1 of 2
Dolly Parton statue
Local hero Dolly Parton has brought prosperity and fun to her hometown.
2 of 2
Old Mill Restaurant
Good food, good fun. The Old Mill Restaurant is the centerpiece of Old Mill Village. Corn bread, hush puppies and corn chowder are produced from stone-ground corn.
Whether you’re in search of the gloriously natural or the rampantly retail, there’s a wealth of fun just west of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Autumn is one of the best times for fishing at one of the top-five crappie lakes in the country and one of the top-10 lakes for large mouth bass. Take Douglas Dam Road directly off Tenn. 66 to visit TVA-created Douglas Lake with some of the bluest water and best fishing around. Although most of the lake’s shoreline is privately owned, there is a campground, all-season boat ramp and beach at the dam.
Autumn is in the air again… that familiar crisp wind, pumpkin pie smells, and the ballet of flame-colored leaves dancing to the ground for raking. Celebrate harvest time with a trip to Sevierville and Pigeon Forge in Tennessee Smoky Mountains.
Begin your “leaf peep” weekend by taking exit 407 from Interstate 40 and following Tenn. 66, a shop-lined drive called the “Gateway to the Smokies” that leads to Sevierville. There are plenty of stops to make along the way if antiques are what you seek. You’ll need your walking shoes as you scan pieces of the past (including baby boomer toys) at Riverside Antique and Collectors Mall, one of the largest antique shops along the route.
After you reel in your line, follow 66 into Sevierville. Named for John Sevier, the first governor of Tennessee, the downtown features a statue of its most famous resident, Dolly Parton. Sculpted by Tennessee artist Jim Gray, the statue resides on the lawn of the century-old Victorian-style courthouse. The Seth Thomas clock in the courthouse tower chimes the half hour. Enjoy a snack at Virgil’s ’50s restaurant, home to the town’s bus station, and then stroll along Memorial Riverwalk Trail along the west branch of the Little Pigeon River in downtown Sevierville to see the Smoky Mountains.
Next, grab a few bargains at Tanger Five Oaks Outlet Center, home to 90-plus stores, or visit Governor’s Crossing, a huge outlet center that includes restaurants and a theater. Take a well-deserved rest for the night at Oak Tree Lodge, an inn that features suites with fireplaces and riding stables.
Better rise early in the morning to get started on a full day at Pigeon Forge. Follow U.S. 411 to U.S. 441 south to reach the town’s five-mile-long parkway with more than 50 rides and attractions plus a half-dozen outlet malls where visitors can browse among china or power tools, designer fashions or cowboy hats to find the item they can’t live without. Drive the six-lane route yourself or purchase a 25-cent token and ride the Fun Time trolley to more than 100 stops around the city.
Pigeon Forge, once a farming community, changed forever in 1986, when Dolly Parton opened her theme park, Dollywood, on the grounds of the old Silver Dollar City. Where once there was open space along the parkway, now there are layers of shops and attractions. Stop by Old Mill Village, just off the parkway on Old Mill Avenue, with more than 25 shops including Jim Gray Gallery, featuring the work of the local artist. Nearby, tour The Old Mill, a water-powered gristmill that produces stone-ground products for purchase at the General Store. Also on-site are a candy kitchen, toy barn, creamery and Pigeon River Pottery. Enjoy corn bread, hush puppies or the signature corn chowder, all produced from stone-ground corn at the Old Mill Restaurant (www.old-mill.com).
Next stop on the parkway is Dollywood. With more than 30 rides and attractions, 40 shows, 50 master craft showcases and events such as Harvest Celebration, Smoky Mountain Christmas and the Festival of Nations, the park is geared to all ages (1-800-DOLLYWOOD, www.dollywood.com). If you have a three-day weekend, rest for the night at Eagles Ridge Resort. Shrouded in a park-like setting only a mile from the parkway, the resort has log cabins and chalets with up to seven bedrooms.
After shopping the shops and riding the rides the first two days, save a day for the mountains. Follow U.S. 321 west, a section of the Foothills Parkway. As the parkway climbs, visitors have a panoramic view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Park officials say this area of the park isn’t visited as much as other areas in the Smokies so enjoy a peaceful 18-mile ride up Chilhowee Mountain.
As you leave Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and the Smokies, don’t be surprised if you think of places you wanted to visit but didn’t. Keep your list for the next time – it’s rare that one visit to the Smokies area is enough.