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 un-ironic 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.
We like it cheesy too. How and why you find your joy is your own business. Presented here are some of the best cheesy, quirky places in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area:
5. The Theaters and Dinner Shows
Pigeon Forge is awash in theaters, and there ain’t a one of them gonna put on a production of Les Mis.
How cheesy the entertainment within the various theaters 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. But if you’re not much of a country music fan, it can provide a bit of a culture shock.
As a general rule for theaters 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, and live music, is your best bet in this category.
Other fan favorites in the area include Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Pirates Voyage and Hatfield and McCoy.
Read Also: Hatfield and McCoy: What you didn’t know about the real-life murderous families
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 – a local favorite.
3. Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse Café (Pigeon Forge)
Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse is like a hillbilly version of Disney’s 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 desires.
Read More: Frizzle Chicken Review: Go for the pancakes, stay for the singing chickens
2. Cooter’s Place (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.
Cooter’s Museum also happens to be budget-friendly with a total admission price of FREE.
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.
Goats on the Roof is the essence of Sevier County cheese distilled into one stop.
You can buy a can of goat chow, ride the goat mountain coaster, 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.
Do you have any picks for cheesy places around the Great Smoky Mountains? Let us know down below!