For my daughter, Casey, a summer birthday has always meant waterparks and ice cream. When she turned 11, her dad, Bill, and I wanted to make the occasion extra special. A family excursion to the Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store in Sevierville, Tennessee, turned out to be the perfect solution. Casey was at the age between play dates and prom dresses, and we wanted to cement the idea that sometimes experiences make the best gifts.
Driving into the town of Sevierville, with the Smoky Mountains in the distance, the whole family was wowed by the lush rolling green hills. We headed to the main attraction, the Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store, where cotton white apple blossoms gleamed in the sun. It started as a reimagined barn, and has grown to be a complex that includes orchards, shops, restaurants and enough gorgeous scenery to keep a family busy for hours.
The first building we came to at the Apple Barn was the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, where we began our day with a breakfast that celebrated the mighty apple. Tempting apple fritters were delivered first, along with a sweet apple julep. It was difficult to choose from the menu of country favorites, but Casey finally decided on a breakfast of wild blueberry pancakes with a side of apple-cider bacon. Bill and I shared our dishes—a country quiche, and a hearty breakfast skillet with three types of meat, scrambled eggs and lots of veggies.
Directly across the street, the Little Pigeon River beckoned to us. We meandered, enjoying the view of the Smokies in the distance and the small ripples made by the birds on the water.
After a long walk full of idle chatter mixed with comfortable quiet, Casey cheerfully suggested she was thirsty. She also presented a very appealing solution: The Cider Bar.
Casey said she could taste each one of the fourteen kinds of apple that went into their signature cider recipe. “That sip had extra Golden Delicious,” she said laughing when Bill expressed doubt at her taste bud talents.
While Bill and Casey were still debating the matter, we headed to our next stop—the candy factory. I was mesmerized. I admired the skill of the candy makers as they pulled the hot sugar concoction into long ropes. Then, they worked it like blown glass fresh from the forge until it transformed into tiny red and white confections. Of course, we found plenty to enjoy with the chocolate bon bons and caramel apples, also available at the candy factory.
Our visit to the Apple Barn & Cider Mill would never be complete without stopping at the namesake, the barn itself, which houses the General Store and its several stories of crafts and treasures. We walked through aisles of apple-inspired delicacies, from apple bread to apple butter, apple barbecue sauce to apple salsa. There were items with other fruits, too, including peaches, pears and pumpkin butter, and pickles, too. And just in case you didn’t know what to do with all of these treasures, there was a whole wall of cookbooks to help you make the most of your country cookin’ ingredients.
Continuing our tour around the complex, we headed toward the jolly image of Santa. It felt like we had entered a country cottage when we set foot in the Christmas & Candle Shop. Candles masqueraded as jars of fruit and looked almost as delicious as the souvenir gift packs of apples and pears on the shelves of the General Store. It’s Christmas all year long at the Christmas shop, and I made the most of the great gift ideas, picking up crafts for friends, and an adorable family of snowmen for our mantle.
While Casey and I were busy with visions of sugarplums, Bill headed next door to check out the Apple Barn Winery, sampling a number of inspired fruit flavors before he decided on a bottle of Apple Cranberry Reserve to bring home with us.
There hadn’t been much home cooking in our house lately, with two careers, school, swim team and training for a 10k. But, when we finally sat down for lunch at one of two full-service restaurants, The Applewood Farmhouse Grill, it was great to settle in and take it slow.
I think the owners know that everything on the menu looks too good to choose just one thing, which is why the Farmhouse Sampler trio is perfect. Fried chicken, chicken potpie, and chicken and dumplings were three-times the mouth-watering goodness of comfort food at its best. Eating slowly, we savored our lunch and the time spent with each other while we enjoyed the warm hospitality.
When lunch was over, we lazily made our way back to the car. We had all relished this time away celebrating Casey turning another year older.
“Say bye to the apples, Case,” Bill said as we drove by the river.
Casey called out, “See ya, Granny Smith!” Then, to Bill, she said, “This place would make anyone feel special on their birthday, and any regular day, too.”Discover endless family fun in Sevierville.