Smoky Mountain City Guide

Hey Hey! Welcome back my loves! Today we’re tackling the biggest question most people ask themselves while staying in the Smoky Mountains… Where do I stay? But before we even get to that, if you missed the first post in my Smoky Mountains series, click here!


Tucked deep into the Smoky Mountains, you’ll find 3 very distinct towns. Each boasting it’s own restaurants, tourist attractions and charm. Each also claiming to be your gateway to the Smoky Mountains. So which one is the best option? Which one will make your life the easiest while on your trip? It’s tricky because most people have VERY strong opinions on which town you should stay in and why. But me? I’m not one of those people. I was happy with the location we chose, but I’d have been just as happy in other towns too. So which one of these is your perfect “base camp” while you explore the Smokies? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for.

Gatlinburg. Looking for a picture perfect getaway? Gatlinburg is just the ticket. Think mountain town. It’s literally surrounded by the Smoky Mountains. In Gatlinburg you’ll find that you can walk anywhere you please, and a good mix of touristy fun and Appalachian heritage. And moonshine. It is also the main gateway into the National Park, meaning you’re super close to any adventure you might choose. The proximity to the national park, delicious restaurants and endless tourist attractions make Gatlinburg tough to beat when it comes to choosing where to rest your head after a day of exploring the mountains.

Pigeon Forge. I’ve got one word for you… DOLLYWOOD! Okay. Pigeon Forge has a lot more to offer than Dollywood, but it’s for sure it’s number one draw. Think blue grass music, dinner shows and Upside Down Mansions. From mini golf to mountain coasters, your family will be entertained for hours. But, if you’re staying in Pigeon Forge, you’re going to need to have your car ready to drive. Unlike Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge is a little more spread out. And you most likely will need to drive from one attraction to the next.

Sevierville. If Pigeon Forge had an EXACT OPPOSITE it would be Sevierville. This is where the locals are. It’s where they shop, get their hair cut and take care of daily business. It’s a normal city, filled with normal people, living normal lives. Now, “normal” might be something most people try to shy away from on vacation. But in the case of Sevierville, normal is a refreshing change of pace after spending an evening at The Dixie Stampede or fighting your way through massive crowds attempting to get to the Ole Smoky Moonshine hollar.

Now that you’ve got a little bit of an overview, I think it’s time to dig a little bit deeper into all the wonderful things these three towns have to offer.



Where to Stay: Like I’ve told you before, my hubby’s parents have time shares with Wyndham. We are so fortunate that they let us use their points whenever we’d like. (Like this beauty in Banff we stayed at this past summer!) So, when we begin planning a trip, we like to take a look at what Wyndham Vacation Resorts are in the area. When it came to the Smoky Mountains, we had our choice of great resorts, but ended up settling on Wyndham Smoky Mountains. When they say “Southern Spirit in the Smokies” they really mean it. The staff at this resort was INCREDIBLE to us. Not only did they go out of their way to help us in any way possible, but they bought us champagne and all hand signed a card to congratulate us on our engagement. We were so impressed with them, and our entire stay at this resort. And although it is in Sevierville, it is slightly out of the way of the hustle and bustle of the town, letting you relax, and get on mountain time.

Isn’t this the sweetest?!

Where to Eat: You guys… I’m a bad blogger. We literally only ate at one restaurant in Sevierville (we drove the short distance to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg most nights). And the one restaurant we ate at was Chick-fil-A. I know. I’m shaking my head at myself too. But we don’t live near any Chick-fil-As and you have to understand… I FREAKIN LOVE CHICK-FIL-A! So please, do your research, find someplace delicious and then tell me about it. So next time, I go I’ll eat somewhere other than Chick-fil-A.

See? Your girl LOVES some Southern Comfort Food in the form of Chick-fil-A!

What to Do: If you’re looking for an out of the ordinary adventure on your trip to The Smoky Mountains, chances are Sevierville is where it will begin. Booked a helicopter ride to see all that pretty fall foliage? It’s taking off from Sevierville. Did you sign up for a zip line and arial adventure? That’s in Sevierville too. They’ve also got distilleries, wineries and shopping. Like I’ve always told you, I’m going to be 100% honest with you on my blog. The only time we spent in Sevierville was the time we spent at our hotel. Yes, there are some great things to do in this town. But, when you go to the Smoky Mountains you’re usually looking for a certain type of experience. And that experience is what you’ll find in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

See what I mean by normal? Trev spent some time fishing on a lake that we found out about from the locals. 

What I Loved: Like I said above, my favorite thing about Sevierville was the normalcy I felt while I was there. I liked knowing that I could easily go be a tourist one minute, and the next be in line in the drive through at Chick-fil-A with the locals.

What I Didn’t Love: The biggest downside to Sevierville was that it is the furthest away from everything we wanted to see and do. Where Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are only 7 miles apart, Sevierville feels like it’s off in it’s own little world. However, this distance IS NOT a deal breaker, in my opinion. It is only 15 miles to the national park entrance, but it will take you about a half hour to get there. For us, this was a great time to wind down from our hikes and chat about our favorite things we’d seen. However, we spent a lot of time driving back and forth. For example, we’d head into the mountains to hike, head back to our hotel to swim and then head back into Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg for dinner and activities. For us, two adults without any kids, it wasn’t a huge deal. But I could see it being an issue with little ones who don’t like being in the car a whole lot!

The Perfect Fit: Sevierville is the perfect fit for couples who don’t want to be in the middle of the tourist attractions, and don’t mind driving a bit to get where they want to go. I would also highly recommend Sevierville for those traveling on a budget. You might find that lodging is less expensive a little further out.

Pigeon Forge 

Horrible photo, I know. But there was WAY to much traffic to hop out and get the photo I wanted!

Where to Stay: Okay. Two disclaimers before I tell you my pick for Pigeon Forge. 1. I have never stayed here, so I don’t know how good it is. 2. I just really love Dolly Parton. (But who doesn’t?!) That being said… I’d stay at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort! Seriously! GO SEE HOW CUTE IT IS HERE. Not into Dollywood? Travelers rave about The Inn At Christmas Place and The Clarion Inn near Dollywood if you’re looking for a chain hotel.


Where to Eat: Alright… people would probably close the browser here if I didn’t mention one of the famous Smoky Mountain Dinner Shows! The most popular? The Dixie Stampede (Dolly Parton’s show!) and The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud. These tickets need to be booked well in advance, especially during the Summer. Looking for something a little bit less “showy”? Check out The Old Mill or Corky’s BBQ. And of course… eat all The Bojangles you can while you’re there if you aren’t from the South! It was our morning breakfast stop EVERY DAY.

Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my mouth…

What to Do: Okay friends. Get ready for tourist traps attractions galore! Think… theme parks (Dollywood, The Island and Alpine Coasters), giant arcades (Big Top Arcade, Arcade City), dinner theaters (The Dixie Stampede, The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud, Great Smoky Murder Mystery, Biblical Times Dinner Theater…) , museums (The Hollywood Wax Museum, Titanic Museum, Elvis Presley Museum, Crime Museum) and cooky adventures (Tomb Egyptian Adventure, WonderWorks) you won’t find anywhere else.

Another terrible photo of Pigeon Forge. You’re welcome. But in this photo you can see what I mean about having to drive to get around town… 

What I Loved: I loved that there was always something happening in Pigeon Forge. Like Gatlinburg, we didn’t have to travel far between activities, but unlike Gatlinburg, it was spread out enough that it didn’t feel quite as crowded. I also thought it was SO FUNNY that directions there were like I give them. Like, they’d tell you to count traffic lights. That’s my kind of directions!

What I Didn’t Love: I didn’t love that Pigeon Forge was SO touristy. Now, if we had been traveling with children, I think they would have loved it. But for Trev and I, we didn’t find ourselves in Pigeon Forge very often. (Except to grab breakfast at Bojangles on our way to hike.)

The Perfect Fit: Pigeon Forge is the place for families. You kids will be occupied no matter what time of day, and you won’t have to travel too far to get to anything. And… if you LOVE Dolly Parton, you should stay here too 🙂



Where to Stay: Gatlinburg is known for it’s perfect, picturesque cabins. Check out Cabin’s of the Smoky Mountains to find the rental that is perfect for you. A cabin not your style? You’ll find your typical Hamptons, Courtyards and Hiltons in abundance. Just keep in mind, Gatlinburg is usually the most popular choice for lodging… so book your trip WAY in advance.


Where to Eat: The best thing about Gatlinburg is that you have SO MANY OPTIONS for food within the downtown area. However, be prepared to wait for a table. From typical touristy places like Dick’s Last Resort to awesome breweries like Smoky Mountain Brewery there is a little something for everyone. Also, be sure to eat pancakes while you’re there! You can’t miss Crockett’s Breakfast Camp and The Log Cabin Pancake House.

This place has incredible beer and pizza!

What to Do: Options of things to do in Gatlinburg are endless. It is what I believe to be the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But I’ll talk more about the national park next week. Within Gatlinburg’s downtown you will find a good mix of awesome shopping, tourist attractions, restaurants, and MOONSHINE. I know… I mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again. I know there are multiple moonshine distilleries but we LOVED Ole Smoky Moonshine. It was free to taste, so much fun, and we left with multiple jars of ‘shine, t-shirts and coozies. (We couldn’t control ourselves!) Plus, the setup is SO CUTE and they always have live music playing and you can sit in these cute little rocking chairs while you listen.

Moonshine… the champagne of the South.

What I Loved: There are so many wonderful things about Gatlinburg. I loved how close it was to the national park, and I loved that we could park our car for the evening and walk anywhere we wanted to be. (Unlike Sevierville and Pigeon Forge where most things you had to drive from place to place.) I liked the variety of shops and food too!

What I Didn’t Love: The crowds. Think Disney World type crowds wandering the streets. And while there is a lot of places to park, spots can be hard to find just because of the amount of people around.

The Perfect Fit: Everyone could be happy in Gatlinburg. It’s equal parts family friendly and romantic. It has relaxation and adventure, and most of all there are so many choices, everyone can find something they like.

So which town should you stay in? Well… it’s completely up to you! Asking me to pick for you is like asking me “Michigan or Michigan State?” or “Regular or Diet?” It’s al comes down to personal preference. Find what fits you and roll with it. One thing is for sure… wherever you choose, do your research and book well in advance. The Smoky Mountains are America’s most visited National Park, and summertime books fast in all three of these perfect little mountain towns.

(But if I really had to tell you to pick one place… I’d say rent a cabin in Gatlinburg.)


Are you planning a visit to The Smoky Mountains this summer? If you are, you should PROBABLY leave room for me in your suitcase… I mean, it’s only fair since I’m giving you all this info.. right? HAHA

I hope you all have a very happy Tuesday! It’s cold and snowy here, so I’ll be applying to every single “Win a trip to the beach” contest I can find for the rest of the afternoon. I’m sick and tired of this cold weather!


8 thoughts on “Smoky Mountain City Guide

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