Knoxville/GSMNP trip recommendations, 2017 ed.
August 24, 2017 8:16 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I will be taking a week-long trip to the Knoxville/Smoky Mountains area of Tennessee this October. What are the things we should definitely plan to do?

Late October 2017 (21st-28th)
3 nights in Knoxville (some basic hotel)
4 nights in Sevierville (renting a lovely cabin)
1 adult couple
1 rental car

We like beautiful scenery (really the primary goal of the trip is to see the GSMNP in incredible fall colors, hopefully the leaf-changing timeline works with us), great food, and unique experiences. Sorta outdoorsy, in the 'we like to see pretty things but aren't what you'd call hikers' way. We might attempt some of the easier trails, if anyone has recommendations. Sadly, Clingman's Dome has just been closed for the rest of 2017, so that's off the list.

We're ok with driving distances for really great things, let's say up to a 50 mile radius to be generous.

We'd like to do something that takes advantage of the clear night sky (new moon during the trip, and we hail from an area with heavy light and air pollution). Any good places for stargazing?

We'll take any recommendations for good eats. We're not big drinkers but are planning to possibly hit up a corn whiskey or moonshine tasting.

Anything else that I'm missing: cool experiences, romantic sh*t, wacky shops- enlighten me.

Please also feel free to share things you think are not worth doing/seeing/eating.

I did look through past questions but didn't see anything past 2010, figured it was time for a fresh take.

Many thanks!
posted by rachaelfaith to Travel & Transportation around Knoxville, TN (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you like books, McKay's in Knoxville is a great place to spend several hours.
posted by cooker girl at 8:29 AM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

You should be flexible and keep an open mind about car travel. For example it is 23 miles or so from Gatlinburg to Clingman's Dome but Google estimates it is a 50 minute drive. So from your cabin in Seiverville it would be even longer. Also keep in mind that peak leaf viewing traffic might be crazy.

Some general themes...Seiverville is more kitschy/touristy whereas Gatlinburg is more straight up touristy. Gatlinburg's main area is compact enough that you could park once and roam around whereas Seiverville is much more spread out.

I didn't find much in the way of refined food (there is however a pancake restaurant approximately ever 100 yards). I did however find the family owned restaurants in this group to well run, fairly delicious and reasonably priced. In particular I liked the bbq, pizza and the steakhouse.

As for whisky tasting, there are multiple locations of multiple vendors. The two biggest ones are Ole Smoky and Sugarlands. Both are free. Ole Smoky is more low key with individual tastings of things but I don't care for many of their products. Sugarlands I think has the superior product but their tasting formula is in a large group that can be obnoxious. It will be easy to figure out if it is for you or not. The Sugarlands product is distilled on site and they offer tours of their process. In the end it isn't really any different than other distilleries but it is small enough that it is easy to take the whole process in.

As for stargazing, there is two separate companies that run aerial lifts to tops of mountains. You'd have to check to see if they run their operations after dark.

Lastly, if it is your thing, Dollywood is considered one of the great regional amusement parks in the country. The rides are top notch, there is a lot of interesting topography in the park, and there is strong emphasis on music & crafts.
posted by mmascolino at 10:24 AM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cades Cove is stunning. You can drive through it, too.
posted by elerina at 10:37 AM on August 24, 2017

Pet peeve about McKay's Books: they slap their price stickers right in the middle of the covers on hardback. Now, if the cover is coated paper, you can eventually get it off cleanly, but if it's uncoated paper, forget getting that sticker off as the glue has bonded to the fibers. It's really annoying if you want to add the book to your collection and that ugly sticker is the first thing you see (caveat: this is 10yo knowledge and they may have changed their practice).
posted by MovableBookLady at 10:38 AM on August 24, 2017

Chaiyo Thai & Sushi Bar is very good, and near to the Sunsphere. Also Sweet P's Barbecue is worthwhile.
For wacky shops, the Dollywood/Pigeon Forge area should have you covered, especially Three Bears General Store.
posted by Sophont at 11:02 AM on August 24, 2017

this is 10yo knowledge and they may have changed their practice

They have changed their practice.
posted by cooker girl at 11:33 AM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, yes, do go to Dollywood! It really is charming - yes, it's a bit kitschy and hillbilly and DOLLY, but it is done with an earnestness that will win you over. And as mentioned above, they engage local craftspeople and musicians who do interesting demonstrations. And the food is fun - very traditional county-fair fare. You should be able to take advantage of some off-season ticket discounts once you get there. The last time we were there, we got ~$10 off/ticket for bringing in a coke can.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:59 PM on August 24, 2017

Hi! I live in Maryville (which is a bedroom community about 20 minutes south of Knoxville)! In no particular order:

Knoxville: Sevierville:
Well... Sevierville is super-touristy. There's not a lot that's really unique to Sevierville. Surprisingly, the Gatlinburg Ripley's Aquarium is pretty good, so that's a great thing to do if you get a day of yucky weather. If you're willing to venture away a bit, I refer you to a post I made earlier this summer.

Feel free to PM me with any questions!
posted by workerant at 3:11 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nantahala skyway drive through cherokee forest should be beautiful at that time
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:07 PM on August 24, 2017

Seconding Yassin's Falafel House. I would also recommend without hesitation:
Surin of Thailand, Soccer Taco, Northshore Brasserie, Sitar, Woodland, The Chop House, Curious Dog, Hard Knox Pizzeria, and East Japanese in Farragut (no website)

The Copper Cellar and Lakeside Tavern are exactly the kind of places they sound like and they're pretty darn good. On Sundays they do fancy buffet brunches that are very popular.

There's some fun shopping the Homberg area. I really enjoy Nostalgia. If you like antique shops or retro stuff, it's a lot of fun. It's also right next to Jerry's Artarama, and The Southern Market. Nama is there, too, which is a pretty good place for sushi.

The Market Square Farmer's Market is on Saturdays, and it's not just produce, there are musicians and crafts. And there are a lot of neat little shops and restaurants in that area you can check out.
posted by heatvision at 3:57 AM on August 25, 2017

Thanks, everyone! Some of the things I already had on my list were echoed here, so those are now definites. Added a buncha new things too.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:20 AM on August 25, 2017

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