We love the Smoky Mountains and they make a great holiday destination. It’s a hugely popular destination for Americans as most of the population of the lower 48 States are within a days drive of the Smokies. However it isn’t as popular for those who live outside of the US. We think this can only be due to a lack of information of what there is to do there. So we are giving you 11 fun things to do in the Smoky Mountains to try and convince you to book your next holiday here in the mountains of eastern Tennessee.
There are a ton of fun things to do in the Smoky Mountains, we’ve narrowed it down to just 11 things you should not miss. So let’s get on with it, in no particular order here are 11 fun things to do in the Smoky Mountains.
1. Stay in a Log Cabin
The ultimate accommodation choice for a holiday in the Smoky Mountains is a log cabin. Fortunately there are loads of cabins in all shapes and sizes scattered throughout the mountains so you will find one to suit your group. The best places to start looking for cabins is on Airbnb or VRBO. There are also local companies you can book through such as Cabins of the Smoky Mountains if you don’t want to book directly with the owner.
2. Drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature trail starts and ends in Gatlinburg and can get busy so best to set out early to avoid the queue. It’s well worth the wait though if it is busy. This is the first nature trail we’ve experienced where you drive round, and you drive your own car. You can take as long as you like to complete the trail, there are many pull offs and even hiking trails you can take if you park up.
Some of the most interesting sights along this trail are the old pioneer cabins. They have more than a few original cabins that you can explore. Most have plaques outside to let you know the story behind the cabin and the people who built it.
3. Taste Moonshine
This activity is for those 21 and up – and ID is checked. When you’re in the mountains of the South you absolutely must try moonshine. No longer an illegal nighttime venture, here in the Smokies you can try and purchase many flavours of moonshine legally.
There are more than 5 moonshine distilleries in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Each produces its own moonshine and its own flavours – though some flavours are popular at all distilleries, apple pie for example.
Spend a day distillery hopping and find your favourite brand of moonshine. You can take part in a tasting for as little as $5 and you get that $5 back as a voucher to spend in the shop! A real bargain.
4. Enjoy a Dinner Show
The Smoky Mountains are the stomping ground of Dolly Parton – she was born and lives there. She has also invested heavily in the area, Dollywood is located in downtown Pigeon Forge. When you’re in the home of Dolly Parton you must go and see a show, and of course Dolly has created a couple of the shows herself. Something we hadn’t experienced before was a dinner show but they are very popular in this area.
The dinner shows are pretty much what they say – dinner and a show. We can recommend Dolly Parton’s Stampede which includes a three course meal and a huge spectacle of a show. You actually eat your meal as you watch the show. All of the seats have a table in front where your food is served. You can book tickets to Dolly Parton’s Stampede on their website. It is popular too so you will want to pre-book your tickets.
5. See Black Bears
Although not unique to the Smoky Mountains you do have a higher chance of seeing black bears in the Smokies compared to a lot of other places. There is a large population of black bears in this area and one of the best places to see them is on the Cades Cove loop. The best time to visit is either early in the morning or around dusk – this is when the bears are more active.
If you visit during spring you also have the chance of seeing some cubs. When we visited the Smokies in May we saw this little cub practicing its climbing skills in Cades Cove.
6. Hike the Laurel Falls Trail
There are some spectacular hikes in the Smoky Mountains but if you’re looking for a hike that all the family can do Laurel Falls Trail is the one. It’s not too long, just 2.6 miles round trip from the car park to the water fall. Laurel Falls is a pretty spectacular water fall too so well worth the couple of hours it will take you to hike this trail. The elevation gain isn’t too much and most of it is at the start of the trail. We even saw someone pushing a pram along this trail while we were there so it really is one for all the family.
7. Have Breakfast at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp
By far the best breakfast place in the Smokies has got to be Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. Come with a big appetite because the portions are big and the food is amazing so you will want room to try it all.
We loved the decor at Crockett’s as well as the food. The menus are probably the coolest menus we’ve seen, they are made up like a news paper – there are so many options they can fill a full newspaper sheet!
If you can’t decide what to have go for Aretha Frankenstein pancakes. I had the Cinnamon Roll Swirl version and I haven’t found pancakes as good as these since. I did only manage to eat one of the pancakes though as they’re so big – there is enough to share!
8. Stand on top of the Smoky Mountains
Feel like you’re on top of the world by hiking Clingmans Dome. This hike takes you to the highest point of the Smoky Mountains. The hike isn’t long but it is fairly steep. There are benches set at reasonably close intervals for anyone who wants a rest or to just stop and admire the view for a while.
When you reach the top of the hill you need to continue up the tower to reach the top of Clingmans Dome and get the views you expect. The manmade platform takes you above the trees and the view from the top is spectacular.
9. Experience Christmas – Year Round
There are many shops in the towns of the Smoky Mountains but one of the more unique shops is the Christmas Place. It’s here you can find all the Christmas decorations that you could ever dream of. Christmas Place is one of the largest stores of its kind in the USA.
The variety of decorations here surprised me. They have something for all tastes – including some local inspired decorations. There will definitely be something that catches your eye here.
If you can get past shopping for Christmas decorations outside of the typical Christmas season this place is definitely worth your time – and it is huge so expect to spend a while here.
10. Taste Award Winning BBQ
There are plenty of restaurants in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to choose from if you want to eat out, so how to do you choose? Bennett’s Pit BBQ has been serving up delicious barbecue in the Smokies since 1991. They’re still going strong and winning awards for the best barbecue. Some of the best barbecue we’ve had in the South has been right here at Bennett’s in the Smokies, you can tell they want to produce high quality food. Do not miss having at least one meal here while you’re visiting the Smoky Mountains.
11. See a Drive-In Movie
At the foothills of the Smoky Mountains is a small city called Maryville and they have something very special – a genuine drive-in movie theatre. Parkway Drive-In Theatre originally opened in 1950 but closed in 1984, it re opened after being re-built 15 years later and still operates seasonally (closed in winter).
The films start at sunset and two films are shown back to back. The sound for the film is transmitted through radio so you just need to tune your car radio to the station you’re told to. It’s a popular place but if you arrive in good time you will get a spot. Check current showings and prices on their website.
Hopefully these 11 fun things to do in the Smoky Mountains are enough to get your next mountain holiday off to a great start! Let us know your favourite things to do in the Smokies in the comments.