Smoky Mountain Rail Adventure
Scenic train excursions, the sophisticated Biltmore Estate and Southern music and culture are hallmarks of this tour through the beautiful Smoky Mountains.
Begin this 9-day tour in the Music City, Nashville TN. During our two nights in Nashville, we will have a guided tour of the city, which takes us through historic downtown and Music Row. No trip to Nashville would be complete without a visit to the Grand Olde Opry, and this tour provides backstage access.
Next, it's on to Chattanooga, with a stop at the Belle Meade Plantation for a tour of this beautiful mansion and its grounds. Then it's time for a visit to a museum on wheels as we hop on board the Tennessee Valley Railroad’s Missionary Ridge Local route. Nighttime provides a dinner cruise along the Tennessee River on the Southern Belle Riverboat.
As we travel closer to the Smokies, stop in Etowah, and ride the corkscrew Hiwassee Loop Train before an overnight at Gatlinburg. Finally, we'll have a guided tour of the Smoky Mountains National Park. Next is a train excursion to Nantahala Gorge and then a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway. In Asheville, we'll visit the family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt, the luxurious Biltmore Estate.
Highlights and Inclusions
- Tennessee Valley Railroad
- The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
- Hotel accommodations for 8 nights, including 2 nights at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel
- 9 meals
- Nashville City
- Grand Ole Opry
- Belle Meade Plantation
- Southern Belle Riverboat Dinner Cruise
- Great Smoky Mountain National Park
- Biltmore Estate
- Transportation by deluxe motorcoach
- Services of a professional tour manager
- Baggage Handling
Day 1 – Nashville
Arrive in Nashville and settle into the hotel. Take the day to explore Music City on your own, then join our group in the evening for a welcome dinner. Overnight Nashville, TN. (D)
Day 2 – Nashville City Tour / Grand Ole Opry Tours
This morning, enjoy a fully narrated tour that highlights Nashville’s most popular attractions, including the Historic Downtown District and “Honky Tonk Row,” Riverfront Park, the Tennessee State Capitol, the Parthenon and Music Row. Then head to the Grand Ole Opry for a backstage tour where we can follow in the footsteps of country music's most famous musicians, and take a peek at its artist entrance. You then have the afternoon and evening free to enjoy live music, visit The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum or indulge in the city's unique cuisine. Overnight Nashville, TN. (B)
Day 3 – Belle Meade Plantation
Depart Nashville and travel to Belle Meade Plantation, which is dedicated to preserving Tennessee’s Victorian architecture and equestrian history. We'll tour the beautiful Greek-Revival mansion and expansive grounds that include a dairy, horse stable, gardens, and more. Our time here also includes lunch and a wine tasting. Then travel to Chattanooga where you have an evening at leisure. You might want to ride the Incline Railway and travel up scenic Lookout Mountain, which is full of activities at the top. Overnight Chattanooga, TN. (L)
Day 4 – Tennessee Valley Railroad / Southern Belle Riverboat
Today we'll take a ride on a rolling museum – the Tennessee Valley Railroad. The Missionary Ridge Local route takes us along the original railroad lines in Chattanooga, across four bridges and passes through the pre-Civil War Missionary Ridge Tunnel – listed on the National Register of Historic Places - to East Chattanooga. We will disembark there for a tour in the railroad restoration shop before the return trip. The afternoon is free to explore Chattanooga on your own. The city offers a complimentary shuttle bus that can take you to some of the city’s major attractions. This evening, embark on a dinner cruise aboard the Southern Belle Riverboat and enjoy live music as we travel along the Tennessee River. Overnight Chattanooga, TN. (D)
Day 5 – Hiwassee Loop
Enjoy a morning at leisure in Chattanooga. This afternoon, we travel to Etowah, where we will ride on The Tennessee Valley Railroad's route. This 3 ½-hour scenic rail excursion takes us through the Cherokee National Forest and Hiwassee River Gorge, and then spirals its way up the mountaintop. Afterwards we'll settle into Gatlinburg, located at the foot of the Smoky Mountains, where you will have a free evening to explore this charming town on your own. Overnight Gatlinburg, TN. (B)
Day 6 – Great Smoky Mountain National Park
This morning take in the beauty of America’s most visited national park. Today’s half-day guided tour of Great Smoky Mountain National Park includes several beautiful photographic opportunities of the sea of mountains and the Rockefeller Memorial at Newfound Gap. We will learn about the early settlers to the area and the history of the park. The remainder of day is at leisure. You might wish to head back to Gatlinburg and check out its Aerial Tram or explore its lively downtown with the stunning mountain views as your backdrop. Overnight Gatlinburg, TN. (B)
Day 7 – The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
Travel to Bryson City, NC where we'll board The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad for a four-hour journey to the Nantahala Gorge. Enjoy the large picture windows in Crown Class as we cross the historic Fontana Trestle bridge over Fontana Lake. Bluegrass music and Appalachian stories will accompany us during the ride. We'll stop at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for an hour break to discover the area on foot. Enjoy lunch on your own on the return trip. Afterwards, we'll drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway with its breathtaking vistas and stop at the Folk Art Center where you can shop the finest in traditional and contemporary crafts of the Southern Appalachians before arriving in Asheville. Overnight Asheville, NC. (B)
Day 8 – Biltmore Estate
This morning, take a tour of Biltmore Estate, the family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt. Keep your eye out for original art by Renoir, explore the library filled with 10,000 books, and marvel at the 16th-century decor. This afternoon will be at leisure in lively downtown Asheville. There are plenty of locally-owned boutiques, world-class restaurants, art galleries and gorgeous architecture to explore. This evening gather with your tour manager and fellow travelers for a Farewell Dinner. Overnight Asheville, NC. (B, D)
Day 9 – Tour Conclusion
Your tour of the Smoky Mountains ends this morning. Transportation is available to the Asheville Airport and Spartanburg Amtrak Station for planes and trains departing after 2:00 pm.
Train and Hotel Accommodations
Hotel Indigo Nashville – Downtown, Chattanooga Choo Choo, The Park Vista A DoubleTree by Hilton (Gatlinburg), and Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville.
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers excursions to view the beauty of North Carolina on vintage locomotives powered by either diesel or steam engines. The "Steam of the Smokies" engine dates back to 1942 and was constructed via an official commissioned WWII Steam Engine plan. The 4½-hour Nantahala Gorge Excursion takes you through remote areas of western North Carolina along the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers.
Tennessee Valley Railroad
With its interactive, historical excursions on vintage train cars, The Tennessee Valley Railroad is considered a moving museum. Embark from Chattanooga to explore southern Tennessee on vintage Pullman train cars pulled by a restored engine that could date back as far as 1891.
- Missionary Ridge Take a journey back in time along an original railroad line from Chattanooga, where you travel across bridges and pass through the Missionary Ridge Tunnel, built in 1858. During this hour-long journey, you also get to see a train turntable in action and visit a railroad restoration shop.
- Hiwassee Loop This 3 ½-hour journey takes you up the lower Hiwassee River gorge on its 50-mile trek on a vintage locomotive. As you approach Farner, Tennessee you'll witness the unique shape of the train tracks crisscrossing each other to loop around the mountain.
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