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Sevierville, Tennessee: Gateway to the Smoky Mountains
Well known to country music fans as Dolly Parton’s childhood home, Sevierville is a friendly city with a picturesque setting between the East and West Forks of Little Pigeon River, where the Great Smoky Mountains roll into the Tennessee Valley. Hiking, biking, and zip-lining are popular ways to experience this area’s natural beauty, though travellers who prefer the great indoors will find plenty to do as well; Sevierville is also known for its cool museums, spree-worthy shopping, and tasty treats. Accommodations in Sevierville range from traditional chain hotels to cosy log cabins and family friendly resorts.
Explore the “Land of the Blue Mist”
Fifteen miles from Sevierville city centre lies Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a stunningly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site and America’s most visited national park. Outdoorsy types come from all over the country to hike over 850 miles of trail, camp in the backcountry, and fish in the 2000+ rivers and streams meandering through the “Land of the Blue Mist.” Many sightseers head directly for Cades Cove, a lush valley that offers some of the park’s best wildlife viewing; white-tailed deer, coyotes, turkeys, and black bears are just a few of the creatures spotted here. The Cove also features several well-preserved pioneer homesteads, three churches, and a working grist mill. Many of these buildings can be viewed from behind the wheel; the one-way loop around Cades Cove takes about 45 minutes to drive. Yet however gorgeous, the Great Smoky Mountains are not the only natural wonder in this corner of Tennessee; Sevierville is also graced by the Forbidden Caverns, one of the most spectacular rock formations in the country.
Shop ‘til you drop (in for a donut) …
For a small city, Sevierville is very “big” on shops: bargain hunters will find two of the area’s largest upscale outlet malls here, as well as the country’s biggest scrapbooking emporium and the Smoky Mountain Knife Works, “one of the world’s largest sources for knives.” In addition to just about every cutting tool known to man, the store offers a beguiling assortment of relics, including everything from arrowheads and meteorites to shark teeth and ancient Roman coins. Travellers with a taste for vintage goods (and good deals) might want to pack an empty suitcase for a day trip to The Great Smokies Flea Market in nearby Kodak. The “most visited flea market in Tennessee” boasts over 1000 vendors and 200,000 square feet; very few visitors will return to their hotel rooms empty handed! Historic downtown Sevierville is also lined with fun and unusual retailers, including a design-your-own donut shop right next to the city’s handsome courthouse and the much-photographed Dolly Parton statue.
Muscle cars, flying machines, and exceptionally fine spirits
Travellers who enjoy fast cars and flying machines will find like-minded souls (and hours of entertainment) in Sevierville’s museums. At Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum, visitors can admire 90 perfectly restored American muscle cars from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s before perusing the extensive gift shop. Most of the well-preserved vintage aircraft on display at The Tennessee Museum of Aviation are prepared for take-off, and because the facility is conveniently located next to the Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge Airport, visitors often get to see them do just that. The highlight of the collection is a pair of airworthy WWII era P-47 Thunderbolts, two of only 12 such machines in the world. Thirsty sightseers should also stop in at the Thunder Road Distillery near Sevierville; though it is not exactly a museum, the distillery does pay homage to the legendary moonshiners run (and film) of the same name—and the bar is generous with free samples, too.
Surrounded by heart-pumping outdoor attractions and theme parks, Sevierville is an ideal family vacation destination. Easily the most well-known of these is Dollywood; founded by Sevierville’s own country songstress Dolly Parton, the famously “friendly” water and amusement park features top-notch Southern cuisine, luxurious resort hotel accommodations, and over 40 rides, including Tennessee’s very first water coaster. At Foxfire Mountain Adventures, just over 13 miles from Sevierville city centre, brave vacationers can fly through the Smoky Mountain foothills on The Goliath, the longest and highest zip-line east of the Mississippi. The park also offers the longest swinging bridge in America and extreme 8-wheeled ATVs. Explorers who prefer sightseeing on two wheels should head to CLIMB Works in nearby Gatlinburg. The trail suits all levels of biking ability, and includes a spectacular wooden “roller-coaster-esque” spiral that cyclists can fly (or gently coast) down as many times as their hearts desire.