I did my first successful Black Friday find in 1986 – getting one of four bargain televisions at the local Wal-Mart, and I’ve loved it ever since.
For visitors and locals, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are huge Black Friday destinations. These tips will help you navigate one of the busiest days in the Smokies.
Before we begin, note that Black Friday 2020 may be a bit different than usual. Some stores may be limiting capacity, so lines may be longer and hours may be shorter. We encourage all of our readers to comply with each store’s policies.
1. Pack your patience
Have snacks in the car and make sure your tank is full when you start. Black Friday is wonderful in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. That being said, traffic drawn in by Rod Runs every year looks manageable compared to the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Take deep breaths come mentally prepared.
2. Plot alternate routes (Not even the backroads will save you)
I am often asked about short-cuts and ways to get around the traffic.
Unfortunately, even the backroads overflow on this particular weekend because everyone in the Smokies – locals, tourists and folks from bordering counties – all want to shop.
My best advice: Map out the addresses of the places you’re going. Use your GPS to find alternate routes and real-time travel info.
3. If Tanger Outlets is on your list, arrive early
Tanger Outlets in Sevierville, Tenn. is easily the biggest draw in town. Tanger opens this year on Friday at 6 am.
If you want a good parking space, arrive as early as possible. In previous years, Tanger opened the evening of Thanksgiving Day. While this year is different, you should still play it safe and arrive as early as possible.
Consider a designated driver – someone (perhaps dad) drives around the parking lot while you shop. Serious shoppers easily spend six or seven hours at the center. This is not a place where you get one bargain and leave, so parking spaces don’t turn over very often.
Click here to see Tanger’s 2020 safety guidelines.
Additional tips for Tanger:
Get a coupon book. Check out deals and get coupons online before you shop on the Tanger Outlets website. You have the best chance of success if you go in with a game plan.
Travel light. You only need your cell phone and your payment method (cash or cards). Leave the heavy purse at the hotel. If you have a baby or a toddler, bring a stroller and pack the child – and everything the child could possibly need – in that stroller. Bundle the baby up and hope he or she sleeps through the whole event.
Decide which store you want to visit first. If you are willing to get in line early, choose a smaller store like Disney or Vera Bradley, where they will likely be limiting capacity. Consider using the buddy system to help reserve a spot in line.
4. Remember Tanger isn’t the only game in town
Wal-Mart and Belk have great Black Friday deals and have large stores in Sevierville. For visitors not familiar with Belk, it’s a mid-price department store. The quality is great, the prices are lower than Macy’s and Dillard’s. The store has huge Black Friday sales on most clothing items.
Governor’s Crossing Shopping Center also offers a variety of retail stores. While the everyday prices at these clothing stores are impressive, each does usually offer a Black Friday special.
If you absolutely MUST have something from Kohl’s, Target or another chain – there’s a great strip mall located just 20 or so minutes from the Sevierville I-40 exit.
5. Venture into the smaller boutique stores
If you’re looking for unique gifts, visit the smaller stores in the area.
Sevier County is home to galleries specializing in paintings, ceramics and crafts. A few boutiques offer one-of-a-kind clothing pieces and jewelry.
Don’t overlook the souvenir shops that line the bypass and main strip in Gatlinburg. These are great places to find white elephant gifts and stocking stuffers.
6. Check out the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Loop
Do some shopping on the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Loop, beginning at 668 Glades Road, just a few miles east of Gatlinburg proper.
You can watch hundreds of craftsmen and artists – one of the largest gatherings in the world – practice their talents and even get customized, unique pieces that make wonderful Christmas gifts.
If you’re interested in Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts, the Thanksgiving Craft Show is scheduled from Nov. 24-29, 2020, open daily from 10 am-5 pm at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
There will be dozens of booths featuring one-of-a-kind handcrafted gifts. For more information on the holiday craft shows, visit the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community website.
Bonus Tip: Consider an alternate Black Friday altogether!
Black Friday will save you some money. Quality family time? Probably not.
If you’re visiting with family this year, skipping the chaos is acceptable, too.
Believe it or not, traffic through the mountains isn’t too bad on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Enjoy a long drive or better yet, make this the year you actually make it to Clingman’s Dome or Laurel Falls.
Your family time will be even more valuable because cell service is spotty at best in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.