When you think of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, you may think of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Space Needle, or Little Pigeon River. These attractions are all breathtaking, but a fun event in downtown Gatlinburg is often overlooked by tourists. This event captures the heart and history of Appalachia and lies right in the heart of the popular city. Anyone who takes a summer trip to Gatlinburg should experience the Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales festival.
Gatlinburg is a city for walking. When you visit Gatlinburg, the best way to tour the city is to walk and experience the charming small-town atmosphere.
The city has created an entire season-long event to provide people with the ultimate tour of Gatlinburg. Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales is a summer happening both locals and tourists can enjoy. People walk around the city to learn about historic Gatlinburg, as well as the Smoky Mountains and rural Appalachia. It is the perfect family-friendly event.
This festival will be in its eleventh year this summer, and it is only growing in popularity. Actors, musicians, artisans, and storytellers dress up in costumes to teach guests about the Smoky Mountains’ history. Visitors learn about the area beginning in 1800 and leading up to present day.
Music runs Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales. Multiple genres are represented. Most of all, the city prides itself in producing both local and world-renown bluegrass bands.
This summer, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys will perform classic bluegrass music. This trio has played together for eight years and toured across Europe together, and they are thrilled to play bluegrass in the beautiful Smokies again. Two Hoots & A Holler, another bluegrass trio, will also grace the streets of downtown this year. The trio is comprised of a mom and her two young sons. Bluegrass lovers should also check out Streamliner Bluegrass Band, Jeff and Addie Levy, and the Lost Mill String Band.
Although bluegrass is a favorite genre of the mountains, other genres are not forgotten. The Reunited will return for their third year to perform everything from the classics to current pop hits. Blue Bells will play classic country. There is a little something for everyone.
Visitors can not only listen to fun music, but dance to it, too! Professional clog dancers entertain at the festival and even take time to teach people a few steps. Get your family involved and active by learning to cut a rug.
There are several other unique forms of entertainment. Quiltin’ Granny tells stories as she teaches visitors her quilting technique. People can take souvenir quilts home with them. Spinning Selma has opened her own spinning and weaving shop in Gatlinburg. Feel free to watch her spin and ask her to make bracelets for them.
Of course, Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales isn’t just about family entertainment. The true purpose of the event is to educate people from all over the country about the history of the Smoky Mountains. For example, Judy Farlow is an award winning storyteller who has performed all over the country. She is performing at the festival this year as a Walker sister to teach people about the history of the area’s people.
Visitors can roam the streets of downtown Gatlinburg to listen to music, learn from various artisans, and engage with storytellers. These actors tell about life in Tennessee before the invention of modern technology. Artisans share their skills with anyone interested. They even show visitors how to make certain instruments. You won’t mind walking all day with the opportunities the festival has to offer!
If you want to keep enjoying the festivities throughout the day, grab a meal at one of the classically Appalachian restaurants in downtown Gatlinburg. The Log Cabin Pancake House is an affordable and highly recommended breakfast restaurant. Diners can stay in the mindset of being in old-time Appalachia by eating in this log cabin. Smoky Mountain Shakes N Dawgs is a popular lunch spot. Stop by this cute hole-in-the-wall restaurant and eat up. After you refuel from one of these whimsical eateries, you can jump back out onto the streets and continue enjoying your walk around Gatlinburg.
Instead of cramming the family in the car for another road trip or sending the kids away to camp, consider a different type of family activity this summer. At the Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales festival, the entire family can enjoy being together and experience being outdoors. Since the event is held every night for several weeks, you can turn your visit into a week-long stay. If you like this festival, consider returning to Gatlinburg on your children’s winter vacation to witness the Winter Magic Tunes and Tales festival.
Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales lasts June 10 – July 30. People can enjoy the festival every night from 6:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. There is no charge to enter the festival.