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15 Issues to Do in Townsend, Tennessee – And Why You Actually Must Go to

Rush hour in Townsend means innertubes getting caught on the Little River. That’s about essentially the most crowded I’ve ever seen it – outdoors of the occasional pageant – and that’s exactly what I really like about this small mountain city. It’s my favourite place to remain within the Nice Smoky Mountains as a result of there are a lot of fantastic issues to do in that city.

The native tourism people describe Townsend as “The Peaceable Aspect of the Smokies” – and so they’re proper. Away from the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg and overcrowded procuring facilities of Pigeon Forge, Townsend is the place individuals go to flee the crowds, hearken to the refrain of tree frogs, and depend the celebs at night time.

My first go to to Townsend was in 2017, and I’ve returned yearly since. It’s one in every of my favourite locations and one I’ve been eager to brag about for a while. I lastly devoted the time to write down in regards to the issues to do in Townsend and why you really want to go to.

No. 01

Begin on the Townsend Welcome Middle

The Townsend Customer Middle is without doubt one of the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park’s official customer facilities – but it surely additionally serves the better Townsend space. It’s the most effective customer facilities within the Smokies and the primary place I go to each time I return to city.

The knowledge desk on the customer middle is all the time staffed by somebody who is aware of the world. You may get solutions on what to do, issues you must see, and inside ideas, you gained’t discover anyplace else – not even on my web site. The employees will eagerly help you in selecting out journey brochures and even show you how to accumulate the Nationwide Park Passport cancellation stamp.

The present store is without doubt one of the greatest within the space. Loaded with books on native historical past, journey, geology, and fiction, I all the time stroll away with one or two in my palms. The present store additionally has a pleasant assortment of clothes, jewellery, toys, and journey equipment.

7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Townsend, TN | 800-525-6834 |

No. 02

Go to the Nice Smoky Mountains Heritage Middle

The Nice Smoky Mountains Heritage Middle hides the most effective sights in Townsend. The museum’s Foremost Gallery is house to the Native Individuals of East Tennessee Assortment – an assortment of historic artifacts from the bands of Native Individuals who as soon as referred to as the world house. Displayed in well-lit exhibit circumstances, the artifacts embody interpretive data for the historical past buff.

However the very best attraction on the museum is hidden behind, obscured from sight. The Historic Village is a set of 13 historic buildings from the Northeast Tennessee area relocated to the museum. The buildings are open for guests to discover and furnished in line with the time the construction was constructed.

The museum fees an admission starting from $7-$10 per individual. It takes about an hour to see all of the reveals contained in the Foremost Gallery and take a stroll by way of the Historic Village – however I might advocate spending a minimum of two hours.

123 Cromwell Dr, Townsend, TN | 865-448-0044 |

No. 03

Study Native Historical past on the Little River Railroad & Lumber Museum

Do you know Townsend was based in 1900 as a logging city by a railroad firm? Visiting the one-room Little River Railroad & Lumber Museum was a good way to spend an hour one scorching summer time day. It was a small museum, however the partitions had been lined in fascinating details in regards to the city’s historical past.

Contained in the museum, you’ll study in regards to the city’s founder, W.B. Townsend, and the way he was instrumental in establishing the Elkmont Historic District and creating The Sinks within the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park. You’ll be able to discover an previous logging locomotive that after hauled the fresh-cut timber into Townsend to be sawed into lumber outdoors the museum.

7747 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend, TN | 865-661-0170 |

No. 04

Discover Tuckaleechee Caverns

A neighborhood newspaper editor as soon as referred to as Tuckaleechee Caverns the “Biggest Sight Below the Smokies.” The privately-owned attraction is run by the second era of the household who opened it within the Fifties. At the moment, it’s the most effective caverns open to the general public in Tennessee and a must-see attraction within the Nice Smoky Mountains.

Guided excursions take about an hour to discover the 1.25-mile out-and-back route by way of the caverns. Guests are handled to the gargantuan Huge Room – sufficiently big to carry a soccer area – and one of many tallest underground waterfalls within the nation.

825 Cavern Rd, Townsend, TN | 865-448-2274 |

No. 05

Go Tubing in Townsend

The one site visitors jam I ever witnessed in Townsend occurred on the Little River. Together with dozens of different guests, I started my summer time day at Smoky Mountain River Rat. Wearing swimming shorts with my favourite Crocs Swiftwater Sandal, I plopped right into a vibrant yellow innertube and commenced to float down the cool mountain stream.

River Rat has two choices for tubing in Townsend. From Outpost A at Wears Valley Street – the place I started my journey – it’s a two-hour float down the river to a pull-out at Webb Street. This part is calm and appropriate for all ages. The extra adventurous part from Outpost B – positioned beside Burger Grasp Drive In – requires the next age restrict as a result of the river consists of extra rapids.

On that exact summer time day, the splash of chilly mountain water was a welcome respite from the humid summer time warmth. The tempo was pleasurably sluggish beneath the shade of huge bushes lining the riverbanks. The occasional burst of giggles and the low murmur of dialog between innertubers was the one break within the silence. Close to the tip, simply earlier than the Webb Street bridge, a site visitors jam emerged as dozens of individuals bumped collectively attempting to get out of the water. It was essentially the most enjoyable site visitors jam I’d ever seen.

205 Wears Valley Rd, Townsend, TN | 865-448-8888 |

No. 06

Go to Cades Cove

The primary time I visited Cades Cove, I stayed at a pleasant resort on the fringe of the nationwide park in Gatlinburg. I rapidly discovered it was the worst place to remain whereas visiting the secluded part of the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park – and I by no means did it once more. It took practically an hour to get there and for much longer to get again.

Townsend is my favourite place to remain whereas visiting Cades Cove. It’s solely a twenty-minute drive to the doorway signal and infrequently congested with site visitors. The 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Street takes about an hour to drive straight by way of – however you gained’t do this since you’ll make a minimum of one cease alongside the way in which.

Historic properties, mountain climbing trails, scenic views, hidden waterfalls, and an abundance of wildlife make Cades Cove one of the common sections of the nationwide park. Plan to spend the day within the cove to provide your self time to discover it. Seize a reasonably first rate lunch on the deli beside the campground, benefit from the meal on the Native Plant Overlook, and wait till sundown throughout the sector on the Dan Lawson Place.

No. 07

On the west fringe of Townsend, Apple Valley Mountain Village & Café is a one-stop vacation spot for native arts and crafts, presents, and eating. The Common Retailer advertises “Fried Pies, Fudge, Souvenirs,” and that’s exactly what it is best to get. Souvenirs embody clothes with a complete room devoted to graphic tees, toys, stuffed animals, and present concepts for the nationwide park. The fudge is made recent daily, and the fried apple pies are a beautiful deal with.

Apple Valley Café is open for 3 meals a day. It options the Burger Toppings Bar – a self-serve counter for getting your individual toppings for his or her recent hand-patted burgers. Get a cushty seat inside or take the meals to go.

Throughout the car parking zone, The Dancing Bean is their coffeeshop open till mid-afternoon daily. It’s a fantastic place to seize a freshly brewed espresso to go, but it surely’s not my favourite espresso store on the town.

7138 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend, TN | 865-448-9878 |

10 Causes Why You Must Go to Townsend

  • 1. Least crowded of any city bordering the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park
  • 2. Snug lodging at motels, campgrounds, and cabins
  • 3. Simply sufficient procuring and eating to maintain you going
  • 4. Easy accessibility to Cades Cove
  • 5. Quiet evenings
  • 6. You’ll be able to really hear the tree frogs and depend the celebs
  • 7. Pleasant locals
  • 8. Spend much less time sitting in site visitors
  • 9. Driving distance to different cities when you needed to go to
  • 10. Straightforward to get there by way of U.S. 321 by way of Maryville
No. 08

Go to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville

Though I’m actually a supporter of staying in Townsend when visiting Townsend, there’s nothing incorrect with visiting close by mountain cities for procuring, leisure, or dinner. Attending to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville from Townsend is simple and nearly an journey of its personal.

Probably the most scenic – and most time-consuming – path to Gatlinburg could be Little River Street by way of the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park. It takes about an hour alongside the two-lane street with a couple of stops alongside the way in which at Meigs Falls, The Sinks, and Elkmont.

The quickest route into Pigeon Forge is Wears Valley Street. It solely takes about thirty minutes on the two-lane street by way of the valley – and also you simply would possibly need to cease in Wears Valley to browse the vintage retailers.

No. 09

Townsend isn’t a procuring vacation spot – a minimum of, not like how Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville have developed. You’ll discover extra native art work on this small mountain city and some downright fascinating locations to buy.

My favourite place to browse is Tennessee Sally’s. A two-story white home has been transformed into a present store chocked stuffed with native artisan’s items, quirky souvenirs, and all types of nice present concepts. The Townsend Artisan Information is one other excellent place to search out native art work. The guild is operated by the artists and may embody all types of art work relying on what the locals produce. Once I visited, I discovered watercolor work, clothes, and a pleasant assortment of images.

Want some provides in your dulcimer? Do you even personal a dulcimer? Wooden-N-Strings Dulcimer Store is actually a singular discover in Townsend – but it surely’s wildly common with the locals. Saturday evenings all through the summer time imply it’s time to hearken to dulcimer artists pickin’ on the entrance porch of the native retail store. Perhaps that may encourage you to purchase one of many musical devices?

Little River Outfitters has the whole lot you must get pleasure from fishing or fly fishing whereas visiting Townsend. In addition they supply courses and can join you with an area information to search out the very best fishing holes. Smoky Mountain Outside Middle – positioned subsequent to River Rats – presents tube and bicycle leases and a small outside gear choice. Yeti coolers and cups had been stacked to the ceiling, however I additionally discovered clothes, camp chairs, and bug spray amongst their wares.

No. 10

Experience a Bicycle Via City

One characteristic of Townsend I really like essentially the most is the 5-mile Townsend Bicycle Path. The path begins at a car parking zone throughout U.S. Freeway 321 from Apple Valley Mountain Village & Café. After passing one other parking space – and the higher place to park your car – the path crosses the four-lane divided freeway and continues alongside the south facet of the street by way of city.

The paved path is often a cushty distance from the freeway, with bicycle crossing indicators on most roads. After passing by way of all the city, the path ends at a car parking zone throughout the street from the KOA campground.

The most effective place in Townsend to hire a bicycle is Smoky Mountain Outside Middle. Half-day leases start at $20, and you’ll hire a motorcycle for a number of days to cowl your whole journey.

No. 11

When the most recent part of the Foothills Parkway opened in 2018, it provided guests an opportunity to get pleasure from a 33-mile scenic drive between Wears Valley and U.S. Freeway 129. The parkway was Tennessee’s reply to the Blue Ridge Parkway with a imaginative and prescient to create a 72-mile route alongside a mountain ridge that provided views of the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park.

The unique part between Walland and U.S. Freeway 129 has been round for many years however has remained one of many least-visited areas of the nationwide park. That part included a number of gorgeous overlooks – most notably the Look Rock Statement Tower. The brand new part has fewer overlooks – and no official mountain climbing trails – however the views are a lot better.

Guests from Townsend can take Wears Valley Street to the present finish of the Foothills Parkway, drive about an hour to U.S. Freeway 321, and return to city for lunch. Then, an out-and-back journey from U.S. Freeway 321 to U.S. Freeway 129 takes about two hours – three when you cease as a lot as I do to benefit from the view.

No. 12

Get a Espresso at The Inventive Bean

There are a couple of espresso retailers in Townsend, however my favourite is The Inventive Bean. Proprietor David Fahidy is aware of a factor or two about espresso and begins daily roasting his personal beans within the nook of the charming espresso store.

The barista behind the counter was nonetheless studying learn how to make latte artwork – one thing I’ve by no means been in a position to grasp myself. She giggled as she ruined the highest’s artistry, however the scrumptious espresso greater than made up for it. The entrance half of the espresso store is furnished with giant couches and armchairs, whereas the again half has a few tables – the right place for me to get some work finished.

The Inventive Bean presents espresso nearly each manner you could possibly get pleasure from it – and so they even promote their beans to take house with you! Come out on Friday nights, and likelihood is good, you’ll get pleasure from some dwell music.

8027 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend, TN | 865-738-3412 |

No. 13

Get a Meal at a Native Restaurant

Townsend could also be a small city, however that doesn’t imply they don’t have some improbable native eateries. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner – there’s a place to go for any meal of the day.

My breakfast at Townsend Pancake Home wouldn’t have gained any culinary awards, but it surely was served quick, cooked to order, and scrumptious to the final morsel. The inside of the restaurant was plainly adorned, however a minimum of the seating was snug.

Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro is essentially the most upscale restaurant in Townsend – and also you’ll see that once you pay for the meal. The meals is improbable, although, impressed by the mountain area with menu objects like elk chop, smoked ham, and beef tenderloin. The bar is without doubt one of the greatest stocked I’ve ever seen, with a number of pages of wine, beer, and liquor from native breweries and distilleries, and title manufacturers.

Trailhead Steak & Trout Home presents precisely that: domestically raised steaks and recent catch trout. The family-friendly restaurant has affordable costs, a cushty environment, and a large assortment of menu choices. The Trailhead Potato Skins had been a fantastic starter, and I actually liked the Mississippi Fried Catfish.

Smokin’ Joe’s is my favourite place in Townsend for lunch. You’ll scent the standard of the meals the second you step out of your automobile. The Huge Sandwich – a “whopper sized bun” piled excessive with pulled pork – was a improbable meal that threatened to place me right into a meals coma. You too can order racks of ribs, brisket, or rooster sandwiches.

The Burger Grasp Drive In is without doubt one of the most iconic locations to eat in Townsend. The old style drive in has you ordering by way of a window and sitting outdoors at one in every of their lined picnic tables. The whole lot is cooked recent simply the way in which you order it – which might be why that cheeseburger was the most effective I’ve ever had.

Should you’re on a strict finances – and even when you’re not – don’t low cost the deli on the Townsend IGA. Mornings begin with scrambled eggs and breakfast sandwiches, after which they’ll put out salads and fried rooster for lunch and dinner. It’s a fantastic place to seize a meal to go – possibly for a street journey on the Foothills Parkway or a visit to Cades Cove.

No. 14

Attend a Implausible Pageant

There may be all the time an exception to the rule – and the exception to Townsend’s peacefulness is one in every of their improbable festivals. There are just a few annually – so don’t fear about regularly competing with resort charges and availability – however one in every of these simply could be the rationale you need to go to.

I attended the inaugural Nice Smoky Mountains Sizzling Air Balloon Pageant and had the time of my life on the small pageant. The big area beside the Townsend Customer Middle performed host to a couple of dozen scorching air balloons. They weren’t taking anyone on rides – however I’m undecided I might have taken that probability anyway. Would you?

The Townsend Heritage Pageant kicks off the Autumn season with dwell bluegrass music, arts and crafts, and meals. The 2-day pageant spans a weekend and it the most effective festivals to attend if you wish to get to know the mountain city.

Much like the heritage pageant, the Townsend Spring Pageant signifies the tip of Winter annually with two days of bluegrass music, arts and crafts, and native meals. Held the primary week of Might, it’s a good time of yr to go to Townsend.

Grains & Grits is one other new pageant for Townsend – and it’s improbable to attend. The pageant showcases brewers and distillers from all through the Appalachian Mountains in a fun-filled environment of mountain music and pattern drinks. It’s a fantastic alternative to find a brand new beer or liquor and meet the individuals who make it.

No. 15

Discover the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park

Cades Cove is without doubt one of the hottest locations within the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park, but it surely’s not the one vacation spot. There are various locations to discover within the nationwide park inside an hour’s drive of Townsend, making this a fantastic place to spend the night time.

The Townsend Wye has grown in recognition in recent times. It’s the primary vacation spot within the nationwide park to go to after leaving Townsend behind. It’s a well-liked place for tubing or swimming within the shallow water within the river’s bend.

Meigs Falls is the one waterfall within the nationwide park viewable from the consolation of your individual automobile. It’s positioned a couple of hundred toes from Little River Street in a small ravine, however you may see it out of your automobile or by sitting on the stone wall above the river. Close by, The Sinks is an space of cascading waterfalls created when a lumber firm used dynamite to blast a log jam on the Little River. The explosion created a deep chasm beneath the river and really modified its course.

Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Space is a good place to spend a night with the household. It’s a couple of 25-minute drive from Townsend, so it’s doable to take one thing to eat with you. The picnic space has a couple of lined shelters, entry to the Little River, and a mountain climbing path resulting in the Little Greenbrier Faculty.

The Elkmont Historic District is an interesting space to discover about forty-five minutes from Townsend. The historic district consists of an assortment of historic properties and cabins positioned the place a logging village had been constructed within the late 1800s. The cabins are leftovers earlier than the nationwide park was based when rich individuals from Knoxville used the world as a summer time trip. Mountaineering trails, waterfalls, entry to the Little River, and the campground are some things to see there.

The Sugarlands Customer Middle is an hour from Townsend with out site visitors – and when there’s site visitors, it might take as a lot as two hours. Newfound Hole is about two hours from Townsend and Clingmans Dome, about two and a half hours. All of those are simply doable in a prolonged day journey – however why would you need to go that removed from Townsend?

When to Go to Townsend

Many of the native retail retailers, eating places, campgrounds, and motels are open year-round in Townsend. The winter months are actually the slowest by way of guests – and that could be a good time to go to.

However the very best time to go to Townsend is the summer time months. Most individuals flock to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge on the Tennessee facet and Bryson Metropolis on the North Carolina facet of the nationwide park. That leaves Townsend principally peaceable – however not abandoned.

Day-trippers will frequent the city, and campers from Cades Cove will enterprise out for meals and provides. It’s by no means actually a ghost city in the summertime, however it’s much less crowded than options.

The busiest time of yr is often Autumn, coinciding with the height of fall colours. It’s a good time to go to, however you’ll discover in a single day charges dearer – generally much more costly than summer time weekends. However if you wish to go to Cades Cove to see the colours, I strongly advocate staying in Townsend.

A tiny home on the Little Arrow Outside Resort.

The place to Keep in Townsend


The Townsend River Breeze Inn doesn’t appear to be a lot on the surface, however on the within, you’ll discover just lately up to date rooms with fashionable furnishings. The swimming pool is surrounded by a series hyperlink fence, however on the plus facet, you may admire the mountains whereas floating within the water. The motel has King Rooms with a sleeper couch and Double Rooms with two queen beds.

The Highland Manor Inn is a splendidly nostalgic place to spend a couple of nights in Townsend. The motel is positioned in an previous constructing, however the furnishings and bedding are comparatively new and in good situation. They’ve a improbable outside swimming pool, and the lounge is a good place to hang around. They’ve a Commonplace Room with two queen beds, Deluxe Queen and Deluxe King Rooms, and a King Room with a personal balcony.

The Finest Western is the budget-friendly go-to in Townsend. The resort has King Rooms and Queen Rooms with two queen beds. With an out of doors swimming pool and reasonably good free breakfast, it’s a fantastic place if all you’re searching for is a mattress and bathe.


The Tremont Lodge and Resort is positioned in an older constructing, however after the property modified palms in 2017, the brand new homeowners have been updating the furnishings. The free breakfast within the morning leaves so much to be desired, however in any other case, this can be a snug place to spend the night time and benefit from the outside swimming pool. The resort has King Rooms, Queen Rooms with two queen beds, and a pet-friendly Household Suite with two queen beds and a sleeper couch.


The premiere in a single day vacation spot in Townsend is the Dancing Bear Lodge. The lodge options rustic mountain decor, rooms with wood-burning fireplaces and full kitchens, and outside recreation within the 36-acre property. The lodge options rooms within the villa and cabins with one or two bedrooms, and a few of them are pet pleasant!


My favourite place to remain in Townsend is the Little Arrow Outside Resort. It’s positioned actually on the nationwide park’s edge, so it’s solely about twenty minutes from Cades Cove. There may be positively one thing you’ll need with a pleasant campground, glamping tents, tiny properties, and cabins.



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