Sometimes, tourists can be a creature of habit. If you had a nice experience somewhere, it stands to reason that would make you want to take another trip to that destination again and again. That could be said of East Tennessee, as a whole. There are some people who will venture to Gatlinburg year in and year out—and could possibly ignore some of the other gorgeous places in the area. Let’s take a brief look at five such hot spots that you may or may not be familiar with.
Pigeon Forge, TN
Of course, it would be very hard to miss the town that is adjacent to Gatlinburg. Incorporated in 1961, the town quickly became a widely-visited hot spot among people who wanted to experience the natural beauty of the mountains. It steadily grew over the years, and then in 1986 hit the mother lode with the opening of Dollywood. Since then, the area has exploded with amusement parks, restaurants, motels, and of course…the shopping. Pigeon Forge is known throughout the United States for having some of the most unique outlet malls in the nation. It’s well worth a day…or two of your stay!
Because the only thing separating Pigeon Forge and Sevierville from each other geographically is a city limits sign (and trust me, there’s plenty of signs in the area), you just might pass from one town to the other and not even know it. Still, visitors to Sevierville will find one of the Smokies’ fastest-growing communities offering everything from elaborate shopping malls to first-class dining. The town also retains a small-town charm with a beautiful downtown district. Look around, and you will find a statue there of a woman who just happens to be the town’s best-known symbol—Dolly Parton!
While Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge command the major amount of attention in the area, there are a few smaller towns on the map for folks who just want to get away…without the traffic. If that’s you, Townsend might just be up your alley. The pace might be a little slower, but it’s not without its attractions, as well. Craft shops galore line the sideways of Highway 321, as well as some of the most unique eateries the mountains have to offer. Not as commercially developed as other parts of the region, Townsend truly is a delight!
Another laid back entity on Highway 321 happens to be Newport, located to the northeast of Gatlinburg. Established in 1797, just one year after Tennessee became a state, the town offers a quaint and peaceful charm, as well as some of the area’s most beautiful waterways and campgrounds. The arts community thrives there, with a dedicated Arts and Crafts Guild, in addition to the Newport Theater Guild, which showcases the many talents of local thespians!
One of the most delightful stops in the area happens to be on the other side of the mountain at Cherokee, NC. While I don’t have to explain how the town got its name, I can tell you that this area has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two decades. Part of the reason behind that growth is the gaming industry and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel, which offers close to 200,000 feet of excitement. If that isn’t for you, don’t fret. There’s a lot more to do and see. You can enter the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway here, and even see a bear at the Cherokee Bear Zoo, where tigers and monkeys also can be seen. See beautiful Fontana Dam, or simply tour the area in one of their wild water jeep tours, this North Carolina jewel offers something for everyone!
So, as you can see…the surrounding areas of Gatlinburg offer treasures and experiences untold. The biggest question I have is…why are you still reading this? Get in the car, and find out for yourself!