Wilderness at the Smokies

wildernessSwimsuits, sun, water, pools, rock climbing, and even tanning. Are you ready for summer yet? You don’t have to wait for the temperatures to rise. There is a place you might not know about, but it has a ton to offer. I’m talking about Wilderness at the Smokies in Sevierville, TN.

The majority of tourists coming into the Smoky Mountains area do so via I-40 and Exit 407 on the Tennessee side of the park. But once you get off the interstate, your eyes are drawn to the mountains ahead and thoughts of hiking, Dollywood, or your final destination of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Many people think of Sevierville as a simple corridor taking them to where they are going. But Sevierville is home to Wilderness at the Smokies, and it is definitely a place you should consider putting down your bags and letting loose before you head into the national park.

Wilderness at the Smokies is a massive resort complex located just minutes from exit 407 in Severville. Before you hit the main traffic on the parkway heading into Pigeon Forge, you could be at your hotel resort here. There is really no place like it in the Smoky Mountains area. It opened its doors in 2008, and has been steadily growing and adding wonderful features and fun ever since.
There are two resort hotel properties on site which include Stone Hill Lodge and River Lodge. The Stone hill lodge contains mostly your more traditional hotel hotel rooms while River Lodge contains many mini suites with kitchenettes and more. So, what exactly is it that brings people here? It is really everything around the rooms. The hotel rooms are fairly average, though they are in much better shape than comparable properties in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. So many of those properties are very old and in desperate need of a rehab that the newness of this place is a welcome change. But I digress. So again, why are people coming here? Its the fun…

This place boasts three onsite water parks, including Tennessee’s largest indoor water park coming in at 66,000 square feet. This is truly the selling point for this property. While the two outdoor water park areas, Lake Wilderness and Salamander Springs, are closed during the winter months, the Wild Water Dome indoor water park is open year round. Imagine doing water slides while it is still snowing outside. This is a very cool thought. And did I mention that it is free?

Guests staying at the resort have free access to all of these water parks as they are included in the price of your room rate. The better part of this is that it is for hotel guests only, so you do not have to worry about the place being overrun with someone staying at the Motel 6 down the street. That is great. Now, since the main attraction is the indoor water park, lets get back to that.
This place boasts a wave pool, surfing and surfing lessons (one at a time…that area is pretty small), water slides, and family raft rides. There are several things in this area to fit everyone’s speed. There are places for the kids, fun fast slides for the older kids and kids at heart, and even a large family raft ride that the whole family can take part in. It is very cool to have this under one roof at your own hotel resort. No fighting traffic, no extra admission. You could spend a few hours here easily and be well entertained. During the time the outdoor water parks are open, you could easily spend the day doing everything.

The resort also offers several other activities under their roof that are an extra charge, but it is really nice to have them right in your hotel and indoors. Adventure Forest is a 25,000 square foot area that includes many of the attractions that you would have to drive all over town to find. They have mini golf, laser tag, a rock wall, bowling, huge arcade, and a three-story rope walk called Tree Top Towers. This is a rope walk that actually goes over the arcade and several other features in the hotel. This is pretty neat. There is an extra charge for this. To get an all day, all inclusive pass for all of the activities, you are going to pay 25 dollars for adults and 20 dollars for kids. That may seem a little steep, but you will get everything included. And if you don’t want to do everything, you can do it ala carte and pay for only the activities you want to do. This area is open to people besides just hotel guests, so that could make it more busy at times, but I still think it doesn’t get too bad.

When you get hungry and thirsty from all that activity, there are several pool bars, quick service restaurants, and sit down restaurants to choose from. The options are nice, but the food quality feels a little like your typical theme park food. It is a little weak. This is one area I think they could do a little better. The emphasis seems to be more on quantity than quality, and the food really doesn’t justify the prices, but hopefully with time that will change. One nice thing is that fountain drinks have free daily refills. So that can save you a little money.

As far as getting around, this is a pretty sprawling resort, and if you are staying in a far out room, getting to the main indoor park and the golf course can be a hike. Luckily, they do have a resort shuttle to get you around. I would check out the layout of the hotel before you make your reservations and request a room close to the activities. Room requests are accepted, but not guaranteed. It never hurts to ask.

You would likely expect the room rates to be much higher than comparable places in town, but really its not too bad at all. Considering what is included, I think it can be a bargain depending on when you go. You can expect to pay anywhere from 99 dollars a night to about 300 a night for a larger room during peak seasons. Again though that includes use of the water parks for your entire party for your whole stay.

I would recommend checking out deals before you book. Sometimes you can find some decent deals. You can also get discounts and free passes to other area attractions when you stay here, so that could further help justify the price. Check those current offerings on the website before you head down. Like I said, this place is a RESORT hotel, and they have about everything that you would expect a resort to have. You will have activities, shopping, dining, and of course a place to lay your head at night.

My biggest bit of advice is to try to go during weekdays whenever possible. Even though the water parks are only open to hotel guests, they can get pretty packed during peak times. There are many, many rooms at this resort, and the place can fill up, especially during times when the outdoor water parks are not yet open. If you are looking for a huge space and activities like Dollywood and Splash Country, you will likely be disappointed. But if you want a one-stop shop where you can do everything without ever moving your car, this could be a great place for you and your family.

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