Wedding Bells Are Ringing In The Smokies

People from all over the world travel to the Great Smoky Mountains each summer to visit the national park as well as all the great attractions, shops and restaurants that are found in the communities that lie in the foothills. But that’s not the only reason that people come to the Smokies.

Every year, thousands of couples come here to say, “I do.” Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are already great places to travel on a summer vacation, so why not work your wedding plans into the itinerary? The Smokies make a scenic backdrop for any marriage ceremony, and you’ve already got one of the most beautiful honeymoon destinations in the country built right into the mix.

A good place to start is by contacting one of the dozens of wedding destinations in the area. These range from charming chapels that are dedicated exclusively to wedding ceremonies to flexible, multipurpose event venues to resorts and other lodging providers that not only make great honeymoon accommodations but also are able to perform ceremonies on site.

And then there are unique places to get married, such as the Hard Rock Café and the Titanic Museum Attraction, both in Pigeon Forge. You can even get married on horseback, on a boat or in a helicopter. When it comes to tying the knot, the Great Smoky Mountains can provide just about any experience you might be interested in.

No matter which way you go, you’ll often be working with a staff wedding coordinator who can provide you or connect you with all the services you’ll need for the big day, from cakes and reception services to flowers to photographers and videographers. Venues that don’t provide such services themselves can at least put you in touch with local vendors who can provide them. Of course, all venues are able to supply a licensed minister or officiant who will make sure that you get married all nice and legal-like.

Of course, honeymooning in the Smokies makes as much sense as getting married in the Smokies does, not just because of the beautiful mountains and scenery but because there’s so much to do in the area. Whether it’s horseback riding in Gatlinburg or ziplining in Pigeon Forge, a ton of fun awaits newlyweds. There are also multiple shopping opportunities as well as dozens of restaurants that can provide a romantic setting for a just-married couple’s first meals together.

Before you travel to the Smokies, don’t forget to obtain your marriage license, which you can get at the Sevier County Courthouse in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge City Hall or the Gatlinburg Shilling Center. Marriage licenses are affordable and easy to get; you just apply in person at any of the above locations and provide a valid ID. The cost for out-of-state-couples is $38.50 (cash) or $45.50 (credit card), while in-state couples pay $98.50 and $105.50, respectively.

However, no blood tests, waiting periods or witnesses are necessary to get married, all of which are just a few of the reasons why the Smokies are considered the Wedding Capital of the South.

The Best Views In The Smokies

Few people would argue that the mountains, almost by definition, are the main reason to visit the Smokies. After all, that’s what got folks visiting this area as early as the 1940s, long before there were music theaters, go-cart tracks and outlet malls. What’s interesting is that folks don’t like just looking at the mountains; they like looking out from them as well. As a result, people visiting the Smokies are always trying to find the best vantage points and the best views.

So if your travel plans have you headed to the Great Smoky Mountains in the near future, or if you’re currently staying in one of our Wears Valley, TN cabin rentals, keep the following points of interest in mind—not just as great places to see the mountains but also as places from which to take in some of the most spectacular views in the region.

• Clingman’s Dome observation tower – At 6,643 feet, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s also the highest point in Tennessee and third highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. So it only makes sense that walking to the observation tower at the mountain’s summit would be a great way to get 360-degree views of the Smokies and beyond. From Gatlinburg, take Newfound Gap Road to Clingman’s Dome Road, and from there, it’s seven miles to the parking area and then a half-mile walk to the tower. The tower is open year-round, but Clingman’s Dome Road is closed January through March. From the tower, you can see more than 100 miles on clear days.

• Mt. LeConte – The bad news is that you can’t access the third-highest peak in the Smokies by car. But the good news is that those who take on the approximately five-mile one-way hike to the summit are rewarded with spectacular views of the region. You can see north from LeConte Lodge, or you can hike to two other natural observation points to get respective views out east and west.

• Foothills Parkway – This national parkway is still incomplete and exists only in sporadic segments throughout the national park and beyond. But it still offers some of the most easily accessible and breathtaking views to be found in the Smokies. One segment is located not far from Gatlinburg, and the other is in Blount County, just a few miles from Townsend. Either way you choose, get ready for sweeping vistas that include both mountain peaks and valleys. Both routes offer multiple pull-off points for gawking and picture taking. Also note that 11 miles into the Blount County segment of the Parkway, you’ll find the Look Rock observation tower. It’s a half-mile hike from the parking area, but you’re rewarded with 270-degree views from east to west.

• Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway – Whether you plan to spend some time up at the Ober Gatlinburg ski resort or not, it’s worth taking the aerial tramway from downtown Gatlinburg up to the resort and back. Riding the tram is fun, and the views are memorable. Also, once you’re at the top of Mt. Harrison, Ober Gatlinburg has a chairlift attraction that takes you even higher up the mountain and lays out stunning views as well.

• Helicopter rides – Sometimes, you just have to get a bird’s-eye view of things, and one of the best ways to do that is to book a helicopter tour. You’ll find these attractions on Tennessee Highway 66, between Interstate 40 and downtown Sevierville.

Staying Cool This Summer

We’re smack in the middle of the summer travel season, which is great for couples and families taking a little vacation time in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. But some days here in the South do get a tad warm, and when you add high levels of humidity to the equation, even leisurely days become less than comfortable, even if you’re spending most of your time playing.

So this week, Timbercreek Cabins Pigeon Forge is tossing out some suggestions for places to go and things to do that will help you keep your cool this summer. In addition to these tips, remember to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated, especially if you’re planning to partake in outdoor activities like hiking.

• Dollywood’s Splash Country – You could spend an entire day or more at this Pigeon Forge water park, which features dozens of wet-and-wild attractions, including water slides, wave pool, lazy river ride, kids’ play areas and more. Slides range from single-person body slides to large, family raft rides, from slow and tame slides to high, steep, lightning-fast slides. The park also features plenty of places to lie in the sun (or to find shade) as well as eateries, merchandise stands, changing facilities and more.

• Dollywood – Right across the road from Splash Country you’ll find the original Dollywood theme park. You’ll spend a lot of time outside here, but several of the rides—like Mountain Slidewinder, River Battle and Smoky Mountain River Rampage—are guaranteed to soak you to your bones. Fortunately, the park also has a number of water-misting fans set up to help cool guests down on warm days.

• Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Yep, nothing beats a dip in a real-life swimmin’ hole. Two of the more popular swimming destinations in the park are the Townsend Y (which is not too far a drive from most of our cabins) and The Sinks, both of which are formed from rivers. Note, however, that you swim at your own risk in the national park and that lifeguards are not on hand. But even in summer, that water sure is nice and cold!

• Tubing – Townsend is also where you’ll find several outfitters who can set you up with an inner tube and let you enjoy a cool, leisurely float down the Little River. Transportation from the take-out point to the outpost is included in the price. You can also do some tubing in Sevierville on the Little Pigeon River.

• Whitewater rafting – You’ll find multiple whitewater rafting companies in Hartford, TN, which is anywhere from a half-hour to an hour’s drive away, depending on where you’re staying in the Smokies. They’ll provide all the equipment and instruction you need to take on rapids that are rated as high as Class III and IV.

• Indoor attractions – You don’t always have to get wet to stay cool. On hot days, you may want to steer your plans toward attractions that have plenty of air conditioning. Good options for this strategy include museums and music theaters. There are even a couple of underground cavern attractions in the area that keep guests a cool 57 degrees year round thanks to their subterranean location.

Cabin Of The Week – Getaway Mountain Lodge

If you’ve thought that perhaps a large family reunion might just be too big of an endeavor to undertake while vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, then Getaway Mountain Lodge might just have you singing a different tune.

At first, the fact that it has four bedrooms doesn’t make it seem capable of accommodating a large brood, but once you realize it sleeps as many as 14 guests, you begin to appreciate what a spacious and rustically luxurious overnight rental this place really is.

Overall, the cabin makes the most of its mountaintop perch. As with most of our cabins, Smoky Mountains views abound. Overlooking scenic Wears Valley, this non-smoking property affords stunning views of the mountains and valley floor, whether you’re gazing out through the large wall of windows in the main-level great room or sitting on one of the decks in a rocking chair or perhaps soaking in the outdoor hot tub.

Inside, the main level offers living and dining areas, a kitchen and two bedrooms that are designed to handle a crowd. Two dining tables, plus a four-person bar, should easily provide mealtime seating for a maxed-out house. And of course, having access to a fully functional kitchen with all the cookware and dishware needed can help save a little bit of money when you’re feeding a lot of mouths on vacation.

The main living area also has plenty of seating for social events, whether it’s gathering around the flat-screen TV to watch sports or a movie or warming up together around the gas-burning fireplace on a chilly winter’s night.

There are two bedrooms—The Big Buck and The Bear Den—on the main level, each of which has its own attached bathroom with whirlpool tub, and there’s a half-bath for community use on the main floor as well. Both bedrooms offer king beds.

The lower level has two more bedrooms with attached bathrooms (one of which has a whirlpool tub), plus there’s a sleeper sofa in the game room. The two bedrooms—The Mallard’s Nest and The Fishin’ Hole—feature two queen beds and a king-size bed, respectively.

As for the game room, recreations like a foosball table, new air hockey table and resurfaced pool table offer plenty of opportunities to keep everyone’s competitive juices flowing, while the 40-inch flat-screen is a great place for sports fans to gather ‘round and cheer on their favorite teams.

Getaway Mountain Lodge has other notable features, including expanded parking area, porch swing, patio tables and charcoal grill on the decks as well as a handicap-accessible ramp.

We’ll be celebrating the 4th of July this week in the Smokies, but no matter what time of year you wind up booking this property, you’ll discover that things don’t really slow down in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Our cities have virtually endless choices when it comes to family attractions, theater shows, shopping opportunities, restaurants and fun outdoor activities.

And our cabins are very close to the Wears Valley entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is a very lightly traveled route that will take you directly to the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area as well as the trail leading to the historic Walker sisters’ cabin.

Golfing In The Smokies

With its mountainous backgrounds, green forests and abundant streams, the Smokies region is a golfer’s paradise. That’s why so many visitors each year make sure to pack their clubs when they head here on vacation. With so many scenic and challenging courses to choose from, a golf fanatic could play a different 18 holes every day of the week and never see a repeat.

Summertime is prime golfing season in the Smokies, so if you’ve never teed off on one of our courses, here’s a quick overview of some of the area’s top golf destinations. There’s still plenty of time left this summer to book your lodgings, hit a few buckets of practice balls and enjoy a morning or afternoon on the links.

• Baneberry Golf and Resort

www.baneberrygolf.com

This 18-hole course is located on a peninsula in Douglas Lake, near Sevierville, TN. The par-71, 6,700-yard course is a test of skills, featuring Bermuda fairways, large bent grass greens and four tee positions on each hole. Rolling hills, challenging bunkers, lakes and streams add to the captivating scenery.

Bent Creek Golf Village

www.bentcreekgolfcourse.com

Designed by legendary golfer Gary Player, Bent Creek blends in seamlessly to its Great Smoky Mountains setting. Located in the Cobbly Nob area outside Gatlinburg, the 18-hole, par-72 course offers such features as a mountain stream, creek-side grill, putting green, golf shop and access to nearby cabin and condo rentals.

Sevierville Golf Club

www.seviervillegolfclub.com

This municipal golf course features two 18-hole courses—the River Course, which runs along the Little Pigeon river—and the Highlands Course, which features more rolling terrain. The courses are par 72 and 70, respectively. Amenities include a golf shop, driving range, pitching area, practice bunkers and a putting green. The facility is easily accessible via Interstate 40.

Gatlinburg Municipal Golf Course

golf.gatlinburg.com

This 18-hole course is actually located in Pigeon Forge, just a short distance off the Parkway. The layout is challenging but beautiful, occupying a section of rolling woodlands with tremendous views of the Smokies. The 6,281-yard course showcases a par-three hole with a 200-foot drop in elevation as well as a 529-yard par-five hole called Long Lane.

Lambert Acres Golf Club

www.lambertacresgc.com

Just head to Blount County and the peaceful side of the Smokies to enjoy this destination’s 27 holes of challenging scenic play. Divided into three nine-hole courses, Lambert Acres delivers rolling terrain, Bermuda fairways, bent grass greens and a beautiful mountain backdrop. Water hazards and bunkers increase the challenge, while a full slate of amenities makes this year-round course an area favorite.

Laurel Valley Country Club

www.golflaurelvalley.com

Nestled into a breathtakingly beautiful mountain valley, this Townsend, TN, course is also found in Blount County, just a short drive from Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Known for its narrow fairways and blind shots, Laurel Valley is a true test, although the outstanding views are worth the effort. The par-70 course includes a driving range, while a staff golf pro and on-site restaurant are also available.

River Islands Golf Club

www.riverislandsgolf.com

Located near Sevierville, River Islands has been named one of Golf Digest’s top ten Tennessee courses on multiple occasions. Considered one of the more scenic courses in the Smokies, this 18-hole links-style layout is well manicured with Zoysia fairways and borders the French Broad River. Several islands located in the river come into play on a number of holes.

At Timbercreek Cabins, we offer overnight rentals that would be well suited to accessing many of these golf properties. So if you’re looking for scenic-view cabins, Gatlinburg or any other surrounding community would be the ideal place to settle in for a week of great golfing in the Smokies.

Pigeon Forge’s New Themed Restaurants Make For Big Summer Dining

If you haven’t driven through Pigeon Forge in a while, you’ll notice some definite changes when you return to this Smoky Mountains tourist destination this summer. Three major restaurant chains are setting up shop in town—one of them a transplant from Gatlinburg and the other two brand-new to the area. Today we’ll give you an overview of each and hopefully arm you with enough information to make some tough dining choices on your next visit. Or who has to choose? You might wind up making plans to try all three!

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen

Hey, y’all, the queen of Southern cooking is going to open one of her signature restaurants in the Forge later this summer. Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen will be up and running at The Island development and is expected to cost $20 million. The 20,000-square-foot operation will accommodate 350 guests.

In addition to Deen’s trademark butter-sugar-deep-fried cuisine, the menu will include a selection of health-friendly dishes. The facility will also feature Paula’s Sweet Shop and Coffee and a retail store featuring 3,500 of the cook’s favorite retail items.

In other Paula Deen news, Ms. Deen herself will be in Pigeon Forge on June 21 and 22 to kick off her Paula Deen Live! cooking show tour. The shows will take place at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, which is within walking distance of her soon-to-be-open restaurant. She’ll be bringing some fans on stage with her to cook up some of her favorite recipes at the live event.

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville

The Island is also where you’ll find another new theme restaurant that just opened its doors last week. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville has made that multipurpose destination the newest site of the legendary singer’s restaurant chain.

Not surprisingly, the eatery boasts an island theme and décor scheme, which goes hand in hand with the Buffett’s trademark brand of laid-back music and easygoing water-loving lifestyle. Natural materials, exposed wood and warm tropical colors combine to create a welcoming atmosphere with unique dining spaces, a concert stage and even a tiki bar. The large deck overlooks the Little Pigeon River, and that’s where guests can enjoy outdoor dining, live music and a fire pit in cooler weather.

And although you may go there searching for your lost shaker of salt, Margaritaville is a family-friendly dining establishment that welcomes guests of all ages.

Menu items include a wide range of steak, chicken and seafood dishes, including fish and chips, jambalaya, fried chicken, coconut shrimp, beach tacos and more. For dessert, you might try the Chocolate Hurricane, chocolate banana bread pudding or, of course, the key lime pie.

Hard Rock Café

This themed restaurant isn’t new to the Smokies, but it’s definitely new to Pigeon Forge, having moved from its long-time downtown Gatlinburg location to the heart of Music Row, in the building formerly occupied by Tony Roma’s and, before that, the Alabama Grill.

The restaurant also offers a varied menu, but its claim to fame is its décor. From wall to wall, floor to ceiling, this eatery is packed with an incredible collection of rock and roll memorabilia, featuring musical instruments, records, clothing and other personal effects that were used or owned by some of the biggest names in rock music history.

Bear Activity Closes Two Campgrounds

The National Park Service closed two backcountry campsites this week due to intrusive bear activity. Some backcountry campers encountered bears at their location over the weekend and reported that the animals were circling the site and were not easily scared off. This prompted park officials to close the camping areas.

To be clear, these were two specific backcountry campsites only, which make up a minority of the total campsites found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Popular traditional campgrounds like Elkmont and Cosby have not been affected by the temporary closures.

What prompted the shutdown? It’s June, which is one of the peak activity times for the black bear population within the national park, because it falls in between two periods when bears’ natural food sources are in highest supply. During this time, food supplies are scarcer, so the bears improvise when it comes to rustling up some grub. And you guessed it; that means they start to intrude on human territories in search of something to eat.

However, you don’t have to be camping in the backwoods to run into a black bear in the Smokies. Park visitors can encounter a bear virtually anywhere, whether camping, hiking a trail or even biking the Cades Cove loop. As such, visitors are encouraged to take appropriate actions when a bear sighting does occur.

First, be aware that it’s against the law to willfully approach within 150 feet of a bear. Not only is it punishable by fine, but also it’s also just not very smart. These aren’t tame animals at a zoo or a Yogi Bear cartoon; these are dangerous animals, in the wild—often a protective mother with its cubs. If a bear feels threatened, it could attack and do some serious damage. So if you spot a bear and want an up-close view, use binoculars or a telephoto lens on your camera.

If you accidentally wind up close to a bear and feel threated by its presence, the best strategy is to make loud noises or throw rocks at it or try to make yourself look larger, all in an effort to scare the bear away. Black bears are generally intimidated by such displays.

Campers, of course, can take special precautions to remove the temptation from bears in the first place. Keep all food supplies and garbage safely stowed when not in use, either in a locked vehicle or suspended high enough from a tree branch so that a bear can’t reach it. The best thing to do with garbage is to deposit it in one of the national park’s specially designed bear-proof trash receptacles, when available.

If you see bears near your campsite and they’re not being frightened away, you can report the sighting to the National Park Service’s general dispatch line.

Of course, camping is a great way to experience the national park, but there’s also a lot to be said for the luxury and comfort of a cabin in the Smokies. Our cabins in Pigeon Forge, TN, as well as in Wears Valley, Gatlinburg and Sevierville, offer you all the amenities you could want from your Smoky Mountain lodgings, but our abundant cabin locations make it easy for you to get to and from all the things you want to do in the national park.

Cabin Of The Week – Quail Lodge

We’ve been hearing more and more bobwhites making their distinctive self-named bird call in the Smoky Mountains this year, and since bobwhites are a variety of quail, we felt that it was only appropriate to make Quail Lodge our featured cabin of the week on our blog site.

Quail Lodge benefits from an accessible wooded home site, but it still offers some nice views of the rolling hills of Wears Valley and the mountains beyond. At first blush, this three-bedroom cabin appears to be quite rustic, but once you step inside, the property’s modern amenities and distinctive mountain-lodge décor make it unmistakably upscale in nature.

Including the twin sleeper sofa, Quail Lodge accommodates as many as seven guests, which make it a suitable choice for a large family gathering, two smaller families or even a bunch of friends out on a fun-seeking retreat in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The main-level great room is the ultimate in comfortable gathering spaces thanks to a stacked-stone gas fireplace, abundant windows and a leather seating group made up of a sofa, loveseat and oversized chair. There’s also a TV with DVD and VCR players that make this the ideal gathering spot for movie-night viewing or catching the latest sports action on TV. Architectural accents worth noting include the high-vaulted ceilings and hand-hewn rafter beams.

There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in the Smokies, but if you decide to take on your own meal preparation, the full kitchen has all the appliances, cookware, utensils and dishes you’ll need to lay out a great Smoky Mountain spread. And the dining room can easily accommodate a houseful of guests.

As for sleeping accommodations, there are two king bedrooms with TVs and DVD players on the main level, but the master bedroom is on the upper level. The master bedroom itself boasts a king bed and walk-in closet as well as a sitting area, TV/VCR and vaulted ceilings. The adjacent bathroom has a whirlpool tub, twin vanity and shower.

The upper level also has a loft area featuring a pool table and a twin sleeper sofa, making it a great place for a younger guest to sleep.

As for outdoor amenities, the wraparound deck and two covered porches offer lots of opportunities for relaxation, wildlife viewing or appreciating nature’s surrounding beauty. The porches have rocking chairs and a swing for taking in the scenery, and there’s a charcoal grill that’s a great option for cooking up burgers, steaks or hotdogs.

At night, you can really unwind in the screened-in hot tub and soak your muscles after a day of fun in the Smokies. After all, even when you’re having fun, activities like hiking in the mountains, shopping the outlet malls or walking up and down the Parkway in Gatlinburg can wear a person down!

To book this or any of our cabins in Wears Valley, click Book Now on the Quail Lodge page on our website or call us 800-827-7022.

It’s Synchronous Firefly Time In The Smokies

If you’ve never heard of the synchronous fireflies of the Great Smoky Mountains, then I strongly urge you to read on, because this phenomenon has become one of the greatest natural attractions within the national park—or the United States, for that matter. In fact, the Smokies is only one of two place on earth where you can find this unique and fascinating nocturnal occurrence.

So here’s the deal: For two weeks each June, these special fireflies put on a light show in which all the males light up and flash at the same time in order to attract their mates. It’s a process that’s vital to perpetuating the species. The woods will be mostly dark for a few minutes, and then all the males will start flashing together for a minute or so. And then they go dark again until the next go-around.

According to the National Park Service, the fireflies are one of 19 species that inhabit the Great Smoky Mountains. They are the only ones in America that light up in unison.

This activity is only found in the Elkmont area of the park, and although folks have been traveling there for years each summer to see the show, the demand for a front-row seat has climbed dramatically within the last 10 years. So much so, in fact, that the park has established a specific protocol for accessing and viewing the fireflies.

From June 6 through 13, a shuttle service will be offered from Sugarland Visitors Center to the viewing area in Elkmont. Direct auto traffic to Elkmont is not allowed, except for campers who are registered to stay at the Elkmont campground. Cars will also not be allowed to park on the shoulder of the road leading to Elkmont.

Advance reservations for the shuttle service and parking started on April 29, so you would need to contact the National Park Service to see if spaces are still available. If so, the trolley is $1 per person, and parking passes start at $1.50. Exact change is required.

The trolleys, which are provided by the city of Gatlinburg, will begin picking up visitors at Sugarlands Visitor Center in the RV/bus parking lot at 7 p.m. The trolleys will run continually until the parking area is full or until 9 p.m., whichever comes first. The last trolley is scheduled to run from Elkmont back to the visitor center at 11 p.m.

If you do wind up seeing the fireflies this year, here are some rules of etiquette to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone:

• Cover your flashlight with red or blue cellophane.

• Use your flashlight only when walking to the viewing spot.

• Point your flashlight at the ground.

• Turn off your flashlight when you reach your viewing spot.

Visitors are allowed to bring lawn chairs and carry food and water in backpacks, but packs must fit in your lap on the trolley. Visitors are not allowed to bring coolers, alcoholic beverages or pets.

And remember that we have lots of Gatlinburg cabins available in the area, which would be conveniently located within a short drive of Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Memorial Day Weekend Happenings…

It’s finally here—Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial kickoff of summer in the Smokies. If you’ve chosen this weekend to spend some chillaxin’ time in the mountains, you won’t be disappointed. And just in case you need a few ideas for inspiration, here’s an overview of some of the special events going on around town this weekend.

This Friday, 5/23, Country Tonite Theatre hosts the Roots and Boots Tour featuring country music legends Aaron Tippin, Joe Diffie and Sammy Kershaw in concert. All three stars will share some of their greatest hits and stories beginning at 8 p.m.

But that’s not the only music you’ll hear floating in the air this weekend. Last week, we told you about the Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass festival in Sevierville, which welcomed thousands of visitors to the Smokies last weekend with a stellar lineup of topnotch bluegrass and lip-smackin’-good barbecue. That festival may be over, but there’s more of the good stuff coming soon for all you fans of the blue-and-cue combo. Dollywood’s own Barbeque & Bluegrass festival gets underway this weekend and continues through June 8 at Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Like all Dollywood seasonal festivals, there’s no additional charge to gain access to Barbeque & Bluegrass. Your park admission entitles you to all the free concerts by some the country’s greatest bluegrass artists. Throughout the festival’s 16 days, more than 250 free concerts will be presented. Headline acts include The Time Jumpers, featuring Vince Gill, Dawn Sears, Kenny Sears and Ranger Doug Green. Also look for Riders in the Sky, The Boxcars, Mountain Faith, Gold Heart, Lonesome Meadow and Flatt Lonesome. In all, more than 30 acts will take the various stages throughout the theme park.

As for food, Market Square will be your barbecue headquarters throughout the festival. The park will be preparing more than 50,000 pounds of succulent ‘cue throughout the event, enhancing it with a variety of sauces that range from savory-sweet to smokin’ hot.

If you happen to be staying in one of our secluded Gatlinburg cabins this Friday through Sunday, you might want to check out Family Fest in the Smokies at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. More music is in store as evening concerts and morning worship services showcase an incredible lineup of gospel music’s finest artists and speakers.

For another change of pace, consider heading to Townsend in Blount County, TN, where the Foothills Antique Tractor and Engine Show will be taking place at the Townsend Visitor Center. Take a step back into the past as collectors showcase an impressive lineup of restored antique farm equipment, much of which offers insights into the way the area’s earlier residents ran their homesteads.

And don’t forget to spend some time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where it looks like conditions will be ideal this weekend for some hiking, fishing, picnicking or just driving around and looking at the sights. There are also a number of ranger-led special programs slated for the weekend, including quilting demonstrations on Friday and Saturday, traditional mountain music on Friday and blacksmithing demonstrations on Saturday. All of these particular programs take place at the Cades Cove Visitor Center.