Give me the mountains. Any mountains. I love the mountains. I know that sounds funny coming from a guy who was born and raised in one of the flattest parts of Kentucky, but that's my preference.

Every time I see one of those vacation surveys and am given the choice between the beach or the mountains, I always pick the latter. And, yes, I love the beach and can veg out in a chair on the sand like nobody's business. But the mountains edge the ocean ever so slightly for me.

Whether it be the southern Rockies where I spent a lot of time growing up, or the Appalachians which are never a long trip, I'm at peace with the world where the tree lines meet the sky.

And the Great Smoky Mountains--part those Appalachians--are welcome sights any time of the year. Pair them with all Gatlinburg has to offer in 2023, and you have the perfect retreat. But I don't have to tell YOU that, do I? I didn't think so. Maybe all I have to do is lay out all this cool new stuff to do as suggested by the city itself.


We might as well start with Anakeesta, the Gatlinburg theme park undergoing its largest expansion to date in 2023.

One facet of that expansion is the all-new Astra Lumina, an extraordinary addition that Anakeesta describes here:

Set off across mysterious observatory grounds to discover a celestial pathway of lustrious light, cosmic visions, and astral song. Immerse yourself in illuminating encounters of lighting, projection and sound, and connect with the stars before they return to the sky above.


Now, let's bring the lights down...literally, but only to the rooftop. The Firelight Rooftop is what it's called and it's a new Gatlinburg addition in 2023. And it's exactly what you think it is. Adult beverages under the stars with a possible side of tapas-style goodies. As for the opening date, it seems they will keep us posted.


What about dinner? Fans already know Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains region is a veritable smorgasbord of great dining (pun intended), and Cumberland Jack's is among the newest east Tennessee has to offer.

Here's what to expect, according to the Cumberland Jack's website:

At Cumberland Jack’s we start every day with fresh ingredients to create the types of food that harken back to the days when the fourth generation of settlers were carving out a living in the shadows of the mountain range that Paul and his dog Jack would climb.

By the way, "Paul" is Paul Adams, and he was hired to build the first lodge on Mount LeConte back in the 1920s. Cumberland Jack was his German shepherd.

And the menu reflects the down home vibe that's always present in the Great Smoky Mountains. Who wouldn't want to sink their teeth into smoked meatloaf, mountain trout (personally, my favorite food fish--nothing better), or Thanksgiving dinner any time of the year. And those are just three of many mouth-watering entrees. You can view the full menu here. (Did you see those sides? I might have to have a vegetable plate.)

It sounds like an exciting 2023 in Gatlinburg. No, I know you'd go anyway, but one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet will ALWAYS grow, and that will always put Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and vicinity high on everyone's vacation destination list.

[SOURCE: Gatlinburg TN Guide]

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