A Sailor’s Guide to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge

Through a series of circumstances, I ended up spending last week in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. I haven’t been since I was twelve, and to be honest, I didn’t remember much about the actual area. There was so much family fighting that its hard for that vacation to have any other memories [Editor’s note: possible future blog post].

So, I kind of fell into a trip with my parents to this region….

And what I saw when I got there….I was not ready for…

This town sucks.

This is going to be a long post. I am going to give each reason of why this place is shit its due. But let me give you impatient members of the congregation a TLDR version of this post.

I am driving into town. Initial arrival. And I pass this shopping area.

Relatively unassuming, right? Looks like a strip mall.

This strip mall contains the following:

I think that kind of sums up this region perfectly. If that sounds good to you, fuck you.

What the hell kind of weird white trash, end-stage capitalism, kitsch country is this place?

Lets break it all down.

Assholes Designed The Layout Of This Place

Its three lanes in either direction. For the at least 10-15 miles through pigeon forge. Then, its two lanes through Gatlinburg.

Traffic, thy name is Pigeon Forge. You know, people bitch about driving in the major metropolitan areas of the US. I don’t think anything is as frustrating is trying to get to the next turn off in between two red lights and it taking 10 min.

Google Maps took me on a million different one lane backroads around the Parkway of the area, just cause its that big of a fucking mess to get around.

A big portion of this trip was planning a route so I don’t have to touch the Parkway.

It’s like this place was designed for every fat idiot who never heard of public transit. This is the fury road, but fat and white.

All The Food Sucks

Let me tell you a story.

This is the Local Goat. This is the best reviewed restaurant in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge. #2 on Yelp. #1 on Trip Advisor.

The food itself is like one step above Applebees. Like Hard Rock but slightly more fancy. It’s not terrible, but its also not great.

And let me be clear, this is the BEST FOOD in town. In an age of gastropubs and molecular gastronomy, there is still one place where food has not moved past the early 90s. And that is Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge.

I flat out don’t know how there can be that many places with fucking mediocre to straight up awful food, but there is.

This may be one reason that dinner theater (more on this in the next section) is so fucking big out here. You need something to distract you from the fact that what you are eating tastes like shit.

I don’t know how its fucking possible that the exacting standards of American cuisine literally everywhere else in the world has not come here, but it hasn’t.

The Largest Conservative Small Town

Or at least it feels like it. Let’s talk about pizza.

I ended up vacationing in this area because of a family event I had to attend. As part of that, one night I was out late enough to where restaurants had started closing, and none of us had eaten. This pizza place was open late, so I just blindly called and placed an order.

Went to pick up the pizza and it was like that scene in the Second Ace Ventura movie with all the taxidermy. Every single TV is on Fox News. They were selling t-shirts that ready #FJBPIZZA. Come to find out that its a chain run by two douchebags out of florida.

I didn’t know that. I just called a pizza place that was open and got pizza. For reference, the pizza was ok. Step up from chain pizza. Not the best pizza I’ve had, but certainly better than a place that sells the FJB Pizza deserves. Oh! That is a menu item. They will write FJB in pepperoni on a pizza.

I tell this story to explain the sort of concentration of this kind of shit. Look I live in the south. Plenty of Jesus and immortan bullshit everywhere. But I haven’t seen this kind of concentration of Trump stores, Jesus merch, and confederate bullshit anywhere else.

Where Culture Comes To Die

Before you read on, guess who these people are. Guess.

Much like the food, this is also where the jetsam and flotsam of American culture makes a tidepool that never gets swept away.

The main attractions are entirely living in a stink of kitsch and shame.

This particular masterpiece is outside the Hollywood Wax Museum. For the record, that is supposed to be John Wayne, Elvis, Marylin Monroe, and Buster Keaton. On first glance, I flat out didn’t know who the woman was and I thought the figure on the far right was Harpo Marx.

It is like a cancer of poor ideas and weird decisions come to land here.

A few other examples:

Yep. Titanic museum. They assign you a passenger when you go in, and you find out if you live or die on the other side. I wonder if the sub will get an addendum.

There is a Christmas themed hotel, with a matching restaurant and store across the street. Every morning is Christmas morning. Every night is Christmas Eve. You can get pictures with Santa every day.

Every single b-list celebrity has a fucking restaurant or dinner show or complex here. Guy Fieri, Paula Deen, Jason Aldean.

And they are all big, loud, and advertised everywhere. Which reminds me.

Capitalism Metastases OR Reality Goes Beyond The Uncanny Valley

Every single attraction. Regardless of what it is or what it supposedly offers, is exactly the same.

Lets use MagiQuest as an example. The main attraction is like this Harry Potter rip-off wizard treasure hunt lameness. You pay for that. Then every other attraction costs money.

Their arcade is all ticket machines and prize grabbers. All costing more money.

After going to 3-4 of these places, I asked a clerk in a store if there was anything like a real arcade anywhere near here. I got laughed at: “No man, no money in that.”

And then when the attraction is done bleeding your wallet, there are ads EVERYWHERE to go to the next place that will eat at your soul.

Going to places in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg is like vacationing in a popup ad. And they already have control of your bank account.

The worst part of this whole thing is that there is a GOOD vacation to be had in this part of the world. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is gigantic and beautiful.

There are a ton of little towns in the surrounding area that are lovely. The best meal I had the entire trip was at a food truck in a town called Wears Valley, TN.

But, no one will do that. They will go to the Parkway. Eat the shit and call it filet mignon.

Like many things in this life, it’s a beautiful world for you, but not me.

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