Glad to hear you and your family made some lasting memories on your trip. Growing up a camper in the 60's/ 70's going on summer vacations my Dad took us along the same route ; Look Out Mtn, Rock City, Ruby Falls and the Smokies.
We were camping last month for 6 days in the GSMNP Hiking, biking and rafting as well as seeing the Synchronous Fire Flies which only appear in late May/early June. If you think the trailheads are crowded in the park , the fire fly viewing has reached a new level. You have enter a lottery weeks in advance to win a parking spot to ride the shuttle from the Sugarland visitors center to the campground just to sit in the dark to see "lighting bugs" as we called them. Sounds crazy, and it can be over a 4 hour experience, but until you see it, and watch it with your children you are missing something special.
I know many people enjoy the sites and sounds of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge when visiting the GSMNP but for me natural beauty and quiet surroundings are what keeps us going back.
2008 Toyota Sequoia Limited
2011 Jay Feather X18D