A trip around Tennessee by Jessica Jackson
At American Sky, we work closely with many tourist boards from around the the United States to ensure we always have the most up to date information plus some insiders info that only the experts will know! One of our favourites is Tennessee, and we caught up with our friend Jessica Jackson, who is the UK Account Manager for Tennessee and who has just returned from a trip around the state.
So Jessica – it looks like you had a fantastic tour of Tennessee – what was the highlight?
The highlight was experiencing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and even though it was a misty overcast day the views were still spectacular and quiet eery. I also walked part of the Appalachian Trail which extends across 14 states and is the longest hiking only trail.
Walking part of the Appalacian Trail
From Gatlinburg we took a guide tour of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which was an excellent way to see the highlights and hear stories from people who have lived there. We then headed to Skylift Park to walk across the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America and one of the many unique experiences in the Smokies. The Skybridge is almost 700 feet long and crosses a deep valley in a single span. As I am not that great with heights it took me a while to walk the bridge and my legs went to jelly as I got to the centre where you must cross the 30 feet of clear glass. To calm my nerves, we headed to the Ole Smoky Mountain Moonshine distillery to sample some of flavours of moonshine they produce - from their original moonshine to their apple pie flavoured moonshine. It certainly did the trick in calming my nerves!
Ole Smoky Distillery Gatlinburg
Then we headed to Anakeesta to take in more spectacular views of the Smokies, climbing the 86 steps to the top of the Anavista Observation Tower for 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain ranges and peaks. Afterwards we took the canopy walk through the treetops looking out for bear below … but sadly we didn’t spot any. As it was now dark, it was time for the Astra Lumina experiences, we immersed ourselves in the illuminating lights and sounds. This really was quite an experience starting with an Astra Archway which made you feel like you were entering another dimension, this is an experience not to miss when you visit Anakeesta.
What was the “most Tennessee” experience you had?
There were so many Tennessee experiences from visiting Dollywood and having a private experience of viewing Dolly Parton’s retired tour bus, which is Suite 1986, where you can now stay on! As it was December when we visited Dollywood, the park was decorated for Christmas, with themed live music shows on offer such as “Christmas in the Smokies”. I also braved the Wild Stallion mountain coaster which is the longest coaster in southeast USA. And of course I couldn’t leave without buying myself a rhinestone Dolly t-shirt!
Also, a very Tennessee experience is sampling the original moonshine which is a 100-year-old recipe and a 100 proof … wow that put some fire in my chest! So combining moonshine and Dolly Parton, this leads to the most absolute Tennessee experience – which was was meeting Danielle Parton, Dolly Parton’s niece, at “Shine Girl Moonshine”. This is more than just an outstanding Moonshine …. This Moonshine is the culmination of Danielle Parton's unique family heritage.
Now tell us about some of the other places you visited?
To continue with the Dolly theme, Sevierville is her hometown, so if you a fan this should be a definite inclusion on any Tennessee trip. In Sevierville we visited the recently open Skyland Ranch where we were greeted by Gary “Biscuit” Davis playing and singing “Rocky Top”. Biscuit spoke of how he had played for Dolly Parton for more than 20 years and is certainly a banjo expert.
We also visited Pigeon Forge, which is a great place for families, with so many family-friendly activities on offer. I visited the Titanic Museum which is the world’s largest Titanic museum attraction. The museum itself is a sight to behold as it is a replica of the actual titanic and holds over 400 personal and private artifacts. I also visited one of the many shows on offer in Pigeon Forge Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud. This fun interactive show you’ll see lumberjacks throwing axes, running across logs, and climbing 60-foot log towers.
And finally, tell us about some typically Tennessee food?
I was brave and tried buffalo frogs’ legs at The Appalachian restaurant in Sevierville. I have to say they were delicious! All the food at the Appalachian was fantastic. The Appalachian serves great contemporary Southern Appalachian cuisine.