Townsend is often an overlooked area of the Smokies, but it does have some great things to offer, including the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. This place is all about showcasing and preserving the culture of the people from the Smoky Mountains region. There are tons of artifacts, exhibits, demonstrations, music, and so much more. It really is a great part of any vacation. Lets start with the particulars. The Center is located in the heart of Townsend, TN, just a stones throw from the Cades Cove area of the national park. It is open Monday-Saturday from 10-5 and Sundays from 12-5, but it is closed on Sundays in winter until the end of March. The admission price is just $6 for adults and $4 for kids.
The museum includes artifacts and history about Native Americans that inhabited the region, a mountain culture exhibit that includes a full hand-made cabin, and information and exhibits about getting around the area and the difficultly presented in the early days.
One of the great things about this place is that there is so much to see. There are a total of eleven buildings to show you what life used to be like, and you can get up close and personal with almost all of it instead of looking through glass from 20 feet away.
Besides their normal exhibits, there are rotating traveling exhibits. Right now, this includes artifacts from the Civil War that are simply incredible. If you are a lover of history, you don’t want to miss that. But if Civil War history is not your thing, the exhibit continually rotates and soon something else will be there. That is one of the great things about this place. It is not an experience that you should do once to say you have done it. So many things are added and changed that you can go back a year later and have a very different experience.
Special events are added here all the time including artisan demonstrations, concerts, guided hiking and tours, and so much more. And of course, no stop to a place like this is complete without a trip to the gift shop. Of course they have your typical souvenirs, but you can also get some great one of a kind art by local artists, books from local authors, music from local musicians, and so much more that you just won’t find in your typical t-shirt shop on the gatlinburg strip.
It never seems to be too busy, so you wont’ be pushing your way around to get into exhibits, lectures, and concerts like you might at other places. Occasionally there are school groups that come here, but if the crowds there bother you, just let them go by you and you will once again have the area in peace.
It is definitely one of the cheapest attractions around the smokies, and I think offers you a lot more than you would get in other places. For what you could spend playing mini golf, you will actually get a true Smoky Mountain experience.