Gatlinburg in the winter is a different sort of town than Gatlinburg in the summer.
When we took our recent adventure to the mountain town, we found it sleepy and quiet and that’s exactly the way we liked it. Traffic was minimal (except for the weekend) and the streets were not overcrowded and the restaurants had no wait time. Again – that’s exactly what we love – especially when we are always a party of six (at least) and generally tables for six are not as readily available at peak times.
The Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was hands down our favorite activity of the week, but we had some great laughs and funny moments at several other stopping points along the Gatlinburg streets.
In exchange for writing honest reviews, the kind folks who run all of the Ripley’s attractions offered us tickets to a few of their other museums and amusements. I’ll be sharing all three reviews in a three part series over the next week or so. ~Lacey Keigley
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Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze
The first choice for us, after visiting the aquarium, was to walk down the street to Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze. The Mirror Maze is right on Gatlinburg’s main street and it’s very easy to walk from anywhere you park in town. (Lucky for us, we just left our car in the aquarium parking lot, which was convenient.)
The lobby of the mirror maze features two gigantic walls of candy so – you know – parents beware. Your kids will definitely ask for candy. You can say no, naturally. I didn’t want to purchase pounds of sugar and food dye and banana flavored everything, but I also remember what it was like as a kid to be looking at a WALL of dreamy candy so I offered a quick compromise to my band of kids. “Everyone can pick two pieces of candy,” I told them. Oddly enough, they were thrilled and quite satisfied. So they each chose literally two single pieces of candy – and we were all content. A little sugar versus begging and copious amounts of sugar. Or, again – you can just say no. Isn’t it funny, parents? You really do get the choice.
We were kind of extra excited about the concept of a mirror maze because most of us have been reading the book series of The Mysterious Benedict Society and the kids in the novel series are always facing challenges and puzzles and this mirror maze felt like our own challenge and puzzle.
The employees told us to put on plastic gloves that they provided – gigantic, ill-fitting plastic gloves – so that we would be more hygienic as we touched the mirrors that every other guest has most assuredly been touching as well. I tried to avert my thoughts from the finger touched mirrors and just tried to think of the fun of conquering a maze with my children.
We decided to all hold hands to add to our experience and because we genuinely thought we might face the possibility of getting lost from one another inside the maze.
That probably wouldn’t have happened.
The mirrors were everywhere – as they should be in a maze – and they certainly played tricks on your mind as to which direction to turn and which door to take and where to go next.
There was an “infinity” room that made me laugh a lot – mostly because of the song blaring – was it Journey? – and the lights flashing and the disco ball. All those quirky details, you know.
Our technique of making it through the maze was rather effective as we found the ending in record time. But, because we liked the mirrors and we wanted more of a challenge, we decided to pretend we didn’t find the exit and kept trucking through the corners and the twists and the turns all over again just for fun.
Also, we discovered a fundamental truth concerning mirror mazes. Fundamental, I tell you. It is this: You should choose your outfit wisely and fix your hair carefully before entering said mirror maze. Because you are going to be seeing yourself from every angle. Every. Angle. And you’re going to want to leave this mirror maze with some self-respect intact. Every. Angle.[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Also, we discovered a fundamental truth concerning mirror mazes. Fundamental, I tell you. ‘” quote=”‘Also, we discovered a fundamental truth concerning mirror mazes. Fundamental, I tell you. ‘” theme=”style3″]
There you go. I’ve covered the walls of candy and the dress yourself correctly bits. They were important.
As far as the maze itself goes, it really was lots of fun. It was speedy, though. And that’s a little hard to swallow to spend money to be in and out of an attraction in ten minutes or less. When you buy the Mirror Maze as part of the an add-on ticket, it hurts a little less.
I’d say the key to all Gatlinburg attractions is the same, keep your expectations in line. Recognize that this is not Disney. This is Gatlinburg, Tennessee. These are mirror mazes and world record museums and 5D moving theaters on a street in a mountain town. A town that sells footlong corn dogs at place called Fannie Farkle’s for the same price that you can buy two kids’ meals at Chick-fil-A.
Be reasonable, guys.
If you are visiting Gatlinburg for the second (or thirtieth) time, you already know this.
And you’re okay with it.
You’re making these return trips to Pigeon Forge and to Gatlinburg, to the cabins and to the go cart rides, to the outlets and to the pancake houses, because it’s nostalgic, because you first came to Gatlinburg as a kid with your Memaw and your Pepaw, because you brought your toddlers here and you remember how big their eyes grew when they first ordered their silver dollar pancakes at the Pancake Pantry and rode their first roller coaster at Dollywood and you like the idea of returning to the same quirky streets that seem like they never change, old time photo shops on every corner and a gem store and wooden guns and beanie babies. That’s why you come to Gatlinburg.
So you stroll through the mirror maze and you let the kids buy a couple of pieces of candy and you stop in for the free fudge samples (always take the free fudge, people) and you admire the hand crafted wooden knives and you buy the funnel cake and you stack up those memories and that nostalgia for all its worth.
Expectations, friends. Most adventures fare better when you can manage your expectations.
Book your tickets here (purchasing via this link allows a small amount of the proceeds to go to Kidding Around Greenville).
Are you traveling to Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge? See our other travel reviews: