Six great reasons to visit Townsend, Tennessee

Courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

Lots of us know it as “the peaceful side of the Smokies,” but according to, a travel website, Townsend is the best small town in Tennessee

Just because it’s peaceful, don’t think Townsend is dull. There are galleries to explore, eateries to enjoy, tubing to try, horses to ride, a variety of lodging options and much more. 

“Without all of the hubbub and traffic found in Gatlinburg, the primary draw here is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with a few great eateries and lodging options,” says Houston Oldham, vice president of operations for Oldham Hospitality in Townsend. “This town isn’t your regular old rural American town that’s fading into history. There is an energy here as new and different experiences are built while the town stays tethered to the quiet and slow style of living that has made Townsend desirable for decades.”

Here are just a few of the things that set Townsend apart: 

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

The museum preserves and shares the history of the people who have inhabited the area, offers special programs and events and includes the Historic Village, made up of 13 building furnished according to the period in which they were built.

Tuckaleechee Caverns

Estimated to be 20 to 30 million years old, Tuckaleechee Caverns features the tallest subterranean waterfall in the eastern U.S. and a room big enough to house a football stadium. 

Cades Cove

About 15 miles inside the Smokies is Cades Cove, a broad valley surrounded by mountains. It’s a popular destination that offers wildlife viewing and vehicle-free access to its 11-mile loop on Wednesdays during May through August. 


Tremont is an educational center inside the park near Townsend for youth, teachers and adults. Its focus is connecting people with nature and cultivating an ethic of stewardship. Tremont has been operating for more than 50 years.

Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum

For many years, Native Americans and pioneers depended on the Little River and its surrounding forests to survive. After the Cherokee were forcefully removed in the 1830s, the upper region of the Little River was inhabited by self-sufficient farmers. Later, the forests attracted logging companies such as the Little River Railroad & Lumber Company. The museum seeks to preserve the history of the river and the company.

Dancing Bear Lodge

Dancing Bear Lodge & Appalachian Bistro is on a 38-acre property and offers 26 lodging options, an award-winning restaurant offering Appalachian cuisine and picturesque event space.  

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