Oct 23 – 31, 2016
Riding the Rails
Autumn Splendor of the Great Smoky Mountains
We will take you back to another era when trains were the preferred transportation. Riding through the gorgeous fall colors of Tennessee, beside the rushing rivers, over deep gorges, up towering mountains and you get unimaginable beauty that you can only experience in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains! Top it off with the fun cities of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, and you have a WOW PLUS tour that memories are made of.
Today is a travel day that takes us through Missouri and into Mt. Vernon, Illinois for our first night’s lodging.
The Kentucky scenery that we pass through today is pretty any time of year, but with the amazing colors of fall, it is magnificent. Rolling pastures of blue-green grass are home to some of the finest Thoroughbreds. We continue south through Renfro Valley country and into one of Nature’s wonders: Cumberland Falls. This is truly one of Kentucky’s top attractions. We depart the falls and travel to Williamsburg, Kentucky for our overnight. There is a museum in our lodge that you might wish to check out. It is quite nice and is free. (B)
We have a leisurely morning at our hotel to enjoy our included breakfast before departing for Stearns, Kentucky and the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. The scenic tour takes us along a branch of the Cumberland River to the Blue Heron Mining Camp, locally known as Mine 18. The mining camp is a re-creation of a mining community that existed between 1937 and 1962. One of the amazing things about the abandoned town’s story is told through the audio recordings of people who actually lived in the community and worked in Mine 18. A Hobo Lunch is included at the Mine. After lunch we will arrive in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in time to check into our hotel, have a little free time and then depart for an included dinner and show. Our next two nights will be in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. (B.L.D)
No Bags Out! This day is yours to enjoy and to do as much or as little as you wish. Remember, the shuttle stops just next door to your hotel, and it will take you to Dollywood, Dixie Stampede, Gatlinburg, all of the restaurants, shows and shops along the strip, including the outlet malls.
See you tomorrow, have a great day! (B)
This morning we drive the few short miles to Gatlinburg and board the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway that travels 2.2 miles to Ober Gatlinburg and provides breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Trams run every 30 minutes, and you can return to Gatlinburg as you choose. You have free time and lunch on your own before we depart to travel over the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We will take a break and picture stop at Newfound Gap, located at the Tennessee and North Carolina State Lines. The views are absolutely spectacular!
We continue on to Cherokee, North Carolina and will have some time to check out the visitor center and perhaps pick up some souvenirs before we check into our hotel for the evening. (B)
It is only a few miles to Bryson City, North Carolina where we arrive at the Great Smoky Mountain Railway Nantahala Gorge Line RR Depot. As we hear the Conductor call “All Aboard,” we will begin our journey for a 4 ½ hour round trip through Nantahala Gorge. Enjoy traveling Bluegrass musicians with an occasional Appalachian story while traveling along the Tennessee and Nantahala River. The historic trellis bridge, Fontana Trestle, takes you across Fontana Lake into the beautiful Nantahala Gorge and the 2,000 foot deep canyon of the Nantahala River. The scenic route takes us through the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. Lunch is included. After we return from this exciting ride into the Nantahala Gorge, we will depart for Athens, Tennessee for the next two nights. (B. L)
We drive a very short distance to Etowah, Tennessee to board the Tennessee River Valley 8 hour Hiwassee River Rail Adventure—Scenic Train Ride to Copperhill. There will be a 2 hour layover in Copperhill for you to have lunch and shop if you wish before returning to Etowah. The Hiwassee River Rail Adventure is a truly unique railroad experience. On this scenic train excursion, passengers can view the beautiful Hiwassee River and Gorge as the train travels alongside the river and then circles around the historic “Hiwassee Loop.” The loop corkscrews up the mountain, passing over a bridge 62 feet above the tracks on which passengers have just traveled. The Hiwassee River Gorge is another striking feature. Tucked into a wilderness area, this natural wonder is accessible only by rail. We return to Etowah late afternoon and return to Athens for our overnight. (B)
We travel to Oak Ridge, Tennessee this morning and pick up our Step-On Guide for a driving tour of Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge is a complete city built during WWII for workers of the Clinton Engineer Works and is important for its part in the Manhattan Project, which resulted in the production of the atomic bomb and the invention of the nuclear reactor. Until 1949 it was a secret city with restricted access. After this fascinating tour, we will board the Secret City Scenic Excursion Train for a narrated ride. More than 60 years ago at what is now Oak Ridge, a railroad was built as part of the world’s most significant engineering achievement of its time. The line served the enormous Manhattan Project site of the K-25 uranium enrichment building. During its operation as a top secret facility, the line handled up to 50,000 freight car loads. We return to the depot and say goodbye to the last of our interesting train rides and turn our thoughts toward home. We will lodge in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. After checking into our hotel, Making Memories Tours will add one more memory by including a Farewell Dinner at Patti’s 1880’s Settlement. (B.D)
My, what a tour! The special memories that we have made are worth sharing one more time. Today takes us on our journey home, but there will be plenty of time to exchange names and addresses with our new friends. (B)