About TownsendTownsend folk take their town's nickname seriously. There are no huge hotels, celebrity-chef restaurants, theme parks, outlandish attractions or entertainment strips in the tiny village dubbed “the Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” which explains why there is a good measure of tranquility.
On the back doorstep of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townsend contrasts sharply with touristy Gatlinburg, which lies near the park’s main entrance on US 441. Although the national park is the main attraction for seekers of recreation and relaxation, visitors have innumerable opportunities in the Townsend area to commune with nature on an intimate level, whether it's tubing on the Little River, exploring the underground passageways of Tuckaleechee Caverns, or gasping at the awesome scenery from atop Foothills Parkway. The park entrance on SR 73 in Townsend is the unofficial gateway to Cades Cove, arguably the most beautiful and most visited place in the Smokies.
Simplicity is the standard when it comes to lodging and food. Choices include creekside campgrounds, hundreds of log cabins and cottages tucked away in secluded valleys and a few updated motels that have stood the test of time. Mealtime options follow suit, with family-owned restaurants serving no-frills country fare such as barbecue and slaw, fried brook trout and fries, or chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes.
Visitor Centers Smoky Mountain Visitor Center 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy. Townsend, TN 37882. Phone:(865)448-6134 or (800)525-6834
ShoppingA variety of shops on the main drag (E. Lamar Alexander Parkway/US 321 and SR 73) satisfy the casual bargain browser. Dad can set a spell in a rocking chair on the front porch of Apple Valley Country Stores & Cafe while Mom peruses the selection of quilts, braided rugs, homemade fudge, mountain-music CDs, local history books and rooster-motif kitchenalia. Dogwood Craft Mall, 8455 SR 73, has a couple of rocking chairs for non-shoppers and an assortment of antiques, collectibles and local arts and crafts for those inclined to spend a few bucks on a souvenir. Trillium Cove, 117 Painted Trillium Way, comprises a collection of gift and jewelry shops.
If you're in the market for a musical instrument, stop at Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop and watch a master craftsman make dulcimers and ban-jammers. Musicians host free back-porch pickin' sessions Saturday evenings May to September.
Outdoors enthusiasts can get fishing gear at Little River Outfitters and hiking and camping supplies at The Backcountry.
Things to Do Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
Horseback Riding Cades Cove Riding Stables
Tubing River Rage Tubing
In-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. All hotels must meet the same basic requirements for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality to be AAA Approved. A rating of one to five AAA Diamonds tells members what type of experience to expect, from no-frills to highly personalized.