Vacation in Gatlinburg

A Destination for the Generations

Honeymoon, Family Vacation or Family Reunion in Gatlinburg

Multi-Generation Family Vacation

Carr’s Northside Cottages & Motel has been offering a quiet getaway in Gatlinburg for over 70 years. In that time, many a couple has started their lives together by enjoying a honeymoon in one of the many cozy and romantic spaces. The location is perfect for newlyweds as it’s close enough to the attractions of town, yet out of the way enough to allow for plenty of time together without ever leaving the property.

Jacuzzi Suites | Romantic Log Cabin

As young couples enter the next phase of life, Carr’s continues to be a top vacation spot for their growing families. With indoor and outdoor activities nearby from mini golf to hiking to wacky attractions, kids enjoy fun-filled days of excitement in downtown Gatlinburg or in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best part, though, is that families find plenty of things to do right here at Carr’s too. One mother explains that staying at Carr’s is “like sitting in your backyard with all of your family.”

Property Amenities | Creekside Motel Rooms

Carr’s offers all the comforts of home AND the anticipated family vacation fun. Property amenities include a level yard for outdoor games, playground, horseshoes and basketball hoop. And what kid doesn’t love to play in the water? Parents can relax poolside in a lounge chair while the kids swim the day away, or pull up a chair by the creek and watch the kids splash and wade.

Family Suites | Vacation Cottages

Once the kids are grown and have kids of their own, Carr’s is where a family vacation becomes a family reunion. With cottages from 1-3 bedrooms in close proximity, multi-generation families can choose several rentals that keep everyone close, yet provide maximum comfort and privacy. (Toddlers can take an uninterrupted afternoon nap while elders can enjoy their “early to rise, early to bed” routines.) Entire families—grandparents, parents, kids and grandkids—can gather together at the picnic pavilion for a ‘new tradition’ family dinner or cookout, and simply enjoy peaceful, quality together time.

When it comes time to explore the National Park, the whole group can visit the same places the newlywed couple did, the trail where the family first hiked, or find the perfect spot for a family reunion photo and reminisce about everyone’s first introduction to the Smoky Mountains.

The family traditions and time spent together at Carr’s Cottages are memories that will be forever cherished. Whether the first Gatlinburg getaway was as a newlywed or doting grandparent, there are many more memories to be made in the years to come.

Kid-Friendly Hikes

Short, Easy Smoky Mountain Hiking Trail

Kid Friendly Hiking Trails Smoky Mountains

Future AT Hikers and Park Advocates

One of the best hikes for families with young kids or elderly members who cannot walk a great distance is the .5 mile (1 mile round-trip) hike to the waterfall on the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail. This trail is an ideal introduction to hiking. Walking sticks and multiple bottles of water are optional, but a camera and taking your time to appreciate the woodland scenery along the shaded trail are a must! Kids may be tempted to run ahead a little ways, but they’ll easily be within eyesight.

This low impact, outdoor adventure will start at the Sugarlands Welcome Center at the Gatlinburg entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s approximately 2 miles from downtown Gatlinburg traffic light #10 on US-441. There’s plenty of shaded parking, restroom facilities, picnic tables and a museum. There’s also a 20-minute free movie, but little ones with little attention spans may just be ready to get outside.

Before you head out, take a few minutes to look at the 3-D relief map. This will show everyone just how large the park is and how many more hiking trails are available, so that one day when you are feeling more ambitious ya’ll can hike another.

Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail Waterfall

Sugarlands Trail Waterfall

Make use of the restroom facilities and walk right out the door to begin your hike, which actually begins when you step off the Visitor Center sidewalk. The path is wide and level with only a few tree roots to avoid. The Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is well traveled, but the waterfall at the end will give everyone a wonderful reward.

While on the trail, be sure to snap a selfie or ask other hikers to trade photography favors. When you arrive back at the Visitor Center, spend as much time as your group will allow. Look at the flora and fauna exhibits, ask a park Ranger about things you saw along the trail, and visit the small gift shop for souvenirs. Besides plenty of books and hiking trail maps, the gift shop has plenty of educational items that will help instill a love of nature and teach your kids to take care of our green space for the future. Every purchase from the gift shop benefits park preservation and is greatly appreciated!

A Cool Down Summer Vacation

Rivers, Mountain Streams, Water Parks and Swimming Pools

If you’re heading to Gatlinburg for summer vacation, it’s likely that you’ll want to enjoy the cool waters of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or find attractions that are sure to help you ‘chill out’ and relax on warm weather days.

If that’s the case, you’re in luck as Carr’s Northside Cottages offers convenience to both. Just off East Parkway (Hwy 321) and 3 blocks from downtown Gatlinburg, Carr’s is in a great location giving you easy access to the things to do in the Smokies that include ‘wet, water or river.’

Greenbrier Swimming Hole

Cool Fun at Greenbrier

For natural, nearby places to beat the heat in fresh waters, visit Metcalf Bottoms, Greenbrier, Cades Cove or the Chimney’s. Most of these Great Smoky Mountains National Park recreational areas have abundant picnic tables and restroom facilities as well as shallow water and giant boulders for wading and climbing. The best part of these adventures is that they are self-guided and completely free! Check out these and other wet places to play for free on the National Park Service website.

If you prefer popular water attractions, you can visit the underwater world of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies; paddle around Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Park; or have a wild whitewater river adventure with Rafting in the Smokies. Although these activities aren’t free, you can purchase discount Splash Country tickets at our front desk and other attraction discounts can be found here.

No matter where you go in our area, there are plenty of places to keep everyone in the family engaged, entertained… and refreshed! When you start to plan for water adventures, you can ask our front desk staff for recommendations but don’t be surprised if they say, “Don’t go anywhere.”

The best and most affordable part of your vacation just might be staying put! Head down to Roaring Fork Creek that runs through our hotel property to relax creekside at a table or swing, or wade across the shallow waters and find a big rock on which to sit. Prefer to be poolside? There are lounge chairs and umbrella tables right next to the heated swimming pool and wading pool.

Ever feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? You won’t when you stay at Carr’s. Affordable, friendly, and THEE place to cool down.

Carrs Cottages Roaring Fork Creek and Hotel Swimming Pool

Roaring Fork Creek, Swimming Pool, Wading Pool and Hot Tub Onsite

Free Family Fun Vacation Activity

Little River Railroad and Lumber Company

Carr’s Cottages prides ourselves on not only offering affordable vacations, but also for being knowledgeable about the sights and activities in the Gatlinburg area that will help you have a great family vacation.  You’re going to like this!

One unique, family-friendly activity is The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum. Founded in the Smoky Mountains in 1901 by Col. W. B. Townsend, the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company (LRRC) built 150 miles of track and sawed over 2 billion board feet of timber before becoming part of the newly formed Great Smoky Mountain National Park in 1939.

Imagine the fun your kids will have pretending to be passengers or a conductor on the museum’s outdoor displays consisting of a 1909 Shay 2147 engine, a Frick steam engine, “Little Woody – a vintage caboose car, original flatcars, and a log loader. Inside the museum, housed in the original Walland TN Depot building moved to this site, are over 200 enlargements of vintage photographs, papers, tools, exhibits and small artifacts.  Don’t miss seeing the authentic “setoff” house – a movable block-like dwelling that workers lived in that could be picked up, placed on a flat car, and “set off” at the next working site.  We’d say that this is truly the first of “mobile” homes.

Each year, the The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum celebrates Railroad Days.  This year’s event is Saturday, September 27 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  Activities include museum tours, hand car rides, walking tour of old Townsend and Tremont.

Townsend TN Fall Festival Railroad Days

Railroad Days
Saturday, September 27

There is never a museum admission fee, but it does operate on donations and sales from the Gift Shop, which is housed in a replica of the early Elkmont Post Office.  Visit The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum in Townsend on US 321 near the west entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  If you can’t make it for their Railroad Days, visit anytime during these dates and hours:

June, July, August, October
Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday:  1 – 5 p.m.

April, May, September, November
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday:  1 – 5 p.m.

December – March
By Appointment Only

When you stay with Carr’s, you are on the right track to having a great family vacation!

Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum
7747 East Lamar Alexander Pkwy., Townsend
865.448.2211 |

Where to Take Family Photos

Gatlinburg Family Vacation Photo Ops

Family Vacation Photos in Gatlinburg

Share Your Vacation Photos with Us!

Family vacations to the Great Smoky Mountains are often about capturing special times with your family, and whether you plan for it or it happens by accident, everyone leaves with memories.  Bring your camera, bring your phone, or bring your camcorders because the scenic value of your memories will be something to capture and write home about.   Unlike the fisherman who hoards the location of their secret fishing hole, we’re giving you the scoop on a few choice family photo spots that are scenic vistas, points of interest, or of historical importance.

Gatlinburg never disappoints to provide scenic family photo ops.  You will find the most spectacular view of Gatlinburg and the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains from the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook on the Gatlinburg Bypass.  Along this route you’ll have a birds eye view of downtown.  Be mindful of traffic and use one of the convenient pull off areas to fully appreciate the scene and get the perfect shot!

On a hot day consider the Roaring Fork Nature Trail, located about a mile outside Gatlinburg. The Roaring Fork Nature Trail is a 6-mile loop that will take you along some waterfalls!  Rainbow Falls stand’s 80 feet tall and provides a 5.4-mile roundtrip hike and is considered moderate to difficult.  The Rainbow Falls Trail continues for approximately 4 miles beyond the falls to the summit of Mount Le Conte.  Grotto Falls, a picturesque 25′ waterfall is the spot of a thousand drips.

For historical and wildlife photos, Cades Cove is the place to go.  Arrive early to get the best experience, as it’s early in the morning that animals are moving and haven’t had a moment to tuck themselves out of travelers view.  Take your time along the one-way tour as Cades Cove is home to a working gristmill, barns, primitive churches, and many cabins that were used by the first settlers.  Pull aside to allow those in a hurry to pass because you don’t want to miss an opportunity view wild flowers, a wild turkey, deer or even a black bear!

Even with all the beautiful backdrops throughout the Smokies, the best place to take your vacation photos is right outside your door at Carr’s Cottages!  With our park-like setting, playground, babbling brook and two swimming pools, there’ll be plenty of family fun to photograph.  We hope you’ll share your photos with us on Facebook because some of OUR best memories are the pictures of YOUR memories at Carr’s Cottages.


Pigeon Forge Rotary Club Craft Fair 2014

Annual Fall Craft Show a Highlight of October in the Smokies

October is a month ideal for heading to the Smoky Mountains and submersing yourself into everything ‘Appalachia.’  The weather is perfect for appreciating the National Park, Vols football is in full swing, and cultural celebrations and festivals are happening every weekend throughout Sevier County.  And, all year long, folks are looking forward being in Pigeon Forge during the month of October for the much loved Rotary Club Craft Fair.

From September 27 – October 25, 2014, the Rotary Club of Pigeon Forge will set stakes at Patriot Park for the 39th Annual Rotary Club Craft Festival.  This craft fair is a wonderful opportunity to shop for wares from both local and nationally skilled craftsmen and browse for handmade gifts for yourself or friends, find unique Smoky Mountain home décor, and even begin working on your Christmas shopping list.  Featured craftsmen have a proficiency in woodworking, Native American jewelry and gifts, quilts, stained glass, and so much more.  Browse the booths and get to know these talented individuals!

Pigeon Forge Rotary Club Craft Fair 2014

September 27 – October 25, 2014

For 2014, the Rotary Craft Fair is bringing “Together We Can Make a Difference” to this year’s festivities. As the Rotary Club’s biggest annual fund raiser, proceeds of booth rentals, admission donations, and concessions will benefit local organizations such as Children’s Christmas Party, Handicap Scouts, House of Hope, Programs for Disadvantaged Youth, Scholarships, Sevier Food Ministries, Youth Exchange, Boys & Girls Club and Sevier County Schools.

A donation of any size is your festival admission and is greatly appreciated.  Fair is open every day from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

It is easy to find Patriot Park in Pigeon Forge: turn off the Parkway at traffic light #7 / the Old Mill and look for the carnival tent.  Parking is free.  When you return to Carr’s, be sure to stop by the front desk so we can see what you’ve bought!

What is a Rotary Club?  To find out more about the mission and importance of Rotary, our local Rotary Club and how you can become a Rotarian in your own community, click here to visit online.

Thank you for supporting our community simply by visiting and appreciating the Great Smoky Mountains!


Fun for Kids at the Wonderful World of Ripley’s

Ripley’s Gatlinburg Aquarium and Special Events

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is pulling out all the stops this summer to entertain your kids! Even if you’ve been to the aquarium a number of times and think this might be the year that you can skip it… DON’T! There is a new exhibit appropriately named “Slime,” special guest appearances, and some creative, free fun on the Plaza all summer long.  Click here to print a Ripley’s Gatlinburg Attractions Event Calendar.

Live Mermaid Show at Ripley's Aquarium

Throughout the Month of July

The Mermaids are back! Throughout the entire month of July, you can watch live Mermaids swimming the Coral Reef every day at Noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Now through August 9, Ripley’s Aquarium is hosting a “Kid’s Fin-Tastic Summer” on the Plaza. Kids are invited to participate in free crafts and activities each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. We’re guessing this will be some ‘camera worthy’ fun that will make a great addition to your summer vacation scrapbook!

Various dates between August 16-November 15 will welcome special guest appearances from kid stars including Disney’s ‘Fletcher,’ ABC’s ‘Danny,’ Mr. Potato Head, the Cat in the Hat, and others. Their appearance will be at the aquarium and included with a regular admission ticket.

The hot topic at the aquarium is this year’s new exhibit, “SLIME.” In addition to Touch-a-Ray Bay, now your kids can touch Jellyfish at the limited-time Jellyfish Encounter too. There are over 15 videos and interactivities, and additional aquarium tanks featuring interesting and extra slimy fish and critters. We’re betting your kids are going to enjoy grossing you out with all the cool stuff they’ll learn!

We know you choose Carr’s because of the affordable, comfortable accommodations, and for the fact that your kids love the swimming pool and wading in our creek. But did you know that we sell discount aquarium tickets too? Pick up your tickets at our front desk and save.

Adult Tickets: Save $4.47   •   Kids Tickets: Save $3.35

Have a little sneak peak at what’s in store for you at the Gatlinburg Aquarium and then make your reservations to vacation with us at Carr’s!

Kids Junior Ranger Program

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

When you vacation at Carr’s Cottages, you join the ranks of generations of families that have been enjoying affordable, family vacations in East Tennessee.  We love families and kids of all ages, and hope that your kids will come to love the great outdoors as much as we do.  One way to inspire them is through the interactive Junior Ranger Program!

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just one of 300 participating parks that offer children between ages 5-12 the chance to become Junior Rangers, complete with a certificate and badge!  While your child can become a Jr Ranger at any time of the year, there are many unique, ranger-led activities to encourage kids to explore and learn about the park are scheduled during the spring, summer and fall.  Activities include such things as short hikes, learning how to pack a daypack, animal Olympics, bats, and more that your kids will absolutely love.  See some of the outdoor activities scheduled for 2014.

Become a Junior Ranger in the Smoky Mountains National Park

Earn a Junior Ranger Badge & Certificate

As a Junior Ranger, I promise to help protect the plants and animals of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and keep the air, water and land clean. I will continue to learn more about the park so I can help protect it for all the years to come.

To become a Junior Ranger, the child must complete eight of eleven different activities in a specially prepared, age-appropriate booklet (one each for ages 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12), talk with a ranger or attend a ranger-led program, and pick up a bag of trash.  The booklet includes learning skills such as identifying leaves (and poison ivy!), answering historical questions, drawing pictures and unscrambling puzzles.  Junior Ranger booklets can be purchased for $2.50 at any park visitor center, at the Cades Cove or Elkmont campground, or online at the Smokies Store.

From a parental perspective, the booklet is an outstanding, structured National Park guide created to spark a love of the outdoors through entertaining education.  After beginning with a few necessary rules such as “leave everything as you found it, don’t feed the wildlife, and don’t carve your name on a historic cabin,” the booklet quickly turns into fun and adventure for your children… and you!  Once the requirements are completed, return to a visitor center and let a staff member know that the booklet requirements have been complete.  A park ranger will proudly present your child a Jr. Ranger badge in front of everyone.  Bring your camera!!

Being welcomed into the ranks of Junior Ranger is a great honor, and one that should be celebrated!  Carr’s is just the place to commemorate the achievement with a BBQ picnic at our pavilion and a dip in the heated swimming pool, or a nighttime marshmallow roast by the creek.  Be sure to stop by the office so that we can say our congratulations too!

For additional information about becoming a Junior Ranger in the Smoky Mountain National Park, visit the NPS website.

Synchronous Fire Flies in the Great Smoky Mountains June 2015

Don’t Miss the Lightning Bugs in East Tennessee

Once a year in early summer, a most unusual light show descends upon the Smoky Mountains. With the silhouetted forest as a backdrop, thousands of fireflies flash and dazzle in sync with each other. The visual of this synchronized bioluminescence is at once enthralling and awe-inspiring. Even the black of night is exaggerated as the fireflies all go dark at the same time.

According to some, the only other place in the world where the synchronous fire fly can be observed is in Malaysia. No doubt the ticket to travel there is a lot more than the $1 for trolley service to the Elkmont area for viewing. If you missed this year’s light show, our heart goes out to you. Fortunately, the little light performers will return again next year around the second week of June.

Synchronous Fireflies in the Smoky Mountains - See the Fire Flies in June 2015

Photo by Mary Miller –

The annual phenomenon of the synchronous fireflies is worthy of planning ahead to pack up the family and head to Carr’s Cottages in June 2015.  It’s a possible once in a lifetime opportunity and a perfect time of year to explore the great outdoors.  The family can go on a scavenger hike or picnic at the Chimneys, experience wild whitewater rafting, and the kids can take part in several Jr. Ranger related activities.  Even if you prefer to stay on property, your family can wade in the creek, play horseshoes, or jump in the crystal clean swimming pool.  Life is Good at Carr’s!

Purchase Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman

Click to Purchase

Paul Fleischman and his “Fireflies: A Poem for Two Voices,” will gear you up for the show.  The poem is written to be performed aloud and will have you ‘beaming’ with pride at your achievement!  Click here to download the poem with instructions for using two or more combined voices.  If you have as much fun with this poem as we think you will, maybe you should purchase the book for entertaining fun during your travels to Gatlinburg.

When planning your trip, remember these items to enhance your firefly viewing experience:

  • Folding Chair
  • Rain Poncho
  • Flashlight with Red or Blue Cellophane Cover
  • Bottled Water
  • Camera (No Flash)

Visit the National Park Service web site for in-depth information about the synchronous fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains.

If you were here for this year’s synchronous firefly event, please share your experience and photos with us on Facebook!

Cades Cove TN

Cades Cove is a Smoky Mountains “Must See”

Cades Cove is a well-known, 500-million year old valley in the Townsend area of East Tennessee.  (Also sometimes called Caves Cove by those not from around these parts.)  Most folks who vacation at Carrs and visit the Great Smoky Mountains will surely have heard of Cades Cove, as it is one of the area’s highlights.  It captures the imagination of thousands of visitors each year with its picturesque beauty, historical dwellings and opportunities to see wildlife roaming in open fields.

Cades Cove Tennessee, also called Caves Cove

Cades Cove Tennessee
by Malcom MacGregor Photography

Nearly everyone who visits the Cove will get to see deer grazing in the fields after the heat of the day wears off, an amazing display of wildflowers in the spring and summer months, and historical log cabins dating as far back as the turn of the century. Most visitors will drive the Cove’s 11-mile paved loop but a few adventurous folks get to have an entirely different experience, one that we definitely recommend you try.  If you’re feeling up to the challenge, you can choose to pull over, park and head up one of the many foot trails that begin on the loop.  From Abram’s Falls, a 20’ waterfall and glistening pool, to virgin Tulip forests at Gregory’s Bald, there are more than a dozen options for a side trip off the main loop.   Plan to take your time and experience the landscape and its many natural and man-made features by bringing a little picnic in a backpack and some fresh water because you’re in for a real treat!

To plan the specifics of your hikes online, we recommend visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Services Official Website to obtain current trail maps & hiking guides direct from the source.  If you’re already here and staying with us at Carr’s Cottages, stop by Sugarlands Welcome Center or the Gatlinburg Welcome Center for everything you’ll need to make the most of your Cades Cove visit.

Please keep in mind that while your visiting any protected areas of our National Park, it is against the law to disturb or remove anything such as natural souvenirs like rocks, wood, flowers/petals or even small animals.  Wildlife protection laws are in place to protect the creatures that call our Park home as well as our visitors.  Do not feed the animals or approach them, and please do not leave any trash or debris behind after your visit.  We hope that everyone can be respectful of our National treasure so that generations to come will also be able to enjoy this wonderful gift.

(The photo above is just one of the many fabulous photographs of Cades Cove and other parts of the Great Smoky Mountains by Malcom MacGregor.  Visit online at Malcom MacGregor Photography to order keepsake photos and calendars.)