Covering more than 500,000 acres in Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park draws an average of 11 million visitors each year. Travelers are captivated by the ancient mountain range, formed 200-300 million years ago, as well as its old-growth forests, colorful wildflowers, rushing mountain streams, and abundant hiking trails and recreational activities. The national park is a destination unto itself, but the park’s gateway cities in Tennessee are also primed for group getaways.
In Sevierville, groups can stroll the downtown while participating in self-guided and guided historic walking tours and even follow the footsteps of country music superstar Dolly Parton, who grew up here. Downtown’s chef-driven restaurants and rooftop bars offer perfect dining spots for group meals, too. Before leaving the downtown area, groups can gather for a photo op with the Dolly Parton statue. For another Dolly Parton connection, stop for a drink at Shine Girl distillery, which is helmed by her niece, Danielle Parton. The distillery is one of many in the area that offers sampling and tours, and Sevierville Convention & Visitors Bureau’s new “Sipping Pass” guides travelers to all the distilleries, breweries, and wineries in town.
Another popular food-centric tour option in Sevierville is The Apple Barn, a working apple farm, featuring a general store, two restaurants, a cidery and winery, a candy factory, and a Christmas shop. Sevierville also offers several opportunities for tourgoers to shop. Tanger Outlets presents over 100 high-end stores and offers special group services like meet and greets and free coupon books. A more unique shopping option is Smoky Mountain Knife Works, a 100,000-square-foot store packed with products from kitchenware and fossils to samurai swords and home accessories, plus knives of every size and design possibly imaginable.
About 15 minutes south of Sevierville is Pigeon Forge, another Great Smoky Mountains city bursting with group activities for all ages. Pigeon Forge is known for its family-friendly atmosphere and is an ideal destination for multigenerational groups, as it’s home to attractions like Dollywood theme park, the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, and the Titanic Museum Attraction. Another tour spotlight is Pigeon Forge’s entertainment scene—the city is home to three dinner shows (Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction, Pirates’ Voyage Dinner & Show, and Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud), plus the Country Tonite musical revue and the action-packed Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud. More entertainment can be found at The Island in Pigeon Forge, a 23-acre campus with more than 80 shops, restaurants, and attractions, including the 200-foot Smoky Mountain Observation Wheel.
Traveling 8 miles southeast, groups will find the quaint mountain town of Gatlinburg, surrounded on three sides by Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There, groups can browse more than 450 charming shops and boutiques, stroll the downtown, indulge in the area’s rich history, and immerse in mountain heritage. Take your groups to new heights at Anakeesta, where a magical world in the treetops awaits at the 70-acre mountaintop theme park; conquer the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America at Gatlinburg SkyPark; or ride one of the country’s largest aerial tramways at Ober Mountain. Or, groups can find creative minds at work by touring “The Loop,” an 8-mile road filled with over 100 studios and galleries, showcasing the work of local artists and craftspeople who make up the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community.
Main Image: Dolly Parton Statue, Credit: Visit Sevierville