“The most beautiful thing in the world is, of course, the world itself.” – Wallace Stevens
We travel, not to leave something behind, but to discover more of the world around us. To grow, to see, to learn, to do, to embrace more of what is around us, rather than less.
It’s something I’ve always been drawn to, a bit of wanderlust flowing through my veins. I think that adventure spirit has been passed down to my wee ones as well, because after being in one place too long, they’re even asking me when our next adventure begins.
While traveling with kids is more work, everything takes more time and effort and plans have to be somewhat laid out, it is so worth it. Seeing the world (and our great country since we haven’t gone international with them YET although with so many places on our bucket list, hopefully we will soon), through their eyes is even more magical.
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru
While we like to travel to new places and explore new terrain, Maggie Valley and a Smokey Mountains vacation holds a special place in our life, and heart. A sweet cabin sits at the top of a mountain peak in the smokies, overlooking the valley and within those walls are kept great memories… annual trips with friends and with family.
We’ve talked about our adventures to the area before, a couple of times in fact, but today we’re sharing a few more places we found that have caused our love for our Smoky Mountains vacation to grow even deeper.
The Best Things to Do on your Smoky Mountains Vacation
This was the first time we had tried a distillery and Elevated Mountain was truly beautiful. Transformed from a theater into a craft distiller, it was so fun to see all of the behind the scenes process for creating Moonshine and Whiskey! While I’m not the type to enjoy the tasting (though it looked fun), it’s always so fascinating to see how everything works, the big barrels… the cats! It sounds like every good distillery should have it’s own cat. Whisky requires grain, which attracts mice… And in short, that is the origin of the distillery cat, although they’re not quite as necessary as they used to be. But a classic tradition, an ambassador of sorts, that lives on.
I have a special story about Different Drummer Pottery. And it’s actually where we found our sweet Smokey. The owner welcomed us in and what began as a visit to see pottery became a lesson for us and our kids in how pottery is made. The kids even left with a little bag of clay for them to craft and play with! Such a welcoming place… I highly recommend.
And on to our story, while I was looking at the beautifully crafted finished pieces, Chris took the kids out to the font lawn to play, after all rambunctious kids in a storefront of breakables don’t always mix well. So once they’d seen everything, off they went. While I was finishing up, a game of tag outside stopped short when a teeny little kitten wandered out of a bush, crying for attention.
They immediately held him and soon after we all began the hunt for his family. No more than a couple of weeks old, we looked for any signs of the rest of his clan, only to find one that had passed in the bush and nothing else. And so, what began as a journey to take care of him quickly turned into the story of our new family kitten, who fits in quite well I might add… chasing the kids around just about as much as they chase him.
Hiking and Waterfalls:
Waterfalls have long been a favorite for us to find. The rush of the water, the sound of it’s crash, the beauty in it all. While I’ve shared a few that we’ve visited before, we found a couple others to experience this time.
Across the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Looking Glass Rock Overlook at mile post 417 is an almost hidden entrance to a trail. Just a short kid-friendly hike opens to a series of upper and lower falls that descend into crystal clear pools.
Though cold while we were there, I’m sure it would be refreshing in the summer months… but even with the cold waters and chilly air, we still clambered in. YOLO, right?!
This natural, 60-foot flat, sloping boulder waterfall in Pisgah National Forest, is a tourist favorite. While it can get busy in the summer month, as sliders line up and wait their turn to ride down and splash into the chilly water (50-60 degrees!), we made our way through the brisk air down the natural water slide anyway… and it was exhilarating.
Looking Glass Falls is another that we’ve visited before, but were more than happy to see it again. Though there is a grand stairway leading from the road, there is no hike needed. With plenty of photo options and a roaring backdrop with a 60 foot fall, it’s a beautiful place to visit, and splash.
Related: More of our Favorite Smoky Mountain Waterfalls
We totally lucked out at just the right time at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center! There are often Elk sightings in the field and especially at dusk and dawn, but during our visit, they decided to make their way to the river behind the visitors center, it was such an incredible sight… to be that close, listening to them, watching them… just as they watched us.
Another place where there are often Elk sightings is Cataloochee Valley; which we tried as well. Though we were about 30 minutes late to see the Elk (you have to get their early… typically they’re not roaming in daylight), we still enjoyed the property, and it’s historic buildings and trails.