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Weekend Guide to the Smokies

smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains, nicknamed the Smokies, are one of the region’s most precious regions. It’s made up of a number of towns around the namesake national park, including Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Townsend, and Gatlinburg. The leaves change colors for the fall and are dusted with snow in the winter, the best times to visit. But there’s something to offer year-round.

Originally quiet mountain towns, thanks in part to high-profile residents like Dolly Parton, it’s become a popular spot for live entertainment. Pigeon Forge especially has dinner shows and family-friendly theater. Embrace the kitsch as you visit some offbeat tourist attractions or get away from it all and reconnect with nature. If you’re a fan of Branson and Myrtle Beach , the Smokies is definitely for you.

The area was recently affected by devastating fires and needs visitors now more than ever. If you’d like to donate to the relief effort, support the American Red Cross and other local charities.

What to Do

smokies

Ripley’s and the Space Needle

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies– Just one of a dozen attractions owned by Ripley’s in the Smokies, the aquarium is perhaps the most popular. Creatures are divided into their habitats and they have several species of sharks, eels, and stingrays that you can (gently) touch. 88 River Road, Gatlinburg

Guinness World Records Museum– Learn about various world records at this museum, which also interactive exhibits and the chance to set your own record. 800 Parkway, Gatlinburg

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts– Founded in 1912 by Pi Beta Phi, Arrowmont is now a premier arts facility, offering year-round workshops and classes. They also have a permanent collection of works as well as traveling exhibitions. 556 Parkway, Gatlinburg

Dollywood– Founded by country superstar Dolly Parton, Dollywood is a family-friendly theme park offering thrill rides like the new Lightning Rod as well as year-round experiences. There’s also a seasonal water park. 2700 Dollywood Parks Boulevard, Pigeon Forge

Space Needle Gatlinburg Tn– See the town from above at this observation deck, built over 400 feet above the Parkway. Built in 1969, it was the second tallest tower in Tennessee at the time of completion. 115 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg

Ober Gatlinburg Mtn Top– The area’s only ski resort, visitors can take the gondolas over the town to the top of the mountain. Other activities include an amusement park, wildlife encounter, and ski mountain coaster. 1001 Parkway #2, Gatlinburg

Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster– Inspired by those found in Europe, this hillside coaster is open seasonally. The thrilling ride lasts less than 10 minutes. 867 Wears Valley Road, Pigeon Forge

smokies

Outdoor Gravity Park

Titanic Museum– A seemingly odd place for such a museum, it claims to be the world’s largest museum attraction. It features artifacts taken from the famously sunken ocean liner. 2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge

Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island– Set above Pigeon Forge’s largest entertainment complex, this Ferris Wheel offers views of the Parkway and beyond. It soars to over 200 feet and has enclosed glass gondolas for 360-degree views. 131 The Island Drive, Pigeon Forge

Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum– This offbeat museum is the only one of its kind in the world, showcasing over 20,000 pairs of shakers from all over the world. They also have a collection of pepper mills and a gift shop. 461 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg

Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park– Embrace your sense of adventure at this outdoor park with ziplines, a swinging rope bridge, and even a cidery! Give yourself plenty of time the corners of this unique space. 3757 Thomas Lane, Sevierville

Outdoor Gravity Park– Inspired by zorbing in New Zealand, Outdoor Gravity Park is one of the few places you can do it in the United States. You can go down various courses on the hill, with a friend, and even in water, depending on the season. 203 Sugar Hollow Road, Pigeon Forge

Hollywood Star Cars Museum– Get up close with some of the automobiles you’ve seen in film and television, including those used in the Fast and Furious franchise, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Back to the Future. 914 Parkway, Gatlinburg

Tennessee Smokies Baseball– Get your minor league baseball fix at this Chicago Cubs-affiliated team’s games. Smokies Stadium is open from April to September. 3540 Line Drive, Kodak

smokies

Doc Collier Moonshine

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad– Starting in North Carolina, this scenic railway is a family favorite. They also have optional add-ons like excursions to Nantahala Gorge and Tuckasegee River as well as meals. During the holiday season, the trains are transformed into the Polar Express. 226 Everett St, Bryson City, North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountain National Park– Perhaps the most important attraction in the region, start at the Cades Cove Visitor Center & Museum to learn about the park’s history before exploring further. There can be traffic on weekends and during bear and elk spottings. 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg

Moonshine Distilleries– Countless moonshine distilleries have opened to the public in the last few years, including  Doc Collier MoonshineOld Forge DistillerySugarlands Distilling Company, and Ole Smoky Distillery.

Live entertainment– There’s a show for just about every interest. A few include Sweet Fanny Adams TheatreBiblical Times Dinner TheaterThe Comedy Barn TheaterDixie StampedeLumberjack AdventureHatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, and Smoky Mountain Opry.

If you’re still looking for things to do, the area also offers mini golf, hikes, horseback riding, cycling, fly fishing, and rafting, depending on the season.

Where to Eat

smokies

The Donut Friar

Pancake Pantry– Expect to wait at this Tennessee favorite, first opened in 1960. Everything is homemade, from the pancake batter to the butter. If you’re not a fan of pancakes or sweets, they also offer burgers, sandwiches, and omelets. 628 Parkway, Gatlinburg, (865) 436-4724

Donut Friar– Located next door in the Village, the Donut Friar is open from 5 am daily for coffee and homemade doughnuts. The cozy space doesn’t have much seating, so find a spot upstairs or take it back to your room to enjoy. 634 Parkway, Shop 15, Gatlinburg, (865) 436-7306

Greenbrier Restaurant– Set in a log cabin built in 1939, Greenbrier is a favorite restaurant for views of the Smokies and romantic dining. Steaks and seafood are on offer, as well as a full wine list. 370 Newman Road, Gatlinburg, (865) 436-6318

Tony Gore’s Smoky Mountain BBQ & Grill– For a hearty meal, go to Tony’s, owned by a local gospel singer. Here you’ll find massive portions of barbecue, potato chips, and slices of homemade cakes. 1818 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Sevierville, (865) 429-7771

The Old Mill– Set in historic Pigeon Forge, the Old Mill is just as it sounds. Southern favorites are served in their restaurants on pottery made across the street. Country fried steak, cornbread, and vegetables are worth a try. 164 Old Mill Avenue, Pigeon Forge, (865) 429-3463

Smoky Mountain Brewery– For locally made craft beer, head to this eatery, which has locations in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Burgers, wings, and subs round out the mostly bar food menu. 1004 Parkway, Gatlinburg, (865) 436-4200

Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant– With two locations in the area, Applewood serves classic Southern fare and has been a local favorite for 30 years. Menu highlights include apple cinnamon muffins, fried chicken, and red velvet cake. 240 Apple Valley Road, Sevierville, (865) 428-1222

Courthouse Donuts– Located across the street from the historic courthouse and the statue of Dolly Parton, get your sweet fix at this local spot. Design your own donut with various sauces and toppings like Fruity Pebbles. 160 Court Avenue, Sevierville, (865) 286-9073

Where to Stay

smokies

Dollywood DreamMore Resort

There’s no shortage of places to stay in the greater Smokies, ranging from family-friendly hotel rooms to campsites to luxury resorts. Wilderness At the Smokies is a favorite of families, especially for its indoor water park and free meals for kids. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is another, as the Dollywood property has family rooms and easy park access. Reminiscent of a mountain lodge in Vermont, The Lodge at Buckberry Creek offers unique accommodations overlooking Gatlinburg. In the heart of the kitschy Island complex, Margaritaville Island Hotel is about as close to the tropics as you’ll get in Tennessee. Blackberry Farm is perhaps the South’s most awarded resort, tucked into the mountains outside Townsend. If you want to spend the majority of your time in the national park, take advantage of the many campgrounds inside it. Some are remote backcountry sites while others have all the amenities. Cabins are another way to stay in the Smokies, which you can find on Airbnb and HomeAway.

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My trip to the Smoky Mountains was coordinated by Geiger Public Relations and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

Mentioned in this post
  1. Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    88 River Rd
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (888) 240-1358
    https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/gatlinburg
  2. Guinness World Records Museum
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    631 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 430-7800
    http://www.ripleys.com/gatlinburg/guinness-world-records/
  3. Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    556 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 436-5860
    http://www.arrowmont.org/
  4. Dollywood Lane
    Sevier County Tennessee

    Dollywood Ln
    Sevier County Tennessee
  5. Space Needle Gatlinburg Tn
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    293 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
  6. Ober Gatlinburg Mtn Top
    Restaurant in Sevier County Tennessee

    Ski Mountain Rd
    Sevier County Tennessee
    http://www.obergatlinburg.com/
  7. Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    867 Wears Valley Rd
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 365-5000
    http://www.smokymountainalpinecoaster.com/
  8. Titanic Museum
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    2134 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (417) 334-9500
    http://titanicpigeonforge.com/
  9. The Island Drive
    Sevier County Tennessee

    The Island Dr
    Sevier County Tennessee
  10. Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    461 Brookside Village Way
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 430-5515
    http://www.thesaltandpeppershakermuseum.com/
  11. Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    3757 Thomas Ln
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 453-1998
    http://www.foxfiremountain.com/
  12. Outdoor Gravity Park
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    203 Sugar Hollow Rd
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 366-2687
    http://outdoorgravitypark.com/
  13. Hollywood Star Cars Museum
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    914 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 430-2200
    http://www.starcarstn.com/
  14. Smokies Stadium
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    3540 Line Dr
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 286-2300
    http://tennessee.smokies.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t553
  15. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
    Attraction in Swain County North Carolina

    226 Everett St
    Swain County North Carolina
    (828) 586-8811
    http://www.gsmr.com/
  16. Great Smoky Mountain National Park
    Park in Gatlinburg Tennessee

    Park Headquarters Road
    Gatlinburg Tennessee
    (865) 436-1200
  17. Cades Cove Visitor Center & Msm
    Attraction in Blount County Tennessee

    Cable Mill Rd
    Blount County Tennessee
    (865) 436-7318
    http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm
  18. Doc Collier Moonshine
    Restaurant in Sevier County Tennessee

    519 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 325-1468
    http://doccollier.co/
  19. Old Forge Distillery
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    170 Old Mill Ave
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 774-4126
    http://www.oldforgedistillery.com/
  20. Sugarlands Distilling Company
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    805 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 325-1355
    http://www.sugarlandsdistilling.com/
  21. Ole Smoky Distillery
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    903 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 436-6995
    http://www.olesmoky.com/
  22. Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    461 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 436-4038
    http://www.sweetfannyadams.com/
  23. Biblical Times Dinner Theater
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    2391 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (888) 908-3327
    http://www.biblicaltimestheater.com/
  24. The Comedy Barn Theater
    Attraction in Pigeon Forge Tennessee

    2775 Parkway
    Pigeon Forge Tennessee
    (865) 428-5222
    Pigeon Forge
  25. Dixie Stampede
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    3849 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 453-4400
    http://www.dixiestampede.com/pigeon-forge
  26. Lumberjack Adventure
    Restaurant in Sevier County Tennessee

    2713 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (844) 322-4400
    http://www.lumberjackadventure.com/
  27. Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    119 Music Rd
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 908-7469
    http://www.hatfieldmccoydinnerfeud.com/
  28. Smoky Mountain Opry
    Attraction in Sevier County Tennessee

    2046 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (800) 768-1170
    http://www.smokymtnopry.com/
  29. Pancake Pantry
    Restaurant in Sevier County Tennessee

    628 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 436-4724
    http://www.pancakepantry.com/
  30. Donut Friar
    Restaurant in Sevier County Tennessee

    634 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 436-7306
  31. Greenbrier Restaurant
    Restaurant in Sevier County Tennessee

    307 Newman Rd
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 436-6318
    http://www.greenbrierrestaurant.com/
  32. Tony Gore's Smoky Mountain BBQ & Grill
    Restaurant in Sevier County Tennessee

    1818 Winfield Dunn Pkwy
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 429-7771
  33. The Old Mill
    Restaurant in Sevier County Tennessee

    164 Old Mill Ave
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 429-3463
    http://old-mill.com/
  34. Smoky Mountain Brewery
    Restaurant in Sevier County Tennessee

    1004 Parkway
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 436-4200
    http://www.smoky-mtn-brewery.com/
  35. Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant
    Restaurant in Sevier Tennessee

    240 Apple Valley Rd
    Sevier Tennessee
    (865) 428-1222
    www.applewoodfarmhouserestaurant.com
  36. Courthouse Donuts
    Restaurant in Sevier County Tennessee

    160 Court Ave
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 286-9073
    http://www.courthousedonuts.com/
  37. Wilderness At the Smokies
    Hotel in Sevier County Tennessee

    1424 Old Knoxville Hwy
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (877) 325-9453
    http://www.wildernessatthesmokies.com/
  38. Dollywood's DreamMore Resort
    Hotel in Sevier County Tennessee

    2525 DreamMore Way
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (865) 365-1900
    http://www.dollywood.com/resort
  39. The Lodge at Buckberry Creek
    Hotel in Gatlinburg Tennessee

    961 Campbell Lead Rd
    Gatlinburg Tennessee
  40. Margaritaville Island Hotel
    Hotel in Sevier County Tennessee

    131 The Island Dr
    Sevier County Tennessee
    (844) 434-6787
    http://www.margaritavilleislandhotel.com
  41. The Barn
    Restaurant in Blount County Tennessee

    1471 W Millers Cove Rd
    Blount County Tennessee
    (865) 380-2260
    http://www.blackberryfarm.com/food-wine/dining

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