Pack up the car, load up the kids, and let’s go! Did someone say day trip? Yes, I did! Townsend is one of my favorite little mountain towns in Tennessee and it is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Knoxville. The best part? It’s not overrun with tourists. With the Smokies in the distance, immerse yourself in Little River history or sit back and watch your kids swim in it. You can find a little something for everyone in Townsend.
If you blink, you might miss this hidden historical gem in Townsend. The Little River Railroad Museum is near the edge of town. The museum features collections from The Little River Railroad and Logging Company. It also highlights how important the logging industry was to the families that called the surrounding area home. There is an engine outside, a water tower, and two buildings filled with artifacts. Next to the buildings is a quaint gift shop. The people that work inside are some of the friendliest folks I’ve ever met and will answer any questions you have. It is a quick and free stop that is perfect for kids.
The Artistic Bean has hands down some of the best coffee in the area. This coffee shop will surprise you as soon as you pull into the parking lot. Yes, it is between an Autozone and laundromat. From the outside, you would have no idea what waits for you. The inside is updated with a cute wooden pallet bar and pendant lighting. Cozy up on one of the comfy armchairs and get to feeling at home. Sip on a delicious organic brew and munch on a warm flaky turnover. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Did someone say adventure? Speaking of places having surprising insides; introducing Tuckaleechee Caverns. This inconspicuous looking shedlike building is actually home to a thirty million year old cave system. Tuckaleechee Caverns offers guided tours through several different parts of the Caverns. One part of the tour features a subterranean waterfall. The Caverns and tour guide are sure to keep the kids engaged!
Get your history on at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. This is the perfect place to stop as you inch closer to the park. The Heritage Center is an expansive building that provides education to the public, unique galleries, and hosts events. My favorite part of the Heritage Center is the unique historical village that sits on the grounds. You will have the opportunity to view and learn about thirteen different buildings, including a sawmill, a smokehouse, and a chapel. The Heritage Center is very interactive and a lot of what is shown is able to be touched, making it a great stop for kids!
If you see a friendly bear licking an ice-cream cone, you have come to the right place. Just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park border you will find a hidden gem within a hidden gem. Burger Master Drive-In is a must if you have kids. Simply park the car, walk up to order, and sit at one of the many outdoor picnic tables to soak up the views. Of course, it helps that their burgers aren’t too bad either.
Where the Little River branches in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is called The Townsend Wye, otherwise known as one of the best swimming holes. Bring your kids here and they are sure to say, “best day ever”. This summer hotspot has expansive green banks overlooking the sparkling Little River. It has become popular with locals and tourists alike for swimming and tubing. The verdict? It is a perfect picnicking spot and the openness allows you to keep an eye on the kiddos. Lay out a blanket or prop up some lawn chairs and soak up the sun!
Are the kids getting stir crazy? Venture out from Knoxville and head into one of the gateways of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Townsend is a town rich in mountain history with locals that will treat you like family. Explore Little River history and have peace of mind, knowing the kids can be as interactive as they please. Stop for a coffee and a small treat before exploring underneath the town in their famous Caverns. End the exciting day by taking a dip in the river that holds so much history.
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