Sevierville, Tennessee – There’s more to see than Dollywood
When most Americans think of Sevierville, Tennessee, the image that comes to mind is of its decidedly unmanly most famous native, Dolly Parton. And though the philanthropic Parton has done a ‘world of good for the region (which includes tourist havens Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge), there are also attractions for the boys. Women readers need not turn away- if adventure and the outdoors are your thing, you’ve come to the right place. Lodging options range from a friendly Hampton Inn, to Wilderness at the Smokies with its indoor and outdoor waterparks, to the well appointed and spacious family rentals of Oak Haven Resort & Spa, which are very reasonable, especially for two-to-three family shares. Once settled in, get the activity started by taking in a Tennessee Smokies baseball game at Smokies Stadium. Big leaguers Shawn Green, Dan Uggla, Yadier Molina and Roy Halladay played here (against the likes of Birmingham’s Michael Jordan- yes, that one). You’ll love the atmosphere at the Chicago Cubs’ AA affiliate, and the ballpark is convenient to several hotels.
Okay, now it’s time to actually participate. No better place than Climbworks, where new courses and a genial staff welcome zipliners and mountain bikers. Climbworks is a day trip in itself, if one partakes of both activities. The company is designing an urban zipline experience in Nashville- stay tuned.
Crazy about golf? The Sevierville Golf Club is home to two 18-hole championship courses, The Highlands, a par 70, and The River, a par 72. Last year, legendary Lady Vols basketball coach hit a hole-in-one here, perhaps the greens will prove as inviting to you. No matter how you or your partners fare, you’ll enjoy a meal at Mulligan’s, where The Ultimate Dog (a Hebrew National frank), followed by an ice cream sandwich, are the way to go.
Even if your tee shots didn’t take flight as you would have liked, the Tennessee Museum of Aviation features an impressive array of flying warcraft, tributes to state figures distinguished in flight, and detailed signage and descriptions of well preserved fighters. Museums are in no short supply- Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum on Winfield Dunn Pkway., is home to a 1970 GTO Judge, 1960’s Corvettes, a ’57 T-Bird, and vintage service station replicas and garages. Smoky Mountain Knifeworks and the National Knife Museum, between them (same location, set aside hours to tour them), offer a look at world history through the prism of the knife as tool and weapon. 200,000 years worth. But there’s more. The Knifeworks store also sells ancient coins, prehistoric fossils, minerals, and gifts.
Walking through 200,000 years of culture will build an appetite, and when In The Volunteer State, eat like a Tennessean. Flapjacks on Dunn Pkwy. is a prime breakfast spot, and there’s a man-szed lunch to be had at gospel singer Tony Gore’s, also on Dunn. At Tony Gore’s, order corn nuggets and baked beans with your ribs, smoked sausage, or smoked pork. Season with their house sauces.
Another morning activity is ATV riding at Bluff Mountain Adventures on Walden’s Creek Road. You’ll bound up, then down, a challenging course en route to a crested view that on clear days, extends to the Kentucky border. Kids under 12 may ride in a Rhino with parents.
Speaking of great views, indulge in Scenic Helicopter Tours’ flight over the region, from which you’ll see The Smokies, Douglas Lake, and the TVA Dam. Rinse off in the waterparks at Wilderness, and it’s time to eat again. You’ll never forget the grub and music at Clint’s BBQ & Country Cookin’ on Newport Hwy. If you’re in luck, owner Clint Carnley, a warm host, will accompany the band. Music starts early here.
But you’re not finished. Remember Douglas Lake from your chopper ride? You can go bass fishing there any tranquil Tennessee morn. No license you say? Why, the local Bass Pro Shop can take care of that the night before, if need be.
There are many other ways to man up in these parts. Hike or bike the U.S.’ most visited national park (11 million per year), The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The locals like to get out of their cars at Cades Cove, or visit the home of the Walker Sisters, the last family grandfathered in to reside here. John D. Rockefeller chipped in $5 million to build the park, and scenes from the 1950’s Disney tv series “Davy Crockett” were filmed here. Nothing said “boy child” in the fifties like a coonskin cap. And nothing will put proverbial hair on your chest, like real “white lightning” from the Ole Smokey Distillery in nearby Gatlinburg. Grab a hearty lunch at Hard Rock Cafe in town before you sample moonshine in peach, apple pie, cherry, blackberry, or the twin terrors of “Original” and “White Lightning”. That’s provided there’s someone left to drive back to your hotel.
Don’t exit Sevierville for good without one final homage to the ’50’s, even if you were born in the ’80’s. The Diner on 550 Dunn Pkwy. is a throwback roadside style eatery that serves a Philly Style Cheese Steak, both buffalo and elk burgers, fried okra, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, and plays jukebox favorites while you dine.
Talk about an active, yet belly busting getaway. Drive into Sevierville, or fly into nearby Knoxville (a college football haven with a 100,000+ seat stadium to prove it) and fulfill all those boyhood dreams-no matter who you bring with you.
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Bijan C. Bayne is a cultural critic, sports historian and a Public Policy Fellow at the Institute For Politics, Policy & History (IPPH). He has authored three acclaimed sports historical books: Martha’s Vineyard Basketball: How a Resort League Defied Notions of Race and Class, Sky Kings: Black Pioneers of Professional Basketball and Elgin Baylor: The Man Who Changed Basketball.
*Bijan featured on “Exploring Indigenous Tourism and Istanbul”
*Bijan discusses Detroit’s revitalization.