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What's New in Sevierville, Tennessee

Easy bonding on a Sevierville girls’ getaway

By Katie Jackson

“Are you serious?” I asked. My boyfriend nodded, and I felt my blood pressure soar. He had just told me that his sisters, all three of them, were taking me on a girls trip. Apparently they’d decided Matt and I were serious enough that they needed to get to know me. Since I had only met them once before, and that was for all of five minutes, I was worried about spending an entire weekend with these women—not to mention the daunting task of trying to win their approval. Then, my nerves were met with excitement because the next sentence out of Matt’s mouth was that they were taking me to Sevierville—eastern Tennessee’s shopping mecca located in the shadow of Great Smoky National Park.

“On the count of three, say 'Dolly Parton,’” said the friendly local who volunteered to take the first group photo of our trip. Somewhat hesitantly, I leaned in closer to Matt’s sisters who quickly put their arms around me and said the magic words. Slowly, but surely, my shyness was beginning to fade to the background with each passing minute we spent together. The town’s warm, Southern hospitality was rubbing off on me, and as I looked up at the bronze statue of the barefooted, guitar-playing girl we were posing next to, I realized that grins were a contagious thing around here.

Facing fears Sevierville is famous for being the hometown of country legend Dolly Parton, and Matt’s sister Mandi insisted that we get a group photo to text to their mom who is a huge fan. When I looked at the photo on Mandi’s phone, I was surprised at how natural I looked among the sisters. Maybe my fears of not winning their approval were unfounded after all.

My fear of heights on the other hand, was all too real. So when I learned that we would be exploring, and soaring, on a helicopter tour high above Sevierville and the surrounding countryside, which included everything from the Smoky Mountains to pastoral farmlands and scenic waterways, I came awfully close to politely declining.

Fortunately, my desire to not let Matt’s sisters down was greater. Flying over such a spectacular expanse of diverse topography was surreal and gave all of us girls a unique, and most importantly, shared perspective of eastern Tennessee. Even if we weren’t on the ground taking part in all of the pursuits that make Sevierville popular with outdoor enthusiasts, we were being adventurous and bonding—albeit at a much more memorable elevation.

Let’s talk shop In contrast, the next day’s itinerary was low key and relaxing, but equally as enjoyable. It began with a hearty Southern breakfast, served family style at Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. After fueling up on comfort food and caffeine, we set off to discover Sevierville’s sought-after shopping scene. Matt’s older sisters were antique and art aficionados so they set off for the area’s noteworthy flea markets and galleries. His youngest sister and I hit up Tanger Five Oaks Factory Outlet Center and some unique specialty shops. After a few hours of shopping together, we were laughing and sharing opinions like the best of friends—despite an eight-year age difference.

The delightfully exhausting afternoon ended when we regrouped and headed to a local spa to treat our feet while simultaneously indulging in ice cream sundaes. Sevierville has a number of great spas, but the tempting Ice Cream Social Pedicure Party on the menu at Oak Haven was the deciding factor when we had to settle on a place that would pamper us. There were two different bridal parties getting treatments while we were there, and I couldn’t help but wonder if we would one day be them.

Bonding success It wasn’t hard at all to envision having my dream bachelorette party in Sevierville. Sure, it’s far from the bright lights of Las Vegas, but this city’s more my speed. It has distinctive offerings when it comes to the essentials like dining, accommodations, shopping and of course, major attractions like Dollywood and NASCAR SpeedPark. It’s is the special kind of destination where you can successfully vacation with girlfriends you’ve known since kindergarten or, as in my case, with women who fall closer to the less familiar end of the spectrum.

Granted, after spending just 24 hours with Matt’s sisters, I was already starting to speak their language and understand some of their inside jokes. They, in turn, were discovering how I like my coffee and why I consider shoe shopping to be an Olympic sport. They asked me all about my family and my values. I responded with questions of my own about Matt’s former girlfriends and his pet peeves. It was a win-win situation, and to top it all off, we were in vacation mode, so our guards were down a little more than usual and it was easier to get to know each other.

Nothing sums up my trip better than the toast on our last night together. Before digging into a pile of delicious Tennessee-style barbecue, we raised our glasses for three heartfelt cheers. “To sisters by blood. To sisters by choice.”

Get together with your gal pals in Sevierville!