If you are planning to visit “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” here are places to stay and things to do in Townsend TN. We have fallen in love with this place and have made it a family vacay we take quarterly! Keep reading to find out where we have stayed and things we’ve done so far (and what we have our sights on next).
What is “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies”?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and had never heard of the “peaceful side of the Smokies” until recently. When planning a quick mountain getaway last November (2022), I came across the town of Townsend, TN. It was showing only to be a short drive to Gatlinburg, so I booked it.
Little did we know that this cute little town had much more to offer than just a peaceful getaway from the hustle of an attraction town.
Places to Stay in Townsend TN
Water’s Edge Cabin: A Riverfront Home
This was the very first cabin we stayed in when visiting this area. Although you can see it from the main strip, it takes a mountainous drive to actually get to it. The road is fairly narrow but pretty cool. What drew me to this cabin was that Little River flows in the backyard, just steps away from the back door.
It was also the perfect size for our large family. It only has 3 bedrooms but one of the rooms has double bunkbeds, which was perfect for our 4 boys. Our daughter always has a room to herself so she was able to have that as well. The master bedroom was spacious with a huge California King bed and full bathroom.
I didn’t do a video walkthrough like I normally do when we stay someone, but below are a few pictures I pulled from their post on Vrbo.
Catherine & Pete’s Place: Smoky Mountain Views
We loved this place so much we actually added on 2 extra days. This home isn’t a cabin but it’s retro and at-home feel is amazing. There was plenty of space for our family and positioned perfectly around things we needed while visiting.
This home is in walking distance of a local popular eating place (The Social) and a grocery store (IGA). I did do a walkthrough of this place and at the end are a few things to do that I’ll go into more detail a little later in the post.
Cades Cove Escape
This is the next cabin we rented and will be staying in March (2023). Since we haven’t had our visit here yet, I can only share why I chose this place for our next Townsend vacation. First of all, the space. There are plenty of rooms and beds for all of our children and our guest we will be taking along with us this time.
The location is key as well. It’s still in Townsend and only miles away from the things we are planning to do during our visit. The amount of things to do in the home were a selling point as well. This home features a nice hot tub, game room, and plenty of nature for hiking.
Stay tuned for our video walkthrough after our trip.
Things to Do in Townsend TN
At first, I didn’t know what there would be to do in this little town, but there’s actually quite a bit to do!
This place is known as the “Greatest Site Under the Smokies” and has the highest rating Cave or Cavern of the Eastern United States. We had the opportunity to visit the “BigRoom” on one end of the tour that could almost fit a football stadium inside it. And on the other half of the tour we got to view “SilverFalls”.
It is reasonably priced and worth every bit. Having little ones in tow wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be. The baby slept majority of the time and the 2-year-old didn’t have any issues keeping up.
Hours of Operation:
- March 1st – March 31 10am – 5pm
- April 1 – October 31 10am – 6 pm
- November 1 – November 30th 10am – 5pm
- Adult – $22.00 + Tax
- Child (5 – 11) – $10.00 + Tax
- Child (4 – Under) – FREE
Cades Cove Riding Stables
Although we ended up opting out of this attraction, I still wanted to include it along with why we turned it down. For starters, they do offer carriage rides but they are strict on 6 riders per carriage no matter the size of the child. We were hoping they would let one of our toddlers sit in my husbands lap, but they didn’t and we didn’t want to be split up.
- March 6 – November 30
- 9:00AM to 4:30PM
- $40.00 per person Ages 13+
- $35.00 per person Ages 6-12
Apple Valley Mountain Village
This was a super cute place. We ate at the Apple Valley Cafe (twice actually) and checked out the General Store and Fudge Shop. They will give you samples of fudge to try before you buy, which is great because it is a little pricey but tasty. The store is also a gold mine if you’re looking for vintage and antique trinkets to take home.
Little River Railroad Museum
We have a couple of train-fanatic kiddos so seeing this was awesome. Although the actual museum was closed, we were still able to tour what they had outside. The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company is a non-profit corporation founded in 1982 to preserve the heritage of the Little River Lumber Company and the Little River Railroad.
Hours/Seasons of Operation:
- May-Oct open Daily Weekdays & Saturday 10-5, Sunday 1-5
- November: Weekends Only – Saturday 10-5, Sunday 1-5
- December through March: Closed Off-Season. Groups by appointment only (email or call)
- April: Weekends Only – Saturday 10-5, Sunday 1-5
More to Do
Each time we visit, we plan on doing a little bit more. Below are other things to do in Townsend depending on the season you are traveling there:
- Tubing & Whitewater Rafting
- Heritage Center
- Dark Island Swinging Bridge
- Davy Crockett Riding Stables
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are just a short, scenic drive away!
Places to Eat
In addition to the Apple Valley Café, we also ate at the following local places:
- The Peaceful Side Social: We enjoyed a variety of foods from this place and everything was delicious. We particularly enjoyed their Goat Cheese Grit Fritters. They have everything from salads and sandwiches to hand-tossed pizzas and more hearty meals.
- Little River Pub & Deli: Cute and tasty! We ate here twice and the local craft beer selections were amazing.
- Mayfield Creamery Ice Cream: This was an ice cream place inside of a Subway and it was good!
- Townsend Pancake House: Think Waffle House but better. They have some pretty good waffles and homemade food.
Final Thoughts about Townsend TN
If you’re looking to visit the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge areas but without the busyness of attraction towns, Townsend is the place to go. We’re pretty settled on this being the place we stay even if we want to do things Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge because the drive is perfect.