The Smoky Mountains are located on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, making this scenic destination a terrific place for families from across the southeast to visit. Whether your family is after outdoor adventure or some quiet time in a cozy cabin, there are some features to look for that will make the trip more comfortable for everyone, from kids to parents. Most Smoky Mountain Cabins have at least a few amenities to make adults happy, but when you’ve got kids in tow, looking out for these particular features may help make the trip a success.
There’s something about bunk beds that gets kids all excited, and the matter of who gets top or bottom bunk is a superb way for siblings to collaborate and compromise. Although kids love them, vacation rentals often feature this furniture style more as a matter of convenience than anything else. Bunk beds are a good sign that the vacation home is set up to make the most out of the space it has available, and it also signals that the homeowners have kids in mind at least to some degree. That may mean that other kid-friendly amenities like board games or picture books may also be available in the rental. There’s no guarantee that this will be the case but, at the very least, a rental cabin with bunk beds will provide enough space for kids to have their beds. Sometimes, privacy is the key to success for a family vacation.
Fireplace or Fire Pit
Although summers around the Smokies can get hot, especially if you’re staying at a lower elevation, evenings are generally cool in the mountains year round. Winters are downright chilly, with snowfall being a frequent occurrence. This means that evenings offer the ideal opportunity for family togetherness around a fire, with the bonus of s’mores and other campfire foods for kids. Whether an indoor fireplace or an outdoor fire pit, this is one amenity that can make the vacation more exciting for kids.
Parents should be sure to check whether the rental property provides firewood, and it’s also a good idea to check and see if there are any safety notes to follow before building a fire. This is a terrific opportunity to teach younger kids about fire safety and explain the responsibility they share in helping to prevent wildfires in wilderness areas. For older kids, a fireplace or fire pit can be a fun chance to show off fire building skills learned in scout groups or on family camping trips.
Outdoor Activity Area
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the major attraction in the area, and the park does offer plenty of activity to keep families with kids of all ages busy and engaged. Younger children can become junior rangers through the park’s official program, and older kids can cultivate their love for the outdoors with hiking, fishing or swimming. There will likely be some time, however, when your family finds themselves hanging out around the cabin. When the weather is nice, it may be a good idea to get the kids outside and playing. Cabins that offer outdoor amenities like a horseshoe pit, hammock or swing set may be ideal in these cases.
While they aren’t exactly as kid-friendly as swimming pools, hot tubs can still be a fun resource for families in Smoky Mountains vacation rentals. This is especially true in the winter months when the experience of being in bubbling warm water surrounded by snow is a unique and memorable experience for kids who generally live in warmer climes in the southeast.
One important thing to keep in mind is that hot tubs aren’t universally kid-friendly. Infants and toddlers may overheat in a hot tub and, for safety reasons, it’s generally best to only allow children who are tall enough to stand up with their head above water in the hot tub. So, if your family includes only very young children, this is probably an amenity that’s best to skip unless adults plan on using it while someone else watches the kids.
The Smoky Mountains are beautiful year-round, but if you’re traveling in fall, you may want to make sure to get a cabin that offers views of the beautiful seasonal foliage on the rolling hills. Cabins that feature particularly beautiful views will likely feature prominent photos of the view and a description of this as a major attraction in the rental listing, so be on the lookout for this feature if your kids love photography or otherwise are enamored with the beauty of the natural world.
Cabins with nice views generally offer a great view of the night sky as well. Kids who’ve spent most of their lives in cities and suburbs with a fair amount of light pollution will likely get their socks knocked off by how many stars are in the night sky at your Smoky Mountain cabin. This is especially true if you choose a cabin that’s at a higher elevation and off the beaten track of bigger cities like Gatlinburg. You may even want to schedule your trip to coincide with meteor showers, supermoons and other astronomical occurrences. A pair of binoculars or a telescope can further enhance the kids’ viewing experience and make the trip extra memorable.