The Essential Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains
Collected by Chris Chamberlain , AFAR Local Expert
Some of the oldest mountains in the country, the Smokies make up the southern end of the Appalachians, offering beautiful vistas of the surrounding rivers and valleys. The tourist havens of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg are located right in the middle of the range, with family-friendly attractions like theme parks, theaters, and restaurants that make for the perfect mountain vacation.
3757 Thomas Ln, Sevierville, TN 37876, USA
If you’re tired of the same old zip lines, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the experience at Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park. After rising costs forced the Postlewaite cattle farm to close, the family converted their property into an...
2320 Winfield Dunn Pkwy, Sevierville, TN 37876, USA
In the days before TSA checkpoints, it was much more popular to carry a pocketknife around with you at all times. The practice may have gone out of fashion, but its legacy lives on at Smoky Mountain Knife Works. What started in the 1970s as two...
160 Court Ave, Sevierville, TN 37862, USA
The staff at Courthouse Donuts spent a long time researching the perfect recipe for their rings of cakey goodness, but when it came to decorating the little morsels, they decided to leave it up to the customer. At East Tennessee’s original...
2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, USA
Those who have never visited Dollywood may be surprised that Dolly Parton’s namesake attraction is anything but a dusty tourist trap up in the hills. In fact, it’s a world-class amusement park with top-notch thrill rides for all ages....
2533 Teaster Ln, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, USA
It’s always winter at this indoor tubing park, where you can buy hourly or all-day admission to a steep hill covered in real snow. The hill is divided into multiple lanes for safety, but also so you can race down alongside your friends. And...
131 The Island Dr, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, USA
Situated in downtown Pigeon Forge, The Island is like a beach boardwalk in the middle of the mountains. The shopping-and-entertainment complex offers fun for the whole family, with more than 60 retail and specialty stores, plus restaurants, music...
164 Old Mill Ave, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, USA
With views of the babbling Little Pigeon River and the gristmill from which it takes its name, the Old Mill is a lovely spot for a meal with family and friends. Lines can be long here, but the huge portions of Southern comfort food are more than...
576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA
Accessible only via a gondola or chairlift, this mountaintop theme park features fun for the whole family. Thrill rides like a double zip line and single-rail mountain coaster appeal to adrenaline seekers, while the treetop skybridge—the...
Clingmans Dome Rd, Gatlinburg, TN, USA
Clingmans Dome is the third-tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River and the highest point in Tennessee. On a clear day, visitors can see more than 100 miles in each direction from the large tower on the summit. To reach the viewing...
Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains is America’s most visited national park. Among the forests and ancient mountains, visitors find a vast array of plant and animal life as well as vestiges of...
88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA
A jewel in the Ripley’s empire of attractions, the multi-level Aquarium of the Smokies features several enormous tanks filled with more than 350 species of aquatic life. A highlight is the 340-foot-long tunnel through one of the largest...
805 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA
Moonshine has come a long way since the days when mountain folk would make their own hooch in illegal stills, secreted away in a “holler.” The high-proof spirit is now a major industry in East Tennessee, and Sugarlands is one of its...
628 Parkway •, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA
A local institution, this popular pancake house has served the breakfast needs of loyal patrons and new fans alike since 1960, with lines frequently stretching out the front door of the slate-roofed mountain chalet. Inside, efficient servers haul...
555 Buckhorn Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA
Located along the Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Community route, this iconic spot has been a local lunch favorite for more than three decades. The homey log-cabin interior spills out onto a dog-friendly patio surrounded by...
145 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713, USA
Also known as the High Test Deli & Sweet Shop, this local standby—situated just over the state line in Bryson City, North Carolina—has fueled hikers, area residents, and tourists for more than a decade. The signature Cuban is...
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