There’s a lot vying for your attention when you visit the Smokies. From Dollywood to the main parkway in Pigeon Forge, there’s plenty to see and do–but sometimes you just want to get off the beaten path for a bit. Whether you’re looking for a scenic drive, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, or an attraction that’s just not quite so touristy, we’ve got you covered.
Love to cook? Stop by the Smoky Mountain School of Cooking.
You might not have time for a full-fledged culinary workshop during your vacation, but the Smoky Mountain School of Cooking is still worth your time. Here you’ll find a peaceful, well-stocked storefront full of kitchenware, local pottery, and high-quality culinary gadgets you didn’t know you needed.
The school sometimes hosts live demonstrations, as well, so you can pop in and learn something new, then grab an Appalachia-inspired cookbook on your way out. If you do have more time, signing up for one of their workshops is a great way to learn a new skill with like-minded individuals and spend a day or an afternoon whipping up something great.
Try Out Your Throwing Arm at Country Roads Axe Co.
On the surface, this spot might look like your traditional axe-throwing stop. But it’s much, much more. Enjoy excellent food, a huge variety of draft beer, and axe throwing at this dinner-and-an-experience locale. Country Roads Axe Co. is a pizzeria run by a trained pizzaiolo who was trained in Naples, Italy. The pizzas served up here are coal-fired, crafted from high-quality ingredients, and might just make your eyes roll back in your head.
You’ll also find a wall featuring 24 beers on tap–some local, some legendary favorites–and all are sold by the ounce. So you can craft your own flight, fill up a pint, or sample to your heart’s content. A full bar is also available, as well as a menu including other traditional diner/bar fare, all of which exceeds expectations. The axe-throwing is just the icing on the cake. This is a dining experience you won’t soon forget.
Admire Tropical Birds in a British-Garden Setting at Parrot Mountain
This one… is definitely not what you’d expect from the Pigeon Forge Area. Parrots, Macaws, and other tropical rainforest birds occupying a cottage-core-inspired setting in the Smoky Mountains? It doesn’t sound like it should work, but it does. Parrot Mountain and Gardens occupies four acres of gardens, all beautifully landscaped to make for a delightful stroll.
At times, you might feel like you’re in the garden of an English manor house; at other times, you’ll get the vibe of a Hawaiian botanical garden. At every turn, multicolored birds preen, fly, sing, and show off their gorgeous plumage. An in-house deli and gift shop, a waterfall, and numerous benches to sit down and relax make this a hidden gem you’ll never forget. Bring the whole family along for this adventure; it’s a delight to the youngest visitors as well as the most well-traveled.
Step into Another World on a Hike to See the House of the Fairies
Take a hike to this hundred-year-old stone spring house that was once part of a 38-acre vacation estate. Now part of the Smoky Mountains National Park, this hidden gem is perfect for magical photos; it looks like a doorway into the mountain that has been there for far longer than a hundred years.
To find this house, you’ll want to take the Twin Creeks Trail, and watch for a smaller trail that veers off to the left just after the Discover Life in America office. It’s a relatively easy trail, but be prepared for a water crossing; your feet will likely get wet.
Go Trekking With a Llama
Smoky Mountain Llama Treks offers family-friendly guided hikes with pack llamas as fuzzy companions. Select your hike from a variety of difficulty levels to suit your travel companions, and you’ll be off–along with a guide, and with a professionally-trained llama companion. You’ll walk the entire trail with your llama’s lead in your hand, then visit the llama farm upon your return.
The llamas love to be petted, hugged, and fed graham crackers and oatmeal cookies, and they’re completely non-aggressive. Want to skip the hike? You can just visit the llama farm instead.
Visit the Eateries on Wears Valley Road
In recent years, Wears Valley Road has become home for several small eateries–including some fantastic food. You won’t find the same artisanal dining experiences that you would in downtown Sevierville, but you will find a smattering of local and Cajun restaurants serving up mouthwatering plates. Try Pawpaw’s Catfish Kitchen, Grandmother’s Kitchen, or Elvira’s Cafe.
On Wears Valley Road you can also stop to enjoy a waterfall with no hiking required; viewing Friendly Falls is free, with free, nearby parking. A purchase from their restaurant or gift shop will allow you even closer access to enjoy the waterfall.
Pet a Deer and Several Exotic Animals at the Smoky Mountain Deer Farm
This little spot will take a few hours of your day and delight visitors of all ages. From young deer to zebras, camels, reindeer, and Highland cattle, this farm is a refuge for a wide variety of fun and interesting creatures. The photo opportunities are endless; hug a baby goat, feed a miniature deer, or stroke an emu in person.
If you plan in advance, you can also book a horseback or pony ride for your visit. Professional zookeepers and veterinarians are on staff to ensure the health of all the animals here, and you can feel the happy, relaxed vibe of the entire place from the moment you pull up to the parking lot.
It’s hard to overstate the value of slowing down and enjoying a low-key, off-the-beaten-path adventure when you’re on vacation. Take the time and intention to relax and enjoy one or more of these hidden gems. You’re sure to make memories that will last a lifetime.