Everybody knows about Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but is that really all there is to the Smokies? And even in the spots you’d consider familiar, aren’t there sights you’ve missed out on all these years? Here’s a mere smattering of what the Smokies has to offer:
Maryville includes the Palace Theatre with live music performances and other events; another popular stop is the Heath Claiborne Art Gallery.
If you’re coming to the Smokies via Maryville on 321, you’ll pass through Townsend, the closest town to Cades Cove. Townsend has a great bicycle/walking path from one end to the other, plus plenty of cabins, campgrounds and hotels. Not nearly as commercialized as neighboring Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, it’s the right spot for spending less and relaxing more. The Little River Railroad & Lumber Museum on Highway 321 is FREE (donations accepted) and open all week during summers.
Driving northward from Alabama or southern Tennessee on Highway 411, you’ll pass through Etowah – around an hour’s drive from Chattanooga – one cute little town to visit. Basically, it’s a few blocks of “mom ‘n’ pop” outlet stores with deals on everything from groceries to furniture; antique stores; plus a couple of nice gift and home decor shops in the mix. If you like “junkin’,” you’ll love Etowah. The nearby town of Delano includes an Amish community where many of their crafts and foods can be purchased.
Sevierville is growing rapidly and loaded with outlet shopping, including one of the best new bargain shops you’ll ever come across: the Beehive. Filled with jewelry – including very inexpensive watches and bands that you can buy separately – they have an astounding selection of fabulous-looking $1 jewelry. They also stock purses, totes and more (and do monogramming); plus shoes; home decor; and a little bit of this ‘n’ that.
If you’ve never toured Gatlinburg’s Arts & Crafts Community, you’ve missed a real treat. It’s an 8-mile loop lined with shops of antiques, pottery, paintings, quilts, jewelry, leather goods, stained glass, clothing and tons more. From downtown, turn uphill on 321 North and start at Buie Pottery just beyond traffic light #2B. Follow the signs to cover the entire loop.
What about Pigeon Forge? Outlet shopping heaven! Plus Mel’s Diner on Wears Valley Road is a shining chrome 50’s style diner with great burgers and shakes and plenty of good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll.
Don’t forget the other side of the mountain. Crossing over into North Carolina from Gatlinburg, you’ll come to Cherokee where you’ll find the Museum of the Cherokee Indian; Oconaluftee Indian Village; and the don’t-miss outdoor play, “Unto These Hills.”
Check out the most scenic drives in the Smokies at:www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/autotouring.htm. And if you’re a quilter, make plans for a road trip along the Appalachian Quilt Trail.