Our first port of call was the Hollywood of the South – Atlanta, Georgia. With roots here, it was a great opportunity to get some family time in as well as take care of the pre-trip necessary admin. Can’t really get far with an expired drivers license, right? Once we sorted out the admin we decided that we would go on spontaneous trip #1 and head up north into the mountains. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the travel juices flowing with a mini road trip across the Deep South.
There’s something ironic about a German, born in Bavaria, who lives in England, who flies all the way to Georgia to visit a fake Bavarian Alpine Village. Well, that’s exactly what we did. Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains, Helen is a re-creation of a Bavarian Alpine village full of sweets, beer, and cobblestone streets.
It’s nothing like the real-deal, BUT it’s corny and cute. In true US road trip fashion, we checked ourselves in to the Super 8 Motel and enjoyed the afternoon walking through the little village. In the evening we popped into the Helen Festhalle for the Oktoberfest celebration – polka tunage and beers were on offer. We were there on a Tuesday night, so not much going on except a few coach buses from elderly homes that drove in from surrounding states. Prost!
The South’s version of Germany is exactly how you would picture it to be. Definitely worth the visit if you find yourself passing through. We didn’t stay very long, but a popular thing to do in the area is visit Unicoi State Park – lots of hiking and biking trails as well as swimming and boating on Unicoi Lake.
//GREAT SMOKEY MOUNTAINS
We left Helen before sunrise to make our way up through the Great Smokey Mountains. Spanning across North Carolona and Tennessee, the Great Smokey Mountains is one of the most visited national parks in the US. True to their name, the Smokies had smoke-like blue mist hovering around the peaks and valleys as the sun rose. We kept finding ourselves stopping in the pull-outs to admire the views.
We hadn’t really planned on doing much in the mountains except for driving through and admiring the views via Newfound Gap Road. For those who have a bit more time, popular stops include Cades Cove, Roaring Folk Motor Nature Trail, Sugarland Valley, and Clingmans Dome – the highest point in the Smokies (and Tennessee).
//PIGEON FORGE, TENNESSEE
Any Dolly Pardon fans out there? Then there is no better place to stop than Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This mountain town is home to the famous Dollywood – Dolly Pardon’s very own amusement park. Rob actually pushed to make this happen which was very surprising. The park is apparently a place many people in the UK hear about, but rarely get to see due to the location. Well – we changed that for Rob on our trip.
There is a charm about Dollywood that you don’t get in your overly commercial amusement parks. A nice combination of live shows, family entertainment, and classic amusement park rides. We rode the new wooden coaster called “Lightning Rod” which is apparently the fastest wooden coaster in the world. A highlight of the day was seeing the show My People – a show about the life of Dolly Pardon, told through her extensive song book, sung by Dolly’s extended family. When in Rome, right?
I had almost forgotten how beautiful the state of Georgia was until we took our little southern roadtrip. It was only a couple of days, but I am pleased that I got to share the good ol’ South with Rob before we jetted off to our next destination.