Gatlinburg Tennessee Review

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Tennessee

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are located in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Located about 15 minutes apart from each other, people usually visit both within the same trip. With both towns offering different types of things to do, you are sure to find fun stuff to keep you and your kids busy having fun.

In this Article, we will go over my families experience in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We have vacationed in both places multiple times and have a good understanding of what they have to offer, what are “must does” and even the stuff to stay away from.

I firstly want to introduce my family and tell you a little about us. This way, you know what we look for in vacation.

My name is Vince and my wife and I have been married since June 1st, 2001. We have to boys, ages 14, 9 and one daughter age 4, we all love doing stuff as a family. We enjoy camping, nature and going on vacation of course. Gatlinburg Tennessee is about 6 hours from our home in Indiana near Cincinnati, Ohio.

 Gatlinburg VS. Pigeon Forge

 A quick overview of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

We have made our way back from our latest trip to Gatlinburg Tennessee and had a great time. Even though I love my in-laws, five nights was long enough (I’m sure you understand). For you that have never heard of Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge it is roughly 50 minutes southeast of Knoxville. Gatlinburg has a ton of shops a sky lift and all the Ripley’s attractions among a lot more that we will go over. Pigeon Forge has all the Go Karts you can handle along with some great eats, mini golf and the daredevil rides to see if it is your time to meet our Lord.


The town of Gatlinburg is known for most of the shopping, sky lifts, smaller restaurants and indoor attractions. They do have some cool outdoor stuff that we will go over but I consider them part of the lifts. Gatlinburg is the original town that has been a staple in the Smokey Mountains for a long time. There is a lot of history here and even a lot of country sounds mentioning the town. In recent years it has turned into a tourist trap from hell, not a bad thing but more commercialized in the past 15 years.

Pigeon Forges

Is known for Dollywood, all the go-carts you can handle, more flea market type shopping, restaurants, thrill rides, etc.

Though the towns are not far from each other, traffic can be horrible at times, especially the days when people are leaving and coming to town at the same time. There is one main road in and one out.

Where to Stay

Gatlinburg cabins or hotels?

Though we did not camp we did stay in a cabin. Gatlinburg Tennessee has many of great camp grounds to choose from but to be truthful, the cabins are they way to go in my opinion.

Depending on what time of year you visit will depend one the price you pay. Gatlinburg has stuff to offer all year round, but the time of year will still have effect on what you play. We have seen rooms as low as $24 a night and around $39 for the nicer hotels during the off season when kids are in school. During the summer, you will pay much more.

If you like the outdoors, I suggest doing what we do and that is renting a cabin during your stay. There are many to choose from but most are unreachable in winter months. We usually stay in a cabin between the two towns but more toward Gatlinburg (8-10 minutes from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge). These are a little cheaper but still run around $150-$200 per night for a two bedroom. Between the pinball, arcade, Foosball, pool table and hot tub this is the way to go if you have the money. You can get from a one bedroom to a cabin that sleeps 20 people. One point to make here is to do your research, we have stayed at a dump before because we didn’t research first. But we have also stayed at some huge places that overlooked the Smokies for the same price. A google search will give you many choices.

Places to Eat

Get your eat on!

The food can be good in both towns. The main place that I recommend is the Old Mill restaurant located in Pigeon Forge. You will not be disappointed, if you order the meatloaf you will get a pound or more, and then corn chowder, mash potatoes, green beans, salad, fritters and desert. I think the cost was $18.I have heard The Alamo Steakhouse is great but I have never been, it is over my cheap budget.

Bennett’s Bar-B-Que located in Gatlinburg is good but you don’t get as much as I would expect from a BBQ place.

On the way in to Pigeon Forge from the main highways, you pass Flap Jack’s and this place is a must stop for breakfast on the way back home. We stop by on our way out every time that we are in town.

By now I’m sure you know that I like to eat, but one more stop you have to make is on the strip in Gatlinburg, it is at the video arcade and they have huge foot long corn dogs and sausages with peppers and onions. You will find it a little pricey but it is a must stop for one of your lunches.

You will also find your common chain restaurants in Pigeon Forges, but why would you eat at a place like that when you have so many local places?

There are many more local restaurants but the above mentioned places is the places we go almost (if not) every trip. Since we get a cabin in Gatlinburg, we cook most of the time to save money. We usually eat breakfast out once on our way out of town, go out to dinner once per trip and eat lunch out more often because it can be a hassle to go back to the cabin just to eat.

Things to do

Attractions of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

There is many attractions you can visit but plan to bring some money. Like any other tourist trap, nothing is cheap. Go-Karts are huge in Pigeon Forge and the NASCAR Speedpark has a deal of I believe $30 all you can ride. Most other places charge between $5.00-$8.00 per ride of I think 8 minutes. You will find many track layouts from figure 8 to corkscrew to oval tracks. If you like to ride go-carts, you will be in heaven.

If you are looking for rides, Ober Gatlinburg is a good choice, you can either take the tram up the mountain for $10 adults, kids under 7 free or make the drive. Once you get to the top, it is $20 all you can ride. They have many rides, water slides but our favorite was the Alpine Slide. A large hill, a slide on wheels and you controlling it, what could go wrong lol…If you enjoy putt-putt, then you will have a lot of choices. You will find many themed courses around both towns. Our favorite is the Hillbilly golf course in Gatlinburg. You play going down the side of a mountain and my son swears that some of the statues are of some of our family members 🙂

Pigion Forge has many of the thrill rides on the strip but we have never rode them. I have never trusted the whole death ride next to the road thing.

You also have Dollywood that we have never been to.

I could go on forever on the attractions but go-carts, Ober Gatlinburg and Dollywood are the main selections.

Over all

Over all, this is a great family vacation spot. Up in the mountains, go-karts, good food and plenty of kid friendly stuff to do. What else can you ask for in life? Oh yea, there is a large number of chapels in case you want to tie the knot in the mountains. We have been a large number of times and will continue to go back.

Gatlinburg Poll – Tell us why you like or do not like Gatlinburn below the poll in the comment section!

The JTTVO J3000 Review: My New Backup Fishing Reel

I have been on the hunt for a cheap backup fishing reel over the winter. I picked up the JTTVO J3000 in hopes it will take the job. Today we are going to take a closer look at eh JTTVO J3000, cover the features and cover my initial thoughts.

Why I Picked the JTTVO J3000

As you might have guessed, JTTVO is not a well known brand and I believe can only be picked up online. Most of the time, I would have passed over a “no name” fishing reel but a couple things stuck out to me.


JTTVO J3000 diagram

Photo by Manufacture

Today, many manufactures are using plastic. I’ll never use a plastic body reel. You will just be asking for trouble out on the water. The JTTVO series fishing reels seem to built well.

  • Full metal body
  • Brass gears
  • Stainless steel shaft
  • Carbon and stainless steel drag washers

That along with the price seemed hard to beat…


Seeing the above quality parts and noticing the price is what got me to take a closer look and consider this reel. Just under $30 when I purchased, the price is a step down to most best for your buck reels (I’ll be sharing those in another post soon).

My main bass reel is not an expensive fishing reel in any regards (Okuma). But the price is still closer to $50. I wanted a second set up in case of disaster but also didn’t want to invest a lot in it. The price of the JTTVO is on point to fill my needs and not too much if it breaks.

The Satisfaction Guarantee

JTTVO claims that “we support the replacement even a full refund anytime”. As to official warranty, I’m waiting to hear back from them on that (just reached out). Many manufacturers don’t throw that out there, especially on a $30 reel. It’s good to know that if I don’t like it, I’m able to return with no issues.

My JTTVO Fishing Reel Review

So, this is my initial review of the JTTVO J3000. I will update this review once I get some good water time with it.

The company offers the following sizes:

  • J2000 (ultralight)
  • J3000 (largmouth size fish)
  • J4000 (larger fish, stripers, catfish, etc)
  • J5000 (big blues, large shovel, saltwater, etc)


I purchased the J3000 from Amazon (found here) using my prime account. Since it is fulfilled by Amazon, it was at my door in 2 days. It came double boxed.


JTTVO J3000 unboxing

I was pretty impressed with the weight, look and build.

A cool feature, the handle

JTTVO J3000 handle button to fold in handle

Besides being able to go from left handed to right handed, I noticed a nice feature that I didn’t notice before buying this fishing reel. In the above photo, you will see a button on the bottom of the handle. This is a release to fold it in.

Most other reels have a screw cap on the other side of the reel to loosen the handle allowing you to fold the handle in. I have never seen a fishing reel with a button. If they are out there, I have never seen one. This feature made my day and will be used often.


The JTTVO J3000 compared to my Okuma C-30

The JTTVO J3000 compared to my Okuma C-30

In the above photo, you see the JTTVO J3000 next to my Okuma C-30. The J3000 is larger than the Okuma but not as much as it may seem in the photo. The C-30 is on the small side of fishing reels and I say that the J3000 is the size you would expect to see on a bass rig.


The reel paired with 8LB Mono SpiderLine

I paired my new reel with some 8LB Mono SpiderLine.

Adding line

The reel lined well laying the line out as even as you can get. The smooth action of the internal parts gives this fishing reel a nice feel. No issues to report.


For testing purposes, I used a small 3/0 (1/4 oz I think) slit shot weight to test casting. Most of what I will be using while on the water will be much heavier than this. I just wanted to see how smooth the casting is and what type of control I can get out of the JTTVO J3000.

Using the 3/0 sinker, I was getting about 15 yards with a flip of the wrist. The cast is smooth and no binding or catching. Now, the rod and line have something to do with cast quality as well. I’m using a 6.5 foot medium/heavy action rod and brand new line. But I can’t complain.


I can only attest to my testing situation for now. I will share more information here once I get out on the water and bring in some pigs using this reel.

The handle has an anti-reverse system that doesn’t give anything back when your setting your hook. This is a nice feature as well. See, on some reels when you pull on the line, the reel will reverse a half inch or so. This takes away from setting the hook and puts a jolt on your line when set. When anti-reverse is used, there is no play from where your handle stops and when the line gets hit with tension.

The one thing I will say, is that when reeling in, I did hear a little noise from this reel. Not much but someone may not like that. I will also say that I went from the box to testing. A little fishing reel oil may fix this.

The Conclusion

Okay, so this isn’t the final conclusion as I will be updating this review in the next few weeks after getting some water time. We’ll say the initial conclusion for now lol.


  • Heavy duty build
  • Very smooth
  • Anti-reverse option on a cheap fishing reel
  • Looks good
  • Quality beats other reels in this price rage
  • The guaranty form the company


  • Not a well known brand (yet)
  • Possibly a little noise with tension