Wildfires ravaged Tennessee in autumn 2016, spreading through the eastern part of the state and into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Officials, fearing the worst, shut down the park indefinitely as fires raged. The resort town of Gatlinburg evacuated residents just as one of its heaviest tourism seasons, Smoky Mountain Christmas, was ramping up.
Some 2,400 buildings in Sevier County were damaged or destroyed before, at last, the rains came. The firefighters won. Life returned to the Smokies, just in time for the holidays.
Gatlinburg will be a different place this year, but it's still one of the finest weekend-sized road trips from the likes of Nashville, Atlanta, or Charlotte. And chances are that in 2017 the locals will be ecstatic to see you. Buy a national parks pass, book a hotel room in Gatlinburg, go hiking in the park, ride a roller coaster at Dollywood, do a little camping, shop, eat in the many restaurants of Sevier County (Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg), or just drive around the Great Smoky Mountains to enjoy the view. If you want something really special, plan a trip in June when the firefly migration takes place, one of the only spots to see synchronous fireflies (those that can sync up their light patterns) in the country. -- Keryn Means, Thrillist contributor