18 high issues to do in Smoky Mountains Gateway Cities

The three foremost gateway cities to Nice Smoky Mountain Nationwide Park – Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville  share an abiding love for the patron saint of East Tennessee: Dolly Parton. Because the nation music famous person as soon as joked, it takes some huge cash to look this low-cost. So go forward, immerse within the cheesy exuberance of all of it. 

Whereas the nationwide park is a lush wonderland of waterfalls and wildflowers, within the gateway cities, putt putt programs, moonshine distilleries and theme parks press tight towards Parkway, the principle drag by means of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, which rolls proper into the park. There’s even an infinite reproduction of the Titanic perched by the street. Sensory overload and neon – and apparently fluffy pancakes – are assured, however actually, if you happen to embrace the campiness of the sights and all of the Appalachian kitsch, these gateway cities is usually a heck of plenty of enjoyable, particularly for households.

Journey Tip: Many sights and eating places are seasonal, or their hours differ by season, so name earlier than making a particular journey. Every little thing ought to be open from late Might by means of early September. 

Dollywood in East Tennessee is understood for rollercoasters, like this picket one ©Nicholas Lamontanaro/Shutterstock

Rejoice Appalachia in Dollywood

Nation music legend Dolly Parton was born and raised in East Tennessee, and she or he celebrates her native roots with good cheer and greater than 40 Appalachia-themed rides at this busy theme park in Pigeon Forge. Dollywood is understood for its rollercoasters, however you’ll additionally discover implausible dwell music, regional arts and crafts and southern-fried fare. 

Head to Dollywood very first thing within the morning as a result of the crowds (and contours) solely get longer. There are add-ons you will get to your ticket that let you skip the longest strains. The park presents two tiers for visitors, one which lets you skip eight strains and one that’s limitless. 

Whereas the park closes in January and February, it opens for weekends in March. Not all the sights can be found, however it’s a little much less busy. 

Dollywood has nice playgrounds and rides all through the park for little folks if you happen to’re touring with toddlers in tow. There really is one thing for everybody. 

Dollywood’s Splash Nation water park is subsequent door and opens in summer time. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa and Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins are lodging choices near each parks.

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Take pleasure in sky-high adventures atop Anakeesta Mountain 

A chondola swoops riders from the crowded sidewalks of Gatlinburg to the summit of Anakeesta Mountain, the place the pure fantastic thing about the Smokies is the backdrop for a tree cover stroll, dueling zip strains and a mountain coaster. The commentary tower doubles as the very best level within the metropolis. Seven eating places and eateries are scattered throughout two small “villages” on the summit. Brews include views on the Faucet Home and the Bar on the Prime of the World. 

The outside of the Ole Smoky Moonshine building in Gatlinburg
See what the hype behind moonshine is all about at Ole Smoky Moonshine ©Miro Vrlik Images/Shutterstock

Pattern Moonshine in Gatlinburg

Hooch. White lightning. Mountain dew. Yep, moonshine has deep roots – and plenty of nicknames – in Appalachia. However if you happen to take away the outlaw repute, moonshine is nothing greater than unaged whiskey, typically constructed from corn. Step as much as the counter for a rainbow’s array of samples and a few entertaining historical past at Ole Smoky Moonshine and Sugarlands Distilling Co, each on Parkway. Ole Smoky additionally has a tasting room at The Island in Pigeon Forge. Apple Pie taste is an efficient guess, however we are able to’t vouch for Peanut Butter & Jelly. 

Delve into the story of the Titanic

An unlimited reproduction of the Titanic, the luxurious steamship that sank on her maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, shares a very wonderful assortment of artifacts, private tales and recreated settings from the doomed ship. Every customer to the museum is assigned a boarding cross with the identify of a real-life passenger or crew member. You’ll uncover whether or not you survived on the finish of your go to. Guide forward as a result of it does promote out, and walk-ups will not be assured admission. 

Scenic view of the Great Smoky Mountains against the sky during sunset
Take pleasure in breathtaking views from the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park ©Getty Photos/EyeEm

Take in large views atop Clingmans Dome

Kitschy household enjoyable isn’t a trademark of Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park. However the commentary tower atop Clingmans Dome, the very best level within the park at 6643ft, does resemble a constructing straight out of The Jetsons, with its round ramp and flying-saucer-style platform. From the platform, 360-degree views soak up light waves of forested peaks. Mountaineering trails, together with the Appalachian Path, cross by means of the woods beneath.

Tiptoe throughout the Gatlinburg SkyBridge

A swish pedestrian cable bridge swings above a steep valley within the Smoky Mountain foothills above Gatlinburg, stretching the size of practically two soccer fields and linking two peaks. See-through glass panels await in the course of the Skybridge – which is 140ft above floor. Step on these if you happen to dare! A workhorse chairlift whisks riders as much as the bridge and to the brand new SkyTrail, a 0.6-mile scenic climbing path with rope bridges and a four-platform viewing tower. The path is canine pleasant.

Float the Little River

In hotter months, River Rat Tubing launches float journeys on the Little River from its basecamp in Townsend, a gateway city not removed from the beautiful Cades Cove space of Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park. River Rat runs two journeys: a simple float appropriate for younger children and canines, and a bouncy, rapid-filled journey for these 6 years and up. Each float previous swimming holes. Afterward, get pleasure from an ice cream sundae on the retro Burger Grasp Drive-In.

A trolley in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Think about a trolley experience whereas purchasing round Gatlinburg © cweimer4 / Getty Photos

Store Appalachian Arts & Crafts

An eight-mile driving loop swings previous greater than 100 galleries, studios, retailers and supporting companies in and round downtown Gatlinburg. Often called the Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Community, this assortment of stops embraces native artwork in all its types, with glassworks, jewellery, leather-based items, work, pottery, wooden carvings and extra on the market. The Gatlinburg Trolley’s yellow line stops alongside the loop. 

Trip the Nice Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island

The putting Nice Smoky Mountain Wheel and its all-glass gondolas rise 200ft above Pigeon Forge, sharing high-elevation views of the Smoky Mountains rippling towards the horizon. The gondolas additionally present a simple retreat from the hubbub of The Island, a festive leisure district with purchasing, eating places, dwell music and enjoyable watering holes.

Discover the historical past of crime and punishment

The VW Beetle owned by serial killer Ted Bundy and the white Ford Bronco from the OJ Simpson automobile chase are simply two of the various fascinating artifacts on show on the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge. The huge museum explores all features of criminology, spotlighting medieval torture, witch trials, serial killers, capital punishment, crime scene investigation and extra. Children are permitted, however among the shows are the stuff of nightmares.

Ski Tennessee

Ober Gatlinburg is the house of Tennessee’s solely ski and snowboard space, however this Bavarian-themed mountain-top attraction stays busy after the slopes shut in winter. In hotter months, children swarm to the place for the alpine slide, the mountain coaster, summer time tubing and mini-golf. The indoor ice-skating rink is open year-round. The enclosed aerial tramway from Gatlinburg to the park soars over the forested mountain panorama, masking two miles in about 20 minutes.

Find out about ocean marine life

A clear glide path funnels guests by means of the Shark Lagoon at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Sharks swim overhead whereas stingrays, moray eels, inexperienced sea turtles and quite a lot of fish catch the attention in each route. It’s a mesmerizing immersion within the wonders of the ocean. The aquarium is one in all eight Ripley’s Imagine It or Not sights in and round Gatlinburg. 

Play mini-golf…nearly in all places

Should you like mini-golf, then East Tennessee is your pleased place. With not less than 16 putt putt programs throughout Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you’re by no means removed from a recreation. The newest spin? Blacklight video games, that are illuminated by glow-in-the-dark options. Memorable programs in Pigeon Forge embrace Crave, marked by its candy-themed rooftop course, and Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Mini Golf, the place a mining automobile whisks you up the “mountain” to the primary gap.

The outside of Wonderworks, an upside-down indoor amusement park in Pigeon Forge
Wonderworks, an upside-down amusement park, is only one of many vacationer sights in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee © Walter Bibikow / Getty Photos

Stampedes, Feuds and Pirates: Take pleasure in a dinner present

With so many billboards promoting dinner reveals in Pigeon Forge, it may be arduous to determine which one is “the perfect.” However actually, simply choose a theme that appears enjoyable on your group, and go together with it. Southern consolation meals, viewers participation and corny jokes are frequent options. A perennial favourite is Dolly Parton’s Stampede, recognized for its horseriding stunts, musical numbers and mild North-South rivalry. Dolly dropped “Dixie” from its identify in 2018.

Snow Tube in July

Parkas aren’t required at Pigeon Forge Snow, an indoor snow tubing hill the place temperatures hover between 65 and 70 levels. Take your choose of snow tracks for a swoosh down the snow hill then construct a snowman within the Snow Space. Pigeon Forge Snow is open year-round. 

Noah "Bud" Ogle historic cabin in Tennessee
Gatlinburg and the encompassing areas are filled with wealthy Appalachian Historical past. Pictured right here is the Noah ‘Bud’ Ogle historic cabin close to Gatlinburg ©Robert Cable/Getty Photos

Immerse in Appalachian Historical past

Sights throughout the gateway cities embrace Appalachian stereotypes, from hillbilly-themed putt putt programs to moonshine distilleries romanticizing the exploits of bootleggers. The Nice Smoky Mountains Heritage Heart in Townsend explores the genuine historical past and tradition of Appalachia in its Historic Village, residence to a Nineteenth-century log cabin, two cantilever barns and different buildings. There’s additionally a three-room museum and an amphitheater on the grounds.

Sightsee in Sevierville

Situated 35 miles southeast of Knoxville, Sevierville is finest often called the hometown of Dolly Parton. An inspiring bronze statue of the nation music star as a younger singer anchors the entrance garden of the Sevier County Courthouse. Close by, guests can stretch their legs on a riverside stroll on the West Prong Greenway or spend an hour or two cut price purchasing on the Tanger Shops. Loaded with inns and motels, town is an efficient launchpad for native exploring.

shutTwo hikers (one carrying a baby) descend stairs on a steep section of the Alum Cave Trail.
Two hikers descend stairs on a steep part of the Alum Cave Path within the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park ©Theron Stripling III/Shutterstock

Stroll away from the crowds

If the hordes jostling for pancakes and moonshine on Parkway/US 441 in Gatlinburg get to be an excessive amount of, keep in mind there’s an escape hatch: the Gatlinburg Path. This two-mile pedestrian and bike path runs parallel to US 441, linking the southern fringe of downtown Gatlinburg with the Sugarlands Customer Heart inside Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park. The path rolls by means of the woods on a stage path beside the beautiful West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. 

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