Sevierville, TN Proves that Not All Classrooms Have 4 Walls

SEVIERVILLE, TN PROVES THAT NOT ALL CLASSROOMS HAVE 4 WALLS

Guest blogger Alison Humphreys and her family, of RaisingMavericks.com , visited Sevierville recently and shared their adventures in the Smoky Mountains.

Sevierville, TN is often called the Gateway to the Smokies and after visiting here, you will quickly understand how Sevierville got this nickname. Located about twenty minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and only a few miles from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, this quaint mountain town has everything you are looking for when visiting the Smoky Mountains. From outdoor adventures and learning opportunities to a picturesque downtown, and delicious, locally-owned restaurants – this town has something for everyone.

As a homeschooling family, learning and traveling go hand in hand for us. Sometimes while we are studying history our children become so interested in a particular topic or area that we go and visit to learn more. On the other hand, sometimes new places we explore spark our children’s interests and lead to wanting to dig deeper into the topics introduced during our travels. That is exactly what happened for us in Sevierville, TN.

With its rich history and amazing educational opportunities, Sevierville, TN is a great place for families to visit and explore. We loved everything we did in this area, from a walking tour of downtown Sevierville to visiting some of the area’s top attractions and trying out the local food. Our children learned so much related to history, science, and culture during our visit.

There are so many things to see and do in Sevierville that it can be hard to decide where to go first. This article will guide you through some of the top places for both outdoor adventure fun and learning opportunities.

Downtown Sevierville
Downtown Sevierville has everything you look for in a small mountain town – quaint shops, amazing restaurants, cozy lodging, and lots of historical landmarks to explore. In fact, there are so many historical landmarks that they’ve created a self-guided walking tour brochure that leads to over 40 points of interest.

The historic Sevier County Courthouse is located in heart of downtown Sevierville. Built in 1896, this building, with its Victorian architecture, is absolutely breathtaking. As you walk around the courthouse you will come across the Dolly Parton statue, which was made in honor of the internationally acclaimed singer, actress, and philanthropist who is a Sevierville native.

In addition to learning about the town’s history, a walk through downtown will lead to a plethora of dining options, from Trotter’s Whole Hog BBQ, which provides customers with a good southern menu, to the upscale Seasons 101.

SkyLand Ranch
SkyLand Ranch is the first of its kind in the area and has something for all sorts of outdoor adventurists. Set on a 100-acre farm in the middle of Sevierville, SkyLand Ranch combines all the best things about the Smoky Mountains into one exciting venue: incredible views, thrilling rides, live entertainment, miniature animals, and great shops and eateries.

The Horizon Skyride is a chairlift that takes visitors up the mountain. The relaxing ride provides scenic views all the way up. Once at the mountaintop, enjoy petting miniature horses, donkeys, cows, goats, and sheep. Our kids loved not just getting to pet the animals, but also learning more about them - including their dispositions and what they eat.

Beyond the petting zoo is the Legacy Lookout, a scenic bridged path perched 350 feet above the Parkway with 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains. As you stroll along the lookout, learn more about the history of the farm that SkyLand Ranch is built on and get familiar with the names of prominent mountain peaks. Placards along the path provided entertaining and educational information.

Another must-do on top of the mountain is SkyLand Cafe & Bakery – the perfect place for yummy sandwiches and treats. Located right next door is the Buckaroo Playbarn, a 26-foot-tall play structure which is also conveniently located right next to the other food truck eateries, shops, and picnic areas.

In the central pavilion, you can watch live entertainment throughout the day. We had the pleasure of seeing the James Whipper show. He showcased several of his hand-made whips and talked about how the cracking sound is made when a section of the whip moves faster than the speed of sound - creating a small sonic boom. This sparked our kids’ curiosity about the speed of sound and sonic booms, which led to checking out many library books on this topic upon our return home.

Of course no trip to SkyLand Ranch would be complete without a ride on the longest mountain coaster in the Southeast, The Wild Stallion Mountain Coaster. This ride lasts over eight minutes and consists of turns and dips and lots of thrills. During the day we got the most amazing views of Sevierville and the Smoky Mountains while twisting and winding around the mountain. For added adventure, you can also ride this mountain coaster at night in the complete dark and see nothing but all the sparkling city lights as you zip around.

From relaxing moments watching live entertainment and taking in the gorgeous mountain views to learning about miniature animals and getting to ride some fun rides, this place really does have something for everyone and is a must-go for anyone visiting the area.

Apple Barn & Cider Mill Village
Visiting the Apple Barn and Cider Mill Village is such a treat! From watching candy, ice cream, and cider being made to exploring the fun shops filled with delicious treats – or even just walking through the beautiful farm – it is such a fun, relaxing experience. It was such a pleasure to walk around the complex and see the iconic barn built in 1910 up close.

One of our favorite parts of visiting here was learning how dedicated the owners are to local fruit. The fruit they sell is grown right on the property or in the regional community which means the apples they have available at any given time depends on what season it is and what is currently ripe.

It was fun to also learn that apples grown here are called “mountain apples.” That is because this area has hot, dry summers and then cold, wet winters which puts a lot of stress on the trees leading to a stronger, more concentrated flavor in the fruit.

A favorite kid-friendly activity is watching candy being made at the Apple Barn Candy Kitchen, but there are plenty of things for grown-ups to enjoy here, too. The Apple Barn Cider House and Apple Barn Winery both offer free sampling for those 21+, as well as a chance to watch the product being made and bottled on site. After exploring the property, you can take the whole family for a hearty meal at the famous Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant & Grill.

However you decide to spend your time here, you will not regret adding this spot to your list of places to visit in Sevierville.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
No trip to Sevierville, also known as the Gateway to the Smokies, would be complete without a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This national park was established in 1934 and since that time it has welcomed over half a billion visitors! It is the most visited national park in the United States. Once you drive through, hike, and explore here, you’ll understand why.

The park consists of 522,419 acres and some of the oldest mountains in the world. This park is amazing because you can get breathtaking views right from the lookout spots along the road. If you are like us and love outdoor adventures, then you will love the fact there are 850 miles of trails and unpaved roads in the park for hiking – including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trial. Because there are so many trails, it can be hard to pick one to hike, but some favorites include Alum Cave Bluffs, Chimney Tops, and Rainbow Falls.

The highest peak in the park is Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet. The views from the top make the drive and short hike totally worth it. We visited in the fall, but because of the elevation change there was snow at the top of the mountain by the dome!

In addition to hiking, you can also bike, go horseback riding, and fish in one of the 2,114 miles of streams. As an added bonus, this is one of 16 national parks that do not charge an entrance fee, although a parking pass is required to park your car longer than 15 minutes.

Tennessee Museum of Aviation
The Tennessee Museum of Aviation is a hidden gem located on the Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge Airport in Sevierville. It is a must see for homeschool families and anyone else who wants to learn more about aviation history.

The large gallery is filled with fascinating exhibits and artifacts from aviation and military history. You can see everything from old military uniforms and aircraft models to countless pieces of aviation memorabilia. Our children loved seeing and reading about the artifacts at their own pace. We especially enjoyed the amazing 52-foot “Wave Wall” which showcases significant aviation history milestones going back further than the Wright Brothers. There were also highlights of Tennessee’s contributions to aviation.

We were honored to receive a guided tour of the giant hanger filled with historic aircraft, vintage military vehicles, aircraft engines, aviation exhibits, trainers, fighters, helicopters, and jets. Our children’s favorite was the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt called “Wicked Wabbit”. It is a World War II-era fighter aircraft. All of us learned so much from our highly knowledgeable guide who walked us through each exhibit in the hanger, giving us information along the way and answering all of our questions. Our children especially enjoyed the opportunity to get to sit inside one of the trainer aircraft and the chance to try on some of the military uniforms. Not only did our children learn so much from this visit and tour, but it also sparked amazing conversations and personal research once we returned home.

It is worth traveling a little off the beaten path so you can explore this hidden treasure in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is a fun and educational experience for the whole family. As an added bonus, sometimes some of the vintage aircraft can be seen performing unscheduled flight demonstrations right outside the building!

Rainforest Adventures Zoo
As nature and animal lovers, we were so excited to visit Rainforest Adventures Discovery Zoo, which is home to over 600 animals representing 130 species from rainforests around the world. We had the opportunity to see many mammals, reptiles, amphibians, bugs, and birds up close that we had previously only seen on Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. We learned so much from observing the different animals as well as from the educational placards located next to each exhibit.

While visiting, we had the added bonus of getting to see one of the zookeepers feed and interact one-on-one with many of these exotic animals. It was a treat to see how the animals – including the Binturong, African Serval, and African Crested Porcupine – responded so positively to him. We learned that this zookeeper had raised some of these animals since their birth, which explained their tight bond.

Thanks to this visit, our children have been reading about and watching documentaries on many of the exotic animals they were able to see firsthand while at Rainforest Adventures Discovery Zoo. Sparking curiosity and a desire to learn more is something I, as a homeschooling mom, love to see happen when we visit new places.

Forbidden Caverns
Forbidden Caverns is often referred to as the greatest attraction under the Smokies. It is one of 8,350 caves registered in Tennessee making Tennessee the home to the most caves in the United States!

We learned so much from our educational and entertaining tour of the formations, towering natural chimneys, numerous grottos, and our favorite - a crystal clear stream flowing through the formations. Some of the highlights of what we learned during our one-hour guided tour included how hundreds of years ago these caves were used by the Eastern Woodland Indians as a shelter in the winter because the cave river provided a constant source of water. We also learned about how the cave contains flint that was used to make arrowheads and knives.

The kids were in awe of the fact that there are calcite formations still growing inside the cavern to this day! It was also fun to learn that from the early 1920s into the 1940s the cave was used to make moonshine. It was an ideal location because of its constant water supply and isolated location. Some remnants of the moonshine making days are still on display during the tour.

While we could have had our children read about these amazing underground formations and the history surrounding them, experiencing it firsthand made for a more powerful and longer-lasting learning experience. Long after we returned home our children were still talking about all they saw and learned while visiting Forbidden Caverns.

Smoky Mountain Relic Room in Smoky Mountain Knife Works
Within Smoky Mountain Knife Works is the Smoky Mountain Relic Room where history and natural wonders are showcased. While visiting here you can see museum quality artifacts as well as crystals, minerals, and fossils. But unlike most museums, you are not only allowed to touch the items...you can even purchase them!

Our children loved being able to walk through the exhibits, look at the items up close and even touch when safe to do so. Some of our kids’ favorite items to see were dinosaur teeth, military artifacts, and giant crystals that were taller than them!

Our children were especially excited to see the megalodon teeth. We learned that megalodon teeth are almost three times the size of great white sharks’ teeth and that the megalodon teeth at the Relic Room date back to four to seven million years ago! It was such a fun learning experience for our children to compare these giant fossilized teeth to the much smaller fossilized great white shark teeth that they had previously found at a beach in Maryland.

Our children also enjoyed getting to see and touch meteorites. The Relic Room has samples from 37 different meteors. In fact, they have samples from every major meteorite that has been recorded to have fallen to Earth. After studying space and meteorites over the past year, it was such a unique experience for our children to then get to hold pieces of meteorites in their own hands!

Visiting the Relic Room was such a unique experience and one that sparked curiosity about many historical and natural items, including where such wonders can be found today. This is definitely a must stop for any homeschooling family visiting eastern Tennessee.

Hidden Mountain Resort
For the outdoor enthusiast, staying at Hidden Mountain Resort is such a treat. Set up on the mountain, there are large cabins for big families. We stayed in a three-bedroom, three full bathroom cabin. It had a large living room and kitchen area complete with a fireplace, a beautiful game room with a large TV, a pool table and air hockey table, and a deck off the living space complete with a jacuzzi overlooking the woods. We absolutely loved staying in this beautiful cabin and felt like we were still outside in the mountains while being cozy inside.

While we truly believe that every travel experience is also a learning experience, some places make sightseeing, having fun, and learning all at the same time so easy and convenient. Sevierville, TN is definitely one of those places. For all homeschooling families or any family that wants to add some educational components to their travels, we cannot recommend visiting

Sevierville, TN enough! Sevierville, TN is truly not only the gateway to the Smokies but also the gateway to learning and fun and where all of your Smokies adventures should begin!

The Humphreys Clan are a part-time travel, full-time adventure homeschool family who live life off the beaten path. They believe in living a great story and raising mavericks!


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