Be sure to pack your ski parka and bathing suit before heading to Sevierville, Tenn., where you can enjoy both outdoor winter adventures as well as exciting family fun at a giant indoor waterpark and resort. Only about a four-hour drive from Lake Norman, Sevierville is an easy getaway that offers visitors plenty to see and do, and it’s all within a scenic setting that includes the rugged Smoky Mountains.
Stay and PlayWith loads of amenities and a convenient layout—which is especially nice if you’re traveling with kids—Wilderness at the Smokies is an ideal place to stay. The resort’s accommodations include River Lodge, which offers everything from small studios to spacious multibedroom suites with full kitchens and family rooms with fireplaces. River Lodge is connected to the resort’s Wild Water Dome, Tennessee’s largest indoor water park, as well as a family adventure center with climbing walls, ropes course, arcade, and other activities. For something a little more upscale and private, stay at the resort’s Stone Hill Lodge, where rooms have mountain-modern décor and amenities such as flat screen TVs, refrigerators, microwaves, and coffee makers. The lodge also has a bar, restaurant, boutique, and fitness center. The resort provides shuttle service from Stone Hill Lodge to the main River Lodge and waterpark.
Aqua ActionRegardless of the weather, it’s always a balmy 84 degrees at Wild Water Dome. The state-of-the-art, 66,000-square-foot indoor waterpark offers twisting and turning inner tube rides and a rollicking, 10,000-square-foot wavepool. There’s also a five-story raft ride that winds through a giant tunnel with 450 feet of water curtains, sharp turns, 360-degree loops, and a 60-foot drop. Adrenaline junkies are sure to love the new body surfing attraction that pumps 19,000 gallons of water each minute, creating a constant five-foot wave. For younger guests, there’s a kiddie pool with interactive toys, as well as a multi-level tower with slides and spraying water features. The water park also has a café and bar, and it’s all under a see-through roof, so even when you’re inside you can relax on a chaise longue and catch some rays.When you’ve had enough of the waterpark, head next door to Adventure Forest. This multifaceted indoor center has a 25-foot climbing wall, three-story ropes course, laser tag, mini-golf, bowling, kids’ rides, and an arcade with more than 100 games. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, the resort has a variety of dining options, including casual delis and cafes, as well as family restaurants that serve breakfast and dinner buffets. At all the restaurants kids (11 and under) eat free for each adult buffet purchased.
Outdoor AdventuresAs much as there is to do at Wilderness at the Smokies, you’d be missing out of you didn’t also explore the many outdoor pursuits around Sevierville. A great way to get a bird’s eye view of the area’s rugged beauty is via Scenic Helicopter Tours. In addition to sightseeing trips of the rivers, lakes and rolling foothills around Sevierville and nearby Pigeon Forge, the company also offers tours of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including such iconic features as the 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Tennessee. You can explore the area while soaring through the treetops at Adventure Park Zip Lines at Five Oaks (www.adventureparkatfiveoaks.com). This 70-acre nature park has seven zip lines that range from 450 to 2,500 feet long. There’s also the 400-acre Legacy Mountain Ziplines (www.adventureziplinesofpigeonforge.com), which has 4.5 miles of lines, some of which are 450 feet off the ground. And with the leaves off the trees during the winter months, views of the mountains are that much more expansive. Just up the road in Gatlinburg, you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, tubing and ice skating at Ober Gatlinburg (www.obergatlinburg.com). This amusement park is situated at 3,300 feet and boasts nine ski trails and a terrain park. There’s also an expansive indoor ice arena, as well as a 2.1-mile aerial tramway, where you can catch great views of the Smoky Mountains. When you’re ready for a break, Ober has numerous restaurants and a mall with shops that sell everything from clothing, footwear, candy, and accessories. Finally, this year marks the 25th anniversary of Smoky Mountain Winterfest. Sevierville partners with the neighboring towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to create an amazing holiday light show that lasts until late February. And while you’re out exploring the area you may want to take advantage of the post-holiday sales at Tanger Outlets, where hundreds of stores offer brand name and designer fashions and accessories, along with housewares, china, home décor, luggage, toys, books, and food specialty items. www.tangeroutlet.com/sevierville.