Many folks think of Gatlinburg when travel conversations turn to the Great Smoky Mountains. The truth is there are actually three towns that serve as a gateway of sorts to get to the Smokies: Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Finding activities, accommodations and good eats in any of the three is quite easy, but this focus is on Sevierville, Tennessee, home of legendary country music singer/songwriter Dolly Parton. A family vacation spot for decades, the best things to do in Sevierville may be a matter of opinion, but here are some GREAT ideas to get your trip started!
Sevierville is the eighth oldest town in Tennessee, founded in 1795 and named for Governor John Sevier who was a prominent frontiersman and soldier serving under George Washington in the American Revolution. He went on to become a politician and eventually the first governor of the Volunteer State.
Downtown Sevierville is navigable by foot and has many facts and finds that will attract the historical buff in every group. Even non-historical travelers will scamper to take a selfie with the bronze Dolly Parton statue, created by Jim Gray and located on the Public Square.
Another well-visited historical feature in the county is The Harrisburg Covered Bridge. The Early Brothers rebuilt this once commercially used bridge, and it is one of only twelve covered bridges remaining in East and Middle Tennessee. Sitting on a limestone foundation, the bridge is some 83 feet in length and it is a highly regarded photo spot.
Sevierville history is plentiful for those who love it. You’ll find lots of homes and plantation-like venues to check out during your stay.
Things to do in Sevierville for families
Forbidden Caverns – An awesome family-friendly adventure is what you’ll get at Forbidden Caverns, a living cave where moonshine history resides. As the story goes, Eastern Woodland Indians sheltered in this cave at one point in time…and later moonshiners used it as a hiding place (there’s still some evidence there today)! Wear comfy walk shoes for this hour-long activity that’s chocked full of educational value and family fun.
NASCAR SpeedPark – Sevierville is home to one of the most fun family go-kart tracks anywhere! Buy a wristband and play all day with rides for all ages. Go-kart rides go from kiddies (the Baby Bristol) to other fun tracks like the Intimidator and the Competitor. Also, regular rides like bumper cars, speed boats and tilt-a-whirl are available among many others. Try out the rock climbing wall and enjoy the arcade…there is a lot to do here!
Outdoor fun in Sevierville – Families visiting Sevierville will have no shortage of things to do, especially in the great outdoors. There’s hunting and fishing, hiking and horseback riding, golf and so much more! Of course the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (America’s most-visited national park with FREE admission) just up the road as well. If you need help planning or finding outdoor experiences for your vacation, visit the above linked web site.
RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo – Open year round, RainForest Adventures is home to more than 600 live animals (more than 130 species) from Rain Forests around the world. See rare and exotic creatures like the Golden Headed Lion Tamarins from the Atlantic forests of eastern Brazil, South America. This is a MUST for families. Don’t forget to take a peek at the gift shop on your way out for unique souvenirs. Oh, and there’s a coupon for RainForest on their web site linked above. Just print it out to save on admission for the entire group!
Tennessee Museum of Aviation – This museum is so much cooler than I thought it would be. I just don’t naturally think of Tennessee in terms of aviation. You can spend an hour or all day looking at memorabilia that this prized establishment houses, such as a flyable warbird aircraft that served in WWII and Vietnam. Plan on spending some time in the 35,000-square-foot hangar gawking over a pair of rare P-47 Thunderbolts and a Douglas A-1 Skyraider. You’ll be super impressed with this facility.
Don’t miss Sevierville attractions
Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum – Muscle car authority Floyd Garrett has one of the most impressive museums in Sevierville filled with more than 90 incredible American Muscle Cars! Also, you’ll find lots of memorabilia and a great gift shop!
Robert A. Tino Gallery – Smoky Mountain landscapes are the core of Robert A. Tino’s work on display at this Sevierville gallery. A self-taught local artist, Tino’s working gallery facility is also on the National Register of Historic Places – the Riley Andes home – featuring the handiwork of renowned master craftsman Lewis Buckner. The historic home was originally in Tino’s wife’s family. Tino, who paints in varying mediums, creates and captures amazing scenes from the Smoky Mountains. I always leave with some new note cards or a print to frame and remind me of my love for the mountains. You can also take home larger pieces perfect for your mantel or living room. Among my favorites is the little church in Cade’s Cove (a Great Smoky Mountain National Park treasure). You’ll find your own favorites as well.
Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland – If your travels bring you to Sevierville during December, Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland is an awesome family attraction on my “don’t miss” list. Hundreds of thousands of lights have been handcrafted onto displays and synchronized with Christmas songs your family will know and recognize. Drive thru at your leisure and enjoy some family together time.
Smoky Mountain Knife Works – One of the oldest and largest knife retailers, Smoky Mountain Knife Works has partnerships with all the top knife manufacturers. There are tons of knives: pocket knives, fixed blade knives, kitchen cutlery, tools, Swiss Army knives and so much more! You really have to see this place to believe it!
Tanger Outlets – Everybody loves a bargain and Tanger Outlets provide access to great deals at more than 100 stores! From baby favorites like Carters and Gymboree to high-end accessories from Vera Bradley and Pandora and everything in between, you could spend all day at the outlets. Sevierville also offers a variety of antique malls, unique boutiques, galleries and more.
Thunder Road Distillery – Legalized versions of yesteryears tales are springing up everywhere and this is a good one! This tasting room for locally crafted spirits is clean and inviting to all. The décor is themed to the Robert Mitchum moonshine movie – Thunder Road. If you are a moonshine fan, you’ll love this venue. If you’re not, you just might become one with all of the interesting flavors like: Watermelon Falls, Summer Strawberry and Banana Shine, just to name a few.
Annual Festivals in Sevierville
Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival – Sevierville’s unique festival honoring championship barbeque and world-class bluegrass music takes place each year in May during Smoky Mountain Springfest in the downtown area. The Barbeque Cook-Off is an official barbeque championship of Tennessee coordinated by the local Chamber of Commerce. You’ll find lots of live music including the Mountain Soul vocal competition (honoring the songwriting of Dolly Parton), arts and crafts, and barbeque of course!
Smoky Mountain Winterfest Celebration – Not really a festival, but an annual event that brings folks to this area, is Winterfest! Check the web site often to see yearly updates on Sevierville Winterfest Kickoff “Music, Lights & Magic” as well as dates for the Christmas Parade, New Year’s Eve Fireworks & Ball Drop and more! Come see the magical allure with millions of lights in the Smoky Mountain holiday season. It’s a great family tradition!
Good eats in Sevierville (no chain restaurants here)
Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant – When folks ask what’s the top place to not leave Sevierville without tasting, the answer always rolls off my tongue without much thought – the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. Locals and repeat travelers will no doubt tell you the same thing. Applewood is a 1920s farmhouse that sits on a working apple orchard so the ambiance is very serene running alongside Little Pigeon River. Expect a wait unless you go at a non-traditional meal time (which I highly recommend), but it is worth it! You always know a good restaurant by the wait time, right? Along with every meal comes a starter serving of apple fritters, apple butter and soup with a small glass of apple julep. Be prepared for entrees to be of large portion size and choose from a myriad of your favorite comfort foods: fried chicken, meatloaf, pork chops, etc. Your side choices will be reminiscent of Sunday dinners your grandmother used to make right down to desserts (cobblers and banana pudding are the best)!
Apple Barn Winery – And, while you’re on the property, take some time before or after dinner at the Farmhouse Restaurant to tour the winery. The tour is fun and the tasting is even better. Learn about the process of winemaking and see which flavors you enjoy most. Affordably priced, I always leave with a couple bottles of new favorites. Check out the gift shop as well for unique shopping and souvenirs.
Courthouse Donuts – A fun start to your day touring the downtown area because this unique donut shop sits directly across from the Sevier County Courthouse. Enjoy your coffee with a special recipe donut and dress it up however you like! They also serve lunch so keep that in mind when in the area.
The Diner – One of Sevierville’s little gems, The Diner is such a laid-back and fun atmosphere inviting families to twirl around on those throwback red vinyl bar stools. A take on old-fashioned classic diners, this one is overflowing with Southern hospitality. Expect childhood favorites like hand-dipped milkshakes and malts, but look for menu offerings like Buffalo Burgers and lovely salads that are anything but expected. Good flavors and affordable pricing are why the locals love this eatery.
Flapjack’s Pancakes – A must when visiting Sevierville, Flapjack’s offers filling, hearty meals to power you through a day of hiking, shopping and touring. The menu has plenty to choose from so even the pickiest little one in the group won’t leave hungry. Start your day with a big breakfast of pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, grits or maybe an omelet.
Tony Gore’s Smoky Mountain BBQ & Grill – Southern Gospel singer Tony Gore has always loved cooking, even on the buses when touring with his group, Majesty. In 2006, Gore turned that cooking passion into a restaurant and combined it with music to create his Smoky Mountain dream come true. The food is prepared precisely to Tony’s liking and the portions are HUGE! From appetizers like Southern favorites Fried Green Tomatoes and T’s Loaded Tater Chips to main entrees such as pork plates, brisket or Baby Back Ribs, Tony Gore’s has a little of everything in a casual dining atmosphere where kids are welcome. Make sure you save room for banana pudding, cobbler, a delicious piece of cake or homemade pie.
Appleview River Resort – More than just a clean and comfy room, Appleview has the one of the best locations in the area right on the Little Pigeon River. The units are rustic and spacious (one-to four-bedrooms) with all the amenities of home. Families will love the extra room over that of a standard hotel, and the kitchen is perfect for keeping snacks and such for those bottomless pits (children) who need something after you’ve come in for the night. Another major plus in my book (and my husband’s too) is that Appleview is right down the road from the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. My reasons for staying with Appleview may be different from yours, but they include specifics in my unit: fireplace, Jacuzzi and the view of both mountains and water.
Hidden Mountain Resort – For a cabin with a home-like feel, check out Hidden Mountain Resort for a selection that will surely have something you love. One- to 14-bedroom units are available AND you can have a wedding there! Check the web site often for specials.
Oak Haven Resort & Spa – Nestled in Sevierville’s mountains are the log cabins of Oak Haven. Roomy for large families and tons of amenities for all travelers, this resort is perfect for honeymooners, couples and even corporate retreats. All cabins feature a large hot tub on the screened porch, a gas fireplace, jetted tub, FREE WIFI and cable, and so much more!
Wilderness at the Smokies – It’s hard to list this under lodging (although they have a TON of it) because it’s so much more! Wilderness is the largest waterpark resort in Tennessee and offers charming rustic accommodations with loads of amenities you don’t find just anywhere. First of all, I’ll tackle the lodging part. Choose from fully-appointed villas and suites to standard hotel rooms AND there is a ton of meeting space if your business or company needs a working vacation. The resort has so much to offer for families…and basically with an indoor water park, it weather-proofs your vacation! Here are some of the amenities besides onsite restaurants: Wild WaterDome (Tennessee’s largest indoor waterpark) with a see-thru roof for year round sunning; two outdoor waterparks open seasonally; Adventure Forest featuring a ropes course, laser tag, black light mini golf and an arcade; bowling; and so much more! Never a dull moment and something for everyone in your party!
This is a great vacation for families, honeymooners, gal pal getaways or mancations because of all the things to do in Sevierville! What’s your pleasure?
My visit was hosted by Sevierville CVB for the purpose of this and other reviews. Opinions are 100% my own. Photos are also my own unless noted otherwise.