6 Terrific Suggestions for a Rainy Day in the Smoky Mountains

eastern tennessee family travel general Jan 09, 2023
Rainy Day in the Smoky Mountains

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater….

ISAIAH 55:10


If you’ve done much traveling in the United States, you’ve discovered that not every day of every trip will have perfect weather. It’s easy to be disappointed when this happens during your family trip as we recently found when we experienced a rainy day in the Smoky Mountains.  After so much anticipation and excitement, your plans experience a massive change or even come to a complete halt, particularly if the day’s events were counting on sunny, warm weather to delight your kids! 

Rainy Day in the Smoky Mountains

While we love the opportunities that blue skies and warm breezes bring, we’ve come to appreciate some other activities we can do on any trip, no matter the weather. This has been particularly valuable when our family has gone traveling in the beautiful Smoky Mountains near the Tennessee towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

 A Word of Advice: Watch the Weather!

When planning our trips, we always try to take weather into account. We can’t predict things weeks in advance, but a quick google search can give you a lot of good information about your destination’s typical climate. And as the time of your trip nears, part of your planning should include monitoring the expected weather forecast while you’ll be gone. If you anticipate rain in the late morning or afternoon, try to do your outdoor activities in the early morning or evening, if possible. 

Since you can’t predict everything, it’s good to have a few ideas in your back pocket.  Below, we’ve listed six that our kids have approved!

1) Hiking Trails during a rainy day in the Smoky Mountains

During a recent trip to the Smoky Mountains, we had plans to go hiking. We saw that rain was expected to start in the late morning, so we decided to eat an early breakfast and hit the trail as soon as the sun came up so that we didn’t miss our window of good weather. 

Our youngest is only five, and while she’s a trooper, we can’t generally take her on long and strenuous treks yet. We try to find trails that are scenic but not overly challenging for our younger children. Recently, we hiked a short stretch of the Appalachian Trail starting at the Newfound Gap parking area, and the easy journey was really beautiful. 

We were blessed to get our hike in before the rain started, and it also felt very efficient to be out and about first thing!  It was nice not to feel the pressure of canceling due to rain.

2) Indoor Swimming

Your family may relate to this – our kids are always up for a trip to the pool!  We usually try to stay at a location that has a swimming option. It’s a great backup plan when other activities fall through.  

If we are traveling somewhere that is often on the cooler side, we try to find a place to stay that either has an indoor pool or an outdoor heated pool.  If there’s a chance of rain, we will definitely opt for the indoor pool!  Pools are an excellent way to stay active and burn off energy, especially when you are looking for activities during a rainy day in the Smoky Mountains.

3) Take a Nap

This may sound a bit boring, but napping on vacation can actually be a great activity during a rainy day in the Smoky Mountains!  Parents of small children, you know what we’re talking about! We have found that our entire family does better during our travels if we can take regular naps or at least lay down to rest for a specific “quiet hour” (usually 30-60 minutes) each day. It allows both parents and kids a chance to rest and refresh in preparation for the evening or remaining portions of the trip. 

While not all of our children will actually fall asleep during this designated time, we do have them all resting on their beds. If you are newly introducing this routine to your family, your kids might resist.  If you persist with consistency, however, it may not be a battle for long—kids value predictability.  

4) Attend a Show or Performance

There are various shows in Pigeon Forge, TN that you can attend on a rainy day in the Smoky Mountains. This is another great way to make memories as a family when you can’t participate in outdoor activities. Of course, other families may have similar ideas, so it might be helpful to call ahead and reserve seats!  

On a recent rainy day in the Smoky Mountains, we were blessed to watch the talented performers at the Pirates Voyage dinner show. Check out our previous post about our experience…it was a great one!

5) Hit the Road

If the weather is too sketchy to attempt a hike or walk outdoors, a scenic drive is another great option during a rainy day in the Smoky Mountains.  Many beautiful roads take you in and around the Smoky Mountains, which all family members can enjoy. 

One drive our family particularly enjoys is the Foothills Parkway. It is a relatively short journey and close to Pigeon Forge. It is easy to access, offers stunning scenery with amazing views of the Smoky Mountains, and had very little traffic.

6) Watch a Movie

Our kids love to watch movies together, but we rarely sit down to watch an entire film as a family during our busy day-to-day lives. A rainy day in the Smoky Mountains is a great opportunity to enjoy a new movie or old family favorite. Sometimes this means we all head to a local theater, and sometimes this means staying in and curling up on the couches in our rental.

Many accommodations now have smart TVs that allow you to stream your personal Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu accounts. Others include a library of films on site for families to enjoy. On a recent rainy day in Pigeon Forge, we were able to find Tangled on one of our subscriptions, and the kids enjoyed watching it from their beds.

Putting It All Together

Our family enjoys creating memories together through traveling. We often have these experiences carefully planned out in advance, and it can be frustrating for us when we have to change our plans due to the weather. Early on in our family life, we may have let the weather ruin our day a few times.  We’ve wisened up.  We are determined to enjoy the time together, even if we have to resort to backup plans. 

As parents, we try to keep a positive outlook on the day even when the weather is not ideal. We recognize that our children are always looking and listening to us and will reflect our attitude toward the weather or other inconveniences out of our control. We want to model cheerfulness, thankfulness, and adaptability when things don’t “go our way.”

Personal Story 

On a recent trip to the Smoky Mountains, we started the day with a great breakfast followed by a hike on a short portion of the Appalachian Trail. On the way back into town, we were able to stop for another short hike and reproduce a picture we had taken four years earlier at Cataract Falls. We headed back to our condo to go swimming. 

However, due to thunderstorms, it wasn’t safe to swim.  Everyone had had a full morning, so we decided that it was an excellent time to rest and recharge. In the afternoon, we drove into Pigeon Forge for the Pirates Voyage dinner show. It still wasn’t even 5:00 when we finished, so we went for a scenic drive on the Foothills Parkway. 

Eventually, the rain began to let up, and we went to get ice cream (it was dry enough to eat outdoors), then drove home to our condo and enjoyed a family movie before the kids went to bed. Our children all maintained good attitudes throughout the day, even though we had to modify our plans. They enjoyed the alternative activities, and we were pleasantly surprised at how much fun we all had at Pirates Voyage!

While not all of these “backup plan” ideas are options for every destination, many of them can be done at popular vacation resorts or destinations. We try to have some indoor alternatives for our family trips, just in case we do have a rainy day or two (as we did on this recent journey). 

This helps us feel like we get our entire vacation, rather than feeling like we wasted a day waiting for blue skies. Our kids get to see that just because plans change, all is not lost. We plan to continue our travels to the Smoky Mountains, ready to have fun with our kids, rain or shine.

 Key Points

·       While it can be frustrating when it interferes with our vacation plans, we must remember that rain is a gift from God.

·       In order to be a good steward of the gift of travel, it is important to keep an eye on the weather forecast and be prepared to adjust plans accordingly.

·       Depending on your family’s interests, you can utilize many indoor activities to create shared family memories at most vacation destinations.

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