The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center – A Gateway to the Past

The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center

Nestled in the heart of Townsend, Tennessee, lies a cultural and historical gem that offers visitors a captivating journey through the chronicles of the Smoky Mountains’ rich heritage – the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. As you step onto the grounds of this remarkable attraction, you’ll find yourself transported back in time. Explore diverse exhibits that unveil the secrets of this beautiful landscape, embark on fascinating tours, and immersing yourself in the living history of those who called the Smokies home hundreds of years ago. To learn more about the Heritage Center, what it has to offer patrons and other wonderful experiences to be enjoyed – such as tours and upcoming festivities – continue reading!

The Exhibits

The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center

At the core of the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center’s mission is its commitment to preserving, restoring and celebrating the region’s history and culture. To achieve this, the center has spent years curating diverse exhibits that provide necessary information necessary to accurately paint a picture of the Smoky Mountains’ past.

  • Native American Collection: The Cherokee Nation and other Indigenous peoples have a deep-rooted history in the Smoky Mountains, that spans thousands of years. This exhibit honors their legacy, exploring their countless contributions to the region and their enduring presence. Included are unearthed relics and artifacts that offer a glimpse into the lives of those who called the South Appalachians home long before foreign settlers arrived, drastically and irrevocably changing the trajectory of the region’s expansion.
  • Pioneer and Mountaineer History: The Heritage Center takes you deep into the history of settlers who traveled far and wide to their new home in the Smokies. From a log cabin interior to detailed displays explaining what daily life for the settlers nearly two hundred years ago, looked like. Learn about the different chores and jobs settlers, attempting to carve out a life in these smoke-clade slopes, had to complete daily. Delve into the events and individuals who helped to shape this remarkable region.
  • South Appalachian Culture: Tennessee has a rich cultural tapestry, that is definitely worth exploring. From early Appalachian music and education to historic cannons and vintage vehicles, the Smoky Mountains Heritage Center educates visitors about all aspects of Appalachian life, all those years ago.


The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center

One of the highlights of visiting the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is the opportunity to embark on various tours that offer deeper insights into the area’s history and natural beauty.

  • Public and Private Cades Cove Tour: Cades Cove, with its breathtaking scenery and historic structures, is a must-visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Heritage Center offers both public and private tours, guided by experts who provide fascinating tidbits about the area’s history, landscape, ecosystem and personal stories, creating a truly unique experience.
  • Behind the Scenes Tours: For the really curious minds in your group, the “Cades Cove – Behind the Scenes” tour grants patrons with a version of Cades Cove, not seen by the average visitor. Lead by a retired national park service ranger, this tour will teach you about aspects of the historic township you won’t find on the tourist pamphlet.
  • Driving Tours with Private Shuttles: If you prefer a guided tour with the convenience of private transportation, the Heritage Center offers driving tours, complete with knowledgeable guides and comfortable transportation. Sit back, relax, and soak in the beauty of the Smokies.
  • Monarch Tours: Nature enthusiasts will thoroughly appreciate the Monarch Butterfly Tagging Tours. These tours not only showcase the stunning Cades Cove but also educate visitors about the conservation efforts of the stunning Monarch butterfly, all while getting to contribute to the conservation yourself.

Historic Appalachian Village

The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center

At the heart of the Smoky Mountains Heritage Center lies the Historic Appalachian Village, a meticulously preserved living history exhibit that encapsulates the essence of the Appalachian way of life.

  • Promotion of Appalachian Historical Structures: This village is not just a recreation; it’s a commitment to preserving historical structures. Each building stands as a testament to Appalachian architecture and heritage.
  • Expertly Restored Appalachian Buildings: Wander through this village, and you’ll be transported to a different era. The buildings are expertly restored, using techniques typical of the period,  offering an authentic and accurate glimpse into the past.
  • Living History Experience: Here, history comes to life. Witness the operation of historical equipment like an operational wood mill or fabric loom, and gain insights into the daily lives of early Appalachian settlers. It’s education through immersion at its finest, and will surly result in memories that last a life time.

Enjoy the Festivities

The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center

The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center isn’t just about exhibits and tours; it’s also a hub of cultural festivities and musical events. These events are the perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening, regardless of whether you’re local or visiting.

  • Smoky Mountain Storytellers (September 24th): Dive deep into the distinct and rich history of the Smoky Mountains through immersive storytelling. It’s an intimate experience that sheds light on the region’s captivating tales and is ideal for all age groups.
  • Blue Ribbon Country Fair (September 30th): Celebrate the culture of the Smoky Mountains at the Blue Ribbon Country Fair. From music to crafts, it’s a lively event that showcases the vibrant spirit of the region. And to make it even better, the friendly competition is back in full swing this year!
  • Tuckaleechee Pottery Festival (September 28th): Discover the artistry of pottery like never before at this highly-anticipated festival. Featuring some of the nation’s best potters, visitors will be able to browse and shop for expertly handcrafted items, both practical and decorative.
  • Holiday Handcrafts Festival (November 11th): As the holiday season approaches, this festival offers a perfect opportunity to explore unique handcrafted gifts and decorations.
  • Live Musical Performances: Throughout the warmer months, the Heritage Center hosts live musical performances almost every Friday night. It’s a chance to unwind and enjoy the sounds and talent of the Smokies.

Plan Your Visit

The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center

Ready to explore the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center? Here’s what you need to know.

  • Opening Hours and Admission Fees: The center typically opens its doors from 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday, with reduced hours on Sundays. General admission fees apply, with discounts available for seniors, children, and military personnel.
  • Best Times to Visit: The best time to visit depends on your interests. If you’re keen on events, check the schedule for festivals and live performances. For a quieter visit, weekdays are usually less crowded.
  • Amenities: While exploring, don’t forget to stop by the gift shop, where you can find one-of-a-kind souvenirs and gifts. There’s also a café where you can enjoy a snack or a meal during your visit.


The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is more than a museum; it’s a portal to the past, a celebration of culture, and a testament to the enduring spirit of the Smoky Mountains. Whether you’re drawn to history, nature, or the arts, this attraction offers something for everyone. As you explore the exhibits, embark on tours, and immerse yourself in the living history, remember that this center plays a vital role in preserving and sharing the cultural heritage of the region. Plan your visit to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center today – for more information and to check event schedules, visit their official website. So what are you waiting for? The past is waiting to be explored, and the Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is your gateway.

The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center

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