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Charlies Bunion view of the Appalachian Trail

Travel Like a Local: Guide to the Best Non-Touristy Things to Do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Have you already visited all the popular attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and are looking to explore the Smokies in a different way? It’s time to travel like a local! If the locals love it, you know it must be good. Spend time on your visit experiencing places that the locals go on a regular basis! To help you plan, we’ve created a guide to some of the best non-touristy things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge:

1. Explore Hidden Trails in the Park

Would you love to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but want to avoid the crowded, more popular trails? We can help. There are trails that are more appealing to locals because of everything they have to offer, and the fact that they’re less popular for tourists. One hike you have to try is Charlies Bunion. Though this trail can get crowded at times, it’s not as popular as Laurel Falls or Alum Cave, and it offers gorgeous views! The hike begins at the Newfound Gap parking lot and continues for 4 miles along the Appalachian Trail. With an elevation gain of 1,640 feet, it can be a challenging hike, but it’s worth every step.

You can also spend time in the park exploring hidden gems, like the House of Fairies or Elkmont Ghost Town!

2. Dine at Restaurants the Locals Love

Elvira's Cafe in Wears ValleyWhile the popular restaurants throughout the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area are popular for a reason, it’s worth making a stop and restaurants the locals love. Buddy’s bar-b-q in Sevierville is the perfect stop in or out of the Smokies, offering hometown bar-b-q that’s cooked low and slow. Popular breakfast restaurants for locals are Lil’ Black Bear Cafe and Elvira’s Cafe, and popular lunch spots for locals are Chubby’s Deli, Frank Allen’s Market, and Blue Moose. For dinner, you’ll have plenty of delicious spots to choose from! You can often find locals at Holston’s Kitchen, Smoky Mountain Brewery, Junction 35 Spirits, and Seasons 101.

For more information on places the locals love to eat, check out our blog, “Where the Locals Eat in Pigeon Forge TN and the Smoky Mountains.”

3. See a Tennessee Smokies Game

Want to really feel like a local? Head to a Tennessee Smokies game! The stadium is located in Kodak, TN, right down the road from all the popular things to do and places to stay in Sevierville. If you visit during the spring or summer, you can cheer on the Smokies, a Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. It’s known as America’s Friendliest Ballpark!

4. Grab a Cocktail at a Local Distillery

Old Forge Distillery in Pigeon ForgeSure, moonshine tastings and tours are a big hit with tourists, but have you ever stopped to enjoy some specialty moonshine cocktails at the distilleries? Many of the distilleries in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg offer unique cocktails made with their spirits. We recommend stopping by Shine Girl in Sevierville for a selection of moonshine unlike any other place in town and delicious cocktails. There is a bar and plenty of seating for you to kick back, relax, and sip on your shine. You can also hang out in the cocktail lounge at Old Forge Distillery, or at the bar at Junction 35 Spirits! If you’re in Gatlinburg, pay a visit to the cocktail bar on the back porch of Sugarlands Distilling Company. You can often find locals relaxing and enjoying a drink at one of these spots!

5. Visit the Great Smoky Arts & Craft Community

Want to do some shopping and have the chance to meet locals at the same time? Head to the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. This 8-mile loop is home to a variety of shops, galleries, and studios that showcase the work of our talented local artisans. Not only do you get to shop, but you can chat and meet the local artisans to learn more about them and their craft. You can find everything from basket-weaving, to painting, to pottery! It’s the perfect place to go for a special Smoky Mountain souvenir.

More Things to Do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

old mill in pigeon forge at sunriseThese are some of the best non-touristy things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge if you want to explore the Smokies like a local. If you’re looking for more ideas of places to visit in the Smoky Mountain area, check out these attractions in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville.