Acadia or Smokey Mountains

Hi all! We are starting to think about our non-Disney vacation for this year and was seeking opinions for these "new to us" options.

I am at the very very beginning stages of planning so have little researched yet.

Any opinions on Acadia vs. Smokey Mountains? Or we would be open to other ideas too.

Would be DH, me, DD(12), DS (12), DS (6), and the baby who will be 6-9 months depending on when we go.

I know we really can't go wrong with either choice. Do you think one is more baby friendly than the other? Thanks!
 

mgarbowski

Well-known member
I've done both fairly recently on photo trips, Acadia in 2014 and GSM 2 months ago, but neither with family or kids. My impression is Acadia is more baby friendly in that most of the picturesque locations we visited were very close to the road and did not hiking more than 100 yards, often less, and usually pretty flat ground. But as for the other elements of being baby friendly, or having good activities for kids, I could not say.
 

ChristineOH

Active member
I hesitate to answer, as it's been many years since I have been to either park. (Maybe 30 years for Smokies and 22 for Acadia.)

Besides the obvious difference of it being by the ocean, I remember doing pretty intense hiking at Acadia... like ledges and climbing ladder rungs attached to the side of the mountain. I'm sure there's a variety of hikes available, of course. We also rented and rode bikes one day. It's very easy biking on carriage paths built by a Rockefellar, which include a lot of beautiful stone bridges. Bar Harbor is pretty touristy. Much like all of New England, there are tons of good ice cream shops.

The sun rises SUPER early there in the summer. My mom gets up with the sun, so she was up at 4:00 am. My siblings and I wanted to sleep in... but by 7:00, my mom had been up for three hours and was screaming for us to get out of bed.

We are within a day's drive of the Smokies, so while I haven't been recently, I have friends who go often. The Gaitlinburg area has tons of non-national park stuff to do. Besides Dollywood, there's your general touristy type things. I think 3Dad outlines some of that type stuff in his report, if I remember.

Mark can certainly speak more to the scenery, I'm sure, but I think Acadia is more spectacular, with more variety in the types of views. Not that the Smokies aren't gorgeous. But it you google search for images from each park, you can get an idea.
 
I've never done Acadia, and it's been eons since we went to the Smokies, but I do have 6 children and have made a lot of trips with babies.

If I were in your shoes, I'd get on a site like VRBO, Airbnb, or whatever and look at houses available when I was considering going and see how much they cost, how updated they appear to be, how close they are to where you'd want to be, and generally how much you'd legitimately like to stay in them. Don't just find one dream home that's wonderful and at a great price because that house may not be available when you want to book, but see which one has lots of houses you'd really like. That location would be the winner.

With 6 people including a baby, you'll want a house or condo to be comfortable. I know that in the Smokies there are some rental house neighborhoods similar to the ones at WDW where you have access to a community pool and other recreational activities. There's plenty of tourist-y things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge (plus a LOT of traffic to go along with it all). There are all kinds of hiking trails, including ones that will take an hour or less and not be too steep that you should be able to do with a baby in carrier like an Ergo or one of the millions of similar carriers. Neither location will likely be sweltering hot, so you should be able comfortably hike with the baby attached, and at 9 months or younger, the baby won't be too big.
 
Thanks all! I'm so excited to start planning... half the fun, right!?

I really appreciate the trip report link too. At this point I think we are leaning towards the Smokies and we'll wait until the baby is a bit older for Acadia... but who knows!
 

3Caballeros

living life to its fullest
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (and yes, there is no e in smoky) is FREE. It is one of the only (if not the only ?) FREE national park. Living at the base of these mountains and having a view of them from my backyard, I can tell you they are amazing! I do advise, however, that you go off the beaten path to enjoy what this spectacular destination truly has to offer. Like any place that draws tourists, one has to plan and be discerning to get the most out of your trip. I, personally, believe the many, many trails are the biggest draw for our family and the pinnacle of what these beautiful mountains hold.
 

Strangeite

Well-known member
My wife and I rented a cabin last offseason right next to GSMNP for just the two of us to get away. During our visits to Gatlinburg, we coined the term, the "Gatlinburg Dozen" because the town has WAY more of certain things than any town needs. Every tourist town needs an old tyme photo store, but Gatlinburg has like 53. Like fudge shops? They have 81. Pancake houses? 31.

While I might be exaggerating a bit on the actual numbers, not by much.
 

3Caballeros

living life to its fullest
My wife and I rented a cabin last offseason right next to GSMNP for just the two of us to get away. During our visits to Gatlinburg, we coined the term, the "Gatlinburg Dozen" because the town has WAY more of certain things than any town needs. Every tourist town needs an old tyme photo store, but Gatlinburg has like 53. Like fudge shops? They have 81. Pancake houses? 31.

While I might be exaggerating a bit on the actual numbers, not by much.

All you say is correct... thus, why I suggest going off the beaten path.... Gatlinburg is not a favorite place of mine. However, Townsend is quiet and charming while Pigeon Forge is a shopping destination.... with Dollywood as an anchor
 

nolarookie

Well-known member
We loved gist glad the Smoky Mountains. The park has a lot of awesome, easy trails with nice payoffs at the end, like waterfalls. We loved driving through and stopping at streams and walking around. We also drove through Cades Cove. There’s an app you can get that’s like a tour and will tell you about all the stops and buildings. Very enjoyable and we saw a bear!
 

famouschinesecontroller

known as jane elsewhere, but her friends call her
We did Acadia (camping; tent camping) for the 6th time last August. Big road trip. Lower Alabama to the northernmost tip of Maine, then to Acadia. What we like best is being able to do park stuff, but then still go into town (Bar Harbor) for a nice meal, internet service, etc. Couldn't get enough lobster. What time of year; month are you thinking? That could be a deciding factor.
 

NinjaMom

New member
I have visited the Smoky Mountains on several family vacations, and took my own kids there a few years ago. There is so much to do. Rent one of the beautiful cabins with a view that's not too far from town. My kids loved the Ripley's Aquarium, MagiQuest, a fairly easy hike to Grotto Falls and picking out their first little pocket knife at Smoky Mountain Knife Works. We have always loved climbing the rocks and playing in the river at Chimney Tops Picnic Area, visiting the Sugarlands Visitor Center and driving Newfound Gap Road toward Clingman's Dome for scenic views and a glimpse of the Appalachian Trail. We've done touristy things like Dollywood and helicopter rides but mostly just enjoy driving through the mountains, looking for bears, finding the Gatlinburg scenic overlook at night...just a few things off the top of my head. :)
 
We've decided on the Smoky Mountains this August! We'll do a few family friendly hikes... nothing too strenuous as we'll be packing the baby. We'll also do some of the touristy stuff, but selective since that gets pricey! Dollywood is also planned for a day.

Right now we have about 4 days not including travel days. I'm excited to start planning more... I've already started my lists :)

I'll try to do a trip report when we are back. I glean so much from reading others'... plus they are just entertaining!

Thanks for all the suggestions!
 

nolarookie

Well-known member
Typically, if you go to Dollywood after 3pm, you can get in the next day for “free.” You May want to look into that if you’re interested.
 
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