I gained new respect for North Carolina today when I saw the vast difference in the way that state treated the majestic Great Smoky Mountains National Park vs. Tennessee.
On the southern entrance near Cherokee, N.C., there are a modest amount of hotels and shops leading to the park. On the northern side, there is the commercial monstrosity of Gatlinburg and Pigeon, Forge, Tenn. It reminded us of Myrtle Beach, S.C. in the hideous overabundance of billboards, amusement parks and general tourist trap businesses.
It came as a real shock to enter the Tennessee madness after the serenity and stunning beauty of the park.
We were so moved by the bright autumn colors and the mist over the mountains. We had taken a slow-paced stroll around a log cabin historic exhibit and a river and oohed and ah-ed over the roadside waterfalls. Then… back to commercialism with a vengeance!
We were glad to get past it all and head to Knoxville, Tenn., which we knew nothing about. We were impressed to find the World’s Fair Park, which was the site of the 1982 World’s Fair and features the towering Sunsphere.
We took the free elevator up to the fourth floor observation deck and got a panoramic view of the city, including a glimpse of the University of Tennessee. Then we headed to the nearby Holiday Inn to see the huge Rubik’s Cube that was on display at the World’s Fair. Nice 1980s nostalgia moment for me.