Late Summer Getaways in East Tennessee
COVID has impacted events across the 9 Lakes region. In your quest for pandemic-proof plans, armchair travel isn’t your only option. East Tennessee boasts a diverse landscape of lakes, mountains, and foothills. Late summer is sure to bring warm days and cooling evenings. Lace-up your shoes and find out what’s going on in the 9 Lakes of East Tennessee.
Fall has been the traditional festival season across the region. While there are fewer local events to attend this year, if you know where to look, you will find plenty of activities.
The Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival in Gatlinburg runs September 22 through November 1. The city and businesses will roll out their best fall displays for visitors who are in town to visit the Smokies. The event is free!
In nearby Townsend, the annual Grains and Grits Festival on November 7 celebrates the delectable history of Southern spirits and local grub.
If you are planning a fall motorcycle ride, you don’t want to miss the Tellico Biker Rally is set for October 1-4. Two weeks later, the Cherohala Skyway Festival in Tellico is still on the calendar for October 24. Plan your day to learn more about frontier life, traditional arts, listen to music, and indulge in the delicious festival fare. Each of these festivals supports several local charities.
Warm days and crisp nights under a star-filled sky is an antidote to your concerns about social distancing. Primitive camping is available on a first-come, first-serve basis at most of the state parks and selected TVA properties. You can choose to hike in or paddle up to your preferred site.
If you are a first-time backcountry camper and are concerned about the costs of investing in gear, check out Outdoor Gear Revival in Knoxville for gently used outdoor equipment.
Not quite ready for primitive? Here are several ideas for a roadside night under the stars.
Hike: Wildflower Walks are not just for Spring
Lace-up your boots and behold eye-catching wildflowers in full bloom. Vibrant yellows and purples will surely elevate your mood. Pack your binoculars to take full advantage of the serene, end of summer vistas abuzz with butterflies and migratory birds.
Three standout hikes for viewing wildflowers and birds are the Songbird Trail at Norris Dam State Park, the shorelines of any of the 9 Lakes, especially Watts Bar, and the Seven Islands State Birding Park.
Pining for a food-focused outing far from the crowds? We’ve curated a collection of remote, food-first stops to satisfy your culinary cravings.
Majestic Mountains: McCloud Mountain Restaurant is legendary for its food and lush bird’s eye views of the Cumberland and Smoky Mountains. Dine and unwind in the clouds for a dreamy, candlelit dinner at 2,700 feet. Reservations are required.
Dinner and a Concert: Music on the menu? The annual Louie Bluie Festival organizers and the Tennessee Theatre’s Ghostlight Series, deliver feel-good virtual options. Pair your meal with a side of entertainment by streaming your favorite concert alfresco.
Marina Restaurants: Lakefront dining is a staple of the region. Marinas offer an unfussy setting to enjoy live music, stretch your legs, and stargaze. Pro tip: The amber sunsets in East Tennessee are epic. Arrive early.