Welcome to The Great Smoky Mountains! Now that you have decided that this is where you would like to spend some quality time with your closest friends and/or family, it’s fair that you want to know some of the best places, sights, and activities to engage in when you arrive. Are you ready to be thrilled, Amazed, and entertained? Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place to experience all of these emotions, and chances are high that you will probably come up with a few more adjectives to describe your trip when it quickly--as most trips do--comes to an end. Since there is so much to do in the Smoky Mountain tourist region, let’s break it down by activities and list some of the more important places to visit from these activities.
Many visitors to the Smoky Mountains come from I-40 and drive into Sevierville via the Forks of the River Parkway. Instantly, they are inundated with many eateries, small businesses, and museums which catch the eye; large billboards, flashy signs and the many hotels are just a few more of the many things to see on the Parkway. One of the first real shopping experiences many anticipate when visiting is the Tanger Outlet Mall in Sevierville. With name brands such as Aeropostale, Claire’s, Lane Bryant, Under Armor, and Kirkland’s just to name a few, you can take advantage of great deals and check out what all of these stores offer in one place.
If you didn’t come to the Smoky Mountain area to check out familiar store brands, you won’t be disappointed in the number of specialty shops that are spread out all through Pigeon Forge. A tourist and regional visitor favorite here is Three Bears General Store. This is a one-of-a-kind and all-in-one type store that caters to all ages; and even those who have a strong distaste for shopping can be talked into this establishment. They’ve been here since 1979 and have given customers good reason to stop in with their selection of Amish jams and jellies, handmade fudge, and tons of Smoky Mountain souvenirs. If you haven’t found what you were looking for here, it may be difficult for you to find anything anywhere else to your liking; the store simply does a great job with their selection, as do the employees with their hospitality: southern style, of course.
Gatlinburg is every bit the shoppers paradise as Pigeon Forge; only in Gatlinburg, a majority of the shopping can be done on foot. The tourist mecca is home to many small businesses and some familiar names, but the real standouts are local: Jonathan’s, The Maples’ Tree, and All Sauced Up. The first two feature the usual souvenirs, but also give their guests a nice selection of home decor, signs, bags, and even a heavy dose of scrapbook supplies for lovers of scrapbooking--which is done by many people to remember important memories in their lives, especially following a Smoky Mountain vacation. All Sauced Up has all your favorite kitchen fixin's in here: cooking supplies, jams, dips, and candy. These are just a few of the options in the abundance of shopping that can be done in Gatlinburg.
The Smoky Mountains’ appeal has always been emphasized by its marriage with entertainment and music. There is a rich history of music as it related to the culture of life on the homestead in early pioneer life. Those same people would be proud--if not a bit amazed--at what is being produced on a daily basis to keep the music alive and well in the region. Country Tonite Theater Show in Pigeon Forge is just one of the many shows that gives the audience every reason to believe it’s money well-spent. They’ve been at it for 20 years strong with their talented singers and performers that sing and play everything from pop to bluegrass. For two hours you will be tapping your feet, laughing, and even singing along to hits that span generations of music fans.
The Track in Pigeon Forge is just one of five locations in the South that gives the kids a fun outlet for their energy. Of course, adults can partake in some of these activities that include go-kart racing, thrill rides, bumper cars, miniature golf, and an arcade. There is no admission fee for The Track, but the go-karts are extra, and you will certainly want to bring a little money to take advantage of the arcade.
The Island is one of the new attractions in Pigeon Forge, and its landmark attraction is the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel which takes riders 200 feet in the air for spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains. The Ropes Course is an elaborate maze that takes guests on a physical challenge that can be accepted by anyone over 42 inches tall. In addition, there are other variations of games and rides you can find on The Track, but here at The Island you can do some shopping at specialty stores; also, be sure to check out the fountain which is synced to musical tracks that are played through the speaker system.
Gatlinburg has no shortage of entertainment as well, even if it’s on a bit smaller scale. There are several miniature golf courses in town, and each one offers fun and challenges that the whole family will enjoy. Cooter’s is a Dukes of Hazzard museum, but also features a fun oval go-kart track inside that won’t break the bank, and a mini-golf course inside too that’s easy on the wallet.
Two other entertainment options in Gatlinburg you won’t want to miss are Sweet Fanny Adams Theater and a mentalist/magic show called Impossibilities. Sweet Fanny Adams Theater has been in business for 40 years with their wacky slapstick sing-a-longs and skits that are hugely popular. Some of the humor is adult in nature, but kids are welcome as they keep it tame--and broad--enough for kids to laugh out loud. Impossibilities features the master mentalist, Erik Dobell, and his sidekick, the magical comedian Chris Collins, for some comedy and professional mind reading and magic that will make you scratch your head in amazement. This is a very welcoming show for all ages, with its audience participation that extends to the after-show where they like to take crazy selfies with the paying guests that want to meet them; you should find this money well-spent.
By no means is this all you can find in the Smoky Mountain area when it comes to entertainment. Your options are plentiful and you should have no problem finding a favorite place to spend some quality fun and games time with the family.
If you are looking for a much more peaceful way to spend your vacation, then the beauty of the Smoky Mountains will easily draw you into the National Park. With its hundreds of miles of trails to explore, it is a popular day trip for the novice and expert adventurer.
Probably the most visited of all the Visitor Centers in the Park is Sugarlands. It is located just two miles from Gatlinburg along Newfound Gap Road--which bisects the Park and runs to Cherokee, North Carolina. This is a great starting point for the visitor, because there are plenty of maps and park employees who are here to help you figure out the best trails, sights, and points of interest.
A great beginner trail is the Fighting Creek Nature Trail located conveniently behind Sugarlands Visitor Center. This trail is one of the most kid-friendly trails in the Park--it’s just under a mile roundtrip hike that will probably take less than an hour; this is enhanced by the 25 foot high Cataract Falls located at the end. Despite its location, this is still a very quiet hike that is perfect for even those people with short attention spans.
Just down a road is one of the most popular trails in the entire park: Laurel Falls. This is a paved trail that is just a 2 and a half mile roundtrip; it should take no longer than two hours to hike it. The trail has a gradual incline, and eventually leads you to the 80 foot high Falls that features a lower portion as well--that one is a bit harder to descend and not recommended for those that aren’t sure-footed.
The other fan-friendly trail is located along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and is called Trillium Gap Trail, which leads to Grotto Falls. This is the only Falls in the Park you can walk behind and--like Laurel Falls Trail--can get quite busy during the day, so it is recommended to get your day started early at sunrise to avoid the large crowds. This is the more challenging of the short trails--it actually leads all the way to Mt. Leconte--so watch your step as you’re navigating your way to another beautiful natural attraction in the Smokies.
This should give you a pretty good start on the many things you can do in the Smoky Mountains. Don’t forget about the many great restaurants in the area that are the epitome of home-cooked goodness with Southern hospitality. Check out the restaurants section for a sample of some of the great restaurants you can find in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg. The Smoky Mountain area has a little something for everyone, so make sure you experience as much as possible to keep everyone in your travel group happy, and this should be no problem if you ask any frequent visitor.