Archive for December, 2007

Holiday Travel – West Country, England

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Why Vacation in West Country, England?

Legendary King Arthur.  James Bond.  A murdered king.  A steam engine inventor.  Ancient castles.  Roman baths. An 18th century 1000-foot tower with views of 13 English counties.  An unwrapped Egyptian mummy.  Celtic ruins.  Europe’s largest hot air balloon festival.  World- renowned illuminated parades. It’s all here in West Country, England.

Are you planning a vacation of just a few days?  How about a year?  Because it’ll take you at least 12 months to see all that West Country, England has to offer.  This ancient section of England, rich with Roman and Celtic history, lies just west of London, and offers a wealth of things for a newcomer to see and do.

West Country, England is a catch-all term for the English counties in Southwest England.  Those counties include Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset. Gloucestershire and Wiltshire are also sometimes considered part of West Country, too.

History buffs will be entranced by the ancient ruins and castles.  Architectural aficionados will love the churches and cathedrals of the area, like the St. Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol; it’s one of the largest and most famous parish churches in Britain.  Art lovers will never run out of museums and galleries.

Those interested in geology and breathtaking landscapes must make the Jurassic Coast a part of their vacation experience.  Legend-lovers will thrill to the story of King Arthur, who was believed to have been born in the county of Somerset.  And James Bond fans will be delighted to learn that the creator of 007, Ian Fleming, comes from the Dorset area.

The County Areas of West Country, England

The city of Bristol is one of the balmiest and sunniest cities in UK; the popular city was a recent finalist for the title of European Capital of Culture.  It lies about 120 miles to the west of London.  It is also home to famous Hollywood actor, Cary Grant.  Visitors will find Iron Age “hill forts,” Roman baths, and a host of contemporary cultural exhibits and events in this city.  Home to about 400-thousand Brits, Bristol also hosts Europe’s largest Bristol International Balloon Fiesta every fall.

Cornwall – Home to the Cornwall Museum and Art Gallery, Cornwall County is perhaps best known for its connection to legendary King Arthur.  Cornwall has one city, Truro, which houses a gorgeous old cathedral with three spires. The area is rich with Celtic and Roman History; it’s the homeland of the Cornish and Celtic peoples.   Cornwall is famous for “pasties” (a pastry pie made with seasoned beef, onion, potato, and suet or meat fat).  Clotted cream is this area’s most famous export.   The area is now dependant on tourists who are drawn to the gorgeous ocean scenery and golden beaches like those at St. Agnes, St. Ives, and Fistral Beach.

Cornwall is connected to Cardiff and Swansea, which lie just across the Bristol Channel, by ferry.  Visitors can reach the Isles of Scilly from Cornwall via ferry out of the port of Penzance.

Devon – This area birthed the term, Devonian, because of its red sandstone rock.  Devon is one of the first areas of England settled following the Ice Age.  Devon County’s eastern shore is home to the renowned World Heritage Jurassic Coast, a spot that has drawn professional geologists and tourists for many years.  There are many things to do in the Devon area including exploring the area’s many forts and castles.

Dorset – Are you a real history buff who enjoys exploring an ancient graveyard now and then.  Dorset has many cemeteries dating back hundreds of years.  The county lies along the English Channel home to the famous Durdle Door arch.  Because of Dorset county’s unique topography, it has been described as “‘the best of both worlds’.”  Author, Thomas Hardy, who was born here, used the Dorset landscape settings in his novels.  The county has no major cities; its largest town is Bournemouth.  The area is set to host the Olympic sailing event of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Gloucestershire (Gloss-ter-sher) – The name may be difficult to pronounce but the area is easy to love.  Perhaps the biggest tourist draw in this county is the 18th century Broadway Tower of Cotswolds.  Gloucester is the county’s main town.  The county boasts gorgeous cathedrals like the Gloucester and the Bristol, and the Abbey church of Tewkesbury.  In addition, visitors will love the area’s castles: Beverston and Sudeley.

Somerset – Besides being noted as the fictional birth place of the legendary King Arthur, the county of Somerset is a tourist favorite for geographical reasons, too. Exmoor National Park is a huge draw in this area as are the Mendip Hills which are famous as a walking site.  The county’s main town is Taunton.  The area is home to a 200 year old tourist attraction, the Cheddar Caves & Gorge, and also boasts being the site of the sacred 2000-year-old ruins of Glastonbury Abbey.

Must Sees in West Country, England

No visitor will ever be able to take in all the “must sees” in this history-rich area of the world; not on a single visit.  Considering King Arthur’s Round Table, the unparalleled views of the rugged Atlantic coastline, gorgeous costal beaches, ancient Norman churches, mysterious old castles like the one where a king was murdered, and Celtic ruins, a visitor may have to plan a repeat trip, or two.

Jurassic Coast – No visit to the southwest counties of Britain would be complete without adventuring along Dorset’s renowned Jurassic Coast in Devon County.  This World Heritage site can be accessed via a number of gateway towns, including Exeter and Poole.  The Jurassic Coast bus service is an excellent way to see this sight.  This handy summer service runs out of numerous towns and villages: Exeter, Sidford, Beer, Seaton, Lyme Regis, Charmouth, Bridport, Abbotsbury, Weymouth, Wool, Wareham and Poole.  Five pounds will cover a full day of hopping on and off travel.

Tintagel – In Cornwall County, visitors won’t want to miss the village of Tintagel, the site acquainted with the legend of King Arthur. Tourists have been visiting this area’s attractions, like King Arthur’s Hall and Tintagel Castle, since the early 19th century.  Outstanding ocean views and Celtic ruins make Tintagel a favorite spot among travelers.

St. Mary Redcliffe – This 14th century church survived the bombing raids of WWII; it is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in England.

Berkeley Castle – Located in Gloucestershire, this 12th century Norman castle boasts an infamous heritage as being the location where King Edward II was murdered.  Guests are invited to participate in medieval feasts at this venue.

Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre – Charm, history and fun all rolled into a delightful package.  Don’t pass this up – both young and old will love this site with its National Fairground Collection and thrilling activities.

Cheddar Caves & Gorge – These Ice Age caves are a must see for all ages.  Here is where the “Cheddar Man” is housed; Britain’s most ancient complete skeleton.

Royal West England Academy – Be sure to visit the fine art collection housed in the Royal, one of the oldest art galleries in the Bristol area.

The West Country Carnival – This massive Devon and Somerset counties festival is somewhat akin to North America’s Mardi Gras celebration with its huge illuminated parade floats or “carts,” and carnival “clubs.”  The carnival five circuit’s parade schedule is intense covering several summer and fall months.  Check it first in case there are any cancellations.  And a word of warning, don’t throw anything (like coins) at these floats because if you do, you will be arrested and fined.

Glastonbury Abbey – This beautiful site is open year-round but from April through October, the attraction offers its “living history” with performances by actors portraying historical Abbey characters.

Sights & Attractions in West Country, England

There are too many attractions and events in West Country, England to list in a short ramble.  Here’s a short list of the most popular sights.

Bristol Zoo – Bristol Zoo Gardens is the fifth oldest zoo in the world; it recently won the “Zoo of the Year” award, in 2004.  Attractions include the Monkey Jungle, Gorilla Island, Penguin Coasts, Asiatic Lions, and a “Heap of Trouble,” a mini landfill exhibition designed to teach about recycling.

City Museum and Art Gallery – Bristol shouldn’t be missed with its huge number of museums and art galleries, like the City Museum and Art Gallery.  Visitors will be delighted by the beauty of the building itself done in Edwardian Baroque style.  Exhibits include ancient fossils and natural history, a freshwater aquarium and artworks of the Masters.

Royal Cornwall Museum – Located in Truro, Cornwall, the Cornwall museum comes highly acclaimed and shows world class exhibits on an ongoing basis.  Its most famous exhibition may be its Egyptology collection with its unwrapped mummy.

Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre – You will find this popular attraction at Lifton, Devon, just a short driver from Exeter.  The fair is open April through October and offers a stunning array of activities and events including Brett’s Ghost Train, Ling’s Moonrocket, and Edwards’ Golden Gallopers Carousel. Make room on your travel itinerary for this attraction.

Crealy Great Adventure Park – Located in Exeter, in Devon County, this award-winning family park has much to offer including rides like the Wave Log Flume and the Queen Bess Pirate Ship.  The park is broken into 7 indoor and outdoor “realms” each with an exciting attraction.  The park offers virtual tours.

Poundbury Farmers Market – There is a vast number of West Country farmer’s markets like the Poundbury Market in Dorchester, Dorset.

Outdoor Recreation in West Country, England

There is a huge range of activities offered in the southwest counties of England including:  Walking tours, birdwatching, cycling tours, quad biking, camping, hot air balloon rides, heritage tours, art and archeology walks, boating and luxury charters, diving, kayaking and sailing.

Water sports are big in the Dorset area, where people flock to the sheltered waters of Poole Bays and Weymouth.

In Cornwall, sunbathers flock to this county’s “Riviera” lying along its southern coastline.  Surfers hang out at Newquay and Porthtowan.

Festivals, Fairs, and Concerts in West Country, England

This old world area abounds in festivals and celebrations, especially during the summer months.

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts – Join the tens of thousands of music and culture lovers who visit Pilton, near Shepton Mallet in June, to be entertained by some of the world’s finest musical performers.

In Cornwall County, tourists will find an area rich in folk music.  Celtic festivals prevail like Perranporth’s, Lowender Peran Folk Festival held each October.

Other festivals include Murdock Day in Redruth (Tin Mining Country) in June, the Daphne du Maurier festival held in Fowey in May, and Trevithick Day held in April in Camborne.

Visitors attending the Daphne du Maurier festival have a number of areas to choose from for accommodations:

The Trevithick Day festival celebrates steam engine inventor, Richard Trevithick (1771 – 1833) with a day of dance, steam engine exhibitions, vintage vehicles, a children’s fairground, and more.
In addition, there is the Falmouth Oyster Festival in October and the Newlyn Fish Festival at the end of August, to name only a few.

In Bristol, Ashton Court hosts the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, hot-air ballooning every August.  The area also hosts the Ashton Court Festival every summer music festival.

Dining in West Country, England

Dining opportunities are endless in this British locale.  The best advice is to step outside of your norm and sample local fare like meat pasties, clotted cream fudge, scones and jam, cheese, and British ales like Cornwall’s “Swanky” beer.

Visitors, with a bit of the pirate in their soul, should be sure to visit Queen Square in Bristol, with its aged taverns; these buildings acted as the models for the taverns written about in fictional adventures like Treasure Island. In the area is also the 15th century Merchant Venturers Almshouse.

When to Visit West Country, England

As with all tourist areas in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is always the best time to visit.  But because of Southwest England’s temperate year-round climate, an off-season trip may be just the thing for those on a budget.

All areas of the West Country experience a very temperature tourist-friendly climate. Snowfall, if there is any, is minimal.

Getting to and Around West Country, England

Southwest England is served largely by autoroutes or motorways.

The city of Bristol has its own public transport bus system, First Group.  The city doesn’t have light rail transit, unfortunately, leading to heavy congested car traffic.  But Bristol does have three park and rides within city limits.   There is also water-based transport via the Bristol Ferry Boat.  In addition, Bristol is popular among bikers; the city maintains links to the National Cycle Network.

Each county has its own commercial airport, some much smaller than others.  In Dorset, the commercial airport is Bournemouth International.  In the Cornwall area, visitors will arrive at either the airport located in Newquay or the one situated in Plymouth.  The city of Bristol is served by its own airport, the Bristol International (BRS) at Lulsgate. Newquay Airport serves the Devon County area.

Many airlines fly into the Southwest England or into London and then make connections.

Arriving by Car

You simply will never be alone while traveling around the West Country area of England.  Many tourist centers are available to assist you with your travel plans.

You will travel via major autoroutes (highways) like the M4 and M5 motorway which are major roads leading into Bristol.

Car Rentals

Travelers will more than likely need a rental car, since a car is the most efficient way to tour around this predominantly rural area.

Be aware, that English driving differs from American driving.  First, you’ll be driving on the LEFT side of the road.  Secondly, you’ll be traversing odd intersections known as, “roundabouts”; in some cases, you may even encounter a “double” roundabout.  It’s best to bone up on some safe driving tips specific to driving in England, before heading out.  The good news is that you can use your own country’s driver’s license to drive on British roadways.  This area is well populated by major car rental companies.


There are plenty of railway lines running into all the West Country counties of England.  The area of Dorset is connected to London by two railway lines: West of England Main Line and the South Western Main Line.

Bristol is served by two railway stations: Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads, and two railway systems: Severn Beach Line and the Portishead Railway.

Handy Contacts

West Country, England Tourist Brochures

Map of England

History of England (This a terrific site covers a vast amount of information: the Monarchy, including the legend of King Arthur, prehistoric Britain, the Knights Templar, Scotland, churches of England, and historical maps.)


Sheree Zielke

Holiday Travel – Bend – Sunriver, Oregon

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

 Why Vacation in Bend – Sunriver, Oregon, USA?

Are you a golfer?  Do you love the mountains?  How do you feel about pure crisp mountain air and some of the most beautiful vistas in the world?  Maybe shooting raging rapids onboard a whitewater raft, or standing hip-deep in a clear mountain stream trolling for trout, is your idea of a good time?  Then don’t wait another second.  Pack your bags, hop into your car, board a train, or book that flight for the Bend – Sunriver, Oregon area.  You are in for one of the most relaxing and memorable vacations of your life.

Both communities are located in the Deschutes County of central Oregon.  Both are located at the base of the Cascade Mountain Range, but one, Sunriver, is a commercial development; the other, Bend, is a regular city.

Bend, as its name suggests, is named for the bend in the Deschutes River, upon which it is located.  It was once known as, “Farewell Bend”; a postmaster arbitrarily shortened the name. At that time, Bend, due largely to its huge population of Ponderosa pine trees, was known for its lumber industry.  Today, an old sawmill remains, but the city’s tree-chopping days are long gone.  Bend is now a modern fast-growing metropolis that is home to about 75,000 people.

Sunriver has a small population of about 17-hundred permanent residents. Military buffs may be interested to know that Sunriver developers built their resort on the grounds of a WWII training facility, Camp Abbot.  Builders incorporated part of the area’s heritage by preserving a 1940s Officer’s Club; it has been upgraded and renamed the “Great Hall.”  But Sunriver’s history goes way back to the days of the fur traders, the gold rush, pioneers and wagon trains.

Sights and Attractions in Bend – Sunriver, Oregon

The Sunriver Nature Center and Observatory is a popular attraction in the area.  The center hosts a number of special events including an Astronomy Week and a Star Party.  The center is located in Sunriver on River Road, next to Lake Aspen.  Admission is extremely reasonable at $3 for adults; $2 for kids.

Lava River Cave – This natural geological attraction is part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, located in the Deschutes National Forest.  The cave attracts layman and professional geologists alike from all over the world.  The cave is about 62-hundred feet long (about a mile long) and can be 60-feet tall in some spots.  This is a chilly adventure so be sure to bring along some warm clothes.  The Lava Cave is 14 miles south of Bend.  It is open mid-May through early October. 
Anyone interested in geology should be sure to visit the Lava Lands Visitor Center, and the volcano cinder cone of Lava Butte while in the area.  It’s a phenomenal lookout spot for the park.

High Desert Museum – You’ll find this eclectic tourist attraction just 10 minutes outside of Bend.  Parking is free, and if you are staying at a hotel or resort in the area, you can show your key card for a 10% discount on admission to the museum.  Admission fees vary, but children under 4 years of age are free.

Expect to spend about half a day at the museum to take full advantage of all the attractions.  Exhibits are divided into both indoor and outdoor exhibits.  Outdoor exhibits include the Lazinka Sawmill, the Homestead Ranch, the Mustang Corral, and a Nature Walk.  Inside, you will find depictions of life of the early Settlers, history of the Oregon Trail, Native Americans, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The High Desert Museum is open from 9-5 year-round, except for major holidays. 

Deschutes County Historical Museum – This is the area’s cumulative response to its rich heritage.  Exhibits feature a cross section of history from ancient volcanic rock carvings artifacts to WWII military displays to lumbering and fur trapping mementos.  

The museum is located in the old Reid School, Bend’s first modern school built back in 1914.  The building’s future is secure as it is now protected as a member of the National Register of Historic Places.  Admission is very reasonable at $5 for adults and $2 for anyone 12-17 years of age.  Kids under 12 are free.

Crooked River Dinner Train – Are you up for a murder?  How about a train robbery?  Join in the fun aboard the Crooked River Dinner Train.  This Western-themed adventure train runs out of Redmond, which is just a short drive from Bend or Sunriver. 
The whole family is invited to take part in this unique attraction.  Everyone will be well fed and well entertained aboard this 1800s steam train as it makes it way through the Crooked River Valley.

The train has a regular schedule with special events slated for major holidays, Christmas.

Art Galleries – Bend hosts nearly a dozen art galleries including the contemporary Arte Divino Gallery, the Glass Symphony, Jill’s Wild Tasteful Women & Friends and the Lava Gallery.  Featuring jewelry, glass sculptures, original paintings, handcrafted furniture, and original historical Native artworks, there is sure to be something for every art lover’s taste.

Outdoor Recreation in Bend – Sunriver, Oregon

This central Oregon area caters to a huge variety of vacationers and tourist interests including those who might enjoy a flight-seeing tour.  Other options include fishing and fishing lessons, whitewater rafting, hiking, and of course, golf.

Golf in Bend – Golf lovers will have a tough time choosing from the vast array of courses in this central Oregon area.  Bend offers eight 18-hole courses including River’s Edge, The Club at Pronghorn (Fazio and Nicklaus Courses), Awbrey Glen, Broken Top, Bend Golf and Country Club, and Lost Tracks courses. But a further 11 courses are located a short drive away in LaPine, Redmond, Powell Butte, Sisters, and Sunriver.

Golf in Sunriver – Sunriver plays host to three award-winning courses including Crosswater Club, Sunriver Lodge and Resort (Woodlands and Meadows courses).

Golf in Redmond – The Eagle Crest Golf Resort, located on Cline Falls road, was opened in 1987. 

Reserve your tee times for any of the golf courses in the Bend – Sunriver area online HERE.

Mount Bachelor Ski Resort – Skiers and snowboarders love the easy access to one of America’s largest ski areas; the highly acclaimed Mount Bachelor is a leisurely half hour drive away.  Or during the winter months, catch the very inexpensive Super Shuttle out of Bend’s Park-N-Ride ($5/one-way ride). 

Mount Bachelor is one of nine ski resort areas in Central Oregon.  It offers 12 chairlifts and a full-service Nordic Center. In addition to the regular winter activities, the resort also offers snow-tubing, snowshoeing, and sled dog rides.

Parents will find the on-site government-regulated daycare a blessing.  The center is licensed to accept babies as young as 6 weeks old all the way up to 10-year old kids.

Need a place to stay?  Mount Bachelor has its own community of short-term vacation rentals: Mount Bachelor Village.
In the summer months, enjoy the view from the chair lifts, or pull on a pair of hiking boots and hit the trails.  Interpretive tours with a Forest Service guide are available.  Hiking may be tough for the disabled in your group, but the chair lifts are handicap accessible.

The Sunriver Resort offers a host of outdoor activities during the summer months, too, including pony and wagon rides, challenge rope courses, whitewater river rafting, biking, hiking, a kids’ activity area called “Fort Funnigan,” boating sports, and a downhill mountain bike tour.  In addition, the Sunriver has three swimming pools, 28 tennis courts and riding stables. 

But if all that vacation activity gets to be a little much, a Deep Tissue or a Maternity massage is always available at the resort’s Sage Springs Club and Spa.  Or lay back and enjoy one of the resort’s signature spa treatments (a Vichy Shower, an Oregon Hazelnut Scrub, an Anti-Aging Hand Treatment or a Sunriver Nourishing Body Wrap).  They’re sure to have something to make all things right in your world again, and get you ready to hit the links again the next day.

Festivals, Fairs, and Concerts in Bend – Sunriver, Oregon

Sunriver and Bend are rich with activities and special events throughout the year, including Bend’s hugely popular Winterfest held annually at the beginning of February.  But for a full sampling of fairs, festivals, and other special events, visit the area’s printable calendar posted on its official website
Expect to find everything from rodeos to coffeehouse jazz; a Saturday Market to live theater; photography exhibits to live animal shows.

In particular, a very popular summer event is Bend’s 30-year old open-air artisan’s market which runs every Saturday from the end of May to the end of August.  It is located downtown between Bond and Wall streets.  Expect to find a wide selection of handcrafted goods (jewelry, clothing, handbags, glassworks, candles, wind chimes, soaps, herbal cosmetics and more) created by local artists.

And if you are in the mood for shopping, be sure to visit the Old Mill Shopping Center.

Old Mill Shopping District – This charming collection of shops and services is all that’s left of Bend’s timber mill past.  But it’s sure to be a big hit for those who love to shop or window shop.

Dining in Bend – Sunriver, Oregon

Both the major resort areas have their own gourmet dining areas.

Scapolo’s Italian restaurant serves up pizza and Italian favorites in the Pine Marten Lodge at Mount Bachelor.  A specialty is the restaurant’s “Sunset Dinners.”  These dinners are seasonal; they start at the end of June and run to the third weekend in August.  The resort’s Mile High Grill is perfect for those craving BBQ burgers and hot dogs.

The Sunriver resort has the Meadows Restaurant, the Owl’s Nest Lounge, and the Merchant Trader Deli. 

The city of Bend has a full range of dining options from coffee shops and microbreweries to fine dining.  These are the top restaurants as selected by the October 2005 issue of Gourmet Magazine:

  • The Blacksmith (eclectic gourmet fare housed in an old blacksmith shop) Conde Nast Traveler rated this as one of the BEST NEW restaurants in the world.
  • Cork (elegant setting and gourmet fare)
  • Ariana (Mediterranean foods with an elegant flare and gorgeous decor)
  • Merenda (Gourmet extraordinaire and wine bar)
  • Deep (Asian)

Sunriver is not to be outdone with its offering of several dozens restaurant choices from fast food to full gourmet.  Below is a sample of the dining choices in Sunriver:

  • Aloha Café (Hawaiian)
  • Bella Cucina (Italian)
  • Figaro’s Pizza
  • Chen’s Garden Restaurant (Chinese)
  • Hot Lava Baking Company (Bakery)
  • South Bend Bistro (American and French)
  • Trout House Restaurant (Surf and Turf)

In addition, fast food outlets include a Subway and a Taco Bell Express.

Getting to Bend – Sunriver, Oregon – Plane, train, bus or automobile – all roads lead to this popular tourist destination.

Airports – Travelers must fly in to the Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) when vacationing in central Oregon, as it is the only commercial airport in the district.  Flight connections will be made out of more major cities like San Francisco, Portland, Eugene, Seattle, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The following airlines service the Redmond airport:

Bend has its own single runway Municipal Airport, too.  It was once used during WWII for pilot training.

Sunriver also operates a small airport, the Sunriver Resort Airport.

Both Bend and Sunriver are only a short drive away from Redmond: 16 miles south to Bend; 31 miles south to Sunriver.
Taxi and Shuttle Services – Several taxi and shuttle options are available at the Redmond airport, including a Bend service:

  • American/Smile Transportation
    1-541-389-0423  or toll free 1-866-484-3980
  • Bend Cab or City Cab
  • Cascade Towncar Service
  • Central Oregon Breeze
    1-541-389-7469 or toll free 1-800-847-0157
  • Country Cab
  • Deschutes River Taxi
  • Green Energy Transportation
  • High Desert Taxi
  • Owl Taxi
  • Redmond Airport Shuttle
    1-541-382-1687 or toll free 1-888-664-8449
  • Redmond Taxi Service
  • Smile Shuttle Service
  • Star Limo Service
    1-541-593-4196 or toll free 1-888-349-4235

Arriving by Car – Bend or Sunriver is a day’s drive away from major cities like San Francisco (8.5 hours) and Boise, Idaho (6.5 hours).  Eugene, Oregon is a short 2.5 hours away, while the drive from Seattle will take 6 hours.  You may need an overnight stay somewhere along your route if driving from Los Angeles as the drive is 13 hours.

Driving directions are fairly straight forward as both Bend and Sunriver are reachable via major Interstate routes.

Car Rentals – Four rental car companies service the Redmond airport:


Bus – Greyhound services the Bend and Sunriver areas; one can take the bus straight into the Bend terminal.

Local Bus Service – Bend offers public transportation under its B.A.T., the Bend Area Transit, which offers limited service.

Train – Like other cities and towns in the United States, Amtrak, the country’s rail service, is a good transportation option. 

HOT Savings Links

Oregon Lodging Deals
Eagle Crest Resort Specials

Handy Contacts

Central Oregon Calendar of Events

FREE Visitor’s Guide

Bend, Oregon Welcome Brochure

Oregon Maps

Sunriver Visitor Packet
Bend/Sunriver Weather
Essential Links to Bend


Sheree Zielke

Holiday Travel – Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

 Why Vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee?

Are you looking for an American vacation spot rich in heritage but low on traffic jams and skyscrapers?  Or maybe you just need a good dose of Civil War, or at least a small re-creation of Civil War.  If so, the mountain village of Gatlinburg, Tennessee may be just the answer. 

Nestled in a valley on the Pigeon River, and surrounded on three sides by mountain cliffs, Gatlinburg has become a charming tourist destination, complete with the annual re-creation of a part of the Civil War, the “Battle of the Burg.”

Gatlinburg wasn’t always known by its current name; it was once known as White Oak Flats, in deference to the magnificent white oaks that once populated this valley area of the Smoky Mountains.

First settled in the early 19th century by Revolutionary war veterans, Gatlinburg finally got its permanent name from a storekeeper who set up shop in 1855: Radford C. Gatlin.  In 1856, a post office was opened in his store, and by default, the town took on his name.  In spite of Gatlin’s somewhat infamous reputation as an outspoken Confederate sympathizer (he was driven out of the Gatlinburg community by Pro-Union members), the town retained his name.

Gatlinburg experiences a full range of weather types because of its mountain setting.  July is the hottest month with temperatures averaging between 62 and 85 degrees F.  Winters can get quite cold with temperatures falling to the low 20s, but snowfall is minimal with less than 6 inches accumulating through the winter months.

Gatlinburg is home to less than 3500 permanent residents; the area’s crime rate is almost non-existent when compared to other American cities and cities in the rest of the state. Parents can bring their kids here and know they will be relatively safe from crime.

Most tourists arrive by car, but the best way to see Gatlinburg is aboard the Gatlinburg Trolley which connects up conveniently to the Pigeon Forge trolley.  A printable trolley route map will help you plan out your visit.

The nearest major cosmopolitan center is Atlanta, Georgia which is 144 miles to the south.

Must Sees in Gatlinburg, Tennessee!

No matter what your age or interest, a visit to Gatlinburg simply wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Smoky Mountains, located in the Blue Ride Mountain range.  The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is touted as “the most visited national park in America.” 

Visit this stunning geographical location in any season for exquisite views of flora and fauna.  You shouldn’t find the park too crowded since it covers about 520-thousand acres.  Stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Centre to evaluate the numerous ways to spend time in this gorgeous Tennessee park.

Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway at Ober GatlinburgRegardless of the time of year you visit Gatlinburg, a tram ride is a must.  First operated in September 1972, the Swiss-made tram has hauled many tourists and skiers to the top of Mount Harrison.  The tram ride covers about 2 miles at a speed of 17 miles per hour.  Each tram can carry 120 passengers.

Bales CemeteryAn historic visit must include at least one cemetery, especially a graveyard housing a single buried leg.  It’s believed that Giles Reagan, upon losing his leg to a sawmill accident, insisted that the limb be given a proper Christian burial.

If you are a hard-core history buff, there are many old shops and buildings to explore like Ogle’s Broom shop and the first Baptist church.

Smokey Mountain Winery – Wine lovers mustn’t pass up the chance to taste the wines of this 25-year old award-winning winery.  Free tours are offered daily, complete with a tasting room.

Cades Cove – Take a step back in time and travel this 11-mile one-way loop by car, bike or on foot.  This nearly 68-hundred acre valley is one of the Great Smoky Mountain Park’s most beloved tourist destinations.  Nearly 2 million tourists find their way to Cades Cove every year.

Fish for trout, visit some of the old 19th century preserved buildings, or watch for deer or wild turkey.  Be sure to pack a picnic lunch and gas up the car before you go because this place is rugged; no restaurants and no gas stations are allowed to spoil this pristine ecological area.

However you choose to spend your time in Cades Cove, you will leave with wonderful memories of this naturally beautiful portion of the United States.

Ramsey Cascades – This is the Great Smoky Mountains Park’s watery jewel.  The Ramsey Cascades waterfall is located about 4 miles in, in the Greenbrier area.  The walk is tough, so be prepared.

In early June, watch for the “Fire Fly Phenomenon” that takes place here. This is an annual natural occurrence whereby thousands of fireflies dot the hazy forest with a spectacular display of fairy lights. 
Arrive before dusk, sit quietly on the trailhead and wait.  Keep the flashlights off.
Sights and Attractions in Gatlinburg, Tennessee!

Christus Gardens of GatlinburgView 3D bible stories that come to life at this popular tourist attraction.  The attraction actually provides 10 reasons to visit, just in case you are having a hard time making up your mind.

Camp Thunder Fun Center – Fun for kids of all ages, Camp Thunder has it all from Mini Golf to indoor Go-karts, laser tag to motion rides. 
Museums & Theatres of Gatlinburg

Sweet Fanny Adams TheatreThis rowdy comedic musical theatre has been around since the late 70s and has been proclaimed, by the city of Gatlinburg, a National Historical Treasure.

Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum  – Aren’t you just a little intrigued by a museum comprised entirely of salt and pepper shakers?  Gatlinburg has the world’s only museum dedicated to these seasoning dispensers; 17,000 of them, in fact.  You’ll find this quaint chalet-style museum in the Winery Square.

Star Cars Museum – Here’s an intriguing attraction to please both car and movie lovers.  This unique museum is dedicated to the cars that have become celebrities in the movies and TV shows, of the past 50 years.  Cars like those used in The Fast and the Furious and The Beach Boys 1955 Thunderbird have found their way into this Tennessee museum.

Among the 30 famous cars featured, you will find the Ghostbusters Ecto-1, 1959 Cadillac Ambulance; the Beverly Hillbillies “car”; and the Munsters mobile, the “Drag-u-la.”  Definitely worth a peek, don’t you think? 

Oh, come on now!  The TV Batmobile is housed here, too.  Not to mention, Elvis’ Lincoln mark IV.  You simply must take a look.

Located right near the Gatlinburg Convention Center on the Parkway, the Star Cars Museum is easy to find.  Plan about an hour’s visit.  Little ones, under 6 years of age, are FREE.

Not enough to do in Gatlinburg?  Well, if you have a car, there is a major amusement park just a short drive up the road at Pigeon Forge. 
Dollywood  – This popular amusement park is open from the end of March through the end of December.  The park includes a huge variety of activities and musical events.  Thrill ride lovers won’t be disappointed with the park’s 40 rides, like the wooden Thunderhead ride.  Step back in time and take a ride aboard the Dollywood Express, an authentic coal-powered steam train.  There’s no better way to see the Smoky Mountain scenery while listening to Dolly Parton tunes.  The train ride takes about 20 minutes and totals 5 miles in length.  

Have trouble getting around or do you travel with someone with special needs?  You will find this 2007 Dollywood Disability Guide helpful.

And be sure to visit the new Dollywood Splash Country, too.

Outdoor Recreation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg is unrivalled in its outdoor recreation opportunities.  The area offers everything from simple easy walking to rugged whitewater rafting adventures.

Whitewater Rafting  – Are you up for some thrills and chills onboard a whitewater raft?  Traverse class 3-4 rapids on the Pigeon River under the masterful hand of an experienced whitewater rafting guide. 

Hiking and Backpacking – Take a short hike, or a long trek; either way, an on-foot adventure is the only way to truly take in at least a little of the Smoky Mountains.  There are many outfitters and lots of trails.  Trail information and bear safety advice is readily available.
Another fun way to do the Smoky Mountains is on a Llama Trek with a trained llama pal to carry all your gear. 
If you are planning to hike around Cades Cove, be aware that this heavily traveled one-way loop can be very crowded with traffic in peak seasons.

Water Sports  – Douglas Lake, Norris Lake, or the Pigeon River; the Smoky Mountains have a wide range of boating sports from kayaking to tubing for the keener.

Swimming in the Smoky Mountain Park waters, however, is not recommended as the icy cold temperatures of the mountain streams can lead to hypothermia, year-round.  And there are NO life-guarded areas anywhere in the Park. 
But if you simply must take a dip in crystal clear mountain waters, try Big Creek, Deep Creek, Metcalf Bottoms, or the favored spot known as “The Sinks,” on Little River Road.  Always exercise extreme caution in these tempting but unsupervised areas.

Fishing – Fishing in the Smoky Mountains?  Of course; year-round, too.  With over 2-thousand miles of streams and an abundance of lakes, you are almost sure to hook yourself a fine rainbow or brown trout.  But stay out of trouble and be sure to read up on the area’s fishing regulations first. 

About 30 minutes from Gatlinburg is Douglas Lake; with its 555 miles of shoreline, there won’t be any overcrowding.  Pick up supplies at the Mountain Cove Marina located near Douglas Lake.

If you plan on bringing your own water craft, be sure to know the Tennessee boating regulations, too.

Camping – With 10 major campsites and an abundance of hook-ups, a camping vacation may be the perfect way to save on accommodations when visiting the Smoky Mountain Parks area.  Campsites can be reserved up to five months in advance.

Some group camping areas like those within the Smoky Mountain National Park are designated for tents only, and must be reserved in advance.  No vehicles are allowed.

Golf – Golfers will love the picturesque mountain setting as they drive a ball down the Gatlinburg fairway.  The Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course has undergone a serious half-million dollar renovation in anticipation of heavier usage by dedicated duffers.  While all the normal amenities are offered, the course will also be opening its new $1-million clubhouse.

The Municipal golf course, open year-round, is just down the road in Pigeon Forge, on the way to the Dollywood amusement park.  Try these pro tips when playing this course.

If you don’t care to go adventuring outside of Gatlinburg, it is home to three City Parks: Mills, Mynatt and Holt.

Festivals, Fairs, and Concerts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg has a wide variety of annual festivals and fairs.  The Battle of Burg Hill Civil War re-enactment which takes place at the beginning of July is perhaps the best known festival. 

But there are also the Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales, the Smoky Mountain Springfest, the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival, Gatlinburg’s Winter Magic, Gatlinburg’s Fine Arts Festival, and July’s Midnight Independence Day Parade. 

For a complete list of fairs and festivals, download the Gatlinburg Attractions Guide.
Great Smoky Arts and Crafts CommunityCrafts and handmade goods abound in the Gatlinburg area.  Two times a year, the Gatlinburg Convention Center on the Parkway hosts the Craftsmen’s Fair featuring over 200 booths.  The craft fair twins with country, bluegrass, and gospel music concerts. 

But there is no need to wait for a special crafts fair; just travel the 8-mile arts and crafts loop which runs about 3 miles east of Gatlinburg. 

The loop has been designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail.

But with Pigeon Forge just up the road; visitors should consider a quick trip to take in festivals offered by Pigeon Forge like Dollywood’s KidsFest which runs from mid-June to the beginning of August.
In addition, Dollywood plays host to numerous other popular Southern festivals including these:

Bluegrass and BBQ Festival; National Gospel and Harvest Celebration; and the hugely popular Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival featuring giant toy soldiers, acrobatics, great food, and fireworks.

Dining in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg has lots of restaurants to choose from, but remember you will only be a short distance from Pigeon Forge, so you have those restaurants to choose from, too.

Here are some of the top-rated eateries in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area:

  • Log Cabin Pancake House
  • Smokey Mountain Brewery & Restaurant
  • Peddler Restaurant & Lounge
  • Park Grill
  • Pancake Pantry
  • Cherokee Grill
  • Calhoun’s Restaurant
  • Smoky Mountain Trout House
  • Hofbrauhaus Restaurant & Cheese Cupboard

    and in Pigeon Forge…

  • Apple Tree Family Inn
  • Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
  • Country Kitchen Restaurant
  • Smokies Breakfast House
  • Geno’s Pizza
  • Alabama Grill
  • Corky’s Ribs & BBQ
  • TGI Friday’s
  • Cracker Barrel

Getting to Gatlinburg, Tennessee

A trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee?  The only question remaining is not IF you will go, but HOW SOON you can go.  And how are you going to get there?  Here are some transportation links that should help with the travel planning.

Airports – Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge share a small airport (GKT).  It’s located about 4 miles from Pigeon Forge in Sevierville.  The closest commercial major airport is located in Knoxville, Tennessee (TYS), a 28-mile drive from Gatlinburg. 

Another airport is located in Morristown, Tennessee (MOR) while a fourth airport is located in Greeneville, Tennessee (CGY), and a fifth airport is located in Asheville, Tennessee (AVL).      

Bus – Greyhound Bus Lines  The nearest terminal is in the city of Knoxville, 28 miles away.
Train – The nearest Amtrak station is located in Toccoa, Georgia which is 80 miles outside of Gatlinburg.

HOT Savings Links

Gatlinburg Star Cars Museum Discount Coupon

Gatlinburg Accommodation Coupons

Great Smoky Mountains Coupons

Smoky Mountain Fun Passes

Handy Contacts

Gatlinburg Accommodations

Smoky Mountains Travel Planner
Gatlinburg Attractions Guide

Sheree Zielke

Holiday Travel – Park City, Utah

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Why Vacation in Park City, Utah?

There are 5 cities in the United States named, Park City, but only one of them plays host to one of the largest independent film festivals in the world, the Sundance Film Festival.  And only one of them was home to the 2002 Olympic Games. That’s Park City, Utah.

Besides the annual film festival, Park City is highly touted as one of America’s best mountain resort towns and skiing destinations (“Home to the Greatest Snow on Earth”).

Park City is nestled in the Wasatch Mountains, which are part of the Rocky Mountain range.  The Wasatch-Cache National Forest is nearby.  The surrounding hills, once filled with silver and gold, turned poor prospectors into millionaires during the area’s rich mining years.

In 1870, with the discovery of gold, miners advanced on this mountainous Utah area, pickaxes and hopes of fast riches, held high.  But the boom ended with the flooding of the mines.

The vibrant city was all but deserted until the 1930s when a new boom was begun: skiing.  The area’s Park City Ski Club turned lemons into lemonade, or rather a deserted mine dump into a ski jump, thus planting the seeds for this modern day world class ski resort city.

Park City, once a boom town, is now populated by less than 7500 residents.  The town is considered to be part of the Utah’s capital city’s metropolitan area; it is a short drive away, just 32 miles from Salt Lake City.

While Park City has been home to many cultures, the

English and the Germans settlers comprised the majority of the peoples who first chose this mountain area as their home base; followed closely by the Irish.

Park City has a moderate climate with temperatures rarely going above 85 F in the hottest summer month of the year, July.  Winter temperatures demand full parkas, toques, scarves and warm mittens because below freezing is the norm in the winter months (November through March).  Average snowfall is an adequate 350 inches in the resort areas, and just short of 150 inches in the populated areas.  The abundance of snow makes Park City the perfect place for a snow sport or ski vacation.

But Park City, Utah has more to offer than just winter skiing; this mountain town is a popular summer destination, too.

Must Sees in Park City, Utah!

Park City Sunday MarketThis fun-for-all, open-air market runs from mid-June through mid-October.  Tourists will be treated to great food, fresh produce, admirable arts and crafts, and a variety of local talent including strolling musicians, bands, clowns and even, belly dancers.  Sommeliers should take note because wine tasting is offered, too.

The market is easily located on Park City’s Main Street between Heber Avenue and 9th Street.  It is open from 9 – 3 PM every Sunday except during the Kimball Arts Festival.
Utah Olympic Park – While no longer used for Olympic events, this park still hosts the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, and its exhibits and activities are open to the general public, daily.

Kimball Art Center – For 30 years, tourists and locals have been treated to the finest visual arts through this city center, via a variety of exhibitions and special events.

And of course, an absolute must see are Park City’s world class ski resorts.  There are three major ski hills to choose from: Park City Mountain, the exclusive Deer Valley, and The Canyons.  These can be visited year round.

Museums & Theatres in Park City, Utah

History buffs and museum lovers won’t be disappointed by Park City’s collection.  Everything from skiing history to the town’s mining background is amply covered by the area’s museums.

Alf Engen Ski Museum – Here’s a ski lover’s dream.  Everything you wanted to know about skiing, and more, including the 2002 Winter Olympics, all housed at the Utah Olympic Park.

Real museum fans should plan a quick side trip into Salt Lake City which is accessible easily by car or bus.  Utah’s capital city has over a dozen museums including the Utah Museum of Natural History, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts, the Classic Cars International Auto Museum, and the Museum of Utah Art & History.
If you have an interest in mining history, the Kennecott Copper Mine and Visitor Center is a short 28-mile ride southwest of Salt Lake City.

Back in Park City, the Mary G. Steiner Egyptian Theatre is available to those theater-oriented folks on a year-round basis; it just underwent a major renovation.

The Park City Performing Arts Foundation offers a wide variety of dance and musical performances in its 1300-seat theater.

The Park City Film Series keeps film lovers happy on Friday and Saturday nights with an eclectic blend of independent films.

Outdoor Recreation in Park City, Utah

Recreational activities are endless in Park City, regardless of season.  In the winter, there are the usual activities like skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, winter hiking, and sleigh rides.

Ski Resorts – World class skiing and snowboarding awaits the thrill seekers.  Hop onboard a bus or stay in a resort to take advantage of this spectacular skiing.  Choose from Park City Mountain, the exclusive Deer Valley, or The Canyons.

Golf – Park City Golf Course is located within the town limits.  The course was first opened back in 1963 as a nine-hole course, but since has increased to a full 18-hole course, complete with all the expected amenities, including a Pro shop.  Take a virtual tour of the course and plan your links strategy in advance.

But there are many golf courses to choose from in the Park City area:  Wasatch Mountain Golf, Soldier Hollow Golf Course, Homestead Resort Golf Club, Pete Dye Canyon Golf Course, Jack Nicklaus Golf Course, or the Jeremy Ranch Golf & Country Club.
Fun-for-the-Whole-Family Activities – Utah Olympic ParkDon’t pass up the chance to see the Olympic Park.  Since the 2006 Olympics, the park is now a fun zone for visitors offering a variety of activities including bobsled rides, an Alpine slide, ziplines, and aerial shows.  Entrance to the park is FREE!
City Parks – If you choose to stay within the town limits, but still want to get out for a walk and fresh air, there are two city parks to choose from: South End City Park and Rotary Park.  Set in the area’s beautiful mountain location, the parks are a great place to spend some family time; they both come complete with barbeque pits and picnic tables.  Rotary Park has a mountain stream flowing through the property, and it is conveniently located just back of the Park City Golf Course.

Summer Recreation – How much time do you have?  Park City offers many fun and exciting summer outdoor adventures including a huge number of excursions.  Take part in a full or half day rafting adventure on the Provo River; go fly-fishing, horseback riding, or hiking; try river luging, kayaking or go mountain biking. Or plan a full week’s whitewater rafting excursion on the Green or Yampa rivers.  And with over 90 mountain lakes, there will be plenty of boating opportunities, too.

There are guides for every sport who will see even the most uninitiated through a safe and fun experience.  Even women will find their wilder side catered to with the area’s Femme Fatale adventure weekend.

Heber Valley Railroad – Train aficionados will love this 100-year old steam train.  The company offers everything from a Raft ‘n Rail adventure to Murder Mysteries.  Heber City is located on Highway 40, just 18 miles from Park City.

Disabled? No problem.  The Park City locals want everyone to enjoy their stay and have set up special services for those needing assistance during their holiday.

Festivals, Fairs, and Concerts in Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah could be considered a world cultural capital with its summer cornucopia of festivals and concerts; the city hosts more than 3 dozen musical events every summer.

Deer Valley Music Festival – The Deer Valley Music Festival is just one of a dozen festivals that Park City offers.  It runs mid July to mid August and features classical, opera, chamber and pops music.

Park City’s Jazz Festival follows in the 3rd week of August.

The Autumn Classics Music Festival is held from the end of September into the beginning of October.

Park City Winterfest 2007Moonlight snowshoeing, sled dog races, Alpine skiing competitions, ice carving competitions, live entertainment, and great food comprise this hugely popular 9-day winter event.  The festival kicks off at the beginning of February and ends with a huge fireworks display on a Sunday evening.

Sundance Film Festival – Robert Redford, the handsome American actor, is probably the most famous name acquainted with this popular world class film fest.  In fact, the festival is named after one of Redford’s movie characters, the Sundance Kid.

The festival is designed to give new independent film makers a shot at stardom; directors like Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh have the Sundance Festival to thank for their trip into the Hollywood limelight.

The festival, once held in September, is now held in January, during the peak of the skiing season.  Tourists can do a double whammy this way; get their fill of film and snow with a single visit.

Kimball Arts Festival – This annual summer event takes place at the beginning of August.  Crammed with family activities, a children’s play zone, a beer garden, great foods, 30 live bands, and the works of some of the top artists in the nation, the Kimball Arts Festival is well worth a visit.

Shuttle buses are the only way to get around during this time, as the Park City Main Street is closed to cars.  You’ll join the 100-thousand others who attend this festival in a weekend filled with live entertainment, and 100s of art works ranging from photography to oils to jewelry.

Calendar of Events – Park City has so many festivals, they are too numerous to mention.  Best to check in at the city’s Chamber of Commerce web site for current events and dates.

Dining in Park City, Utah

No shortage of food types here.  Hungry diners will find everything from full 5-course gourmet fare to simpler burger, pizza, or taco menu items. Italian, Asian, Mexican, American, French?  It’s all here in Park City.

But since this town is run by both its seasons and the arrival of tourists, restaurants open and close their doors at different times throughout the year.  Use this dining guide when planning which restaurants you will visit during your Park City stay.

Here are some of the top-rated eateries on Park City’s Main Street and in the town’s general vicinity:

  • Prime Steak House
  • Texas Red’s Pit BBQ & Chili Parlor
  • Bistro 412
  • Zoom
  • Red Banjo Pizza Parlour
  • The Eating Establishment
  • Davanza’s Pizza
  • Wahso Asian Grill
  • Adolph’s (French Cuisine)
  • 350 Main Restaurant (seafood)
  • Grappa Italian Restaurant
  • Dynamite Dom’s Restaurant
  • Chimayo Restaurant
  • Loco Lizard Cantina

Getting to Park City, Utah


The nearest commercial airport to Park City is the Salt Lake City International Airport.  Most major and some smaller airlines, like Salmon Air, fly into this major American hub airport.

You’ll need to get from the Salt Lake City airport to Park City by van or rental car.  Van-sharing options are available.  Prices range from $110 US to $132 US per person.  Or maybe only a limousine will do?  Try this link for details on all forms of transportation from the airport.

Arriving by Car

Car Travel -Be sure to check out the Utah Visitor Centers. These links may be helpful in your trip planning.  Do you need a Utah Highway Map?  And here is a handy Driving Distance guide.

Car Rentals – If you are used to driving, then rent a car to get around this area.  Car Rentals – Some discounts are also available.

Bus – Park City is not served by major bus companies, but Salt Lake City certainly is, including Greyhound.

A light rail transit system also operated within the Salt Lake City area: the Trax.  Up to date route and time information is available through the Utah Transit Authority Information site.


Amtrak has regular daily stops in Salt Lake City.

Getting around Park City, Utah & Area

Park City offers free transit service from mid-April through mid-November to the outlying Summit areas, between 7:30 AM and 10:30 PM.  Bus signs are blue with white letters; routes are identified by colors and times.
The city’s Historic Main Street Trolley operates daily from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.

HOT Savings Links

Park City Lodging Deals

Utah Travel Deals

Handy Contacts

Park City Vacation Planner Guide

Book a Park City Sleigh Ride

Olympic Park Museums

Park City Map
Park City Street Map

Utah Travel Guide

Salt Lake City and General Area Map


Sheree Zielke

Holiday Travel – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Why Vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee?

Passenger pigeons were once the major inhabitants of this old civil war city located in eastern Tennessee.  The passenger pigeons are no more, but Pigeon Forge is thriving and is now one of the hottest tourist destinations in the southern United States.

You might know Pigeon Forge best as the home of one of the United States largest amusement parks, Dollywood.  Designed by the popular buxom blonde-haired country singer, Dolly Parton, Dollywood draws thousands of tourists year round.  But there is more to Pigeon Forge than just an amusement park.

With a population of just over 5,000, Pigeon Forge now plays host to over 10 million tourists a year who pass through this quaint city on their way to the Great Smoky National Park.  Pigeon Forge is just a short 23-mile drive from Knoxville, Tennessee and 148-miles from Atlanta, Georgia.  Located in the county of Sevier, Pigeon Forge has a rich civil war history.  In fact, Sevier County was named for war hero, John Sevier, one of the “Overmountain Men” who fought in the Battle of King’s Mountain in 1780.

Pigeon Forge was settled back in the late 18th century; the city got its name from the flocks of passenger pigeons that once made the area their home, and the iron forge that Isaac Love set up on the banks of the river in the early 19th century.  Love’s son, William, followed the forge with his own construction of a water-powered gristmill in 1830.  This nearly 180-year old mill, with its poplar log and huge granite river rock construction, is now one of the major tourist attractions in the area.

Pigeon Forge once belonged to the neighboring state of North Carolina, and was once part of the State of Franklin (named after Ben Franklin), later known as Tennessee.  Located on the Little Pigeon River, Pigeon Forge is home to a wide range of peoples and cultures including those of American Indian, Italian, British, German, Norwegian, Swiss, and Canadian descent.

Pigeon Forge experiences a full range of weather types because of its mountain setting.  May is the wettest month; July is the hottest month with temperatures averaging between 65 and 87 degrees F.  Winters can get quite cold with temperatures falling to the low 20s, but snowfall is minimal with less than 6 inches accumulating through the winter months.

Pigeon Forge is the perfect spot for families.  The area’s crime rate is almost non-existent when compared to other American cities and cities in the rest of the state.

The Parkway is the major route through Pigeon Forge; tourists will be charmed to find that many attractions are just off the Parkway.  In fact, a local will tell you how to find an attraction by the number of the traffic light in its vicinity.

Must Sees in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee!

Family-oriented entertainment abounds in the Pigeon Forge area from the Dollywood amusement park and the new Dollywood Splash Country to Terry Evanswood Magic Beyond Belief magic show, and the Black Bear Jamboree dinner theatre.

The Black Bear Jamboree is a hugely popular attraction located along the Parkway in Pigeon Forge. You enter in through a toy store where you are surrounded by stuffed bears.  Once inside the theatre, diners are treated to true southern fare with generous servings of Southern fried chicken, BBQ ribs, roasted potatoes and corn on the cob.  A souvenir video tape is offered for purchase at the end of the evening. There is an early seating at 5:30 which is perfect for the younger kids, and a late seating at 8:00 PM.

For those who prefer more of an historical adventure, the Old Mill is not to be missed.  This very photogenic historic site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Grains are still ground under the weight of 4600-pound river rocks (French Buhrs), and then baked into a variety of breads (like Chocolate Chip Cherry Sourdough) offered for sale to the public.  Tourists of all ages will love the small village filled with shops like the Candy Kitchen and the Toy Bin, in the Old Mill Square. If you want a preview of the Old Mill, try this Motion Cam Video link.

Or perhaps lush gardens are more your style of vacation?  Then you simply must visit one of Pigeon Forge’s newest attractions,
Parrot Mountain and Gardens. Visit the Prayer Garden or the Secret Garden.  Or pay a visit to a replica of Jesus’ tomb.  Spend time with baby birds in the attraction’s unique petting zoo.  Or feed exotic tropical birds nectar from your hand.  The Parrot Mountain and Gardens are open 7 days a week, with extended hours June through August.

Are you a Baby Boomer, yearning for the good times of the 50s?  Look no farther than Pigeon Forge and its American Jukebox Theater.  You’ll find this popular nostalgic treat on Teaster Lane just off the Parkway.  Choose from a 50s Rock ‘n Roll or a Country’s Greatest Hits show.  If you visit in November and December, you’ll be treated to the theater’s “Back to the 50s Christmas Show.” No matter which show you choose, or when you visit, those nostalgic cravings in you are sure to be pleased.

No matter what your age or interest, a visit to Pigeon Forge simply wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Smoky Mountains, located in the Blue Ride Mountain range.  The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is touted as “the most visited national park in America.”  Visit this stunning geographical area in any season for exquisite views of flora and fauna.  You shouldn’t find the park too crowded since it covers about 520-thousand acres.  Stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Centre to evaluate the numerous ways to spend time in this gorgeous Tennessee park.

And you simply must take a ride on the Pigeon Forge Fun Time Trolley line.  Choose to ride the Main Street trolley which runs every 20-25 minutes, the Valley Trolley which runs every 40-45 minutes, the Dollywood and Dolly’s Splash Country trolleys which run every 15-20 minutes, or the Gatlinburg trolley which runs every 30 minutes.

Sights and Attractions in Pigeon Forge!

DollywoodThis popular amusement park is open from the end of March through the end of December.  The park includes a huge variety of activities and musical events.  Thrill ride lovers won’t be disappointed with the park’s 40 rides, like the wooden Thunderhead ride.  Step back in time and take a ride aboard the Dollywood Express, an authentic coal-powered steam train.  There’s no better way to see the Smoky Mountain scenery while listening to Dolly Parton tunes.  The train ride takes about 20 minutes and totals 5 miles in length.

Have trouble getting around or do you travel with someone with special needs?  You will find this 2007 Dollywood Disability Guide helpful.

Be sure to set aside a couple of days for this remarkable park.

Dollywood Splash CountryJust try to get the kids out of this wild water park once they see all it has to offer.  Boasting 23 highly imaginative slides and rides like the Bear Mountain Fire Tower and the Mountain Scream body slide, families will find this water park one of the best they’ve ever visited.  From the slides and pools designed for the little tykes to the hair-raising deep water offerings for the wild and crazy, Dollywood Splash Country is an attraction not to be missed when visiting Pigeon Forge.

Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and MuseumFans of gospel music will not want to miss an opportunity to visit this tribute to a uniquely American music genre.  Located in Dollywood, the museum has been operating since 1999.

The Old Mill – As Pigeon Forge’s oldest and best known attraction, one should not miss this 24-foot tall old-timer.  Set aside a couple of hours to enjoy the mill and the surrounding Old Mill Square with its quaint shops.  Be sure to taste a local favorite: Pecan Logs.

Outdoor Recreation!

Maybe you aren’t into amusement parks and gospel concerts.  How about a little outdoors adventure?  Pigeon Forge has it all from whitewater rafting to backpacking.

Whitewater Rafting – Mountains and whitewater rafting go together like BBQ beef and baked beans.  Choose from a number of adventure companies and outfitters who will take you and your family for a safe and thrilling unforgettable adventure on the Pigeon River.

Hiking and Backpacking – Nobody can visit the Smoky Mountains and not do at least a little hiking, even if that’s just a short walk up a trail in this beautiful area.

For those more vigorous and adventurous hikers, there are plenty of options including the Smoky Mountain Llama Treks.  Enjoy your hike while pack llamas carry your gear.  A number of excursions are offered from day trips to 2-day treks.

Water SportsJet skiing, canoeing, and boating?  The Smoky Mountain area has water experiences for all levels of experience.

Swimming in the Smoky Mountain Park waters, however, is not recommended as the icy cold temperatures of the mountain streams can lead to hypothermia, year-round.  And there are NO life-guarded areas anywhere in the Park.

Fishing – Fishing in the Smoky Mountains?  Of course; year-round, too.  With over 2-thousand miles of streams and an abundance of lakes, you are almost sure to hook yourself a fine rainbow or brown trout.  But stay out of trouble and be sure to read up on the area’s fishing regulations first.

Camping – With 10 major campsites and an abundance of hook-ups, a camping vacation may be the perfect way to save on accommodations when visiting the Pigeon Forge area.  Campsites can be reserved up to five months in advance.

Some group camping areas like those within the Smoky Mountain National Park are reserved for tents only, and must be reserved in advance.  No vehicles are allowed.

Golf – Duffers haven’t been forgotten.  Pigeon Forge offers an 18-hole course, originally designed by William Langford, and later renovated by Bob Cupp and Associates.  The course is open year-round and features all the usual amenities, including a Pro shop.

Other outdoor recreational activities include go-karts, miniature golfing, laser tag, bungee jumping, bumper boats, and helicopter tours.

Festivals, Fairs, and Concerts in Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge has an abundance of festivals and concerts year round.  But perhaps one of the best known is the Dollywood’s KidsFest which runs from mid-June to the beginning of August.

In addition, Dollywood plays host to numerous other popular Southern festivals including these:

Bluegrass and BBQ Festival; National Gospel and Harvest Celebration; and the hugely popular Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival featuring giant toy soldiers, acrobatics, great food, and fireworks.

Pigeon Forge, in keeping with its cultural roots, hosts many craft festivals throughout the year, especially in the spring and the fall.  Local wares, pottery, and local foods are available to the eager tourists hoping to take a bit of Southern comfort home with them.
But don’t wait for a festival; take a trip around the 8-mile Smoky Mountain area crafts loop.

Check out a full year of featured events for the Pigeon Forge area.

Dining and Nightlife in Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge has many dining options from gourmet meals to more economical family fare.  For a nostalgic treat, take a step back in time to Red’s Diner for an old-fashioned inexpensive meal of burgers and shakes.  The restaurant is located at Jukebox Junction in Dollywood.
Here are some top-rated eateries in the Pigeon Forge area and all are conveniently located along the Parkway:

  • Log Cabin Pancake House
  • Apple Tree Family Inn
  • Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
  • Country Kitchen Restaurant
  • Smokies Breakfast House
  • Geno’s Pizza
  • Alabama Grill
  • Corky’s Ribs & BBQ
  • TGI Friday’s
  • Cracker Barrel

Getting to Pigeon Forge

A trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee?  The only question remaining is not IF you will go, but HOW SOON you can go.  And how are you going to get there.  Here are some transportation links that should help with the travel planning.

Airports – Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg share a small airport (GKT).  It’s located about 4 miles from Pigeon Forge in Sevierville.  A major airport is located in Knoxville, Tennessee (TYS), a 24-mile drive from Pigeon Forge.

Another airport is located in Morristown, Tennessee (MOR) while a fourth airport is located in Greeneville, Tennessee (CGY), and a fifth airport in Asheville, Tennessee (AVL).

Bus – Greyhound Bus Lines The nearest terminal is in the city of Knoxville, 24 miles away.
Train – The nearest Amtrak station is located in Toccoa, Georgia which is 85 miles outside of Pigeon Forge.

HOT Savings Links

Pigeon Forge Attractions Coupons & Discount Show Tickets

Dollywood 2-Park Value Discounts

Dollywood Splash Country Discounts

American Jukebox Theatre Coupon

Smoky Mountain Coupons

Handy Contacts

Pigeon Forge Vacation Guide

Smoky Mountains Travel Planner

Sheree Zielke

Holiday Travel – Montreal, Quebec

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Why Vacation in Montreal, Quebec, Canada?

Montreal is the perfect destination no matter what the season.  Where else can you play beach volley ball in winter?  Where can you find the world’s most successful music festival?  And where can a trip through the subway be like a trip to an art gallery?  In Montreal, of course.

Montreal is the 2nd largest city contained in the 2nd largest country in the world.  It is also one of the oldest cities in Canada, founded in 1642.  With a metro population of 3.6 million people, Montreal plays host to a wide range of cultures and ethnicities. But it is the French that played the largest part in this city’s long history. Even today, Montreal is the 2nd largest French-speaking city in the world.  So, “Bonjour!” (Good Day) and “Merci!” (Thank You) are two words that will help you get around this marvelous city.

The city was originally known as “Ville-Marie,” (meaning “City of Mary.”)  This was the French’s first permanent settlement on the island of Montreal.  The name was later changed in accordance with a hilly structure within the city called, “Mount Royal.”  In 1760, Montreal was surrendered to British rule.  But it wasn’t until 1832 that Montreal was incorporated as a city.

Montreal sits ensconced between the huge St. Lawrence River to its south and the Rivière des Prairies to the north.  As a result, summers can be quite humid and sticky.

Montreal’s climate can be bitterly cold in winter due to wind chill factors and uncomfortably hot in summer, due to the high humidity. But for the most part, the temperatures are normal reaching an average high of 80 F degrees in July, the hottest month, and an average low of 5 F degrees in January, the coldest month.

Montreal history is richly steeped in the Roman Catholic religion; many old cathedrals featured throughout the city attest to that fact.

Montreal also bears the enviable title of 10th “Cleanest City in the World.”

Must Sees in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The Metro (subway) system.  Yes, the Metro.  Leave it to the Montreal citizens and a visionary mayor to come up with a way to enjoy everyday travel through the subway.  Many of the Metro stations bear their own distinctive design and artwork.  When passing through the Place-des-Arts station, watch for one of the earliest art works donated to the Metro; it’s Frederic Back’s 1967 painted glass mural.  Works by Jean-Paul Mousseau are featured in the Peel Station.

Parc Jean-DrapeauThis downtown park has been referred to as the “jewel” of Montreal.  The park plays host to many events over the year, in particular, Montreal’s huge winter festival, the Fête des Neiges.

The park, situated on the St. Lawrence River, was once known as Parc des Îles.  It was later given the name of a hardworking Montreal mayor, Jean Drapeau, who had held his position for nearly 30 years, before he died in 1999. Drapeau was the driving force behind bringing the 1967 World’s Fair to the city.

The park is open daily but is closed between midnight and 6 AM.  In the summertime, water sports abound here: rowing, water skiing, sailing and swimming.  Other activities include beach volleyball, cycling, in-line skating, picnicking, walking, and beach lounging.  Those who love strolling through flowers will delight in the park’s 25 hectare gardens.

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal – If you are planning a trip to Montreal, and you are deeply into Jazz, plan your trip for the end of June.  That’s when the annual the Montreal Jazz Festival is usually scheduled.  The huge music extravaganza is rated as the largest festival in the world, and it took only a few decades to achieve the title.  The festival offers hundreds of concerts, many of those FREE of charge

Underground City – Downtown Montreal is actually sitting atop a 20-mile maze of corridors, tunnels and connections between buildings.

This underground, with its shops and eateries, has become quite popular with visitors and locals.  Convenient connections have been made to malls, hotels, banks, museums, universities, churches, and transit stations.

Old Montreal – No visit to Montreal can ever be complete without a visit to the section southeast of downtown.  Beautiful old buildings with stunning stately architecture will be found here.  Cobble stone streets, horse and carriage rides (caleches), and just a general feeling of history makes Old Montreal a very special not-to-be-missed destination. It can also be reached through the Underground City.

Museums & Theatres Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Montreal has a wealth of museums catering to every interest from French Canadian history to architecture, cinema, comedy, the fur trade, the Holocaust, and more.

The best way for a museum die-hard to see all Montreal has to offer is with a museum pass.  The $45 pass (includes a public transit card) provides FREE access to 30 museums, over 3 consecutive days.

Churches and cathedrals – One of Montreal’s biggest attractions are those places linked to its Roman Catholic heritage: its churches. Due to the city’s heavy concentration of churches, it garnered the nickname, “City of a Hundred Bell Towers.”  Many churches have opened their doors to the public and they don’t charge admission.  St. Joseph’s Oratory, the largest church in Canada, offers free guided tours on weekday afternoons.

Other churches of interest to tourists include: Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral; Notre-Dame Basilica; St. Patrick’s Basilica; Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours, also known as the Sailor’s Church; the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral.
Place-des-Arts– You’ll find the acclaimed Montreal symphony orchestra in this venue.  The Montreal Opera and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, are also featured here.  The world-renowned Cirque du Soleil was nurtured here, too.

Outdoor Recreation in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

If it’s winter time, you simply must grab a pair of skates and head off to Beaver Lake in Parc Mont-Royal.  Admission is FREE.

If it’s any time of year, make Parc Jean-Drapeau your destination.  Water sports, hiking, roller-blading, swimming or just sunning on a beach – it’s all here in Montreal’s major city park.

Major sports in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Sporting events include everything from hockey to rugby.  Montreal is home to the:

Montreal also hosts the Canadian Grand Prix, the Molson Indy, and the ChampCar World Series.

Festivals, Fairs, and Concerts Montreal, Quebec, Canada

This is Montreal’s perfect winter escape or maybe just a way to celebrate a long Canadian winter.  This 25-year old annual event embraces the snow and cold with several days of fun events for children and adults.

Activities include snow soccer, “winter” beach volley ball, snow tubing, ice skating, dancing, live music acts, ice sculpture demonstrations, kicksled races, street hockey, Alpine skiing, treasure hunts, snow sculptures, winter hiking, an Armed Forces survival camp experience, dogsled runs, story-telling, and more.

Montreal’s first winter festival began in the early 1980s, and has always been geared towards families and kids.  The polar bear was adopted as the festival’s mascot:  Boule de Neige.  Kids are invited to write to this big furry friend.
The event runs for a full week beginning in the end of January.  The downtown city park, Parc Jean-Drapeau, is the main location for the activities.

  • Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (end of June to beginning of July)
  • Festival Juste pour rire (mid July) – Just For Laughs Festival.
    This televised event features comedians from all over the world.  Some of history’s top comedians, like Howie Mandel, have appeared at this festival.
  • L’International des Feux Loto-Québec (3rd week in July)
    Montreal Fireworks Festival – This pyrotechnics competition attracts tens of thousands of viewers to the free fireworks show.  It has been held since 1985; every summer pyrotechnical companies compete for Gold, Bronze, or Silver trophies.  Competitions begin in late June and conclude by late July.
  • Les FrancoFolies de Montreal (end July – beginning of August)
    This Montreal musical festival, featuring French musicians, began in 1989 and has since grown into one of the city’s most popular summer events.  The entire event is held in a downtown 4-block radius (Ste-Catherine, President-Kennedy, Bleury and St-Urbain streets.)  Plan to use the Metro (subway) if you are not staying downtown.Within 15 years, audience numbers had risen from 5-thousand to over 800-thousand.  Festival performances now number in the 100s.  Accommodation packages are a good way to attend this event.
  • Montreal Dragon Boat Festival (end of July)
    This annual event is staged at the Olympic Basin of Parc Jean-Drapeau in downtown Montreal.

Dining in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When visiting Montreal, one must have at least one serving of “Poutine.”  This rich and delicious French fry, cheese and gravy combination is a favorite treat of locals and visitors alike.

And then there is the famous Montreal smoked meat sandwiches.  Visit one of the city’s delis or bistros, like Schwartz’s Deli, and treat yourself to smoked corned beef piled high on tangy rye bread, a little Dijon mustard, and you’ve got a sandwich fit for royalty.

Montreal is well-known for its exquisite dining and gourmet cooking, too.  Here are some top-rated eateries in Montreal (as determined by the “10 Best” web site:

  • Beaver Club (wine cellar)
  • Chez L’Epicier (Quebecois style)
  • Cube (Sunday brunch option)
  • Gibby’s (steakhouse)
  • Globe (people watching)
  • Moishes (steakhouse)
  • Nuances (Five Diamond)
  • Queue de Cheval (Old World style steakhouse)
  • Toque (Casual & contemporary French foods)
  • Tour De Ville (International buffet revolving restaurant)

Nightlife in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

“Sin City”: this is a name that Montreal once bore.  But many believe the name still applies.  Bars and nightclubs are numerous, and with a very late “last call” a night of partying can go far into the wee hours of the morning.

Areas of the city known for their extreme “nightlife” include Crescent Street, Sainte-Catherine Street West, and Saint Lawrence Boulevard (“The Main”).

Getting to Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Airports – Montreal has one major passenger airport (YUL), the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport (locals still refer to it as Dorval).  This airport is a major international hub and services nearly 40 airlines including some of the smaller airlines like Air Inuit and Air Creebec.  And as with all major city airports, you must expect to take a bus, shuttle or taxi to your city destination.

(Note:  Don’t be unnerved when you click on the Montreal airport link as it will appear in French; just click the English button on the right side of your screen.)
Airlines – Check below for the most convenient airline.

Arriving by Car to Montreal, Quebec, CanadaBe prepared for heavy traffic just like in New York City.  There are several major roadways known as “autoroutes” but all are heavily congested during morning and evening rush hours.


Taking the train in Canada is a real treat.  VIA Rail, which is situated in Montreal, has regular runs to many points in Canada.  The rail company also offers several discounts, including attractive savings for students, seniors, and children.

The United States Amtrak line also runs into the city with daily service between Montreal and New York City.

Montreal’s train station is the Gare Centrale.

Getting Around Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Metro (subway) –
The Montreal Metro is the best choice for getting around this huge cosmopolitan city.  The line is quick and easy to use and serves up to 68 stations.  The Green, Orange, Yellow and Blue lines all run 7-days a week, beginning at 5:30 AM.

Maps (both paper and posted on walls) have well laid out routes that are easily followed.
Be sure to buy a “tourist card” to save money on trips.  A single fare is $2.75, while a 3-day pass is only $17.00 CDN.  Even a day pass at $9.00 is a wise financial buy.

Bus –
The Montreal transit system and the metro are all part of the same network.  Any passes or tickets purchased for the Metro are accepted on the city busses.

Outlying areas, not serviced by regular bus or Metro service, are serviced by a Taxibus.

Taxi in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Taxi cabs are in abundance in this huge city.  There are no less than 20 Montreal taxi companies to choose from.  Tipping is usually 15% of the fare.

Shopping Tips & Links

SECRET shopping area in Montreal.

SMART shopping tips
Public Market Guide in Montreal

Hotel Deals

Handy Contacts

Montreal Jazz Festival Tickets

Montreal FrancoFolies Tips

Fête des Neiges Special Events

General Tourist Information for Montreal
Montreal Airport Info
Montreal Maps
Tax Refund form for Visitors
Montreal Tourist Bureau
Tips on Tipping


Sheree Zielke