The Smokies for Newbies

Sent this e-mail to a person who asked about the Smokies, and thought it might be of interest to some of you. BFT


I have forwarded your information to some locals who work in either accounting or real estate, and are familiar with the booming cabin business in Sevier County, TN. Sevier County is about 30-45 minutes past Knoxville on I-40 and state route 66. If you have teenagers, I would stay close to Pigeon Forge, which is where much of the “let’s go do stuff” things are, while if you’re looking to be closer to nature, I’d look at communities like Townsend, Wears Valley, Gatlinburg (very touristy, but right next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park). I am a CPA and IT consultant in Knoxville, TN, and support a couple of CPA firms and law firms in Sevier County, so I’m traditionally up there 1-2 days a week when I’m not traveling all over the country teaching continuing education. The locals I’ve sent your info to include:

* Cayce Smith – owns a cabin in Gatlinburg –

* John/Becky Gargis – Own one and rent additional cabins in Gatlinburg – is their main cabin.

* Two CPA’sand a Sevierville attorney who work with clients that rent cabins overnight – I’ll have them or their clients call you if you will provide your phone # and specs for what you want to rent.

If your friends or associates need more information, or would like for me to e-mail their request to the same group of property owners, have them send the request to My friends and clients would love the referrals, and you will do better renting from individuals than you probably will from renting through a large management company, especially when you want amenities like those you requested.

XXXXXX, the skiing here pretty well stinks by ski fanatic standards, but is better than nothing. If you’re used to West Coast resorts like Vail, Heavenly, and Squaw Valley, you’re going to be disappointed. That having been said, if you just want to play in the snow, you can do it in Gatlinburg – they have lots of snow-making machinery up there, but I’m not sure when they will open for the season. The ski resort up there is called Ober Gatlinburg, but my ski friends tell me that it’s nothing special. They do have an artificial ski surface up there, and there is a tram you should ride up there whether you intend to ski or not – it’s an amazing view of the mountains. Ober also has an indoor skating rink which is pretty nice.

My favorite restaurants in Sevier County are as follows:

* The Apple Barn – nice family place, good country cooking. I am told that thereis one of these in Gatlinburg and in Sevierville now.

* Calhoun’s – Great Barbecue (pulled pork with tomato sauce), good steaks and salads. The owner, Mike Chase, is one of the premier restaraunt operators in the area – very consistent, good quality. They also brew their own beer (yum!).

* The Park Grill – Architecture is amazing (huge solid pine lodge reminiscent of the lodges at western national parks). Food is pretty good – great place for coffee and dessert.

* The Peddler is supposed to be a pretty good place (Gatlinburg), although I haven’t been there in 10 years.

Touristy thematic restaurants with the standardfare (which I can’t recommend or advise against since I haven’t visited them)include:

* Hard Rock Cafe (Gatlinburg)

* NASCAR Cafe (Sevierville)

* Alabama Grill (the country band, not the state) – (Sevierville)

A few fun places I like include:

* Cowboy’s Seafood – Think Longhorn Steaks in the middle of nowherewith peanut shellson the floor and serving fried fish. It’s an acquired taste, but interesting. They are on Douglas Dam Road, off of TN-66 between Sevierville and I-40.

* The Front Porch – Bills itself as the “World’s Only Mexican Bluegrass Restaurant”. They do close for the winter, but I’m not sure when. Their slogan is “One Mean Hombre, Has Much Hongry”

There is hiking in the national park all the way from handicapped-accessible, paved trails for the handicappedup to the Appalachian Trail for experts. You can buy a $2 map at the visitors center in the park, but I recommend the Happy Hiker, a hiking shop just outside the park in Gatlinburg ( They have a wide variety of trail books which will give you an expectation regarding the sites on a trail as well as the difficulty of the trail. They also have boots, wool socks, packs, tents, etc.

Gatlinburg hosts a Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies, and other sites. Gatlinburg is the more upscale area- nicer shops,etc.

Pigeon Forge has more amusement park type places like Dollywood, the NASCAR go-cart place, goofy miniature golf places, etc. It’s probably a little more low brow than Gatlinburg. Finally, Wears Valley and Townsend are much slower, much more relaxed places, and would cater more to those seeking peace and quiet. If you can, you should go to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee. This will require a .5 mile steep walk up a paved path, but there is a tower at the top which provides an amazing view on a clear day. This is in the middle of the GSM National Park, and is closed after the snows start, so check with the visitors center before you drive up there for nothing.

Pigeon Forge offers a number of theaters, including performers Lee Greenwood and Louise Mandrell, as well as an Elvis Impersonator (Lou Vuto is his name, I think), so there’s plenty of fun stuff for everyone.

If coming from the South or West (e.g. Atlanta/Nashville at peak times, you’ll do better to take US 441 (Henley St. in Knoxville / Chapman Highway from Knoxville to Sevierville) south through Knoxville toward Sevierville. This will meet up with The Parkway (TN-66 in Sevierville), where you would normally want to turn right if going to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. If traffic is nasty, go straight through the light at the Courthouse (intersection of 441 and TN-66, and go a mile or two furhter on this road, called Dolly Parton Parkway to an Exxon Station, which is across the street from a McDonald’s. To go to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, turn right on this road (Upper Middle Creek), and follow it until it comes out near Dollywood in Pigeon Forge (intersection of Teaster Lane and Middle Creek, near Patriot Park). This is near Dollywood, and if you bear left at the light when you get to Pigeon Forge, this road will dead end into Parkway on the far side of Pigeon Forge, nearest to Gatlinburg. If passing through, please buy some doughnuts from the Krispy Kreme, and tell Joey Messick that I told you to stop in. (I have done some consulting for them in the past.)

There are a number of bookstores for those seeking a good book up there, including a Bookland in Gatlinburg, a Books A Million in Sevierville, and numerous others across the county. You should also watch taffy being made as you walk down the parkway in Gatlinburg – it’s neat to see the candy made by hand. Pi Beta Phi, the sorority, sponsors an artists colony in the middle of Gatlinburg, and there are numerous other local artists (e.g. photographer Ken Jenkins, who operates the Beneath the Smoke gallery in Gatlinburg. Artist Jim Gray, who has a number of galleries, and many others). There is also an artists’ colony near Gatlinburg I think its off the road to Newport.

If you’re passing through Knoxville, I recommend the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (downtown Knoxville), Yee-Haw Industries on Gay Street (the main drag through downtown Knoxville – artist shop who has done work for Ralph Lauren, etc.), and Litton’s Restaurant (take I-640 to Broadway, head north 1-2 miles, and Litton’s is across from the “Fountain City Duck Pond” at Essary Road and Broadway) – best hamburger on the planet. and the best desserts you will encounter. The best mall in Knoxville is West Town Mall, I-40 at Exit 380. While there, take your girls to the Le Sportsac store off of Montvue Road – one of my sister’s friends owns it, and they have purses, bags, and lots of costume jewelry. Again, tell them that I sent you (Lee Anne is the owner). Other sites to see include the East TN Historical Society (Gay Union), the James White Fort (downtown Knoxville), and the Zoo (pretty good fot a city this sized).

Non-chain restaurants to visit if in Knoxville include the following

* Calhoun’s (casual dining, barbecue) – numerous locations – my favorite is the original on Neyland Drive in downtown.

* Copper Cellar (Fine dining) – downtown and by West Town mall

* Regas (Fine dining)

* Italian Market and Grill (good italian)

* Riverside Tavern / Lakeside Tavern – Good food, great views of the water.Dressy Casual.

* Naples (italian)

* Stir Fry Caf (Thai)

* The Chop House (Steaks, amazing pork chop)

Good luck, and if I can help, please drop me a line nospamattankersleysdotus