ONE TANK TRIP: SEVIERVILLE, TENNESSEE
An escape is affordable when your destination is the Smoky Mountains. The drive is short, the scenery spectacular, and there’s even lots to do for free once you arrive.
Bust stress not your budget with a getaway to Sevierville, Tennessee, a cost-effective destination that’s also good for the soul. Whether you crave an overnight or a weekend escape, an adrenaline boost or a romantic jolt, you can find whatever you need for a great getaway in Sevierville.
Located just ten miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Sevierville is 200 miles from Nashville, Tenn., Charlotte, N.C., and Lexington, Ky., and about 240 miles from Atlanta, Ga. That means you can trade city stress for calming mountain vistas for the price of a tank of gas and less than four hours of drive time.
Fresh mountain air and comfortable temperatures are natural invitations to visit. You can also expect to find friendly folks, camera-ready views, and plenty to do both indoors and out no matter your age and interests. To help stretch your travel dollars even farther, we’ve rounded up this list of fun things to do that are absolutely free. That’s right, FREE. Jump in your car and come discover Sevierville.
Snap a Selfie with Dolly Parton
For the quintessential Sevierville experience, visit Dolly Parton…or, at least, the statue of her that was unveiled 30 years ago and in that time has attracted millions of visitors from all over the world. Head first to the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center to learn more about the renowned singer / songwriter / actress / entrepreneur / philanthropist and the sculpture of her while touring a special exhibit, “30: Celebrating Dolly in Bronze,” on display through 2017. Then head to the bronze statue of Dolly Parton—the most honored female country performer of all time!—on the Sevier County Courthouse lawn. This tribute to the superstar by her hometown community is the perfect place to snap a picture since it’s the only place on earth you’re guaranteed to get close to the living legend.
Hike the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Sevierville is located in the foothills of America’s most visited national park. There’s no admission to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is known for its diversity of plant and animal life, mountainous beauty, and historic Southern Appalachian mountain culture. Hiking is one popular way to explore this natural treasure for free. Choose a trail that suits your interests and endurance. Several hikes lead to waterfalls, including the Laurel Falls trail, the park’s longest paved trail for a total 2.6 miles round-trip. You can even set foot on the famed Appalachian Trail that threads 70 miles through the park; a two-mile stretch is accessible near the Newfound Gap parking lot. Some other popular hiking trails include Charlies Bunion, an eight-mile trek along the Appalachian Trail that boasts gorgeous mountain views; Alum Cave Bluffs, a five-mile route that crosses log bridges and climbs up Peregrine Peak to just below the summit of Mt. Le Conte; Rainbow Falls, a 2.7-mile path to an 80-foot waterfall named for what can be seen in its mist; and Chimney Tops, a steep four-mile hike up to an impressive lookout point.
Drive Cades Cove
Enjoy a leisurely drive through Cades Cove, a valley surrounded by mountains that is one of the Smokies’ most popular destinations. During the 11-mile one-way loop through Cades Cove you’ll pass by the widest variety of historic buildings in any area of the national park including three churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and several other restored 18th- and 19th-century structures. Pick up a self-guided tour information booklet at the entrance and allow at least two hours to enjoy the scenery.
Climb Clingmans Dome
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is also the tallest point in Tennessee, the highest point along the Appalachian Trail, and the third-highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360-degree views of the Smokies and beyond; on clear days you can see up to 100 miles in any direction. Clingmans Dome Road is a seven-mile route that leads to a large parking area; from there, you’ll need to climb a steep half-mile trail to reach the observation tower that rises above the treetops.
Watch a Movie
Head to the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to watch a free 20-minute orientation film. You’ll get an in-depth look at the Smokies and the diverse population of plant and animal life it houses. You can also tour the on-site natural history exhibits. Ranger talks and slide shows are presented daily throughout the fall season. From the Visitor Center it’s a short easy stroll to Laurel Falls, a lovely little waterfall.
Fish & Watch Birds at Douglas Lake
Douglas Lake boasts 30,400 acres and 555 miles of shoreline. With healthy populations of bass, crappie, sauger, walleye, blue cat, flat head catfish, channel catfish and bluegill, it’s an ideal spot for fishing. In fact, the 2001 B.A.S.S. Masters MegaBucks Tournament was held here. Cast your line and try your luck to reel in a big catch (a valid Tennessee fishing license is required).
There’s great birdwatching, too: From late July to early October Douglas Lake attracts flocks of migrating shore birds, wading birds and other waterfowl. The birds rest and feed on the muddy shoreline and in areas of shallow water before continuing to wing their way south.
Visit Smoky Mountain Knifeworks
The world’s largest knife showplace is a store and more that operates under the motto “if it cuts, we carry it.” It’s free to peruse the massive collection of just about every kind of knife and sharp edge you can imagine as well as some you never knew existed, including collectible and antique knives, hunting and camping knives, kitchen and tactical knives, swords, hatchets, axes, museum-quality cutlery, plus fantasy, movie and superhero blades. You also won’t want to miss the Relic Room, billed as “the largest diversity of history for sale in North America.” From dinosaur teeth to Civil War newspapers, Cold War Soviet medals to U.S. military pins, Zuni fetishes to 15th Century books and so much more, the assortment of treasures available here is mind-boggling.
Taste Wines & Spirits
The Rocky Top Wine Trail offers six sip-worthy stops with more than 70 unique pours—and all tours and tastings are free to enjoy. Start at any location to pick up the free passport, get a stamp at each location you visit, and receive a gift after visiting three locations plus another gift after completing the trail. Among the stops is the area’s newest winery, Hillside Winery, which offers sparkling and Italian-style wines made using Tennessee grapes and ranging from dry to sweet, white to red. The Apple Barn Winery offers sweet dessert wines.
If spirits are more your style, head to one of the local distilleries such as the award-winning Thunder Road Distillery, which produces an assortment of corn whiskey, rum, rye, flavored moonshine, vodka and limited edition bourbon.
Delve into History at the Sevier County Heritage Museum
Learn about the past at the Sevier County Heritage Museum. Ancient artifacts on display range from Eastern Woodland Native Americans to the first pioneer settlers and beyond. A special exhibit honors local veterans who served from the Civil War through the Korean War.
Walk Historic Downtown Sevierville
Enjoy a self-guided walking tour of Historic Downtown Sevierville. Pick up a free brochure near the Dolly Parton statue at the Courthouse or at the Sevierville of Chamber of Commerce building located at 110 Gary Wade Boulevard. The tour features 20 of the city’s most important historic sites, from when the city was settled in the mid-1800s to today.
McMahan Indian Mound Site
Considered one of Tennessee’s most fascinating historical landmarks, the McMahan Mound Site is a tribute to the Native Americans that used to inhabit the area. The archaeological site is located just above the confluence of the West Fork and Little Pigeon Rivers, near the Sevierville Riverwalk Greenway. This historical landmark dates back as early as 200 A.D.
More Cost-Saving Tips…
Shop Tanger Outlets Sevierville—the largest authentic outlet center in the state of Tennessee—to find nearly 100 brand-name stores offering designer clothing, shoes, accessories and more at discount prices of up to 70 percent off retail. You can even sweeten the deals: Buy a Tanger Coupon Book for $5 to help save over $1,675; the book is free for police, fire, rescue service and military personnel.
Stay at Wilderness at the Smokies and admission to Tennessee’s largest indoor waterpark is included in your room rate. With a total of 17 waterslides, nine pools, a lazy river, and multiple water rides and attractions, guests of all ages and heights will find multiple ways to splash, slide and surf. Among the options is a 55-foot drop into a swirling funnel, the region’s only body-surfing simulator, and a vortex with a near-vertical trap-door release. An indoor adventure forest offers additional challenges with the option of staying dry.
Eat at The Diner and, while you’ll pay for your meal, the retro 1950s ambiance is free. All-American fare is served in a setting that makes you long for the good ol’ days when jukeboxes ruled.