Looking for something new? We’ve come up with 8 Smoky Mountain attractions: unique museums, natural attractions, sports and restaurants that you probably haven’t been to, but should!
Salt and Pepper Museum
The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum was started by an archaeologist who fell in love with the history behind salt and pepper shakers after she and her husband and son went looking for a pepper mill – just for practical purposes. That was 25 years ago.
From then until 2001, Rolf, Andrea and their children just collected salt and pepper shakers, and Andrea started photographing them in the 90s, she writes on the museum Website.
By 2001, the couple had moved to the Smoky Mountains from Texas and were overrun with boxes of salt and pepper shakers. They decided to open a museum. The collection stands at more than 20,000, which is one of the many reason this museum makes our list of 8 Smoky Mountain attractions you need to see.
“One of the main purposes of the museum is to show the changes in a society that can be found represented in shakers. As you walk through the museum you can see the changes from ancient times to the 1500’s, 1800’s, 1920’s, 40’s, 60’s all the way to present time.
“Another purpose of the museum is to show the variety and the creativity that can be found in salt and pepper shakers. Who were the people and the artists creative enough to come up with all these amazing different shapes?”
See the entire collection at 561 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg, (865) 430-5515.
Number 2 of 8 Smoky Mountain attractions you need to visit, quaint and homey, Wild Plum Tea Room, is a lunch-only restaurant open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Reservations in advance are highly encouraged. Don’t be fooled by the name. Wild Plum Tea Room offers way more than just tea.
Inspired by Austrian-style tea houses, the restaurant has fresh homemade lunch menu offerings with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. All menu offerings are homemade and made fresh daily from fresh ingredients.
At this unique tea house, lunch is served on fine china fit for a Gatlinburg romantic meal in a cabin set in the woods. The menu selection may include daily chef specials, soups, salads, specialty sandwiches, desserts, vegetarian, vegan and allergy-accommodated meals.
Find Wild Plum Tea Room at 555 Buckhorn Road, Gatlinburg.
865-436-3808 (Wild Plum doesn’t accept same-day reservations)
Smoky Mountain Cat House
Located in Pigeon Forge, Smoky Mountain Cat House has been a mountain destination for cat lovers from around the world for more than 30 years. However, for those of you just stepping into becoming the cat person you’ve always been, this hits our chart at number 3 of 8 Smoky Mountain attractions you need to visit. Established in 1985, by Cheryl and Phil Anderson as a warm and welcoming place for “cat people” as well as the curious shopper visiting the Smokies.
In their own words, the Anderson’s say: “The Cat House is a place to relax, where you can be yourself and show off your favorite cat pictures or share a story with like-minded cat lovers. We feature the ‘thing’ that make us and our cats happy, but most of all we hope to be your home away from home where you can pet and play with a cat when you’re away from your own!”
Find the Cat House at 3327 Old Mill Street – Pigeon Forge, (865) 428-6133
Bush’s Baked Beans
Learn all about the history of Bush’s Baked Beans in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee – 24 miles from Gatlinburg. The visit is free to learn all about “that beautiful baked bean.”
There’s a café, store, museum and theater shows. At the café, visitors get a serving of the day’s bean to start and then can order home cookin’ and Southern specialties, along with Pinto Bean Pie.
Find the Visitors at 3901 US-411, Dandbridge, TN, 865-509-3077
then, in Sevierville, check out Forbidden Caverns, where visitors are entertained and educated. Walk past sparkling formations, towering natural chimneys, several grottos and a crystal-clear stream. The 30-35 minute drive from Gatlinburg is picturesque with a beautiful view of the Mt. LeConte range and English Mountain. Primitive farmhouses, a quaint grist mill-museum and a trout farm are among the many points of interest along the route.
“Special lighting effects, a stereophonic sound presentation and well-trained tour guides combine to make this a most enjoyable experience. The trails are well-lighted, with handrails at all necessary points.”
Local schools send their students here for field trips. Visitors see one of the largest walls of cave onyx – flowstone – known to exist, along with areas of stalactites and stalagmites with cool names including Valley of the Moon and Grotto of the Dead.
A stalagmite is a mound or tapering column that rises from the floor of a cave. Stalactites hang from the ceiling of a cave. Check out these great photos!
“Hundreds of years ago, Forbidden Caverns was known to the Eastern Woodland Indians who roamed East Tennessee’s forests and mountains in search of good hunting grounds. The cave was used as a shelter in the winter and the cave river provided a constant supply of water. Scientists believe the source of the water to be an underground lake located beneath English Mountain, now famous for its spring water.”
“During the early twenties and until 1943, the cave was used to make moonshine. The constant water supply and the isolated location was ideal for Moonshiner’s to make their homemade whiskey. In 1964, a group of business and professional men began the planning and vast undertaking of opening this natural attraction to the public. After 3 years of excavation and development, Forbidden Caverns was opened in June 1967.”
The average guided tour is 55 minutes. There’s free parking, a souvenir shop, refreshments and a picnic area. Current prices are $20 for those over 13, $12 for children 5-12 and free for kids 4 and under. Find Forbidden Caverns at 455 Blowing Cave Rd. Sevierville, (865) 453-5972.
On our continued list of 8 Smoky Mountain attractions, the House of the Fairies at number 6, is located about a mile from Gatlinburg along Twin Creeks Trail. It’s a stone springhouse located in the Smoky Mountains National Park that was part of The Voorheis Estate. Covered in moss, the stone house resembles the fairy houses children build. The Voorheis Estate is a cultural landscape located within the North District of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 38-acre site encompasses the former mountain retreat that was developed by Louis E. Voorheis from 1928-1944.
To get to The House of Fairies, take the Twin Creeks Trail. To get to the trailhead, park at Ogle Place Parking area to start at one side of the trail or at Mynatt Park on the other side of the trail just before the entrance to Cherokee Orchard Road. From there, walk up the road to get to the trailhead.
Twin Creeks Trail is an out-and-back trail that is 4.5 miles roundtrip. Visitors walk along the creek and see many buildings from the Voorheis Estate. You can walk inside and see what living in log cabins was like. After the Resource Center, look for a small path jutting off from Twin Creeks Trail. Follow this trail to get the Fairy House. Once you get to the House of the Fairies, you’ll see an arch wall with a simple open door, with stairs leading to the top. You can go inside the springhouse.
Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower
Different from the rest of the Great Smoky Mountain fire towers, which are made of metal, the Mount Cammerer fire tower which is made of timber and native rock. It looks like it could be a home in Maine with its round shape and vast windows and surrounding deck. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930’s, the tower was restored through in the mid 1990’s.
From the deck, hikers take in panoramic views of the Tennessee Valley, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah and Cherokee national forests. The hike itself is a long one – 11+ miles roundtrip.
This hike to Mt. Cammerer begins from the Low Gap Trailhead next to the Cosby Campground. In order to reach the trailhead from the junction of 441 and 321 in Gatlinburg (Light 3), turn to travel eastbound on Highway 321/73 for 18.2 miles until the road dead-ends into Highway 32. Turn right towards Cosby and drive 1.2 miles to the park entrance. After that, turn right into the park and drive another 2.1 miles to the Cosby Campground entrance station. Finally, you’ll reach the entrance station, then turn left into a large parking area for the Low Gap Trailhead.
This hike is the shortest and most used route to the summit of the 4928-foot mountain. From the trailhead hikers will climb the Low Gap Trail for three miles before reaching the Appalachian Trail. “This is a steep and relentless climb that traverses over several switchbacks, while taking hikers through a beautiful, mature hardwood forest as they proceed up the Cosby Creek valley.”
Find The View
Next, the summit of Mt. Cammerer sits on the edge of a rocky outcropping overlooking the Pigeon River Gorge. Hikers say that on a clear day “the views are simply stunning; some even say one of the best in the park.” Although avid hikers can tell the tale, if you’re new to the experience this will be amongst the unfamiliar Smoky Mountain Attractions.
Step up to the deck of the stone fire lookout for outstanding 360-degree views. Look in any direction and see row upon row of mountains. The mountain directly across the gorge, with the white aviation tower at the top, is 4263-foot Snowbird Mountain. Below that you may be able to see the water tower for the hydro-electric plant in the Big Creek area. Toward the south is Mt. Sterling, which also has an old fire tower on its summit. Look southwest to the expanse of mountains known as the Great Smoky Mountains.
“The mountain itself is named after Arno Cammerer, the well-liked Director of the National Park Service in the 1930s. Cammerer was an instrumental figure in helping to establish a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains. With the help of Colonel David C. Chapman of Knoxville, Cammerer convinced John D. Rockefeller Jr. to make a gift of $5 Million, which was used to purchase the lands that would become the national park.”
The Pear Harbor Tree
Finally, last but not least of our unfamiliar Smoky Mountain attractions, the Pearl Harbor Tree is located in the popular area of Cades Cove. The Pearl Harbor Tree is a reminder of what happened that day in 1941 and honors those who died. It was planted by a man named Golman Myers, who lived in Cades Cove with his wife and sons.
Read more about Cades Cove in our blog.
Ready to book your trip to the Smokies and discover some hidden gems?
Give American Patriot Getaways a call at 800-204-5169. Let our experts help you find the right cabin and all the right fun, food and entertainment for a vacation with spectacular mountain views.
Check out our Smoky Mountain Travel Guide for more adventures. We have discount tickets to many attractions in the area. You can also contact us online by searching our cabins in Gatlinburg and in Pigeon Forge. Check out our Pinterest boards for 50% Off Cabins and budget-friendly vacation cabins.