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Archive for the 'Family Fun' Category

A Preview of Next Year’s Freestyle Kayaking World Championships

Ever since Bryson City and the Nantahala Gorge were named hosts of the 2013 IFC Canoe Freestyle World Championships, there’s been a lot of buzz about an extreme sport that few of us have actually witnessed. Next weekend should change all that when the 2012 Freestyle Kayaking World Cup Championships come to the Nantahala Gorge.

While smaller than next year’s World Championships, the World Cup is attracting athletes from more than 17 countries and 5 continents. Preliminary events were held last week on the on the Caney Fork River in Rock Island, TN, and on the Pigeon River in Hartford, TN. The competition now moves to the Nantahala Gorge for next weekend’s Finals on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 7, 8 and 9.

Freestyle kayaking has been called the X-Games for whitewater. If you’re entertained by the spins, flips, turns and tricks of freestyle snowboarders, surfers and skaters, or the half-pipe freestyle event in skateboarding, you’ll love freestyle kayaking. Legendary kayaker, “Fearless” Pat Keller described it as “doing a floor routine in gymnastics during an earthquake.”

The event is free. Competition will begin at 10 am each day and end around 7 pm. Spectators can expect shaded riverside seating, live DJ and event announcer. On Saturday, there’ll be special riverside kids activities from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Competition will be followed by free live music on Friday and Saturday evening. Parking will be available in remote lots along Silvermine Rd, with free shuttles driving to and from the event site approximately every 10 minutes.

You’ll find more information on the official website FreestyleKayaking2013.com

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This could be the start of something big!

Every Nantahala rafting adventure begins at the put-in area across from the Duke Energy power plant on Wayah Road (above). Rafts are launched, boarded and the riders are given safety instructions before beginning the eight-mile whitewater float through the scenic Nantahala Gorge — “Land of the Noonday Sun” as the Cherokees named it.

Each year, more than 200,000 paddlers raft the Nantahala, the river that National Geographic Adventure and ABC’s Good Morning America’s “Vacationland” series called the number one place to spend a wet and wild vacation in the US.

Trips can be scheduled with a number of Nantahala outfitters. A variety of trips and boat choices are offered and each company adds its own personal touch.

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This ‘Olympic’ Event Has Gone To The Dogs

Zoey, a seven year old ‘dock dog’ leaps more than 20 feet chasing a float toy thrown by owner Stephanie Prock of Canel Fulton, Ohio. Zoey was just one of the dozens of dogs of all breeds competing for trophies at this weekend’s ‘Cherokee Dock Warriors’ canine sporting event. The two day event is produced by Carolina Dock Dogs as part of the 11th annual Talking Trees Children’s Trout Derby.

Dockdogs is a fast growing dock jumping and dock diving sport for dogs that’s been featured on ESPN and The Outdoor Channel. The sport is comprised of the three disciplines: ‘Big Air’ (long jump); ‘Extreme Vertical’ (high jump); Speed Retrieve (jump, swim and retrieve); and ‘Iron Dog’, when a dog competes in all three disciplines.

By consistently jumping 22 foot distances Zoey is considered a ‘master’ in the Big Air event.

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Dinosaur Train Comes to the Mountains

Michael Kumpf, from Indianapolis, gives daughter Mazie a close-up view of ‘Laura Giganotosaurus’, one of the prehistoric characters in the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s special ‘Jim Henson’s Dinosaur Train™’ excursion. After departing Bryson City, the train stops in Whittier at the ‘Nature Trackers Adventure Area’ where the fields and woods are inhabited with the lovable monsters from the popular PBS Kids Television series. Budding archaeologists can identify dinosaur tracks, assist in a dinosaur dig and play miniature golf with dinosaur ‘eggs’.

This year’s Dinosaur Train excursions conclude next weekend with departures on Friday and Saturday. August 4 & 5. For more information, visit GSMR.com.

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Bryson City’s Nostalgic Ice Cream Shop

Mmmm, frozen summer treats from a local Ice Cream parlor.

At Soda Pops, owner and chief soda jerk Paul Crawley still serves the same timeless favorites your grandparents enjoyed — chocolate malts, floats, sundaes, banana splits and sugar cones crowned with freshly-scooped ice cream — choices that are perfectly in keeping with the shop’s nostalgic decor. It’s the  perfect ending to a day of fun in the Smokies.

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The Rockets’ Red Glare, The Bombs Bursting In Air

Each year, Bryson City’s Fourth of July celebration culminates with one of the best fireworks displays in the mountains. With the rockets launched from atop Airport Hill, almost any place in town is a great place to watch the show, including the Everett Street bridge (above).

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If It’s Not a Tube, Is It Still ‘Tubing’?

For generations of Smokies vacationers, ‘tubing’ has meant floating down the river on heavy black truck tubes, with protective disc seats lashed to the center (and making sure the long valve is on the underside of the tube).

Traditionalists call this ‘real’ tubing. They argue that today’s light-weight plastic floats, while round, are not really tubes. “If it’s not a tube, how can you call it tubing?”, they say.

It’s a searing controversy that’s totally ignored by the throngs that simply enjoy floating down the Tuck, the Oconaluftee and Deep Creek on a Summer afternoon. Tubing is a cool, relaxing and inexpensive activity for the whole family. Want to join in? You’ll find a list of tubing outfitters here.

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A Swinging Summer Afternoon at Bryson City’s ‘Beach’

In the mountains, it’s hard to find anything vaguely resembling a beach. Most river and lake banks are simply too steep and too rocky. One exception is the so-called ‘finger lakes’ area of Fontana Lake where you’ll find a small park with picnic tables, public restrooms and a swimming area with rope swing. Since there are no life guards, you naturally swim at your own risk. The park is on the south side of Highway 28 near Almond Boat Park.

Nowhere else in the Smokies will you find as many different ways to enjoy water as the Bryson City area offers. To learn everything you can do in ‘Mother Nature’s Water Park’ go here.

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It’s Not Quite The ‘Dragon’ But It Is One Continuous Curve

The ‘Twister’ — one of the two go-cart tracks at Cherokee Fun Park  — is a multi-level figure-8 spiral that winds its way up one side of the “8” and back down the other. The park’s other track is a more traditional road track with two overpasses. There’s also miniature golf and an indoor arcade.

The Cherokee Fun Park is located at 1897 Tsali Boulevard (US 441N) at the Acquoni Road intersection.  Hours are 10am to 10pm seven days a week throughout the summer season (Memorial Day — Labor Day).

This is our fourth birthday — Since May 26, 2008, we’ve published 216 Postcards From The Smokies. If you’re relatively new to this blog, you may enjoy browsing through our past posts… a composite picture of living and playing in Bryson City and the Great Smoky Mountains.

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Bryson City Company Makes Small-Scale Old West Wagons

When Horace Greelee said “go west young man”, J.R. vanLienden must have been listening, because he’s gone into the Old West Wagon Train business.

But he’s not making wagons for pioneers and teams of horses. J.R.’s wagons are scaled down for kids and are powered by the ‘horses’ under the hood of a garden tractor or riding mower — an “amusement ride for home or business,” he says. At the recent “Green Thumb Day” festival in Whittier (above), J.R. offered free rides on one of the wagons. And he says several can be strung together for a ‘trackless train’.

J.R. makes his wagons in the old Whittier School. You’ll find more information on his website, TinkerMania.com.

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A Mild Spring Means Strawberries in Mid-April

Normally, we expect locally-grown strawberries to ripen in time for Mothers Day in mid-May. But this year’s mild Spring brought the berries to market about a month earlier. Above, Jennifer Cooper of Bryson City (left) and Marta Laksa of Cherokee sample freshly-picked berries at Darnell Farms, just east of Bryson City on Highway 19. Darnell and the Shelton Family Farm on Thomas Valley Road in Whittier are two local growers where you can pick your own or purchase containers of berries.

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The Clingmans Dome Visitor Center is the Highest in the Eastern US

Clingmans Dome is not only the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s one of the Park’s most heavily-visited sites. To better accommodate Clingmans’ heavy traffic, the National Park Service recently made a number of upgrades to the mountaintop facilities.

The original comfort station, constructed more than 60 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corp, was renovated and converted into a seasonal information center (above). It also houses a bookstore/sales area managed by the non-profit Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), which funded the renovation project. At 6300 feet, it’s the highest elevation national park visitor center in the eastern U.S.

A new comfort station consists of three sets of vault toilets installed at the west end of the parking area designed to accommodate all visitors, including those with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Dillsboro’s Quirky Easter Hat Parade Is Next Saturday

“For in your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade” — Irving Berlin (1933)

“Grandest”? Not necessarily. In Dillsboro’s annual Easter Hat Parade, participants are more likely shooting for the “funniest”, the “most unusual” or the “most outrageous”.

Led by a fleet of restored antique cars, followed by the many hat contestants and featuring the Easter Bunny, the parade begins in front of the Town Hall on Front Street and circles the two-blocks of downtown Dillsboro.

Awards are announced after the Parade. Ribbons are given for the Prettiest, Funniest, Largest, Smallest, Most Unusual, Most Easter-like, Best Smelling, Cutest, Most Outrageous, Best In Show and “Poofiest” hats among other unusual categories. There is even a ribbon awarded to the Best Animal in Show!

At 10:30 AM Dogwood Crafters will offer assistance making hats. And every half-hour beginning at 10:30, there’ll be egg hunts for different age groups across the street from Dogwood Crafters.

Feeling creative? Make a hat and join the parade.

Dillsboro Easter Hat Parade
Saturday, April 7, 2 PM
Downtown Dillsboro
Contestant registration begins at 11 AM

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In Bryson City, One of the South’s Largest Model Train Collections

Some kids never grow up, particularly when it comes to model trains. And next door to the Bryson City train depot, there’s a special treat for model train lovers of all ages. Smoky Mountain Trains, a museum dedicated to model railroading, houses a vast collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, rail cars and accessories, some dating back to the early 20th century.

The museum’s centerpiece is a large diorama with more than a mile of track on three levels where up to six trains run simultaneously. The layout includes a freight yard with more than 400 cars. There are tunnels, trestles, houses, factories, a five-foot waterfall and 12 animated scenes. The miniature maintenance area includes a turntable and roundhouse (above).

There are also smaller train layouts just for kids, with child-friendly buttons that operate the trains and accessories.

Admission to Smoky Mountain Trains is $9 for adults, $6 for children; and free for riders on Great Smoky Mountain Railroad excursions.

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Leaving the Land of Sun and Sand… for Sun and Snow

In January, a lot of us dream of Florida’s sunny beaches. But for Floridians Kristian and Ingrid Yanez, a snowy Newfound Gap was their dream come true. Even with Saturday morning’s chilling 17 degrees atop the Smokies, sibling rivalry is rarely this much fun.

At 5046 feet elevation, Newfound Gap’s temperatures are usually 10º–15º cooler than Bryson City. And it receives much more precipitation, making it the best place to find snow. But before heading out, please check the road conditions.

For updated road and weather information call the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at (865) 436-1200. Once you hear a voice, dial extension 631 for road information or extension 630 for a weather forecast.

You can get that same information via the Internet by going to twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps to read recent road notification postings. This is a Twitter website maintained by the Park, but anybody can access it at any time without having to establish a Twitter account. The webpage is updated 3-4 times a week.

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Merry Christmas From Bryson City

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday from the Bryson City / Swain County Chamber of Commerce.

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Local Gridiron Heroes Headline Bryson City Christmas Parade

Yesterday’s 37th annual Christmas parade had everything you would expect — colorful floats, music, fire trucks, celebrities and, of course, Santa. Even the green ‘Grinch’ received applause. But the biggest cheer went up for the Swain High Maroon Devils football team – 2011 State 1AA football champions and Grand Marshals of the parade. Led by homecoming queen Mary Shell, our local heroes proudly held their trophy high throughout the parade. The entire county shares your pride, guys.

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Polar Express Dress Code — Pajamas, Robe and Fuzzy Slippers

Wearing pajamas is part of the fun and tradition of riding the Polar Express train, although the practice is normally reserved for the children. Normally.

Based on the popular book and movie, the 1-1/4 hour Polar Express excursions continue thru Christmas Eve. And after Christmas, December 26–29, four additional excursions will be taking Santa back to the North Pole.

For more information, visit the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad website, or download this PDF flier.


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December 10 – Biggest Little Christmas Parade in the Smokies

Hoyt Lucas pedals his unicycle in a recent Bryson City Christmas parade. Since the 1970s, the town has celebrated the Christmas season with a parade, and on Saturday December 10*, the 37th annual edition will circle through town with floats, fire trucks, bands, classic cars, beauty queens and lots of candy for the kids. The parade begins at 2 pm, and later at 6 pm, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the Train Depot for visits and photos. The evening concludes with a candlelit walk through town singing carols prior to the lighting of the tree on the square.

There’s a lot more about “A Bryson City Christmas” on our website.

NOTE NEW DATE: The Parade date has changed from the 3rd to the 10th to show support for our own Swain County High School Maroon Devils playing in the State Championship game on December 3.

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Santa Is Closer Than You Might Think

More than likely, you’ve never considered visiting the North Pole. It’s too far away and there’s a lot of snow and ice. But there’s a much faster and easier way… through Bryson City.

Each year, throughout November and December, the Polar Express departs from the Bryson City depot on a round trip journey to the North Pole where riders are greeted by Santa (above) who joins them on the return trip to Bryson City. Children are encouraged to wear pajamas to hear the story, meet Santa, enjoy caroling, hot cocoa and games.

Based on the popular book and movie, the 1-1/4 hour excursions continue thru Christmas Eve. And after Christmas, December 26–29, four additional excursions will be taking Santa back to the North Pole.

For more information, visit the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad website, or download this PDF flier.

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