Planning a mountain vacation with the family? Be sure to stop in Sevierville for a cool zoo, yummy donuts, delicious food and so much more!
Hiding among the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains waits one of our family’s favorite destinations for a quick getaway — Sevierville, Tenn. It’s packed with the comforts of home, food and plenty of ways for everyone to monkey around — not to mention its close proximity to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. It’s also the hometown of Dolly Parton!
GOOD, FAMILY FUN
Tucked away on Sevierville’s main road is RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo (865-428-4091; rfadventures.com). We were astonished to discover the many exotic monkeys — like the Golden Headed Lion Tamarins — new to the zoo, and some of the smallest and rarest monkeys on Earth. You’ll stare endlessly at their cuteness. I’ve never seen so many different exotic monkeys in one place. These tiny little guys are simply amazing to see.
Moving along, my 4-year-old, Seth, had everyone cracking up with laughter as he encouraged birds to talk back to him. They’re in an open air area inside the museum and are not necessarily caged. As you walk around, you’ll discover even more creatures of the world like snakes, lizards and more.
The zoo features more than 600 live animals, representing more than 130 species, from rainforests around the world — and it’s open 364 days of the year. Take a walk outside and visit the very vocal sheep and goats. They’re ready for you to feed and pet them, too. Admission is $12.99 adults, $7.99 ages 3 – 12, free for ages 2 and younger. There’s a video below, too.
If you have a little aviator in the family, he’s sure to want to visit the Tennessee Museum of Aviation (866-286-8738; tnairmuseum.com). Ron, our volunteer tour guide, happily shared his tales of plane flights, history and more. He’d served in the U.S. Navy and was a delight to have with us that day. You can also enjoy a self-guided tour as well, however, if a volunteer’s around, you get to sit inside the cockpit of one of the planes and take a picture. It’s fascinating to see all the buttons and levers. Museum admission is $12.75 adults, $6.75 ages 6 – 12, free ages 5 and younger. There’s a video below, too.
Want to soar through the sky? Head to Dollywood (800-365-5996; dollywood.com)! This year marks Dollywood’s 30th anniversary, and the park’s spring and summer season is filled with special festivals.
Stop to measure your kids as you come through the gate so they’ll know which rides they’re tall enough for. My 8-year-old Lilliana’s eyes opened wide when she realized she was tall enough for the Wild Eagle — America’s first wing coaster perched 21 stories above Dollywood that sends riders soaring through the sky. There’s really nothing above or below you. Lilliana sat in the very front but Seth ran for the hills. Thankfully, there’s a close-by playground for siblings waiting with the other parent.
Wear comfortable shoes for Dollywood; it’s an all day experience as you enjoy ride after ride, shows and more. Don’t forget to take a relaxing ride on the authentic 110-ton coal-fired steam engine, too. One-day park admission is $59 ages 12 and older, $47 ages 4 – 11, free for ages 3 and younger.
If you want to do a little shopping and you love apples, head on over to The Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store (865-429-4113; applebarncidermill.com). Try out the cider bar, shop for apple-themed gifts or maybe some jarred fried apples, or walk over to The Apple Valley Creamery for some handmade ice cream. Want something sweeter? Stop in the Candy Factory for original sweets, including old-time favorites, handmade on century-old equipment. The kids will love this! There’s a video below, too.
YUMMY FOR YOUR TUMMY
Start the morning off satisfying your sweet tooth at Courthouse Donuts (865-286-9073; courthousedonuts.com). It’s a design-your-own donut shop located across the street from the courthouse and bronze statue of Dolly Parton in downtown Sevierville. This wonderful gem opened four months ago, and it’s quickly become a town favorite. Donuts are made fresh each morning and you get to pick whatever you like for the topping and they’ll dip ’em, top ’em and sauce ’em for you. Lilliana was excited to try a “By the Campfire” donut (dipped in chocolate icing, graham cracker crumbs and topped with marshmallow creme — a s’more!). Seth stuck to his favorite: chocolate icing with sprinkles. Once you check out the menu, you’ll have a hard time choosing which to try and at $1.50 each, you’ll probably have more than one. There’s a video below, too.
Before lunch rolls around, go ahead and call in your reservations at Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant (865-428-1222; applewoodfarmhouserestaurant.com). This cottage-like restaurant is famous for apple fritters and Applewood Juleps — complimentary with every meal — that are especially delicious! You get a home-like feel when your meal is served. Your chosen meat comes on a plate by itself (my chicken with a tangy apple relish was superb), and sides are brought out in bowls. Take a spoon and get as much as you want. It’s a great way for everyone to try the sides.
A few days in advance, you’ll want to also put in your reservations for Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction (800-356-1676; dixiestampede.com). As people arrive, you’re herded into the Saloon where you can purchase drinks and snacks while listening to live music. After awhile, everyone’s released to take their seats in the arena for the four-course meal. Your only decision is what to drink. My kids were happy to learn that there are no utensils to use, either — you eat with your hands! Seth, however, started putting his face to his plate and eating without his hands. The food was served with precise calculation and swiftness. Everything was delicious. And remember to enjoy the show!
The opening act features a ring of fire, however, to our disappointment, the horses got stage fright and didn’t perform their trick. After a pinch of awkwardness, all returned to normal when stunt riders raced out into the arena. From live horse races, buffalo, dramatic lighting effects, exciting pyrotechnics and more, you’ll be entertained from beginning to end. Performers pull audience members into the show, too, and Lilliana and Seth were picked to learn how to twirl a toy lasso and do it in front of a crowd of 1,000!
Tickets to Dixie Stampede are $55.62 – $61.14 adults, $28.04 – $33.55 ages 4 – 11.
WHERE TO STAY
It’s natural to instantly think “cabin in the mountains” when it comes to choosing a place to stay in the area. Hidden Mountain Resort (866-663-3796; hiddenmountain.com) has tons of choices to pick from, including one- to 14-bedroom cabins, cottages, villas, a lodge and a motor coach resort.
You’ll be instantly reminded of the fact that you’re in the mountains as you make your way around the resort to your cabin. The roads are steep and a little tricky to the eye, but all is well once you reach your destination. Robin Hood’s Castle, our choice for the weekend, included a private pool, hot tub, jacuzzi, two bedrooms, entertainment room and more. We took advantage of the hot tub. The kids were quick to point out the little special touches to the cabin that help give it its name like the stained glass window of the characters from Disney’s Robin Hood and many other subtle hints hiding about. And, after a long day of exciting fun, those super large beds were inviting. There’s a video below, too.
Once you’ve made your first trip to Sevierville, it’ll be an easy decision to make it a recurring destination — there’s more than a weekend’s worth of fun to experience with your family!
Visit Sevierville Convention & Visitors Bureau at visitsevierville.com.
Sevierville’s Bloomin’ BBQ & Bluegrass Festival
888-889-7415 | bloominbbq.com | May 15 – 16
Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival
888-738-4378 | visitsevierville.com | Oct. 1 – 31
Smoky Mountain Winterfest
888-738-4378 | visitsevierville.com | Nov. 9 – Feb. 28
VIDEOS FROM OUR ADVENTURES