Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are well known for their great access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as for their big attractions such as the popular theme park Dollywood. But even beyond the park’s bounds and the thrilling roller coaster rides, the understated areas of these mountain towns add a different layer of charm. In a place where friendliness is the norm and nature is at its finest, there are plenty of sights to explore off the beaten path. Leave the crowds behind and be sure to experience these top 5 under-the-radar attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge!
Tennessee Homemade Wines
While the distilleries in the area get a lot of attention for their southern moonshine, some of Gatlinburg’s best wineries fly under the radar. Tennessee Homemade Wines is a locally owned and operated company offering up sweet wines crafted from local fruits. They pride themselves on southern hospitality, which is apparent in the friendly, welcoming family environment you’ll find here. Open seven days a week and offering free tastings, this is a great place to discover your inner wine connoisseur and pick up a bottle to be enjoyed later from the privacy of your Gatlinburg vacation rental. Try fruity flavors such as blueberry, proper peach, strawberry, old apple, and the local favorite, the perfectly sweet blackberry!
Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community
Heralded as the largest independent organization of artisans in the country, the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community consists of an 8-mile loop packed with over 100 artisans and craftsmen. Not only will you find a host of high-quality, locally made products that celebrate the history and culture of Tennessee, but you’ll also get a chance to see many artisans at work as they hone their craft. Observe crafters carving, weaving, painting, making soap, and creating pottery, among other art forms. Ease into a slower pace of life and a bygone era when things were created by hand rather than machinery. Visiting the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is not only a great chance to shop and appreciate various forms of art, but also to support and shop local!
White Water Rafting on the Pigeon River
On a warm Tennessee day, a great way to cool off and create some special memories is to spend the day on the water. And fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert waterman to enjoy a day of rafting on the Pigeon River. In fact, the Lower Pigeon River is perfect for families traveling with small children or those who prefer a more relaxing river float dotted with hidden swimming holes. The Upper Pigeon River is ideal for those who want to add a bit more excitement to the ride, with Class III and IV rapids and breathtaking scenery through the Smoky Mountains. Nantahala Outdoor Center is a great outfitter with which to start when planning your white-water rafting trip on the Pigeon River!
Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster
It’s no secret that big theme parks such as Dollywood are a hot tourist attraction in Pigeon Forge. However, that allows lower-key thrills such as the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster to fly under the radar, making it a great attraction for those who want to enjoy a simpler kind of fun. The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster has a track that extends for over a mile, providing for a thrilling and lengthy ride and making it the longest downhill ride in the country. The thrill in riding the alpine coaster versus a traditional theme park coaster is that the rider controls the speed. With the ability to brake, you can slow to more manageable speeds for your onboard child or blast forward at full speed, reaching up to 30 miles per hour. The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster operates year-round, making it a fun excursion in all seasons.
Hidden Spots in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park may be the most-visited park in the country, but that doesn’t mean that every trail is overrun with visitors. Most visitors head to popular sites such as Laurel Falls and Grotto Falls, leaving other paths less traveled and perfect for exploring. The hike to Charlie’s Bunion provides the perfect opportunity to leave the crowds behind while enjoying blooming wildflowers and panoramic mountain views. At 8 miles round trip and 1,640 feet of elevation gain, this trail is geared toward the more experienced hiker. But those who put in the effort will be rewarded with the solace of an uncrowded trail, as well as outstanding mountain views from the signature rock outcropping at the end.
Venture off the well-traveled tourist path and instead visit these top 5 under-the-radar attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge on your Tennessee vacation! Also, be sure to check out our Gatlinburg weekly rentals!