Rest assured that we who live and work in the Smokies are also relieved that the school year has ended! It helps to slow down daily, as the vacation industry ramps up in our area. So in between job duties, errands, and kids’ sports events, where do locals go for a quick break during the work week?
1. Frank Allen’s Market-First, let’s satisfy the stomach. Yes, it is a gas station. But for a no-stress satisfying breakfast, or a hot, loaded hamburger as a treat, many of us make the counter at Frank Allen’s an intentional gastronomic errand. You should too. Bypass that chain fast food.
2. Sevierville Downtown Farmers Market. After feeling calorically guilty for that juicy burger earlier in the week, we add healthy produce to the shopping list. On Friday mornings from 9 am to 2 pm, an early stop in downtown Sevierville loads up the fridge with fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables to carry through the busy weekend. It’s a great place to purchase known-source food at reasonable prices with friendly conversation We build our menu around what’s available seasonally—nothing better than vine-ripened food.
3. Douglas Lake Swimming Area. Mud is good! When there is no time to drag out the boat and put it in (most of us don’t pay for a slip at the marinas), an hour or two in the late afternoon at the roped-off swimming area is a grittier, freshwater alternative to the regular chlorinated dips in a pool This swim beach spot is located adjacent to the campground at the headwaters of Douglas Dam (west side). Like our 30,000 acre Douglas Lake, most in the area are on a “faucet”: created by watershed dam systems that are hydroelectric generators built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). If you want to get a panoramic view of the entire surrounding mountain range, drive across the bridge to the TVA Overlook directly across from the campground. On a clear day, you can take in a 180 degree view and see as far as North Carolina and Fontana Lake in the distance. You can also walk up to the dam on the bottom side (follow the signs), which is interesting to watch when the turbines are generating power. Nice benches and picnic areas at the overlook also make this an enjoyable picnic stop.
4. King Family Library, Sevierville. Please, just let me grab a short moment of air-conditioned peace in a comfy chair. Now that the last research paper and class project has been completed, going to the library can be more of a pleasure for the family than a functional errand for resources. The King Family Library main branch in Sevierville, along with other public branches in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, are an educational respite form the chaotic, loud parts of summer. All facilities are modern and staffed with wonderful human resources that can enhance your vacation stay beyond a quiet book reading break. Check the links for summer programs that may be occurring during your stay.
5. Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a glorious place to sit and relax outside. I realized that my other listed locations are spread across the entire county, so let’s include one of our favorite places that is just moments away from your Wears Valley cabin rental. Like sitting at the library to rest, we are often looking for a place to park while kids play. Metcalf Bottoms is certainly not a secret location to both locals and tourists alike, but here’s how we who live here tend to enjoy it.
Supplies needed are a picnic lunch, cheap fabric folding chairs, an inflatable tube with a rope attached, an old towel, bathing suits, watershoes, and sunglasses. We like to arrive in the early morning. Choose a riverside picnic spot and sink the chair into the river for just your feet, or so it’s waist deep when sitting (oh yes!). I promise it’s a pleasure after the initial shock of the icy mountain water subsides. Let the kids skip rocks, catch a crawfish, make leaf boats, build rock sculptures, wade or float a short distance (depending on appropriate ages). Tie the float to a stationary item (like you or a tree branch) to keep from losing it downstream. River play is wholly different than a pool or the lake: most kids can go for hours without being bored. Shoes are needed though! Barefoot is not best here, for traction on rocks and irregular river bottom. Relax awhile, consume your alfresco lunch, and wipe any stray mud off on that towel. Then be on your way as others just begin to arrive. It’s a most excellent way to spend a super and natural half day outdoors!
So there you have it. For those who must still attend to daily life while working in Sevier County, these are a few of our favorite quick fixes that enhance our summertime. As always, we are willing to share them with you. We are glad that you choose to rest and play in our home that we hold so dear. You are always welcome at VCR, and please come stay with us again soon!