So, you’ve decided to stay in a cabin while visiting the Smoky Mountains. I applaud your choice — I think you’ll love the experience. But looking for a cabin to rent can be overwhelming. Here are five things to consider when choosing the perfect cabin:
1. Location. If you aren’t familiar with the area, there are a few things you’ll want to know. If you are traveling in a high-tourist time, you may want to pick a cabin in Pigeon Forge or even Sevierville. Traffic in Gatlinburg can be really horrible in peak seasons, so staying a bit out of the mess can make a huge difference in the amount of time you spend sitting bumper-to-bumper. If you stay in Pigeon Forge, you can even take a trolley into Gatlinburg and avoid the whole traffic/parking mess altogether (for more on trolleys, click here.). Also, you may want to know how long it will take to get from your cabin to restaurants/attractions/the Smokies. We’ve been in cabins that are less than 10 minutes from entertainment areas, but we’ve also been in ones that take more than a half hour to get anywhere. Fine if you are planning to stay in for the most part, but if you want to eat out and explore attractions, that could be frustrating.
One other thought about location — if your cabin is up in the mountains, check to see if you need 4-wheel drive. For certain locations, you will if there’s any inclement weather. It’s something to consider, especially in the winter months.
2. Cabin vs. Chalet. This may not matter to you, but if you really have your heart set on the “mountain cabin” experience, you may want to avoid renting a chalet, which is really just a house. You can often get chalets for cheaper, and if you aren’t picky about the look of your house, it may be the way to go. Some of them area decorated very “cabin-y” and have nice extra features. We’ve stayed in some really great chalets. But you should be aware of the difference.
3. Hot tub location. Most cabins have hot tubs anymore, but the placement of the hot tub might be something to consider. Especially if you are visiting during a chillier time, you may want to look for a hot tub that’s either in a screened-in porch or on a close deck, etc. Our last cabin had a nice hot tub, but it was out 25 feet or so on a large deck. No problem sometimes, but in February, that was a cold walk. The nice, warm feeling had worn off by the time the snow melted off your feet.
4. Other amenities. Depending on how you plan to spend your time, amenities can be important. If you plan to be away a lot, hiking or visiting attractions, you might just want a nice hot tub and a decent TV. But if you plan to log a lot of cabin hours, you may want to look into arcade games, pool tables and the like. They are all available, and can be a lot of fun if you are planning more of a relaxing mountain get-away. Some cabins also offer theater rooms, with projection TVs and comfy seating — another bonus if you plan to be relaxing in the cabin for most of the time.
5. Kitchen size/table. Again, if you plan to be in your cabin a lot, you may want to check out the kitchen. Some of the smaller cabins have tiny kitchens without many of the extras you’d expect. Our last cabin didn’t have a toaster, which wasn’t a big deal, but we’d gotten bagels for breakfast each day, so it was kind-of a bummer. Some of the small cabins also may not have a table, so if you are planning to cook for your family, you may not be able to have the cozy dinners you are envisioning.
In general, if you want to know if a cabin has something, ask! Don’t assume it will be there, because it may not.