Ranger-Led Programs Return to the National Park for 2016

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the number one reason that people come to this part of the country in the first place. Without the mountains, there likely wouldn’t even be tourism here.

It’s no surprise then that a lot of our guests incorporate one or more visits to the park into their vacation travel plans. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails and fishable streams, not to mention picnic areas, nature walks, auto tours and historic structures to see and explore.

But sometimes, when guests staying in our secluded Pigeon Forge cabins are looking for something to do that’s a little extra, a little unique, a little different, we often suggest that they take advantage of the wide range of ranger-led programs offered by the National Park Service at GSMNP. They’re fun and interesting and geared toward all ages. And most of them are free, so you can’t beat that.

Now that spring has arrived, the park has cranked up its calendar of offerings once again for 2016, so we thought we’d give you a sampling of what’s coming up in the next few weeks. Note that these events take place at sites all over the park, in both Tennessee and North Carolina, but more activities on the Tennessee side will be offered as summer approaches. You can always check back for new listings at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/calendar.htm.

Return of the Elk

Tuesday, May 3

3 to 4:30 p.m.

Cataloochee Valley, Rough Fork Trailhead

A ranger will lead you on a guided hike to an elk acclimation pen, where you will explore how, when and why the elk were returned to the Great Smoky Mountains. The hike is less than a mile, and the event is free.

Back Porch Old-Time Music Jam

Saturday, May 7

2 to 4 p.m.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center Porch, North Carolina

Visitors are welcome to get in on the fun at this free event by bringing an acoustic instrument and sitting in on this old-style mountain jam. Or if you don’t play, you’re welcome to just enjoy the sights and sounds as others play traditional Appalachian music.

Science Friday

Friday, May 20

1 to 3 p.m.

Sugarlands Visitor Center, Tennessee

On the third Friday of every month, park guests are invited to learn about and engage in ongoing scientific research happening inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The topics vary from month to month, and the event is always free.

One of the advantages of staying in one of our properties is that it’s easy to get to the national park. Many of our cabins are located in Wears Valley, and there’s a little-used back entrance to the park that takes you directly from the valley into the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. It really just takes a few minutes to get there.

Or you might drive back to Townsend and take that entrance to the park, which gives you quick access to notable sites like the Townsend Y swimming hole, the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and Cades Cove.

Celebrate Our Planet During Earth Week in Gatlinburg

If you happen to be staying in one of our secluded Gatlinburg cabins this week, you may be thinking about ways you can get outside and interact with the beautiful natural surroundings of the Great Smoky Mountains. This week, we have several suggestions for you, most of which are tied into Earth Week celebrations in Gatlinburg. Almost every day this week, the city is offering special ways for the whole family to learn about green practices while enjoying live music, games, crafts, food and more.

We’ll start with a big event we mentioned in last week’s post, the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, which is back for its 66th year. Through April 23, everyone from serious botanists to weekend gardeners can experience unprecedented access to some of the nation’s leading botanical experts and Appalachian wildlife authorities at this event, which takes place at the W.L. Mills Conference Center on Historic Nature Trail in Gatlinburg.

On Thursday, April 21, the Earth Day Festival will take place at Mynatt Park in Gatlinburg from 3 to 6 p.m. Gatlinburg-area green businesses and organizations will be on site with lots of fun things for everyone in the family to do as well as important information about easy green practices. Earth Week T-shirts featuring the artwork of a local student will be for sale, and all sales will benefit the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which provides local scholarships as well as donations to area schools and the Gatlinburg Goes Green program.

On Friday, runners and walkers are invited to celebrate Earth Week by participating in the 4th Annual Earth Day 5k Run/Walk in downtown Gatlinburg. Starting at 10 p.m., this USATF-sanctioned event will also benefit the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

There’s one more important event to note for this weekend, and while it doesn’t directly tie in to Earth Week, there is an outdoor component to it that makes it worth mentioning. On Saturday the 23rd, the 9th Annual Mountain Man Memorial March will celebrate the service and honor the ultimate sacrifice of fallen military men and women. Along with more than 20 ROTC units, participants will include active-duty military, reserve and guard units, veterans of all services, family and friends of the fallen, JROTC units and even Cub Scout packs.

The March consists of events for runners and marchers, military and civilian personnel, teams and individuals, including a marathon, half marathon and a 10k race. The course goes through downtown Gatlinburg and then along U.S. Hwy. 321 into the Smoky Mountains.

Even if you’re not planning to be in the Smokies this week, remember that virtually any time you plan to come to our area, there will likely be fun and interesting special events taking place in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville or perhaps all three. That’s in addition to all the unique attractions and recreational activities available in East Tennessee year ‘round.

So whenever you do head over to our neck of the woods, plan to have fun and be sure to check our available inventory of rental properties in the Smokies. We have a wide range of luxury cabins for overnight rental all year long and in a variety of locations.

Big Events Roll Into The Smokies This Week

You can tell we’re moving straight through spring and steamrolling toward summer in the Smokies; the calendars of special events in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville are crammed full, and this coming week is no exception. In fact, some of the biggest events of the year are coming to town, and we’re here to tell you about what’s in store.

The Pigeon Forge Spring Rod Run rolls into town this week, Thursday through Saturday. Based out of the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, this semiannual event has hundreds of hot-rod enthusiasts bringing their custom cars to the Smokies, where they will sit on display and compete for $8,000 in cash prizes. The Rod Run also has custom-car vendors, a swap meet, door prizes and live music.

Even if you don’t plan to attend the Rod Run, chances are you’ll see a lot of the participating cars as they cruise up and down the Parkway in Pigeon Forge this weekend. Keep in mind, however, that Rod Runs historically slow down traffic through the entire Smokies corridor, so if you foresee that being an obstacle to your weekend plans, either research alternate routes or consider coming back another weekend.

Meanwhile, things are taking a more natural turn in Gatlinburg this week. For starters, Earth Week will be celebrated there April 18 through 24. Gatlinburg will be going green in a big way with multiple events geared toward caring for planet earth and sharing green practices through games, crafts, music and more.

It all starts on Tuesday, April 19, when there will be a Spur Clean-Up on the section of U.S. 441 connecting Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The city will be teaming up with Keep Sevier Beautiful, and volunteers will pick up trash beginning at 9 a.m. The group that collects the most litter will win a pizza party courtesy of Big Daddy’s Pizzeria. (We’ll have info about more Gatlinburg Earth Week events in next week’s blog post.)

Also beginning April 19, the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage returns to Gatlinburg for its 66th year. As the colors of spring begin to sparkle throughout the Smokies, Gatlinburg blossoms into the center of all things botanical through April 23. Everyone from serious botanists to weekend gardeners can experience unprecedented access to some of the nation’s leading botanical experts and Appalachian wildlife authorities at this event, which takes place at the W.L. Mills Conference Center on Historic Nature Trail in Gatlinburg.

The Wildflower Pilgrimage offers more than 150 programs, including an array of seminars, instructional walks and guided hiking tours tailored to meet the individual abilities of participants. Tours showcase the abundant varieties of wildflowers, plants, ferns, mosses, trees, shrubs and wildlife that are native to the Smokies.

Even if you don’t plan to visit the Smokies this week, we hope you’ll be coming to the mountains at some point this year. And when you do, be sure to check back with us and book a week in one of our Smoky Mountain cabins.

Planning Your Smoky Mountain Vacation

Now that spring is here, more and more folks are starting to think about returning to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Whether you’re thinking about a quick weekend of shopping, hiking or relaxation or pulling out all the stops for a full-blown family vacation, we can give you some ideas for planning your trip, especially when it comes to accommodations. Our Smoky Mountain cabins offer a lot of options, and we can give you some recommendations when it comes to picking the one that will best suit your travel needs.

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make pertains to the size of your travel party. Is it just you and a spouse, or will you be bringing a bunch of kids along too? Or maybe you plan to travel as a group of friends or even a large family reunion. However small or large the group, we have rental cabins in a wide range of sizes, from cozy one-bedroom cottages to massive multi-room lodges that can accommodate more than a dozen guests.

Our one-bedroom rentals are ideal for couples, especially if it’s a honeymoon, anniversary trip or just a weekend romantic getaway. They’re the perfect cozy size for just two people, but even our smallest cabins are still big on amenities, including whirlpool tubs in the bathroom, outdoor hot tubs, fireplaces, game rooms and more.

Two-bedroom cabins are well suited for parents with a couple of kids, two couples traveling together or even a small group of friends. And like all our cabins, the two-bedrooms include a full kitchen, so if you don’t want to eat out on the tow every day, you can still have everything you need to prepare your own meals and snacks.

Our three- and four-bedroom cabins offer even more flexibility. These are well suited for multiple families traveling together as well as larger groups of friends or even corporate retreats and family reunions. Features like game rooms and outdoor hot tubs mean there are ways for everyone to enjoy time together, but there are enough bedrooms, foldout couches and loft sleeping areas to ensure that everyone has plenty of space and privacy.

Once you’ve decided how large a cabin you need, be sure to consider which locations and activities you want to be close to. For example, if you plan to do lots of outlet mall shopping, it might be nice to have a property closer to Pigeon Forge or Sevierville. If you’re interested in seeing lots of attractions and music shows, you definitely want to be closer to Pigeon Forge.

Those interested in touring the Arts & Crafts Community or spending a lot of time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park should consider somethin closer to Gatlinburg. Or if a quiet setting with beautiful scenery that’s close to the park sounds like your idea of a great location, you might consider something in the Wears Valley area.

Even if you aren’t sure what your plans will be at this point, we still recommend booking as far ahead in advance as possible, especially as summer approaches. Call us today, and we’ll help you find the ideal rental cabin in the Smokies.

Dollywood’s Festival of Nations Highlights Big Week of Events

Pigeon Forge gets visitors from all over the world each year, but that’s never more true than during Dollywood’s Festival of Nations, the annual spring festival that helps the theme park get its season kicked off each year in international fashion.

This year’s festival runs through April 18 and, as always, welcomes the world to Dollywood with a fascinating multicultural celebration featuring the traditional music, dance, food and art of nations from around the globe.

Major touring stage shows, internationally known performance groups, roaming musicians and more make Festival of Nations a fun, educational and exciting experience for Dollywood guests. Authentic international cuisine and daily celebrations throughout the park by the visiting nations provide guests with a round-the-globe escape, all without leaving the heart of the Smokies.

Highlighting the show this year will be Mother Africa, which made its debut at Dollywood in 2014. This show combines skillful acrobatics, live music and traditional dance to amaze audiences with a world-class production that celebrates Africa’s diverse traditions.

Other groups returning to Dollywood’s streets and venues include Los Pampas Gauchos, a high-energy show from Argentina, featuring traditional music, dance and comedy; Atahualpa, an Ecuadorian act that blends music from different areas of the Andes; the band Celtic Coast, which plays original music and traditional tunes inspired by the diverse cultural heritage of Nova Scotia; French musician David Charrier; the United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra; the gypsy stylings of Via Romen; and Zebra Stelzentheater of Germany, featuring stilt dancers in costume roaming the streets of Dollywood.

But that’s not all going on in our area this week. If you’re partial to fishing, you might consider participating in this weekend’s Spring Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament, April 2 and 3. Ideal for anglers of all ages, this seasonal, two-day event gives participants their shot at more than 10,000 trout stocked in more than 20 miles of Smoky Mountain streams.

Those who enter the tourney get a chance at more than $10,000 in cash and prizes. A valid fishing license is required to participate in the competition. Learn more by calling 865-661-3474. And by the way, the weather forecast for this weekend looks awesome, with highs in the high 60s and lows in the low 40s. There should be plenty of sunshine too, making conditions ideal for a couple of great days of fishing in the mountains.

No matter what you plan to do in the Smokies this spring or summer, we hope you first consider booking accommodations that will help you make the most of your vacation plans. Whether you’re visiting Dollywood, fishing in the mountains or maybe just buzzing into a town for a quick shopping weekend, remember that our Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg cabin rentals offer a wide range of lodging options. We can accommodate anything from romantic getaways to family reunions and corporate retreats. Check out our inventory of properties and availabilities today!

Celebrate Easter in the Great Smoky Mountains

A lot of folks will be celebrating Easter this weekend, and if you include yourself in that number, don’t let that stop you from planning a trip to the Smokies. There are dozens of places of worship in the communities of Wears Valley, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville, not to mention churches located throughout Sevier County. Any of them would surely be glad to welcome out-of-town visitors on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

In addition, you’ll find ways to observe the holiday weekend that involve everyone’s favorite egg-bearing rabbit. So in this post, we’ll take a quick look at some of the Easter happenings, both secular and faith-based, that you and your family can participate in later this week:

Easter Sunrise at Ober Gatlinburg

Head to the top of Mt. Harrison this Sunday morning for Ober Gatlinburg’s annual Easter Sunrise service. Now in its 19th year, this 40-minute service gets under way at 6:30 a.m. and will be led by pastors from the Gatlinburg Ministerial Association. An offering will also be collected by the association to assist area people in need.

Ober Gatlinburg will provide free tram rides to the mountaintop resort beginning at 5:30 a.m. and continuing at 15-minute intervals until 6:30. There will also be free parking at Ober Gatlinburg for those who choose to drive up. After the service, a breakfast buffet will be available at the resort’s Seasons of Ober restaurant from 7:15 until 10:30 a.m.

Easter Egg Hunt with the Easter Bunny

This Saturday, bring the kids to the Pigeon Forge Community Center for a good old-fashioned Easter egg hunt. The Easter Bunny himself will be there, not to mention plenty of colorful goody-filled eggs for the kids to snatch up.

Brunch with the Easter Bunny at Old Mill Square

Also this Saturday, you can actually sit down and enjoy brunch with the Easter Bunny at the Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grill in Pigeon Forge, starting at 9:30 a.m. and continuing until 11. After breakfast, there will be kids’ activities and door prizes.

Meanwhile, an Easter egg hunt will be taking place across the street, at Patriot Park, beginning at 10 a.m. The hunt is open to all kids up to 12 years of age.

Visit with the Easter Bunny

Usually, the Incredible Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge is the domain of Santa Claus, but this Sunday, you’ll also be able to find the Easter Bunny there. Stop by for a visit, and the kids will get to visit with EB himself and have their photos taken.

Need accommodations for this weekend’s Easter activities? No problem. Our wide selection of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville cabins can accommodate any size party, from couples to large family reunions. And we have properties located throughout the area, so whether you’re attending a sunrise service in Gatlinburg or visiting the Easter Bunny in Pigeon Forge, we’re sure to have a cabin that’s convenient to the things you want to do most in the Smokies.

What’s New in the Smokies for 2016

We’re well into the third month of the year, but for all intents and purposes, the year is just starting to get cranked up in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Businesses that were dormant in the off-season are now starting to open again, and a lot of brand-new attractions are opening their doors for the very first time, just as the tourism season is starting to pick up steam with the arrival of spring.

This week, we’ll give you an introductory look at some of the attractions that have new things to offer in 2016. It’s not like there wasn’t a lot going on around here to begin with, but if you’re planning to stay in one of our cabins in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg this spring, you’ll be more up to speed when it comes to knowing what’s new in the Smokies.

Cal Ripken Experience

This recently opened attraction, located just off Teaster Lane in Pigeon Forge, is a state-of-the-art baseball facility designed to host elite youth baseball tournaments and develop players’ skills. The new $22.5 million center features seven fields, all of which are modeled after big-league parks. Having this Cal Ripken-endorsed business in town should bring a lot of tourism business to the area and give those players and their families a ton of ways to enjoy themselves when they’re not on the field or in the stands.

Lightning Rod Roller Coaster

Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge unveils a new roller coaster this spring. Lightning Rod, a ride based on the racing hot rods of the 1950s, is being billed as the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster. It reaches speeds of up to 73 miles per hour and features multiple climbs, drops and sharp banks. Lightning Rod is the new anchor attraction of the ‘50s-themed Jukebox Junction section of the park, which will also boast new eateries for Dollywood’s 2016 season.

Revamped Dinner Shows

Two of Pigeon Forge’s dinner-show attractions have undergone substantial changes for the 2016 season. The Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show has undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation, incorporating a new high-diving water element to the show, which will showcase the talents of cast members and animal performers alike. Meanwhile, the former Lumberjack Feud dinner show in Pigeon Forge is now part of the Dollywood family and is known as Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure. The show will still feature lumberjack athletes, but this year’s show will be significantly updated, and that facility has also undergone a major renovation to accommodate the new show.

Trampoline Parks

Sevier County’s first trampoline parks are arriving just in time for the start of tourist season. TopJump Trampoline Park in Pigeon Forge opens on on March 31, offering an extreme yet safe way for guests of all ages to bounce their way to fun and fitness in the Smokies. In addition to tons of trampoline action, the attraction offers a climbing adventure, arcade and store. Meanwhile, Sevier Air Trampoline Park, located at Governor’s Crossing Mall in Sevierville, is likewise scheduled to open this spring.

Also trending in the Smokies are a couple of newish escape-room attractions – Trapped Escape Game, located in Sevierville, and the Captured Live Escape Experience, located at the Space Needle in Gatlinburg. Both of these attractions made their debut last year, but the whole escape-room phenomenon is really starting to catch on nationally.

And keep an eye out for several different mountain coaster attractions in the Smokies, including Goats on the Roof and the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, both in Pigeon Forge, and the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster and the Ski Mountain Coaster at Ober Gatlinburg, both located in that city.

Go On A Scavenger Hunt In The Smokies!

I would guess that at some point, most of us have been on some kind of scavenger hunt. (Just in case you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s where competing teams are given a specific list of items to retrieve, and each team tries to be the first to find everything on the list.) But even if you’ve been on a scavenger hunt, we have some information about a unique hunt that may be unlike any you’ve ever done before.

It’s called the Great Smoky Mountains Scavenger Hunt, and it’s taking place this weekend at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. This year, the annual event runs from Friday, March 11 to Saturday, March 12.

On Friday at 3:30 p.m., teams will be e-mailed a list of questions that they have to find the answers to within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some questions are easier, while others will require some research to answer, but in all cases, teams must take photos to provide evidence that they have successfully come up with the answers. Each question has a point value based on its level of difficulty, and the team that wins the most points gets prizes.

Here’s an example of one of the tasks from last year’s hunt:

“Take a rubbing of your NPS ranger’s nametag. Interview them to find out: 1) what their job is; 2) how long they’ve worked in the Smokies; and 3) their most fun moment in the Smokies.”

The task from last year with the highest point value? “Take a photo of your entire team in front of the sign at LeConte Lodge.” For those of you who aren’t aware, that requires a minimum of a five-hour round-trip hike to the top of Mt. LeConte and back. No small task.

The scavenger hunt will cover much of the park, using roads and official trails to access specific areas. Since it’s illegal to remove items from the park, each team will need to use a digital camera with a flash memory card that can be turned in. Answers are due at Tremont by 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. A light dinner will be served while judges tally the results at the institute.

Teams can consist of as many people as can safely fit in one vehicle. This year, the event is limited to 200 participants. At this point, registration is $60 per team, assuming that spots are still available. All proceeds benefit programs at the Tremont institute. You can register online, but online registration does not include the necessary waivers. Participants will need to fill those out and fax/e-mail them to Tremont separately.

If you’re planning to do the scavenger hunt this weekend or anything in Great Smoky Mountains National Park this summer, remember that we have plenty of rental cabins in Gatlinburg that would be very convenient to the park. Give us a call to book a property today.

Smoky Mountain Events Round-Up

We haven’t even touched the edge of tourism season yet in the Great Smoky Mountains, but the calendars of events in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg are already filling up with cool happenings. We really haven’t even gotten into the meat of the special events season yet either, but in the next week alone, there’s a long slate of events taking place. So chances are, you’ll find something in this week’s round-up that will fit in well with the rest of your Smoky Mountain travel plans.

Irish Month at Titanic

March is Irish Month at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge. Why Irish? Because the original Titanic liner was actually built in Ireland, and to this day, the people of that country maintain a strong connection to the memories of the ill-fated ship. The Titanic attraction in Pigeon Forge will celebrate that connection all month long with Gaelic folklore, music, singing and dancing. It’s a great way to get a more in-depth look at Titanic’s Irish roots.

Winter Carnival of Magic

We’re not tricking you: Some of the country’s greatest magicians will be showing off their skills at the annual Winter Carnival of Magic, which is being held at Country Tonite Theatre in Pigeon Forge March 3 through 5. Hosted by the International Brotherhood of Magicians Ring 58 (Smoky Mountain Mystics), the three-day convention features lectures, close-up competition, a stage competition and two evening shows (Friday and Saturday) that are open to the public. Tickets are $20 for ages 10 and older and $7 for ages 9 and younger.

Country Music Week

Also taking place at Country Tonite Theatre in Pigeon Forge is this annual gathering of the North American Country Music Association International. Fans of all ages who enjoy country, gospel and bluegrass won’t want to miss this week of performances, and best of all, admission is free to the general public. It takes place March 7 through 12.

2016 Southern Select Alpaca Show

Here’s an event you won’t find just anywhere, right? Showcasing alpacas from the Southeast and around the country, this certified halter show includes a handcrafter’s spin-off, free fiber arts classes and demonstrations, an alpaca vendor showcase, competitions, fashion show and more. It takes place March 5 and 6 at the Sevierville Convention Center off Tenn. Hwy. 66. Daily hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Dance Machine Productions

Also taking place at the Sevierville Convention Center March 5 and 6 is a Dance Machine Productions competition in which young female dance teams compete against each other with the goal of encouraging individual growth in the sport.

Whether your special events quests take you to Pigeon Forge or Sevierville or Gatlinburg, don’t forget that we have cabin rentals in Tennessee that are convenient to all these communities and the events hosted in each. Even if you’re not planning to be in town this week, we still have plenty of availabilities for spring bookings, so give us a call today, and we’ll help you plan your next trip to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Making The Most Of Smoky Mountain Visitor Centers

There are tons of resources a visitor can use to plan a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, even long before arriving. Internet research alone can go a long way toward helping you buy tickets to shows and attractions and, of course, book a few nights in one of our Smoky Mountain cabin rentals.

But even after you arrive in the area, you may still have questions about what to do, where to go and what to see. Sometimes, it helps to get a recommendation or have your questions answered by a local person who is familiar with the area. That’s where your friendly neighborhood visitor center can come in handy. The cities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg all have them, as does Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

So this week, we’ll give you an overview of where these visitor centers are and what they have to offer. This will help you distinguish legitimate city- and park-run visitor centers from some of the businesses that may call themselves visitor centers but are actually fronts for condominium sales offices.

Smoky Mountain Visitor Center

This is usually the first visitor center that folks encounter when arriving in the Smokies via Interstate 40. It’s unique in that it is located in Smokies Stadium, which is just off Exit 407 at 3540 Line Dr. in Kodak, TN. You’ll find an abundance of information about the national park as well as an array of books and brochures about area points of interest.

Sevierville Visitor Center

If you take Exit 407 and head toward Sevierville, you’ll find this center at 3099 Winfield Dunn Pkwy. (Tenn. Hwy. 66), between Interstate 40 and downtown Sevierville. Operated by the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, this center is open every day except Christmas Day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. You’ll find a bookstore operated by the Great Smoky Mountains Association as well as the usual array of brochures and literature about regional attractions, shops and restaurants.

Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism

This stop is at 1950 Parkway in Pigeon Forge, just before you reach the intersection of Wears Valley Rd. You’ll find a ton of information about points of interest in Pigeon Forge and surrounding communities, and, like all the other area visitor centers, they have ample parking, restroom facilities and vending machines. Their hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Gatlinburg Welcome Center

You’ll find this welcome center located on the southbound side of The Spur, between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. It’s open every day except Christmas Day, with hours that vary depending on the season. Resources include another Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore as well as information on the city of Gatlinburg and other communities.

Townsend Visitor Center

If you happen to venture to the nearby community of Townsend, TN, on the Blount County side of the Smokies, you’ll find this visitor center on U.S. Hwy. 321. It’s open at 9 a.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. You’ll find a bookstore and tons of information about area activities, including those located in Blount County.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There are actually several visitor centers within the park alone, with the Sugarlands Visitor Center being the primary stopping point for those visiting the Tennessee side of the national park. The Oconaluftee Visitor Center serves guests on the North Carolina Side, and if you’re headed to the Cades Cove community, be sure to stop at the visitor center there, which is located at the mid-point of the 11-mile one-way auto loop.