I seriously cannot say enough good things about the vacation my family and I took to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area. A huge component of our vacation’s awesomeness was staying at the Wilderness at the Smokies resort!
One thing that immediately pleased my husband and I was the ease with which we were able to locate Wilderness at the Smokies, and it’s actually in Sevierville, which travelers will reach before they would reach Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg when traveling from the West (passing Knoxville). This makes a difference when traveling with a bunch of children who are anxious to reach the vacation destination. As soon as we saw the resort’s entrance, my children perked up and then went crazy over all of the awesome water slides that can be seen from the road.
The outside of the resort was well-manicured and inviting, and we quickly located the main lodge where I needed to check in. Upon walking in to the lobby, I was warmly greeted by the front desk staff as I looked around at the luxurious but homey decor around me.
I could see the resort’s gift shop and a deli/ice cream shop, as well as the grand staircase. After being given my room keys, I walked back outside to my family and we drove down to another door to get a luggage cart, as the front desk suggested. We loaded up our ridiculous amount of luggage and headed up to the room.
Let me just say that I was seriously apprehensive about sleeping in a hotel room with all four of our children…. They’re loud, can be rambunctious, and I usually have to separate the youngest one from her siblings so anyone can get some sleep. The design of the Bunk Suite was PERFECT for our family of six, and would also be perfect for other families with kids.
There was a nice-sized bathroom to the left as we entered the room, with a separate vanity area on the right-hand wall outside of the bathroom, so that the sink/mirror area could be used by one person while another used the toilet/shower room. Walking farther into the room, there was a bunk bed set with a roomy twin bed on top and a double bed below it.
The kids immediately started claiming their sleeping spots, but I wound up assigning both boys to sleep on the top bunk and the girls to sleep on the bottom bunk. My boys are 8 and 6, and large for their ages, but slept comfortably together on that top bunk! This area also has a TV/DVR and a Microwave/refrigerator/wet bar area. As we continued to the far side of the room, there was a luxurious, inviting Queen size bed for my husband and me, and our area of the room was separated by a half-wall, with a larger TV for us to use.
This set-up was so incredibly perfect, because not only could the kids watch something different from us at night, but we could also stay awake after the kids went to sleep without keeping them awake. Genius.
As soon as we unpacked, the kids were anxious to get dressed in their swimming attire and head to the Wild WaterDomeindoor water park…. Yes I said INDOOR. Wilderness at the Smokies keeps it a warm 84 degrees, year-round, so it’s something that even winter visitors will be able (and should!) take advantage of! The ceiling of the Waterdome also allows for year-round sun exposure, so that you can get a tan if you want, but the children’s areas of the Dome are out of the way of the sun exposure, which makes a ton of sense.
We walked down a long hallway past other rooms to arrive in the “Wilderness Adventure Forest” which was connected to the Indoor Waterpark. I will revisit the Adventure Forest later, but know that it was super-impressive to enter…
With a rock-climbing wall,
indoor mini-bowling alley
and arcade games galore. The indoor waterpark was bustling with tons of guests who were enjoying the amazing wave-pool, kids’ play area called Washout Mountain, and several impressive water slides.
We claimed our towels at the towel counter and the kids all got measured to find out which areas of the indoor waterpark they were big enough to enjoy. They were wristbanded with color-coded that signified to them andthelifeguards where they could appropriately play, and it effectively solves the issue of younger siblings protesting their parents’ rulings on which areas were off-limits. We got in the wave pool first and had a blast in the provided intertubes, as the waves sloshed us to and fro. We then split up for a while, with my husband taking the three older kids to the water slides and me taking our youngest daughter (age 2) to the toddler play area. She built up her confidence with the slides and foot-deep pool, and then we headed to the Washout Mountain.
I followed her around for her safety, but she happily climbed up the playground equipment as fountains and sprinklers squirted her, to her delight. I was able to ride a water slide with her in this area (the only one she was large enough to ride) and she loved it! After my older kids were done trying out and loving the four BIG water slides, they all played happily in this area for quite awhile. Soon thereafter, my oldest son spotted the Wave-rider experience, and decided to attempt it. His younger sister and brother joined him in waiting in line for this ride while the little one and their daddy sat with me to watch them.
It took them awhile of waiting to reach their turns, but when they did, it was well worth it. Cody, the lifeguard manning this ride, took individual time and are with each guest to make sure that they were able to get the hang of riding the wakeboard and ensured that they each had a fantastic time. It was obvious to anyone watching that this guys LOVES his job, and that truly makes all of the difference in an experience. We were all worn out after this ride, so we headed for our room to rest and clean up for supper.
At Suppertime, we headed for The Thirsty Miner and had a fantastic meal.
I enjoyed the steak with a red wine, mushroom sauce, and my husband had an amazing shrimp and grits dish. One of the fantastic things about this resort restaurant is that one child eats free, per adult. So, being that my oldest son eats like a horse, we allowed him to order an adult meal, and all of the other kids ate for free! The children’s meals were large enough for us to take leftovers to the room for later snacking, as well, thanks to the microwave and fridge in our room. I also had an amazing drink from their extensive bar that contained two types of blackberry moonshine….. I HIGHLY recommend that!
The next day we did some off-resort-grounds sightseeing (much to the initial disappointment of the kids who were dying to go back to the waterpark) but spent lots of time in the Adventure Forest when we returned. The boys and my husband played black-light, indoor mini-golf ($4.00 per player) while I watched our girls enjoy the huge climbing/play place called the Cub’s Climbing Den (free for resort guests).
We then took on the Mega Arcade and loved the huge variety of games available (token-based play). We didn’t attempt the rock climbing wall, indoor bowling alley or ropes course because we ran out of time! Trust me, when we get to come back (and we are looking forward to that!) we will be trying those out for sure.
Both nights we all slept soundly in our beds, and the kids cried when we had to leave for home. I cannot recommend Wilderness at the Smokies enough for the value, cleanliness, entertainment value and family-friendly environment that it provides. Knowing that they decorate beautifully for the Holiday Season make me want to book a trip for that time of year…. But I’m also excited about coming back when it’s warm enough outside to enjoy the outdoor water parks! Do yourself and your family a favor by checking this resort out…. You’ll be thankful you did!
Have you ever been to Wilderness at the Smokies?! What did you like best?
*In exchange for writing this review, my family received free lodging at Wilderness at the Smokies for two nights. We paid for all food, drinks and arcade entertainment ourselves. All opinions are my own… I wouldn’t steer you wrong!*