Enjoy Breath-taking Views on Helicopter Rides in Cherokee, North Carolina (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Helicopter and Pilot in Cherokee, North Carolina, August 2015

Helicopter and Pilot in Cherokee, North Carolina, August 2015

Should you visit Cherokee, North Carolina, a great activity to experience is taking a helicopter ride, flying above the beautiful mountains.  My family and I have enjoyed the breath-taking views by riding the helicopter in Cherokee on many occasions over the course of the past several years.

View of the Great Smoky Mountains from Cherokee, North Carolina, August 2015

View of the Great Smoky Mountains from Cherokee, North Carolina, August 2015

While a ride of a few minutes involves a considerable investment, it is well-worth it for the experience gained.  The staff are always friendly and professional, thereby also gaining us as repeat customers.  For anyone who enjoys flying and/or beautiful mountain views, flying in the helicopter in Cherokee, North Carolina is an experience I definitely recommend.

Camping in the Great Smokies (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

A Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

A Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

Summer is a great time of the year for camping, and this summer is no different.  Last week, my son went camping with a group in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  He hiked, cooked, and photographed the outdoors.  There were many beautiful trees, creeks, rocks, plants, and other wildlife to photograph.

Creek Scene in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

Creek Scene in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

At one point during my son’s camping trip, a mother black bear and three of her cubs walked along the outskirts of the camp.  It was quite an experience for the campers and the bears.  One of the cubs got scared and climbed up a tree.  Thankfully, the bears remained at a safe distance from everyone, and vice versa.

Rocks and Boulders in a Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

Rocks and Boulders in a Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, July 26, 2014

My son had a great opportunity for camping in the Great Smokies, and he returned home feeling even more inspired than he already was to conserve nature and protect wildlife.  I’m glad that he had a good experience and was with other campers who were responsible and who looked out for each other.

Thankfully, my son was no longer in the area when lightning storms and tornadoes swept through on the next day, however most of his group remained.  Luckily, everyone was okay.

Note: The photos in this post were taken by my son.

“The Polar Express and Other Train Rides with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Our First Ride on the Polar Express with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Our First Ride on the Polar Express with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

For the past seven years, my family has enjoyed many rides on the trains of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (“GSMR”).  During those years, my family has ridden the trains for different events on approximately seven occasions.  Each occasion has been wonderful and memorable, and our enjoyment of each event, as well as the consistently friendly service, kindness, and professionalism of the GSMR staff keeps us coming back for more! 

My Son Happily Meeting Santa Claus on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

My Son Happily Meeting Santa Claus on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Our previous rides with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad have included several to the Halloween Pumpkin Patch to visit Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy, as well as a couple of rides on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train, about which I will describe further on in this article.  This time, during the current month of December, my family experienced The Polar Express for the first time!  And, what a wonderful and exciting ride it was, indeed.  It was especially memorable; and we have the GSMR Vice President/General Manager to personally thank for our great experience on this ride.

Santa Claus Speaking with Children on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Santa Claus Speaking with Children on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

On our Polar Express ride, we were served chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate by the friendly chefs; the children met and spoke with Santa Claus, who was accompanied by his #1 Elf, Brandon; and everyone sang Christmas carols on the way back to Bryson City from our stop to board Santa Claus at the North Pole.  An audio storytelling of The Polar Express book was read to children.  And, children also had the opportunity to march back and forth in the aisles with the chefs as they all pretended to be a train.  My son immediately jumped at the chance to participate in the imaginary train, and all those children who took part had a wonderful time.

My Son with his Silver Jingle Bell and Roundtrip Ticket on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

My Son with his Silver Jingle Bell and Roundtrip Ticket on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Each child on the train personally received a special “silver” jingle bell from Santa Claus; and they also had their unique Polar Express Roundtrip tickets humorously hole-punched many times by the Conductor.  My son held onto that special roundtrip ticket for his entire ride, not even setting it down for a moment.  Once he received the silver jingle bell from Santa Claus, he also maintained that on his person for quite some time.  The Polar Express was a wonderful experience for my family, and made quite a happy, memorable impression upon my son, who, no doubt, will ride it again in the future.

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2012

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2012

On four occasions throughout the years, my family has ridden on the GSMR Halloween Pumpkin Patch Train Ride.  Each experience has been happy, wonderful, and memorable, particularly due to the fun Halloween atmosphere that the rail company creates for it’s riders.  On the ride to the Pumpkin Patch, an audio storytelling of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is played for the children.  Once the train arrives at the Pumpkin Patch, Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy are waiting to great the children. 

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2010

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2010

Then, the kids have the opportunity to participate in many activities, such as going on a hay ride, roasting marshmallows, jumping on inflatables, using a bobber to get an apple, playing fun Halloween games, eating Halloween cookies, playing checkers, going Trick-or-Treating in a makeshift neighborhood, and other memorable experiences.  Again, every ride and event is sure to remain in one’s memory as a wonderful and lasting experience.

About to Enjoy a ride on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

About to Enjoy a ride on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

Two of the GSMR train rides that my family has enjoyed have also included those on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train.  The first of these rides for my son was when he was three years old – and this was also our very first of many outstanding rides and events enjoyed with the GSMR throughout the past seven years.

My Son with Sir Topham Hat, Day Out With Thomas, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

My Son with Sir Topham Hat, Day Out With Thomas, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

Of course, I had to buy a train whistle for my son, as well as a “Day Out With Thomas” pennant, and a couple of other souvenirs.  We were also able to get pictures with Sir Topham Hat, Thomas’ railway manager.  That was a real treat, especially because it was an extremely hot day, and Sir Topham Hat was roasting, even while getting photographed in a shady spot.

We are so thankful to have happened upon the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad many years ago, and that we have been able to experience and enjoy the many train rides and events offered by the railroad, with those included in this article being only a few.  All of the trains are well-maintained and are staffed by caring, professional people, making it a joy to ride every time.  Bryson City is also a pleasant and beautiful locale with breath-taking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smokies.  The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad can be found online at www.gsmr.com.  Check out and experience their outstanding train rides today!