Dec 062022

Here is where I eat crow –

(except not this crow)

(wait, I’m a vegetarian, so not ANY crow)


– the hotel that I threw a fit over actually ended up being….pretty OK. Like, the room was big and modern shockingly, and the shower was very clean and nice, and it had a cute balcony that overlooked the Pigeon Stream or something, I forget what it’s called. It was literally babbling like they say in the fairy tales or whatever. Very quaint.


Here’s what it looked like from the street when we were en route to get our Gatlin’ on.

  1. It was like 40 degrees but would Chooch wear pants and at the very least a hoodie? Obviously not.
  2. I fucking swear to god Henry as an array of flannels but this is the only one he hadn’t vacuum-packed last spring and keeps re-wearing it because he can’t be bothered to deflate his winter clothes. Sigh.

Pretending he doesn’t belong to us.

GUYS. Guys guys guys guys. There was only really ONE THING I wanted to do while we were in Gatlinburg and that was revisit the Mysterious Mansion. Chooch and I went through the last time we were there in 2018 and it was SO GOOD that I think about it every Halloween season because I wish so badly we had something like this in Pittsburgh.

Aerial views while waiting in the foyer.

The ticket lady made us wait for “five minutes” to see if anyone dared to join us. A group of ladies and their annoying preteen girls approached at one point and one of the moms came in to ask questions. She went back outside and relied whatever info she had gleaned and it turned into a dramatic tug of war because wahhh, the girls were too scared, etc etc. They lingered outside the house for a good while and the ticket lady called out from her window-nook, “Let’s just wait a minute and see what these people are going to do.”

Finally, they retreated and I was tres relieved (lol, I used to say everything was tres this and tres that in middle school for no good reason other than I probably learned it from Sassy). As the lady was finally reading us the rules and letting go through the turnstile into the formal waiting room, two guys showed up and also bought tickets. I was pissed at first until they joined us and I realized that they were adults, maybe young 30s, and as Chooch said, kind of like my brother Corey. They ended up being great companions for our tour through this fucked up house, which requires lots of hands-on action, searching for hidden doors, etc.

I won’t give anything away because there is one thing that this place does that is different from any other haunt I’ve been to and it’s FUCKING JARRING, but for a haunt to have only 2 or 3 scare actors yet still make grown men jump is a true fucking feat. I just want to give a shout out to the Ringu-esque girl and the clown for being the real MVPs, and when I say that clowns usually don’t scare me…

DAMN this one got me GOOD. Like, 87 times. And then I think I imprinted on him.

“Do you think he thought I was pretty??” I breathlessly asked Henry after we left the house, with the clown leering at us from the exit.

“Sure, Erin,” Henry sighed.


Things I didn’t take pictures of:

  • Walking to the main drag of Gatlinburg where Henry gave Chooch $40 to buzz off into an arcade while we did a cider tasting at the Tennessee Cider Company (I think this was the name?). Dude. I cannot hold any sort of alcohol anymore, which is perfectly fine with me because I truly don’t care that much about drinking, but after the second sampling, everything just tasted like lighter fluid to me, even though I am first and foremost a cider gal. Not to be a HIPSTER about it, but I was totally drinking cider (Strongbow for life) before it became trendy and…everywhere. Anyway, we had a hysterical cider-slinger assisting us and two other couples. We snagged 6 bottles (3 for gifts, three for us) and everyone who bought at least 2 got a free bottle of peanut butter cider and um, I can see why they were giving it away. Everything we sampled was delicious, but this tasted like smelling a scratch-n-sniff sticker while drinking…blank alcohol. Do not recommend. I honestly preferred the OG plain-ass apple flavor.
  • Then, Chooch popped into and was like, “Oh cool, you’re still here getting drunk anyway here are the pointless things I won at the arcade also I lost $20.” This got Henry’s attention. “You’re kidding,” he said. “Nope. I have no idea how it fell out of my pocket. It’s because I left my wallet at the hotel.” Then Henry called him an asshole really loud (not that loud, actually, but he did use his “I’m kind of in a loud bar environment and want to make damn sure my son knows he’s being called an asshole” voice-volume. Then Chooch asked for the key to the hotel now that he had “no money and nothing else to do” and the skulked away. “Wow,” I said. “He’s way more honest than I was at that age. I never would have admitted to losing cash! I would have been like, ‘Hi here I am, back with these two prizes that cost $40 at the arcade!'” I mean, even if he hadn’t lost the $20, he still would have lost the $20 in the games.
  • Then we walked the rest of the side of the road we were on. It was SO FUCKING CROWDED. You couldn’t get near the bar in the moonshine tasting places, and the line to ride the cable car had half a block’s worth of sidewalk congested to the point where we had to keep stepping into the street. This was not how I remembered it last time we were there, which was also the weekend after Thanksgiving!

New location: other side of the street.

Christmas dogs!

The best parts of Gatlinburg IMO are the little squares tucked away from the main drag. They’re these adorable little courtyards with fountains and specialty shops away from all the MAGA SWAG and MOONSHINE and RIPLEYS BELIEVE IT OR WHO GIVES A FUCK. (Honestly, how much stake does Ripleys have in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge??) One of the courtyards had a place called FRIAR’S DONUTS and it called to me. Not so much because I was craving a donut (although I could use a sweet carb to sponge up the cider in my gut) but because FRIAR and I saw from the doorway that they had MERCH.

“Oh, I KNEW IT. We have to go inside because I want a magnet!” I cried. “But you have to buy a donut too because then it just looks weird if we only buy a magnet.” This was one of the few times Henry didn’t question my logic because MMMMM, ME EAT DONUT NOW!!!!!! MMMM!

This guy looked so much like Henry’s son’s Blake’s BFF Artie, who also is one of Henry’s drivers at the Faygo Factory! He calls Henry to chat way more than any of Henry’s actual sons, which is hilar to me


We split a glazed and it was CLASSIC tasting. Like, it tasted like a donut my Pappap probably ate at Mr. Donut in the 70s with his drywall employees. Do you know what I mean? Like a genuine donut that knows its role and isn’t trying to be something it’s not. I would go back for more donuts next time we’re in town, for sure, and actually – was this open Sunday morning because I would have preferred another glazed over the meh hotel breakfast we had…

Although I was purposely having a meh breakfast because I was saving myself for the DOLLYWOOD CINNAMON BREAD LATER THAT DAY. More on that later, but I might need to take a break here for a second and stare at the ceiling with my tongue drooping out the side of my mouth as I recall the flavor fiesta in my mouth….

Taffy puller lost in thought.

We also bought some delicious cookies from a very friendly pregnant lady at some cookie place and an assortment of moonshine chocolate from a super bored young guy who was 100% wasn’t trying to make a sale in an empty store in the corner of the FRIAR’S DONUTS courtyard. I thought we were just going in to sample them but Henry was like OH TWIST MY ARM, WHY DON’T YOU and bought a box of 10 and I mean, they were fine but not $20-some worth of fine.

We walked back to the hotel on a much quieter back street, collected Chooch, and set off to do a mountain coaster but all of them were like SO CROWDED that you could barely even pull into the parking lots, so instead we went to a gas station to get beverages (Henry got some smirnoff mixed drink thing in a can and I was like WHO ARE YOU) and then we went back to the hotel, watched Friends as is our hotel routine no matter what (or Golden Girls!) and then got some rest in preparation for a full day of DOLLYWOOD!

(But yeah, if you ever go to Gatlinburg, do the haunted house!!!! DO NOT DO THE RIPLEYS ONE!!! If you see a haunted attraction on the main strip of Gatlinburg, THAT IS NOT IT. The one you want is on a back street, you have to cross over the creek via a pedestrian bridge, and the haunted house butts up against a hillside. Dude, you gotta go.)

  2 Responses to “A Saturday Eve in Gatlinburg”

  1. That sounds like such a great time! We went to Gatlinburg for my MIL’s wedding. It was at an outdoor chapel, where weddings were assigned numbers like it was a deli counter, like a hillbilly Vegas. The trip on general was kind of a drag, because it was her second marriage and it brought up feelings of missing my husband’s departed dad. Plus, staying in a cabin with six other people is not my idea of fun, neither is being left behind there without a car while others went out. Yeah, I’m still mad about that. We went to the Ridley’s aquarium, but didn’t do anything else fun after that. We certainly didn’t see the Mystery House or donut shop, or we would’ve gone in. We merely drove past Dollywood, and I really wanted to go there!

    • I totally get it – that was not the best circumstances to have been in Gatlinburg! I hope that you get a do-over someday with just your family and you definitely have to go to Dollywood! That place has something for everyone. I can’t attest to this, being a vegetarian and all, but people rave about the food there, and if you’re not into coasters or other rides, they are known for their shows. In fact, all three times we’ve been there, the rides were practically walk-ons because most people were there for the shows.

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