Smoky Mountains, TN - Sevierville, Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg - Vacation Travel Guide

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Smoky Mountains Area Features

Local Cities And Towns

After an enjoyable and harmonious excursion into the wilderness of the Smokies, many of us would like to return to civilization for abundant dining options, cool attractions and fabulous shopping. Explore from Gatlinburg to the outskirts of Sevierville on the trolley route, stopping for a bite to eat, some moonshine samples or a gift to bring home that reflects your visit in the region. In both Tennessee and North Carolina, you’ll find bright cities and quaint local towns with tons to see, do, and try!

Just outside of the national park in Tennesee is the city of Gatlinburg—known as the Gateway to the Smokies. From here, it is easy to explore the Smokies and still seek the refinements of modern life in this scenic city along the West Prong Little Pigeon River. It has big city amenities with small town charm. Climb to the top of the 342-foot space needle to get a complete and picturesque view of both the town and the mountains. There are also sky lifts, gondola rides, and don’t miss the mountain coaster at Ober Gatlinburg where the gorgeous mountain scenery can be viewed at different vantages—and speeds! Throughout the city you’ll also find interesting although slightly unusual places to tour including the Ripley’s attractions and aquarium, the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, or old homesteads and log cabins. Venture a few miles north of the city center to see the handiworks offered for sale at any one of the many shops in the Arts and Crafts Community. Here you’ll find the largest community of independent artisans in America—all with one-of-a-kind creations. Afterwards retire to your cabin or hotel for a good night’s sleep in the city of spectacular views.

Once it was wide-open farmland named for both the pigeons that nested along the river and the forge built in 1817 by Isaac Love. Today in Pigeon Forge, entertainment is king. With over a dozen venues that offer shows presenting country music, comedy, modern rock, circus acts, magic and even acrobatic stunts, you’ll find at least one that suits your taste—probably more! Prominent attractions including Dollywood, the Hollywood Wax Museum, WonderWorks, MagiQuest and even the Titanic museum call this city home. Perhaps you would like to take a helicopter tour to see the city from the sky! Many other fun, family-friendly activities such as racetracks, laser tag, adventure parks, mini golf and even zorbing (defying gravity down the side of a hill in a plastic ball) can be experienced. Hungry after being on-the-go all day? There are tons of mouth-watering places to eat in Pigeon Forge offering cuisines from barbeque to sushi, and the adults may want to sample some Tennessee moonshine at a local distillery. There is no shortage of fun, entertainment and shopping in the valley at Pigeon Forge.

Sevierville’s claim to fame is its hometown daughter, Dolly Parton. You can even pose with her statue here! Pronounced like the word “severe,” it is a wonderful place to explore the outdoors—particularly while horseback riding. With rivers, lakes and open land, the scenery is breathtaking and not too tough on the horses. For an alternative to horseback riding, ATV tours across the landscape may be a great way to go. It’s also possible to venture underground to check out the Forbidden Caverns and wander around the stalactites and stalagmites that have been forming for thousands of years. Aerial attractions are quite popular here as well. Zip lines, rope courses, and canopy tours are just a few of the more adventurous activities that travelers to Sevierville can have fun doing. Around the town visitors will find an assortment of restaurants, wineries, and cideries where taste buds will surely be pleased. Look for great deals at the Tanger Outlets or visit unique shops such as the Lodge Factory Store where their famous, long-lasting cookware can be purchased. Sevierville is a town that should not be missed!

There are other small towns on the Tennessee side of the Smokies including Townsend—known as the gateway to Cades Cove—and Cosby. These towns are on opposite ends of the park with Townsend southwest and Cosby northeast of Gatlinburg. Those who like rugged outdoor adventures may particularly enjoy a trip to Cosby (follow signs on Route 40 for nearby Hartford.) It is here along the Pigeon River where strong rapids lead to excellent white-water rafting expeditions. To try a calmer float down the river, head to Townsend for leisurely tubing with a few fast-paced spots on the water.

On the other side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina lies Cherokee—a sovereign nation and home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The residents of Cherokee are directly descended from the clans that have lived on this land for countless centuries. Visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian where displays of artifacts present the history of the tribes from the early 1700s to the Trail of Tears in the 1800s. At the Oconaluftee Indian Village, visitors can explore the life of Native Americans, interact with residents, and see demonstrations in traditional trades. You’ll see canoes being made, preparations for war, cultural dances, and re-created dwellings. In the late spring and summer, gather under the stars to watch Unto These Hills—an outdoor drama that portrays the Cherokee people through song, dance, and historical stories. The exploration of this land would not be complete without visiting the Cherokee Botanical Garden and Nature Trail or the Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual. Over 350 native artisans present their crafts for sale at the mutual, giving visitors a chance to purchase an authentic Native American work of art. Modern-day fun can also be had at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. Try your luck to win some cash! With so many things to do, you may want to give yourself more than a day to discover the treasures in Cherokee. If you do have the time, visit the quaint town of nearby Dillsboro, NC, southeast of Cherokee. You’ll find artisan shops, and wonderful restaurants with local cuisine. Bryson City, NC (southwest of Cherokee) is home to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and its historic train depot. Book a seat for one of the fabulous trips on a steam or diesel engine. Try a river tour such as the Nantahala Gorge Excursion or maybe a journey while sampling wine or moonshine. Traveling by steam will be a historic and memorable experience!

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