Day Three – Above Gatlinburg
10:00am: Breakfast at the Copper Kettle Pancake House
We started our third day with breakfast at the Copper Kettle Pancake House, one of approximately a thousand restaurants in Gatlinburg with the word “pancake” in its name. We both had the Mountain Breakfast, which includes eggs any way you like them (we went with scrambled), home fries, biscuits and gravy, your choice of sausage or bacon, and coffee or tea. It was loaded with fat, sodium, and cholesterol; I suspect there was even some nicotine in there somewhere. I loved it, though; left to my own devices, I’d put gravy on everything. And I did.
11:15am: Christus Gardens
Next we went to Christus Gardens, Gatlinburg’s most pious attraction, the complete opposite of the Ripley’s museum. It was created over forty years ago by a man named Ronald S. Ligon, after he was stricken with tuberculosis and nearly died. Feeling that his recovery was the result of divine intervention, Ligon decided to build a memorial to show his gratitude. The result is a series of dioramas depicting the life of Christ, from the Nativity to the Ascension, complete with dramatic lighting, sound effects, and narration. The museum also contains a series of paintings depicting various parables, a small but pretty outdoor garden, and a collection of Biblical-era coins.
It also features what is described as the single most photographed thing in Gatlinburg, an image of the face of Christ carved in a 6-ton block of Carrara marble, the eyes of which seem to be looking at you regardless of how you approach it.
We spent about forty-five minutes going through the museum and then browsing through the gift shop. When we left, we were ready for an uplifting experience of a different kind.
12:20pm: The Sky Lift
The Gatlinburg Sky Lift has been taking people up to the top of Crockett Mountain for over forty-five years now. It wasn’t one of the things I had planned on doing, but Anna thought it would be neat so we did it. I’m glad we did, too; it was quite an experience taking the ten-minute ride on the chairlift up the mountain, looking down at the streets and the people and the city.
We spent about twenty minutes at the top of the mountain; we looked at the cheesy gifts in the gift shop, ate some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and then rode back down. The ride back down was even neater because it gave us a good view of the city and the mountains surrounding the city.
1:25pm: The World of Illusions and Ripley’s Moving Theater
Next we went to the World of Illusions, a fairly recent and, frankly, disappointing attraction. It’s basically a wax musuem that uses lighting and mirrors to make it look like Dracula is turning into a bat or the person on the other side of the booth from you has disappeared. The most interesting thing, to me, was found in the Frankenstein display: the wax figure of Dr. Frankenstein, I would swear, had been taken from a now-defunct wax museum, specifically from a M*A*S*H display. He looked just like Hawkeye Pierce (or at least as much like him as wax figures ever really do), even down to the dogtags (though I couldn’t read them) and the army-issue olive drab belt and pants!
The Ripley’s Moving Theater was a little better. There are two movies to choose from; we chose the roller coaster one. Just like a real roller coaster, the time we had to wait was about three times as long as the actual ride. It did feel like a real roller coaster, though, no doubt due to the fact that (as the posters told us) the seats moved in eight different directions. By the time we were done my tucchus was quite sore from all the bumping and jerking.
5:30pm: Into Pigeon Forge and Dinner at the Old Mill House
We went back to our cabin to rest for a while, but by about 5:30 we were getting hungry. We decided that, since we’d seen most of Gatlinburg already, we would go north a couple of miles to see what Pigeon Forge had to offer.
Pigeon Forge is a lot different than Gatlinburg. It’s a tourist town too, but not quite in the same way; it’s a little more subtle, so naturally I didn’t like it as much. It’s biggest attraction, of course, is Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s amusement park, but it also has plenty of minature golf places, go kart rides (both indoor and outdoor), laser tag places, and even an indoor skydiving attraction.
Fortunately, though, our objective was dinner, so we didn’t have to deal with any of that. We picked The Old Mill Restaurant because it sounded interesting in the guidebook Anna had picked up somewhere. It was interesting, and good; our meals (sugar cured ham for me, turkey and dressing for Anna) included corn chowder, corn fritters, salad, mashed pototoes, green beans, and our choice of dessert. It was a lot of food, and it was all really good. It was worth the half-hour wait.