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Distasteful tourist schlockPosted Tuesday, April 29, 2008, at 9:22 AM
Honestly, do any of you ever stop at these places?
They need it.
Tucked up in the story was a paragraph I found myself agreeing with:
Even when survey respondents liked the 520,000-acre preserve -- one of the most biologically diverse on the planet -- they didn't like the towns around it, terming them "distasteful tourist schlock" and "gloried amusement parks."
Whoa. That's harsh. And the truth hurts.
I love the Smokies and head up that way often, continuing a tradition I've had since the parents took me in the 1970's. But what I can't stand is what has happened to places like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and to a lesser extent, Cherokee, N.C..
I mean, how many places do you really need to take a photo of you and your friends in the Old West. In Gatlinburg, there seems to be one of these places every 50 feet or so. The same goes for funnel cakes, which appears to be sold in every business in the two tourist meccas. Then there are the martial art/head shops that carry the same items in every store, which are also placed at 50 foot intervals. And there is no quality Japanese steel to be found in these places - only cheap Pakistani knock-offs of various cutlery items.
Pigeon Forge traffic is a nightmare, and the view as you approach the Smokies is filled with schlock and rip offs of the worst kind.
There are some things worth checking out, such as the aviation museum, or some of the restaurants in Sevierville, (Connors Steak and Seafood is well worth their high prices) but the rest of it comes off as very cheesy.
Cherokee is a bit more interesting, with lots of Native-American history and related businesses to see, but that has been overshadowed by the casino, which brings far too many people to the small town to throw their cash away. While I understand that those on the reservation get a yearly cut of the proceeds, you can't help but feel that there could be a better way for these folks to make money.
And on a practical note, the hotel rates are stratospheric for such cheap, tiny rooms.
Given the theme park that Rutherford County is looking at building nearby, I wonder if our readers have the same feelings about these types of "attractions." What are your thoughts?
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Brian Mosely is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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