One might assume the bedrock of Sevier County’s tourism industry is the natural beauty which surrounds Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. And yes, the flowing streams, the quiet forest, wildlife encounters and the living history of the region are undoubtedly keys to the region’s attractions, but underneath that bedrock is a flowing river that carries the real life blood of successful tourism, and that river is made of liquid cheese.
Brummagem, which is totally a word I found in the thesaurus because I needed one more synonym for cheesy.
The founding fathers of the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge tourism industry realized early on that while it ain’t easy bein’ cheesy, it certainly pays the bills. That’s how Carbo’s Smoky Mountain Police Museum, whose claim to fame was Sheriff Buford Pusser’s stick, made famous in the ’70s classic “Walking Tall”, stayed in business for years and years.
Ultimately, cheese is in the eye of the beholder. Some people – let’s call them hipsters – come to Pigeon Forge to wallow ironically in the garish culture of the local people. Others find pure unironic joy in going to the Elvis Museum to see rhinestone cover jumpsuits still carrying minute strands of the King’s DNA.
We’re not here to judge. How and why you find your joy is your own business. Presented here are some of the cheesiest places in Sevier County.
5. The theatres
Pigeon Forge is awash in theatres and there ain’t a one of them gonna put on a production of Les Mis. How cheesy the entertainment within the various theatres is, depends on the venue itself. Some, like Country Tonite, features talented performers doing credible versions of country music classics. This is, on a relative scale, not overly cheesy. If you’re not much of a country music fan, it can provide a bit of a culture shock. As a general rule for theatre in Pigeon Forge, the more comedy featured in a show, the more chance you have to see some real authentic East Tennessee cheese. The Comedy Barn, which features magicians, jugglers, ventriloquists, comedians, live country and gospel music, is your best bet in this category.
4. The go-karts
In the ‘90s, my aunts and uncles would come down from Indiana and we would invariably take ourselves to Pigeon Forge and prove our relative skill on the race course. The slick track – which was long ago bulldozed to make way for a massive putt-putt course – was our favorite. The track attendants could tell by the cut of our jibs that we were, in fact, serious racers and allowed my uncle Mark to test the limits of what grown men could do behind the wheel of a machine powered by a lawnmower engine. Today, we all head for The Track.
3. Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse Café
Pigeon Forge. Pancakes are big business in Sevier County. If you want to make a dent in the Pancake game, you can’t just show up with a griddle, some maple syrup and a dream. You’ve got to stand out. You’ve got to (checks notes) fill your restaurant with more than 100 singing animatronic chickens. It’s like the hillbilly Tiki Room but with a country breakfast and a variety of animal–themed pancakes for the kids. It’s as if Gonzo from the Muppets opened a restaurant built on his fondest sexual desires, but made it kid friendly.
2. Cooter’s Place in the Smokies, Pigeon Forge
Formerly located in Gatlinburg – generally considered the classiest Sevier County city – Cooter’s Place in the Smokies is now located in a strip mall in Pigeon Forge. Cooter – played by actor Ben Jones who was later elected to the U.S. Congress – was the tow truck driver on the popular early ‘80s TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard.” How did the show’s seventh most popular character behind Bo, Luke, Daisy, Uncle Jesse, Boss Hog and Roscoe get his own shop and museum in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world? I don’t know. I’m still hung up on the idea that the guy who played Cooter got elected to congress. Twice.
1. Goats on the Roof
Pigeon Forge. Shockingly billed as the only attraction in the Smoky Mountains with live goats on the roof, this is the best example of a business leaning into the kitsch. It is the essence of Sevier County cheese distilled into one stop. You can buy a can of goat chow, hop on the goat cycle – a pedal powered conveyor belt – and transport the chow up to the hungry goats. What else is there to do? Don’t let me get in the way. Here’s the word straight from the horse’s (goat’s) mouth: “It’s the goat-feeding-est, gem-mining-est, fudge-eating-est, ice-cream-licking-est, cool-gift-shopping-est attraction in Pigeon Forge!” And just in case you were wondering, yes their Amish rocking chairs are authentic.
Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.