The Smoky Mountains.
Photo courtesy of Logan Mattingly.

Many people have started new holiday traditions this past year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With concerns over older family members’ health and restrictions on group gatherings, people have turned to road trips and nature for entertainment to celebrate the holidays.

Logan Mattingly, 21, of Battle Creek, is one such traveler who spent his Thanksgiving with his girlfriend visiting the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Smoky Mountains is a popular destination spot in the U.S., known for its scenic views and black bear inhabitants.

“We decided to do something new this year and treat ourselves for being stuck at home most of the last year,” Mattingly said.

Gatlinburg was also a small reprieve from the COVID-19 regulations back in Michigan.

“People were a lot more relaxed about wearing masks at some of the amusement parks we went to,” Mattingly said, “and all of the restaurants down there were open for in-person dining, so it was nice to eat out on what felt like an actual date.”