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Distasteful tourist schlock

Posted Tuesday, April 29, 2008, at 9:22 AM

(Photo)
Honestly, do any of you ever stop at these places?
Taking a look at the state AP wire this morning, there was a piece about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and how some are looking to promote "new eco-friendly tourism" in the towns surrounding the park.

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?


Comments
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A New scenary perhaps.... Me myself have not went any wear for vacation. But if I did, I would like to go some where (3 days) that would have fun entertainment for my children during the day, Great food all day and night long, and pleasant entertainment for my Husband and I at night. I would like for it to have a place where we can get pampered such as a "Day Spa", a place where we can shop for fun and creative small toys for the kids, and Neat things you don't normally find in stores at home, as well as some souveniors.

Is their anyone out there interested, in opening such a place? Someone who has 10-20 acres of land, that can be beautifully landscaped, with apartments to accommodate "GUESTS" for 2-3 nights along with a (Luxurious Spa for Guests Only), 3 magnificent restaurants to choose from, (Each different of course); an area to tour (Walk Trail), an area to play golf, an area set up like a carnival where people (adults and children)can play games to win prizes, a area or building that has Live Plays "children & family oriented" that serve snacks like at a movie all opened up to anyone.

And at night time an area that serves Food, Live band or Entertainment, and Drinks to "GUESTS ONLY". Shopping area that sales fun and creative small toys for children, and things not normally sold at stores that Grown ups would be interested in buying open to anyone?

Just throwing out ideas. Could be profitable business, fun and entertaining. You would need to find the right city and location for it of course though. Maybe even a fun water slide for children and adults in the summer time, water only 3 feet deep, but big fun water slides going into it. : )

-- Posted by Momof3&3step&1gran on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 6:14 PM

CFranklin . . . well, they have lost one tourist because I hate what it has become so I haven't been up that way for many years now. You are right though . . . why people travel so far to vacation and only do things that they could have done back home(mini golf, fast food, shop, etc).

It is sad really.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 3:07 PM

by the way, the place you have a picture of is "the three bears" gift shop, which has been in business since before i was born, and is so busy all summer long you can't hardly get a parking spot, so yes, honestly, some of these people stop at all these places.

-- Posted by CFranklin on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 10:11 AM

unlike the rest of you, i actually live here.

You don't like it? try living here.

I will say one thing that people who write these articles seem to forget, that this is what the people who come here ask for. do you think this steaming pile of tourist crud would be here if it wasn't making money? A significant number of people don't come here to appreciate the local culture and visit the museums and historical sites, they come here to eat fudge, play putt putt, ride go carts, shop in outlet stores, eat fast food, then throw the wrappers and cups out the window.

It would be wonderful if Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge were more tasteful, with less neon, less tourist garbage(figuratively and literally),

and a little more taste and culture, but until that starts making money, its not going to happen.

Perhaps if people would ask for it when they are here instead of complaining about the lack of it after they leave, it might help change things a little.

-- Posted by CFranklin on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 10:06 AM

I also agree..I am from the Outer Banks of North Carolina (Roanoke Island) and when we go home in the summer to see our boys who still live there and fish the water for a living I get very up-set..When we left there in 1996 to move here things were still wonderful there..Now there is a Wings on every corner and even in the Nags Head area they have one across the road from each other. I guess for the people that love to go there and get to it from either side of the road so you do not have to try to cross the road to get to it...My boys have been to many meetings there along with everyone else that have lived there all their life there to try to stop this..But they are always out voted...it seems the locals have no real say over it..The beach always had job's for all the local teen-agers in the summer there. But no more because they bring in foreigner's from Germany and India and give them the job's for the summer..We ate at Pizza Hut one night and everyone in there were from Germany....All of these stores called Wing's are owned by people from India..it is very sad and we were always Happy to get back to the little Island we always lived on and our boy's and their family still live on called Wanchese..It is a fishing village and it has not changed..Thank Goodness

-- Posted by rebelrose on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 3:46 PM

I don't like them, I don't shop in them, but one thing keeps them there. Tourists. If they did not buy it, the stores would change or go out of business.

So, as much as WE dislike it, the majority must like it. Crazy, but.....

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 2:44 PM

If you want to just enjoy the mountains stay in Townsend. It's close to the park (Cades Cove), they call it the peaceful side of the Smokies.

I also agree about Destin. It upset me when hurricane Opal hit and tore up a lot of Destin but, now (I know this is bad) when a hurricane hits I hope it wipes out a lot of it. I feel like nature needs to take back the beach from the money hungry monsters that has moved in and took over.

-- Posted by wahoo on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 11:16 AM

We were going to the Smokies for a vacation. We looked around and have decided to go to Land Between the Lakes and stay at Paris Landing instead. It's closer, cheaper and tons to do without the touristy stuff.

-- Posted by Jacks4me on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 10:58 AM

Yeah, now Destin has tons of shopping malls and businesses and lots of condos and hotels and every kind of restaraunt you can imagine. They still fish a little but not much.

Destin though has gorgeous white beaches and the water is so clear and beautiful . . . I love it.

Their bowling alley though makes ours look brand new. LOL!

-- Posted by jaxspike on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 10:38 AM

Another trip we took every year in the 1970 was to Destin and it was MUCH different in those days. Just a fishing village. No condos. No country clubs. Just pure white beaches.

-- Posted by Brian Mosely on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 10:10 AM

Unfortunately all the tourist attractions and shops in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are destroying the main attraction . . . the Smokey Mountains. There is so much natural beauty up there and there is no reason to have crap souvenir shops and all of the other stuff that has come up along the way. I see nothing wrong with something like Dollywood which tries to blend itself in with the scenery but the other stuff needs to go. It is so hard to enjoy the Smokies now since they have turned it into a big tourist trap.

I agree about Florida . . . we went to Destin last year for vacation and it seems the same shop was everywhere, selling beach towels and souvenirs. I forget what it was called but it seemed like it was at every corner and there was no need for that. Destin isn't that big and one store would have been enough plus it was a bunch of cheap crap anyway. It saddens me when beautiful places like they are destroyed by commercialism. That's why I enjoy places like Rock Island and Fall Creek Falls because they are still almost untouched by situations like that.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 10:03 AM

I have to say that the county's treatment of this potential disaster was one of the reasons that we moved from the 'Boro (even though the expansion of my business may dictate that we move back). The proposed area is one of greater density than the infrastructure can accomodate and regardlesss of what Terri Sterling and her PR co claim there will be a furthur stress and overcrowding.

Never mind the destruction of the beautiful land that will never be the same when the thing goes bust.

-- Posted by gottago on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 9:57 AM

I am against the theme park in the blackman area of Rutherford County for much the same reasons as you mentioned here(Never mind that the residents in the area are against it, and the stupid developer would like the county to help pay for it) Even though the planning SEEMS to be a little more stringent than in the Smokies, it is no secret that cheesy crap like this spring up on the heels of tourist attractions.

In Florida along the beach strips, the ubiquity of t-shirt and souvenir shops that all carry the same things bug me to no end. I would hate to see the same thing happen to the Blackman community.

-- Posted by gottago on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 9:50 AM

The Bible theme park. I'm just concerned about what's going to be set up in the aftermath, years down the road...

-- Posted by Brian Mosely on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 9:43 AM

I have never been to any of those; so can't really comment on it. But too much of anything is not good. It needs to be balanced with a variety of different things.

What theme park is Rutherford County planning? Is this the Bible theme park thing, or something else? I would like to go and see that. I hope it is organized well.

-- Posted by Momof3&3step&1gran on Tue, Apr 29, 2008, at 9:35 AM


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Brian Mosely is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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