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This horrible, horrible tourist trap reminds me a lot of Branson, Missouri, only to a higher degree, if that's possible. I used to live in Branson, and I was just in Gatlinburg for the second time in my life a few weeks ago. This place just *begs* to be noded.

Stay away. The first time I came to the place, I was too small to understand this. But now, on the second time around, I know that the town is like a Mecca for the fat and stupid. Gatlinburg is just outside of the Smoky Mountains, so it's a popular base for tourists. This is unfortunate. As one of the families who were actually there to enjoy some rather strenuous hikes and climbs, we were swamped by the monstrously obese and their spawn, rushing and screaming their way to the all-you-can-eat buffets.

On the note of food, it's very hard to find a reasonable restaurant in Gatlinburg. We did manage to find a nice little Chinese place once, with semi-authentic food, but even there it was greasier than normal fare. There are all sorts of shops selling huge, greasy, bland sausages and hamburgers and ice cream, and an equal number of milky candy shops. It's true, there are times when I don't eat as well as I should, but the fodder they were tossing at the sheep there looked as if it was ready to solidify if it cooled off very much.

As with any tourist town, Gatlinburg has its share of oddity shops and sideshows and video arcades. Now, normally, I would enjoy many of these things, but the sheer numbers of them sort of weighed me down; depressed me. The arcades were all overpriced (anything over 25 cents for a few minutes of gaming is insane), the sideshows were mainstream, and the shops mainly sold postcards and tiny ceramic figurines. There were a few gems in the bunch, though. I managed to find a very nice Dragonball Z t-shirt on sale in a monstrous nothing-but-shirts store, they had a Ripley's Believe-It-or-Not, which are always fun, and they had an excellent mini-golf course.

Finally, on a positive note, the national park behind this monstrosity of a town is beautiful. The weather was cool there in the middle of July, and the air was clean and had low ozone concentrations. Of course, the mountains were great. Some trails I would suggest:

  • Grotto Falls
  • Rainbow Falls
  • Clingman's Dome
  • *Especially* Chimney Tops
The Chimney Tops trail is long and steep, but it is well worth it. Be sure to do the last little bit of the trail - some people don't notice it. It's scary (it requires climbing up a slightly sloping wall of rock), but leads to the most beautiful view of the mountains you'll probably ever see.

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