Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville locals enjoy the shows and attractions that visitors do, but they also have some favorite spots that are a little less crowded and involve fewer sightseers. Let’s keep this between us, ok?!
Temperatures can get steamy in the Smokies in the summer. The locals know where to cool off. In addition to Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Park, there lakes and watering holes locals enjoy.
Other locals’ swimming holes include Greenbrier, Metcalf Bottoms, Townsend swimming hole and Chimney Top Trail
Greenbrier is near Gatlinburg on the West Prong on the Little Pigeon River, which is one of the clearest mountain rivers in the park. The swimming hole is easily accessible from route 321. This is a deep part of the river, so it is great for swimming and it is not widely known by tourists, so it is peaceful and quiet. It is also a superb spot for sunbathing on the large stones. It is one of the cleanest mountain rivers in the entire park.
For more options on swimming in the area, be sure to check out our blog post all about the best places to go swimming in the Smokies.
There’s the river at Dolly’s Adorable River Cottage
“Beach swimming ” downriver where there’s a sand bar at the river’s edge with a shallow spot for everyone to enjoy – even if you don’t rent this cabin. Bring fishing poles for the 2 fishing holes; Smoky Mountain National Park stocks the river each Wednesday.
Getting on the water in the summer or fall can take a vacation from awesome to fantabulous! The Smokies include many rivers and what better way to enjoy them than in a kayak or a canoe. Some of our favorite spots for creeking and tracking or just floating include River John’s near Townsend, Tennessee.
At Smoky Mountain Outdoors, take a trip down the river in an inflatable kayak in the Smoky Mountains. Drive yourself along the way, escorted by an expert rafting guide. Visitors will learn all types of spins, surfing and sliding techniques too.
At Smoky Mountain Kayaking, kayak lessons are available, as well as tours for the inexperienced as well as the expert paddler. Tellico and Chilhowee Lake in East Tennessee offer paddlers “a unique opportunity to explore dynamic and diverse ecosystems. This wild environment changes daily with the changing weather, stages of the moon, water levels, and the different seasons.”
Check out our guide to kayaking and canoeing in the Smokies.
Boating and fishing on Douglas Lake
With 8 marinas, 24 boat ramps, 17 islands and 6 bridges, Douglas Lake is a great place to spend a day! Boat, fish, tube, swim or do it all!
More than 1.7 million people make their way to Douglas Lake each year. Fed by the French Broad River, Douglas Lake was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1943 for the generation of hydroelectric power and for flood control.
The majority of the 550 miles of shoreline is under private ownership, but there are plenty of places for visitors to access the lake.
Douglas Lake is famous for its large-mouth bass and crappie fishing. It has been named one of the top five lakes in the United States for crappie fishing and ranks in the nation’s top 10 for large-mouth bass fishing.
Other species in the lake include striped bass, white bass, sauger, bluegill, blue catfish, flat head catfish, walleye, red breast sunfish, black crappie, red horse, spotted bass and channel catfish.
You can stay near the lake too; check out our Douglas Lake cabins.
Fall festivals are the local attraction this time of year. Getting out to enjoy cooler weather and all the fun and food that goes with it.
Artist Robert Tino is said to capture the essence of East Tennessee and the Appalachian Mountains, portraying the beauty of the area using oils, acrylics, and watercolors. His gallery is filled with framed and unframed work for sale.
The farm that is home to Tino’s gallery is opened to the public every October. A southern homecoming is a gathering with food, music and fun. The fields surrounding the gallery are filled with local artists and craftsmen whose works celebrate Appalachian heritage. Visitors will find “basket making, blacksmithing, wood-turning, bee-keeping, corn grist milling, lye soap making, hand-made walking sticks and rocking chairs, along with an antiques area.”
Bluegrass music and the smells of locally cooked foods fill air. One of highlights of the festival each year is an old-fashioned church service under the old oak trees on Sunday at 9:15 a.m.
Tickets are required, and a portion of the proceeds from each benefits the Robert A. Tino Art Scholarship at Sevier County High School.
812 Old Douglas Dam Rd., Sevierville (865) 453-6315
Wears Valley Fall Festival Presented by Keep Sevier Beautiful
With more than150 craftsmen/vendors, incredible food of all kinds, free continuous entertainment and a kids area full of activities and games, the festival highlight’s the group’s mission to Keep Sevier Beautiful. All this. – and tractors – with the stunning Smoky Mountains as backdrop. Admission is $3 and parking is free.
3179 Wears Valley Road, Sevierville. (865) 774-6677
Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s great collection of log buildings – some of the best in the eastern United States.
“Houses, barns, outbuildings, churches, schools, and grist mills—have been preserved or rehabilitated in the park.”
Not all of the historic buildings in Cades Cove are not native; some once were located elsewhere in the park. The Gregg-Cable House for example was once on Forge Creek Road. And the blacksmith shop and the visitor center were both built after the national park was founded, though they were styled to replicate the architecture of the area.
For a list of our favorite historic buildings to visit, be sure to read our blog post about historic buildings you can visit when you can’t get to Cades Cove.
Winter Fest Kick Off is a local favorite tradition. Winterfest lights shine in Pigeon Forge beginning November 13th and run through February 15th. This year, Pigeon Forge celebrates its 31st year of Winterfest.
Each year, the city creates a “magnificent winter wonderland with more than 5 million lights for visitors and residents alike to enjoy during the Winterfest Celebration.
Kick-off week is when residents enjoy the celebration the most before holiday visitors arrive to keep everyone very busy.
Good Food, movie theaters, libraries and community center workouts are part of local life.
Taqueria La Gasolineria
Taqueria La Gasolineria is a treasure of a Mexican restaurant, located in a Shell station on Wears Valley Road. Locals go out of their way to get there.
One reviewer form Knoxville, wrote on TripAdvisor: I was out and about running errands and I just happened to pull into the Shell station to get gas the other day. As soon as I got out of my car I smelled this incredible aroma and I had to follow my nose! I walk into the station and off to the left is a full kitchen, with a menu that is barely in English and all for the better! They have everything from carnitas, quesadillas, tacos and anything in between with prices that are some of the cheapest I have seen anywhere in Pigeon Forge.”
632 Wears Valley Rd, Pigeon Forge, (865)-242-1931
Frank Allen’s Market & Grill in Sevierville is another great find – at the Parkway Shell Mart. Known as a great local breakfast spot, Frank Allen’s also serves up lunch daily.
Road-side boiled peanuts and produce: Just stop when you see them – trust me!
Described by locals as “everyone’s favorite,” this Pigeon Forge restaurant locally sources everything on its menu. Even the ketchup and the breads are homemade.
“You won’t find anything bad on that menu,” said one local business owner who frequents The Local Goat. “You can play menu roulette” and always win.
Great burgers with many options, including a Portobello mushroom burger, a good ol’ southern pimento cheese cheeseburger and a “handheld” called The Elvis – peanut butter, smoked bacon, fried bananas.
The New Orleans barbecue shrimp are buttery, garlicy, paprika crusted shrimp served with garlic bread for sopping up the sauce. Don’t forget about the fried green tomatoes and deep-fried deviled eggs too. Smoke ahi tuna, jumbo chicken wings, hand-cut fries, desserts and a long and unique beer list from Billy’s Bar.
Open daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at 2167 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, 865-366-3035.
El Ranchero Loco
With made-from scratch Mexican food, El Ranchero Local is a local favorite.
2902 Veterans Blvd. Suit 5, Pigeon Forge. (865)366-2161
Preachers Smokehouse is truly unique and truly local. Started in 2017 after weeks of cooking for those working during Sevier County’s devastating fires in 2016. Formerly in the construction industry and now a minister and chef, Sam Steele had always cooked for people.
Preachers cooks with fire in two indirect cookers. Steele only uses locally sourced hickory and apple wood and tries to use as much local beef and pork products when available. “All our recipes are unique to the smokehouse even our sauces are made in house from recipes our sons created.”
The smokehouse is open Thursday – Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Church happens here on Sundays.
2933 Pittman Center Road, Sevierville. (865) 332-9731
See a Movie!
Sevierville’s Governor’s Crossing Stadium 14 Movie Theater is the area’s newest movie theater. With stadium seating featuring fully reclining chairs and extra wide screens. The theater has two SXS extreme auditoriums with 40,000 watt stereo systems with added ceiling speakers. And for fun, there are self-serve drink and ICEE stations.
402 Hurley Drive, Sevierville, (865) 366-1750.
The Pigeon Forge Greenway system includes 6 miles of trails along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River, around Patriot Park, around the old City Park behind the Pigeon Forge Community Center and throughout Wear Farm Park.
Included in the Greenway system is the Riverwalk Greenway – more than 4 miles of trails taking cyclists and walkers 1 mile around the old City Park loop behind the Pigeon Forge Community Center, along the river for 1 mile through the Island in Pigeon Forge, and then behind the LeConte Convention Center and along Butler St for 1.5 miles where it connects to the ½ mile trail at Patriot Park.
Workout at a Community Center
Day passes are available for at Sevierville Community Center so you never have to miss your workout.
The Community Center is a “multi-purpose public facility, offering comprehensive recreational programming and activity areas. The building includes a bowling center, gymnasium, fitness center, natatorium, aerobics room, cycling area, racquetball court and meeting rooms. Outdoor areas include a walking trail, playground, picnic area and gazebo.”
Daily rates are $5 for residents and $5.50 for non-residents.
200 Gary R Wade Blvd (865)453-5441.
The King Family Library is the flagship facility and main library for the Sevier County Public Library System, with all the resources and facilities that you would expect in a larger metropolitan library but with that “small hometown feel, charm, and friendly atmosphere that you expect to find welcoming you to the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
408 High Street, Sevierville. (865)453-3532
Ready to Book Your Home Away From Home in the Smokies?
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.