PARK VISTA HOTEL
  GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE
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Back in 1983, a bunch of us poor Ohio State students embarked on a 5-day spring break backpacking trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our biggest expense was our the gas for the round trip. We had a tremendous experience in the back woods... an experience that Iíll always fondly remember. Exploring Gatlinburg was definitely not on our agenda, but we passed through the town in order to reach the park. Until recently, the only memories I had of Gatlinburg were the crowds, the unique architecture of the Ripleyís Believe It Or Not Museum, and a large majestic, cylindrical hotel nestled in the mountains looking down upon the town. From the back seat of our van, I looked up at this distant structure and thought, "That must be where the rich, successful VIPís stay."

Well, Iíve had 20 wonderful years since then. Iím hardly rich... but when I decided to include two nights at Gatlinburg in our 2003 family vacation, naturally I was interested in the hotel which had captured my imagination so many years before.

The hotel is The Park Vista Hotel. The Park Vista is different from most other Gatlinburg hotels for a number of reasons.

Its location about a mile south of downtown Gatlinburg could be considered both an asset and a detriment. Itís situated up the mountain and away from the hustle and bustle of crowded downtown Gatlinburg, which provides a feeling of relative seclusion as well as a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains and the town below. However, itís out-of-the-way location means more difficult access to the Gatlinburg attractions. While a two-mile round-trip hike may not seem too tough to some, I was not enamored with the prospect of a mile hike up a steep grade at the end of a long day of walking and sightseeing. The Gatlinburg trolley loop stops at the Park Vista, but the frequency of stops seemed to be rather sporadic. Parking is available in Gatlinburg, but itís moderately expensive.

With over 300 units on 15 floors, the Park Vista is one of Gatlinburgís largest hotels and is therefore a popular convention spot. Its cylindrical architecture is an interesting curiosity. From the outside, it looks nice against the Smoky Mountain landscape. The interior is a spacious hollow atrium. The circular corridors of all 15 floors are visible high above the hotel lobby and are joined by a large glass elevator from which you can see yourself ascend/descend. Naturally, my kids (10 and 12 year old girls) and I rode this novel elevator a few times just for the fun of it! We were determined to ride from the bottom floor to the top floor, or vice versa, without anyone else getting on. The closest we came was when it stopped on the second floor on our way down for a couple of kids on their way to the pool. (Yes, they also have conventional elevators, if perchance, there are kids playing with the big elevator.) The lobby is nicely decorated. At the time they had a large mounted black bear with which you may take photos. They also had a large cage containing several species of colorful birds.

The size of the rooms are about average for a mid-priced hotel. They are spacious and certainly comfortable, but not huge. The room seemed to be adequately cleaned and well-maintained. The rooms have a desk, table, chest and mid-size TV. The bathrooms are of a nice size. The sink/vanity/coffee maker area is separate from the toilet/bath. Every room has its own private balcony, accessible by a large sliding door. The balconies are very small, but suitable for taking in the spectacular mountain view or breathing the fresh mountain air.

The staff was friendly and helpful. Check-in and check-out was easy and the staff was glad to answer questions.

The Park Vista features two dining establishments... Eleanorís Restaurant and Franklinís Bar & Grill. Eleanorís is located off the central lobby area. Itís tastefully decorated and has many windows with views. The menu features steaks, seafood and standard American cuisine.

Much to the delight of the kids, the pool facilities are outstanding. The pool area is enclosed within a huge windowed atrium which allows the sun to thoroughly penetrate. The three-tiered pool has a deep pool at the top, a shallower kids pool at the bottom, an even shallower kiddie pool and a hot tub in between.

Although we visited during the week near the end of August, the hotel seemed to be booked near capacity. This was not a problem for us except that the parking lot was always nearly full and we had to park a considerable distance from the entrance.

AAA published rates are $70-100 during peak season. I booked our room through the Park Vista website for $79 / night. Local tax is 12.5%, so out total was about $89 / night, which I thought was very reasonable for a hotel of this quality located at a popular tourist destination.

 

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Read my reviews from our 2003 travels on epinions.com:

The Parthenon - Nashville, Tennessee

A Family Guide to New Orleans, Louisiana

How FAMILIES can enjoy Bourbon Street

The Wyndham Hotel - Downtown New Orleans

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas - New Orleans

Pensacola Beach, Florida

Best Western Resort - Pensacola Beach, Florida

Rock City & Ruby Falls - Chattanooga, Tennessee

A Family Guide to Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Ripley's Haunted Adventure, Gatlinburg

Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, Gatlinburg

Park Vista Hotel, Gatlinburg

A LIST OF ALL OF MY EPINIONS.COM REVIEWS