Posted by Phil Rodgers in Things to Do
By definition, an attraction is a business that is interesting enough on some level to compel people to visit it. In the Smokies, we measure attractions by the dozen, everything from Dollywood and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies to the many music theaters of Pigeon Forge and destinations like the Titanic Museum Attraction.
But as it turns out, some attractions are more interesting than others; some are downright unique. In this post, we're going to tell you about some Smoky Mountain attractions that are known for having an unusual focus or theme - elements that make them stand out from the competition. Some of these may not be the most popular attractions in the area in terms of visitation numbers, but after reading about them, we think you'll at least consider them worthy of a look-see on your next trip to the Smokies.
You read that correctly. There's an entire museum in Gatlinburg devoted to the humble salt and pepper shaker. Inside the unassuming facility, you'll find more than 20,000 pairs of salt and pepper shakers collected from all over the world. The owners began their collection some 35 years ago, when they realized they didn't have a working pepper mill in their home. That led to a quest to find just the right one, and soon, one became two, then three, then four. From there, they started collecting shakers, and the rest is history. In the museum, you'll see shakers that date back as far as the 1500s and the 1800s, and the collection as a whole shows how society has changed over the decades and centuries.
Surely, you've seen those old commercials for Bush's beans starring Jay Bush and his talking dog, Duke. That particular brand of beans is popular nationwide, but when you visit East Tennessee, you can actually stop by their manufacturing facility in Chestnut Hill, where the Bush family has been making all kinds of bean products for generations. When you tour their visitor center, the museum is filled with exhibits that tell the 110-year-old story of the Bush family and their beautiful beans. They don't offer tours of the manufacturing plant, but in the museum, you can watch videos about the manufacturing process and see behind-the-scenes tours of the facility. Most guests usually spend an hour to an hour and a half on the tour of the museum and the general store. There is also a café where you can enjoy a meal as well as free samples of their “bean of the day.”
You didn't think we'd leave ourselves out of this list of unusual attractions, did you? We think we've earned that distinction. After all, where else in the Smokies has live goats living on the roof of their attraction? At Goats on the Roof, the goats ARE the main attraction. They actually live on the roof, seasonal conditions permitting, and our guests can take the stairs to the upper level to see them up close as they graze on our rooftop grass. On the lower level, we have a unique contraption called the Goat Cycle, which you can pedal to send a bucket of goat feed up to the rooftop level. In addition to the goats, we have a fun alpine coaster, gem mining and a gift shop the carries a wide array of locally made food and gift items.
Each June, the Elkmont section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park becomes one popular destination thanks to the annual two-week appearance of synchronous fireflies. These glowing winged insects only put on their show once a year - in this specific location and for a limited period of time. Once the show begins at dusk each night, the entire population will start and stop blinking at the same time, usually blinking for a minute or so and then resting for a few minutes. To view this spectacle, you have to apply online for a special parking permit that will allow you to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and take a shuttle to Elkmont. No parking is allowed at Elkmont unless you're already camping in the campground.