I’m a Knoxville girl, born and raised.
Until high school, that is. The summer before my freshman year, my parents moved us just up the road to Seymour. Sevier County was my home for the next fourteen years, and became home yet again after Branden left the Navy. While it may feel “way out” to some, and while the tourists all over the Parkway may deter others, it’s a perfect place to get away for a day or an entire staycation. Despite the devastation the area suffered in the fall, so much of the area is intact and ready for you — truly, it’s Smoky Mountain Strong!
We all know the obvious pulls, like Cades Cove and Dollywood, but just in case you’ve missed these on your drive, I thought I’d share some of my favorite places to eat and play in the county I’m proud to call home.
11621 Chapman Highway, Seymour
Aside from the breathtaking view of the mountains from this Seymour park, one of my favorite things about this park is the separate area just for toddlers; any mom who’s tried to take a little one to play when bigger kids are around can appreciate this little gated-off area just for the smaller crowd. There’s also a nice walking trail and soccer fields on the premises.
Delicious coffee and frozen yogurt in the same building? YES PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY, GIVE ME CAFFEINE, AND MAKE MY CHILDREN HAPPY. Sipz and Sweetz are locally owned and a perfect place to meet up after school. Sipz carries Honeybee Coffee and bakes their treats daily. Short on time? They have a drive-thru. Take that, Starbs.
160 Court Avenue, Sevierville
Before Knox got Makers and Duck, we had Courthouse, the area’s first build-your-own donut shop. They make a great lunch plate, but the real deal is the Courthouse Dozen: 13 and a half pieces (12 jury members, one judge, half a chance you’re guilty) of donut heaven. Ask for the “beignet” and the key lime in your box. You’re so welcome.
109 NASCAR Drive, Sevierville
My jaw dropped when two of my friends from Knoxville informed me they’d never heard of this place. If your kids love the zoo, get them to Rainforest Adventures on your next rainy day! Their exhibits are full of gorgeous exotic animals, admission is very reasonable, and the owner puts on an entertaining, educational show throughout the day complete with animal encounters (call for times). We’ve been more times than I can count and never tire of going back!
1005 Park Road, Sevierville
Plainly stated, this enormous wooden playground is Sevier County’s answer to Fort Kid. Bring a lunch for a meal with a view at the picnic area, or stop by the fantastic city pool in the summer!
2530 Parkway Suite 7, Pigeon Forge
Why did a move theater make the list? $5 movies all day every day, that’s why.
2167 Parkway, Pigeon Forge
Recommended by another Sevier County friend, we have fallen in love with this place! The menu is largely locally-sourced foods and oh my goodness, SO delicious. I’ve not had one or even mediocre bad bite, truly. Favorites among my crew are the cheese fondue, the steak nachos, which come with a balsamic reduction I would like to carry with me everywhere, and the handcrafted Blackberry Mountain Tea, the restaurant’s take on an Icepick. The owners are always so friendly and have made a point to tell me how welcome our kids are, which won this tired mama over almost as much as the Blackberry Mountain Tea!
Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area Road North, Gatlinburg
We love to ride the loop at Cades Cove, but when we picnic and want to play in the mountain streams, Metcalf is our first choice! It’s just as beautiful, less populated, and we find it to be a bit more kid-friendly.
611 Parkway B5 Mountain Mall, Gatlinburg
This little hole in the wall in the bottom of the shopping center across from the Aquarium is a favorite of ours for its enormous New York style slices and their amazing prices. It’s seriously a must before you go play with the penguins or walk the Strip!
634 Parkway Ste. 23, Gatlinburg
Okay, so embarrassing story: I had to move to the DC area and fall in love with the Alexandria location of this store to learn that we had one locally. YOU WERE RIGHT HERE ALL ALONG. I’m so sorry. Don’t make my mistake; check out this amazing store full of every single thing a chef’s/tea lover’s heart could ever desire. My personal favorite purchases are the blueberry sugar, truffle salts, curry spice packets, and their berry white tea. A visit to this store is literally what I ask for on my birthday each year…a trip to this store where my children break nothing, and a picture of all three of them…at least I always get my tea!