embassy suitesPool at Embassy suites When the complimentary evening reception started, we couldn’t convince the kids to stop playing so we had wine and snacks poolside. We could have even ordered dinner from our lounge chairs but we already had dinner reservations. The kids dried off playing cornhole and other yard games on the large resort lawn. Then we headed inside to get ready for dinner at a Gatlinburg mainstay The Park Grill.

Located just outside the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the restaurant embraces the nearby natural wonders. The kids were wowed with all the animals on display. The moms enjoyed learning more about the history and heritage of the Smokies too. To celebrate our Gatlinburg getaway, the kids got a round of the special daiquiris on the children’s menu. Once the moms had our wine in hand we toasted to our adventures!  The Park Grill is known for many things. The salad bar is one of the standouts. It stretches across the restaurant and even includes smoked oysters. Everyone enjoyed their meals ranging from chicken tenders to fresh rainbow trout.

After dinner we thought we might sit outside by one of the outdoor fires back at the Embassy Suites but after such a fun-filled day the kids were starting to fall asleep. Sweet dreams followed fast.

Embassy Suites GatlinburgAs our Gatlinburg getaway came to an end, the kids (and moms) wished we could stay even longer. Isn’t that the mark of a great vacation? There’s no question our families will be back to enjoy Gatlinburg’s charms and we’ll plan to stay at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Gatlinburg Resort—a true gem in the mountains!  



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