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Thread: Acadia or Smokey Mountains

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    Acadia or Smokey Mountains

    Hi all! We are starting to think about our non-Disney vacation for this year and was seeking opinions for these "new to us" options.

    I am at the very very beginning stages of planning so have little researched yet.

    Any opinions on Acadia vs. Smokey Mountains? Or we would be open to other ideas too.

    Would be DH, me, DD(12), DS (12), DS (6), and the baby who will be 6-9 months depending on when we go.

    I know we really can't go wrong with either choice. Do you think one is more baby friendly than the other? Thanks!

  2. #2
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    I have only been to the Smokey Mountains (twice). Hereís a report I did a few years ago.

    https://www.easywdw.com/forums/showt...t=Great+Smokey

    We has a really good time. The trip above was our second trip. The first, our daughter was about 18 months old. We stuck to ďeasy trailsĒ where we could use a stroller.
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    MY TRIP REPORTS

  3. #3
    Senior Member mgarbowski's Avatar
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    I've done both fairly recently on photo trips, Acadia in 2014 and GSM 2 months ago, but neither with family or kids. My impression is Acadia is more baby friendly in that most of the picturesque locations we visited were very close to the road and did not hiking more than 100 yards, often less, and usually pretty flat ground. But as for the other elements of being baby friendly, or having good activities for kids, I could not say.
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    Senior Member ChristineOH's Avatar
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    I hesitate to answer, as it's been many years since I have been to either park. (Maybe 30 years for Smokies and 22 for Acadia.)

    Besides the obvious difference of it being by the ocean, I remember doing pretty intense hiking at Acadia... like ledges and climbing ladder rungs attached to the side of the mountain. I'm sure there's a variety of hikes available, of course. We also rented and rode bikes one day. It's very easy biking on carriage paths built by a Rockefellar, which include a lot of beautiful stone bridges. Bar Harbor is pretty touristy. Much like all of New England, there are tons of good ice cream shops.

    The sun rises SUPER early there in the summer. My mom gets up with the sun, so she was up at 4:00 am. My siblings and I wanted to sleep in... but by 7:00, my mom had been up for three hours and was screaming for us to get out of bed.

    We are within a day's drive of the Smokies, so while I haven't been recently, I have friends who go often. The Gaitlinburg area has tons of non-national park stuff to do. Besides Dollywood, there's your general touristy type things. I think 3Dad outlines some of that type stuff in his report, if I remember.

    Mark can certainly speak more to the scenery, I'm sure, but I think Acadia is more spectacular, with more variety in the types of views. Not that the Smokies aren't gorgeous. But it you google search for images from each park, you can get an idea.
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    I've never done Acadia, and it's been eons since we went to the Smokies, but I do have 6 children and have made a lot of trips with babies.

    If I were in your shoes, I'd get on a site like VRBO, Airbnb, or whatever and look at houses available when I was considering going and see how much they cost, how updated they appear to be, how close they are to where you'd want to be, and generally how much you'd legitimately like to stay in them. Don't just find one dream home that's wonderful and at a great price because that house may not be available when you want to book, but see which one has lots of houses you'd really like. That location would be the winner.

    With 6 people including a baby, you'll want a house or condo to be comfortable. I know that in the Smokies there are some rental house neighborhoods similar to the ones at WDW where you have access to a community pool and other recreational activities. There's plenty of tourist-y things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge (plus a LOT of traffic to go along with it all). There are all kinds of hiking trails, including ones that will take an hour or less and not be too steep that you should be able to do with a baby in carrier like an Ergo or one of the millions of similar carriers. Neither location will likely be sweltering hot, so you should be able comfortably hike with the baby attached, and at 9 months or younger, the baby won't be too big.

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    Thanks all! I'm so excited to start planning... half the fun, right!?

    I really appreciate the trip report link too. At this point I think we are leaning towards the Smokies and we'll wait until the baby is a bit older for Acadia... but who knows!

  7. #7
    living life to its fullest 3Caballeros's Avatar
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    The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (and yes, there is no e in smoky) is FREE. It is one of the only (if not the only ?) FREE national park. Living at the base of these mountains and having a view of them from my backyard, I can tell you they are amazing! I do advise, however, that you go off the beaten path to enjoy what this spectacular destination truly has to offer. Like any place that draws tourists, one has to plan and be discerning to get the most out of your trip. I, personally, believe the many, many trails are the biggest draw for our family and the pinnacle of what these beautiful mountains hold.

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    Senior Member Strangeite's Avatar
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    My wife and I rented a cabin last offseason right next to GSMNP for just the two of us to get away. During our visits to Gatlinburg, we coined the term, the "Gatlinburg Dozen" because the town has WAY more of certain things than any town needs. Every tourist town needs an old tyme photo store, but Gatlinburg has like 53. Like fudge shops? They have 81. Pancake houses? 31.

    While I might be exaggerating a bit on the actual numbers, not by much.
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    living life to its fullest 3Caballeros's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strangeite View Post
    My wife and I rented a cabin last offseason right next to GSMNP for just the two of us to get away. During our visits to Gatlinburg, we coined the term, the "Gatlinburg Dozen" because the town has WAY more of certain things than any town needs. Every tourist town needs an old tyme photo store, but Gatlinburg has like 53. Like fudge shops? They have 81. Pancake houses? 31.

    While I might be exaggerating a bit on the actual numbers, not by much.

    All you say is correct... thus, why I suggest going off the beaten path.... Gatlinburg is not a favorite place of mine. However, Townsend is quiet and charming while Pigeon Forge is a shopping destination.... with Dollywood as an anchor

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    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    We loved gist glad the Smoky Mountains. The park has a lot of awesome, easy trails with nice payoffs at the end, like waterfalls. We loved driving through and stopping at streams and walking around. We also drove through Cades Cove. There’s an app you can get that’s like a tour and will tell you about all the stops and buildings. Very enjoyable and we saw a bear!
    Brandi

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    Senior Member mgarbowski's Avatar
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    I did a sort of trip report for my recent Smoky Mountain visit to embed on my photo website. I can't figure out a way to embed it here but this is a direct link that should open it up if you're interested.

    https://spark.adobe.com/page/ZixIPEqnibPjU/
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    Senior Member Disneyfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgarbowski View Post
    I did a sort of trip report for my recent Smoky Mountain visit to embed on my photo website. I can't figure out a way to embed it here but this is a direct link that should open it up if you're interested.

    https://spark.adobe.com/page/ZixIPEqnibPjU/
    Wow! I have only taken a quick look at the pictures so far. They are so beautiful!

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    Senior Member ChristineOH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgarbowski View Post
    I did a sort of trip report for my recent Smoky Mountain visit to embed on my photo website. I can't figure out a way to embed it here but this is a direct link that should open it up if you're interested.

    https://spark.adobe.com/page/ZixIPEqnibPjU/
    Beautiful... thanks for sharing. I always enjoy your photography and your writing!
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    Senior Member mgarbowski's Avatar
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    thanks for the kind words
    Mark
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    Beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing them!

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    blown away by the spark page, Mark!




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    We did Acadia (camping; tent camping) for the 6th time last August. Big road trip. Lower Alabama to the northernmost tip of Maine, then to Acadia. What we like best is being able to do park stuff, but then still go into town (Bar Harbor) for a nice meal, internet service, etc. Couldn't get enough lobster. What time of year; month are you thinking? That could be a deciding factor.

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    I have visited the Smoky Mountains on several family vacations, and took my own kids there a few years ago. There is so much to do. Rent one of the beautiful cabins with a view that's not too far from town. My kids loved the Ripley's Aquarium, MagiQuest, a fairly easy hike to Grotto Falls and picking out their first little pocket knife at Smoky Mountain Knife Works. We have always loved climbing the rocks and playing in the river at Chimney Tops Picnic Area, visiting the Sugarlands Visitor Center and driving Newfound Gap Road toward Clingman's Dome for scenic views and a glimpse of the Appalachian Trail. We've done touristy things like Dollywood and helicopter rides but mostly just enjoy driving through the mountains, looking for bears, finding the Gatlinburg scenic overlook at night...just a few things off the top of my head. :)

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    We've decided on the Smoky Mountains this August! We'll do a few family friendly hikes... nothing too strenuous as we'll be packing the baby. We'll also do some of the touristy stuff, but selective since that gets pricey! Dollywood is also planned for a day.

    Right now we have about 4 days not including travel days. I'm excited to start planning more... I've already started my lists :)

    I'll try to do a trip report when we are back. I glean so much from reading others'... plus they are just entertaining!

    Thanks for all the suggestions!

  20. #20
    Senior Member nolarookie's Avatar
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    Typically, if you go to Dollywood after 3pm, you can get in the next day for “free.” You May want to look into that if you’re interested.
    Brandi

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    Weíve been to the smoky mountains twice in the last few years and taken our young kids. First time our babies were 9 months, second time they were about 18 months.

    I would recommend finding a chalet/house/condo that is centrally located. The first year we were very close to the national park and gatlinburg, so we had a lot of driving on the busy main roads to get back to pigeon forge. Last year we found a chalet closer to pigeon forge and Dollywood, but still within 15-20 minutes of Sevierville and gatlinburg. We used some of the side roads (teaster lane was one we used a lot to avoid the main drag in PF) to get around. Itís still a 4 lane road, but way less busy.

    Weíve done the aquarium both years but it is expensive. If you happen to homeschool they do have a homeschooling discount that can save you some money. If you plan to do a lot of the ripley attractions (including the aquarium) you can normally get a bundle ticket that is cheaper than buying each one individually.

    The overlook at the NC/TN border is nice and there is a short hiking trail there. Itís also near clingmans dome (strollers arenít allowed on that path bc itís such a steep climb).

    You can request a visitor guide from all 3 cities and they normally have coupons in them. You can also find coupon books pretty much everywhere you go that can save you some money.

    When we were there last year Quaker steak in Sevierville had free kids meals on Sunday. We didnít know beforehand so it was a pleasant surprise once we got there.

    Itís a great trip. Have fun planning!

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    Definitely going to look at the dollywood after 3pm thing... that might work great!

    And great idea about the visitor's guides for coupons!

    There are so many things to do there! I guess that's most tourist places. It's hard to choose and also not overplan the day. Not unlike Disney, I suppose!

    I'm looking at using the trolley system in Gatlinburg/ Pigeon Forge. It seems like it might reduce the traffic stress, plus then we won't have to pay for parking and the trolley is an activity in and of itself!

    Also looking at Annakeesta. I think the kids would like the sky lift up and the tree bridges.

    I wasn't going to do the mountain coaster, but DH says it's a must for him. He knows it's over priced and maybe not "worth it", but he wants the experience.. hahaha! Anyone have a favorite coaster... there are a few?

    Also saw a cute mini golf place in pigeon forge, Crave, that is all candy themed. Kiddos would love that even though mini golf on vacation always feels weird to me since we can do that at home.

    The Bush's baked bean factory tour looks fun too.

    My kids are all about FOOD! They aren't necessarily foodies because they aren't super adventurous, but not super picky either. They just love to eat and all memories for them revolve around the food we ate! Cracks me up because I'm the opposite and couldn't care less about food! So we always make sure food and snacks are part of the overall vacation experience.

  23. #23
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    Have fun! Please do write a trip report - that area is on my list for sometime in the next couple of years, and I too enjoy reading TRs and find them very helpful. :)

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    Senior Member browneyedgirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cinderellagirl View Post
    Also saw a cute mini golf place in pigeon forge, Crave, that is all candy themed. Kiddos would love that even though mini golf on vacation always feels weird to me since we can do that at home.

    The Bush's baked bean factory tour looks fun too.
    There are a ton of mini golf places along the strip in PF. We saw crave last year, but didnít stop. We have gone to The Track the last two years. They have two different go cart tracks for adults, two different kid sized go cart tracks (for younger and older kids), some amusement rides for little kids, mini golf and an arcade. We liked the variety there (and the a/c in the arcade for the younger kids while the older one played mini golf with my husband). No matter which place you stop at you will probably find a coupon for it in one of the guides down there (never pay full price.)

    We also did the bush bean visitor center. It is pretty cool to see all the advertising and ways the business has changed for them over the years. There is a special quiz kids can do - there are questions throughout the museum - and then they get a special prize at the end. You also get a free 4x6 photo taken with duke at the end. There are also a lot of varieties of beans that you wonít see anywhere else that you can buy in the gift shop.

    There is a ton to do and see, and lots of money to spend if you donít go in with a plan. :-)

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by cinderellagirl View Post
    Definitely going to look at the dollywood after 3pm thing... that might work great!

    And great idea about the visitor's guides for coupons!

    There are so many things to do there! I guess that's most tourist places. It's hard to choose and also not overplan the day. Not unlike Disney, I suppose!

    I'm looking at using the trolley system in Gatlinburg/ Pigeon Forge. It seems like it might reduce the traffic stress, plus then we won't have to pay for parking and the trolley is an activity in and of itself!

    Also looking at Annakeesta. I think the kids would like the sky lift up and the tree bridges.

    I wasn't going to do the mountain coaster, but DH says it's a must for him. He knows it's over priced and maybe not "worth it", but he wants the experience.. hahaha! Anyone have a favorite coaster... there are a few?

    Also saw a cute mini golf place in pigeon forge, Crave, that is all candy themed. Kiddos would love that even though mini golf on vacation always feels weird to me since we can do that at home.

    The Bush's baked bean factory tour looks fun too.

    My kids are all about FOOD! They aren't necessarily foodies because they aren't super adventurous, but not super picky either. They just love to eat and all memories for them revolve around the food we ate! Cracks me up because I'm the opposite and couldn't care less about food! So we always make sure food and snacks are part of the overall vacation experience.
    There is a great cabin we stayed in called Ďwhat-a-vu Ď in gatlinburg. I think itís listed on Vrbo


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