A visit to The Great Smoky Mountains is often a yearly pilgrimage for many in the Cincinnati area. The five hour drive transports you into the majestic beauty of the mountains and the land of Ripley’s believe it or not your money is gone attractions. As you inch closer and closer to Gatlinburg you can’t help but notice billboard after billboard telling you to spend your money here and go shove something in your face there. Let me tell you my friend, I have been there, spent that and have likely left feeling cheated or ready to order a pizza.
While you can do literally everything from indoor skydiving to breakfast with bears my advice is to get the best of what Gatlinburg has to offer is to get off the strip! Especially for food, some of the best food we have found is nowhere near the strip and is often where the locals eat. Here is a list of some of the off beat attractions around Gatlinburg to shake up your next trip to the Smokys! This post contains affiliate links.
Three Jimmy’s Good Time Resturant
Hand’s down my favorite place to eat in Gatlinburg. Their chicken wings are the best in the city and some of the best I have ever had the pleasure of shoving into my facehole. I do consider myself somewhat of a chicken wing connoisseur. Connoisseur meaning that I have eaten more wings then socially acceptable, and have deemed these some damn good wings.
Three Jimmy’s smokes their own meats and has won many awards (as they should) so be sure to try a variety of things! Therefore, a visit here will likely leave you with the a bad case of the meat sweats, but it will be worth it! Even the Soph wanted in on the BBQ goodness, but unfortunately she will have to wait until our next trip to sample this bit of heaven. Be sure to check them out!
Bush’s Baked Bean Museum
You are not imagining things, yes there is a Bush’s Baked Bean Museum! Believe me folks, you will not want to miss out on this off the beaten trail attraction. This is the place Bush’s Baked Beans got started and you can get a free tour complete with group photo! The museum is very interactive and quite entertaining. You will even get to see where the secret recipe is kept. It is heavily guarded because bean business is a very serious business. Be sure to head over to the restaurant to sample the beans de jour and try of slice of their famous pinto bean pie! Don’t be scared…you get you a slice of that pie because it is real good! The gift shop is also a sight to behold and offers tons of fun and quirky souvenirs including cans of baked beans!!
Home of America’s longest swinging bridge and the Whispering Winds Covered Bridge this is an adventure park worth visiting. They have a little something for everyone, including those seeking the thrills of zip lining and ATV tours. You do have to pay admission for each adventure you chose to go on or you can do a package. Since we had little babies with us we opted to do the Swinging Bridge and hiking trail. Hiking with a baby, up a mountain with fresh fallen leaves was not our best idea. Even with a carrier and gym shoes we were in no way going to make it more than a whole 5 minutes without dying. However, we did enjoy the light hiking around the area and then quenched our thirst with the complimentary cider tasting.
Be sure to leave a wish at the Whispering Winds Covered Bridge. It is truly humbling and thought evoking as your read some of the wishes that others have made. It also makes you ponder…. for each wish someone had to paid admission…I am clearly in the wrong profession.
Visit the Statue of Dolly Parton
Be sure to pay tribute to the patron saint of the Smoky Mountains…Dolly Parton. If you can’t tell by the billboards, attractions and merchandise Dolly Parton is a big deal around these parts. Mainly because this is her hometown and she has given a lot back to the community. Dollywood, Dixie Stampede, Lil Dolly dress shop, etc….the list continues. There is a statue to honor Dolly right next to the Courthouse in Sevierville that makes for a fun photo opt. Then after you googled Dolly Parton to learn a little bit more about her and her music walk across the street to Courthouse Donuts!
*Looking to find a great deal on cabins? Check out Homeaway’s cabins today! *
If you are looking for a hotel be sure to check out TripAdvisor and read the reviews before booking. There are plenty of scummy hotels throughout Gatlinburg that over promise and under deliver.
Go and treat yo self to some awesome donuts at Courthouse Donuts. Why does it not surprise me that there is a great donut shop across from the court house. You can make your own or choose a classic combination. Fair warning some of the combinations you can make should be illegal! Either way you be the judge! Kids of all ages will have making their edible masterpieces.
The Roaring Fork Motor Tour
If the only trail you enjoy is trail mix then this is the activity for you. So put on your North Face Jacket, grab your double macchiato and prepare to see the great Smoky Mountains from the comfort of your vehicle. The Motor Trail is free and offers some spectacular mountain views and scenic stops. For those of you who are more outgoing there are hiking trails that branch off the main road. Rainbow Falls is a 5.4 mile hike (round trip) that those who dare venture off the paved pathway. There are also some historic buildings that you can get out and explore with a nice little hiking trail nearby. Depending on season they may shut down the road during inclement conditions, so be sure to check the website.
Shake things up at the Salt and Pepper Museum
This one of kind museum is found right off the strip in downtown Gatlinburg and houses over 20,000 salt and pepper shakers. There are only two museums like this in the world! One in Gatlinburg (I know right?!) and one in Spain. Admission is dirt cheap at $3.00 a person and the museum is relatively small so you can be in and out in less than an hour. There is an interactive piece where you can try to find particular salt and pepper shaker in each case. My advice, they keep the creepiest and scariest salt and pepper shakers in the back of the cases with a cute set in front of it. There are some that are downright terrifying. Make your own fun by trying to find the most horrifying set.
The Fox and the Parrot English Pub
This little pub is tucked way away in the mountains and can be a little hard to find if you aren’t actively looking for it. Let me tell you folks, this place has some bloody good pub fare! It is truly a pub setting, no loud music, bring your family and settle in for a great meal and some brew. We sampled a little of everything and nothing disappointed and only exceeded our expectations. Go, enjoy the atmosphere, order some amazing food and Bob’s your uncle!
NOW GO!! Be curious and see what you can find when you venture off the strip! I look forward to finding more and more fun things each time I visit! Feel free to comment with things for us to check out next time we go!
A few tips for traveling to Gatlinburg with an infant
- I always found some of the best cabin deals through Home Away or similar sites. Get a cabin with a washer and dryer and full kitchen. The space alone is worth spending a few extra bucks, but being able to throw in a load of dirty clothes and have the luxuries of kitchen….priceless! Remember that cabins are not baby proof! Bring items that you need to ensure you baby is safe, secure and happy! Added bonus: You might see an actual live bear in the wild. It only took me coming to Gatlinburg over 15 times to see them in person from our balcony!
- GO GET A BABY OLD TIME PHOTO: See photo below….that is all. It is truly the best souvenir you will ever bring home and will provide lots of lasting memories. Not to mention they are not nearly has expensive or time consuming as they have been in the past.
3. Plan accordingly when leaving for the day. Remember to bring everything you will need for baby because if you get stuck in traffic it could take over an hour for you to get back to your cabin or hotel.
4. Read our Hotel Tips for Traveling with Little Ones!
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