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forbidden caverns under the smokies sign

8 Places to Visit in the Smoky Mountains Off the Beaten Path

When you visit the Smoky Mountains, take a break from the hustle and bustle along the parkways in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to explore some of the lesser known places in the area! Whether you’re looking for a restaurant where the locals dine or an attraction that has fewer crowds than most, we can help you find it! Check out our list of the top 8 places to visit in the Smoky Mountains off the beaten path:

1. Parrot Mountain

Parrots sitting on a perch.Drive to McCarter Hollow Road to step into a world of beautifully landscaped gardens and hundreds of tropical birds. Parrot Mountain is a unique attraction known for its beauty. When you arrive, you’ll see a replica of Thomas Kinkade’s Stairway to Paradise and paved pathways lined with parrot cottages. A highlight of this attraction is the Secret Garden, which is home to toucans, silvery-cheek hornbill, magpies and more, all flying freely. It’s an incredible experience to stroll through the gardens and take in the beauty of the flowers, plants and trees, along with the colorful birds all around you. You’ll even have the opportunity to feed and hold some of the birds!

2. Elvira’s Cafe

When you’re in the mood for delicious Southern eats in a quiet location, visit Elvira’s Cafe. This restaurant is located along Wears Valley Road in Sevierville and is a common place where locals dine. The dishes served at Elvira’s Cafe are a unique take on Southern food with a bit of Russian heritage. Items on the menu include hot cakes and omelets for breakfast, and grilled cheese, sandwiches and burgers for lunch.

3. Ely’s Mill

roaring fork motor nature trailWant to visit a less crowded historic old mill in the Smokies? Plan a visit to Ely’s Mill in Gatlinburg. This mill sits alongside the Roaring Fork Creek. You can get to it from the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. When you visit, you’ll be able to enjoy local crafts and antiques, soaps, baked goods, and so much more. You’ll love taking a step back in time at Ely’s Mill! This special hidden gem also has opportunities for intimate wedding ceremonies and wedding photos.

4. Forbidden Caverns

Forbidden Caverns is one of the best places to visit under the Smokies! At this attraction, you’ll go on an entertaining and educational tour of the caverns, where you’ll see sparkling formations, chimneys, grottos and a stream. The experience features special lighting effects and a stereophonic sound to make it even more enjoyable! Forbidden Caverns is located off the beaten path in Sevierville. To get there, you’ll drive through a picturesque valley that offers views of LeConte and English Mountain.

5. Elkmont Historic District

Elkmont Troll BridgeHave you ever wanted to see a ghost town in the Smoky Mountains? Visit Elkmont Historic District in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! This area was once part of a booming logging industry, then became a popular vacation destination. When the national park was established, Elkmont residents had to decide whether they wanted to see their homes and relocate or sell them for a discounted price in return for a lifetime lease. Most of the leases expired in 1992, leaving the park with about 70 historic buildings and no one to maintain them. Over time, the abandoned cabins started to deteriorate, resulting in the legend of “Elkmont Ghost Town.”

To get to Elkmont Historic District, take US-411 from Gatlinburg to Sugarlands Visitor Center, where you’ll turn onto Fighting Creek Gap Road. After about 4.5 miles, you’ll find Elkmont Road.

6. Smoky Mountain Cat House

Do you have a feline friend or just love anything and everything that has to do with cats? Stop by the Smoky Mountain Cat House while you’re in the area! Located near The Old Mill, this stop features a variety of unique gifts and cat collectibles. Find everything from cat-themed apparel, bags and home decor, to items for your furry friend! You can even pet and play with a cat while you’re at the shop if you’re missing your cat back home.

7. Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum

Salt and Pepper Shaker MuseumThe Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum is one of the more well known things to do in Gatlinburg that’s off the beaten path. There are more than 20,000 salt and pepper shakers from all across the globe in this museum. The shakers are displayed throughout the attraction by themes and colors. See everything from animal shakers, to cars, to characters! Admission to the museum is only $3, and that $3 can be used towards any purchase in the gift shop. Even better news, kids 12 and under get in for free!

8. Frank Allen’s

You can find the best burgers in the Smoky Mountains in a small market called Frank Allen’s. Hidden in a Marathon Gas station on the Parkway in Sevierville, this is one of the places to visit in the Smoky Mountains that you don’t want to miss. Everyone who stops here falls in love with the burgers, hot dogs and crinkle-cut fries. If you’re looking for a quick meal that doesn’t require a long wait, this is the place to go!

Most Places to Visit in the Smoky Mountains

sunrise in the smoky mountainsStill looking for more things to do in the Smoky Mountains? You’ll have plenty of options for entertainment on your vacation. Whether you want to go to one of the best places to visit in the Smoky Mountains off the beaten path or explore some of the well-known attractions, you’ll never get bored. Discover all the best things to do in the Smokies, then start planning your trip!