Sevierville

Buc-ee’s Sevierville TN opening date: Massive travel center coming soon

In a world of clogged inboxes full of press releases, it takes a little something special to stand out. 

Amid the endless pitches, solicitations and shysters, the folks at Buc-ee’s know how to make their voices heard. 

So when the self-styled “home of the world’s cleanest bathrooms, freshest food and friendliest beaver” announced its intention to build the world’s largest convenience store in Sevierville, I must say I granted it my full and undivided attention.

At the time of this writing, Buc-ee’s has more than 40 stores. And Buc-ee’s is continuing its expansion throughout the Southeast.

Stores are also now open in Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, and yes, Tennessee. 

The Buc-ee’s store in Crossville, Tenn., is now open.

The Sevierville Tennessee location, which is projected to open in the summer of 2023, will offer the same Buc-ee’s staples as its Texan counterparts such as fresh BBQ, homemade fudge, their popular Beaver Nuggets, jerky, kolaches, fresh pastries and of course, their famous Buc-ee’s Brisket Sandwich.

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Is there a Buc-ee’s in Sevierville TN?

Construction is currently underway. The new location for this massive convenience store will be Exit 407 on I-40 in Sevierville, TN.

Sevierville, for the uninitiated, is the gateway to popular tourist attractions including Dollywood in Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Exit 407 is one of the most heavily traveled sections of interstate in the country. 

For many, it will be the first stop when they come to town for their family vacation.

The gargantuan Buc-ee’s will be located on land owned by Kituwah, LLC and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The land was acquired previously after being dormant for years due to a failed development. 

How big is Buc-ee’s in Sevierville TN?

Buc-ee’s will cover a whopping 74,000 square feet of the 200-acre development.

It will provide a mind-blowing total of 120 fueling positions, EV charging stations and a car wash (nearly the length of a football field). 

The previous largest Buc-ee’s location came in at 66,000 square feet.

Read Also: Things to do, area attractions in the Smoky Mountains

an aerial view of construction site of buc-ee's in sevierville tn
Construction progress at the Sevierville Buc-ee’s in September 2022 (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

In short, it’s going to be a big dang deal 

As a side note, I’m glad. I’ve been less than impressed with the gas stations near Exit 407 of late. Recently, I pulled into one – which shall remain nameless – and none of the gas pumps were working correctly. 

Did they have any signs that let me know? Nope. They just let me drive from pump to pump like a fool.

In addition, several of the bathrooms at those stations near the exit are extremely sketchy. However, the humongous Buc-ee’s features world-famous clean potties.  

In fact, their website claims you can “potty like a rock star”.

Anyway, I welcome our beaver-loving, gas station overlords.

Somewhere, a single tear drips down the face of the giant papier-mache head of NASCAR legend Richard Petty that used to sit on a bluff at a gas station located where the Beef Jerky outlet now sits.

Which reminds me, Buc-ee’s should totally drop the beaver mascot and bring that giant papier-mache head back. It would fit with the theme of the development, “The 407: Gateway to Adventure”. 

What says adventure more than a giant foam-like head of an aging NASCAR legend? 

But I digress.

Fresh fruit at buc-ee's
Buc-ee’s is well known for its wide assortment of snacks, including healthier options like fruit cups and salads (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

Does Buc-ee’s have food?

As for the rest, I’m sorry to say the opening salvo of the Buc-ee’s press release promising clean bathrooms, fresh food and friendly beavers was simply a Trojan horse. A way to get my jaded eyes to read past the first paragraph.

Once they’d grabbed my attention, it was time for regular press release synergistic hyperbole of carefully curated exciting words in which everybody gets a little too worked up about gas station barbecue and its potential to affect positive change in the world.  

“Buc-ee’s is known for pristine bathrooms, a large amount of fueling positions, friendly service, Buc-ee’s apparel and fresh, delicious food,” reads the original press release.

“Originally launched and still headquartered in Texas, Buc-ee’s has combined traditional quality and modern efficiency to redefine traveling for their customers.”

Read Also: What is the best food at Buc-ee’s? 18 top Buc-ee’s snacks, ranked

a closer aerial view of buc-ee's building shows outlined construction for the new buc-ee's in sevierville tn
The new Buc-ee’s in Sevierville is part of a larger development at Exit 407 (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

Other notable developments at Exit 407

Developers indicated that the rest of the site will feature a “world-class” golf attraction, (Editor’s Note: It better be a Top Golf) a go-kart facility and a distillery experience. 

Throw in a place to get some pancakes and you’ll have distilled the entire Smokies experience into one 200-acre site. 

Additionally, European theme park company Puy Du Fou is bringing a unique historical attraction to the site. The immersive show will be inspired by Cherokee Indians who served in World War I.

When will Buc-ee’s in Sevierville, TN open?

The Sevierville Buc-ee’s is projected to open in the summer of 2023, according to job postings from the company.

The site seems to be making considerable progress, as shown in the construction photos, taken in late September 2022.

Buc-ee's Storefront
Buc-ee’s, known for its food and clean restrooms, is bringing its largest location yet to Sevierville (photo courtesy of Buc-ee’s)

Why Sevierville, TN?

For Buc-ee’s officials, the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains is the ideal stop to build their Taj Mahal of travel plazas. But don’t take my word for it, just ask Stan Beard, Director of Real Estate for Buc-ee’s.

“It is not a coincidence that we chose the 407 as our first big store location outside of Texas. We will be the proverbial welcome sign at the front door of the exceptional travel experience that the Smoky Mountains, Sevierville and Sevier County have to offer. You won’t forget your first visit to Buc-ee’s and it won’t be your last!” the exclamation point enthusiast said.

“We are thrilled to share our over-the-top customer experience and be a pivotal part of the Kituwah and EBCI vision for the Gateway to Adventure.”

And we’ve not even mentioned the best part.

What’s the only thing more exciting than giant gas stations and beef jerky you might ask?

Jobs.

Buc-ee’s will bring many permanent, full-time jobs with benefits to the region. And starting pay is above minimum wage.

Are you familiar with this popular chain from the Lone Star state? Will you be starting out your Smoky Mountain adventure with a stop at Buc-ee’s?

Let us know in the comments below!  

View the web story version of this article here.

Soaky Mountain vs Splash Country: Which water park is better?

Let’s admit it, there are a ton of attractions in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville competing for your vacation dollar nowadays. Thus, the competition can be quite fierce.

We’ve written about several of these head-to-head battles in Sevier County before – including The Peddler vs Alamo, Anakeesta vs Ober Gatlinburg, Pirates Voyage vs Dolly’s Stampede and Lumberjack Feud vs Hatfield and McCoy. Just to name a few.

But today, we want to compare two of Sevier County’s most popular summertime attractions: Dollywood’s Splash Country and Soaky Mountain – the area’s two largest outdoor water parks.

First, we break down several key factors including rides, slides, shade, cabanas, food and drink and affordability.

Then, we will answer a few of the internet’s most frequently asked questions about the two attractions.

Finally, we will declare a winner.

Splash Country is Dollywood's sister park (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Splash Country is Dollywood’s sister park (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Splash Country vs Soaky Mountain: A comparison

1. Who owns the two parks?

Let’s begin with the topic of ownership and overall operations.

Dollywood’s Splash Country, like Dollywood itself, is operated by Herschend Family Entertainment in partnership with Dolly Parton.

Soaky Mountain is owned and operated by Wilderness Resorts and Waterparks (who also own and operate Wilderness at the Smokies).

The winner in this category: Splash Country. All hail the queen.

Soaky Mountain is the newer of the two parks having just opened in 2020 (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)
Soaky Mountain is the newer of the two parks having just opened in 2020 (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

2. Which park is newer?

Next, let’s take a look at which is newer.

Splash Country is the older of the two parks. In fact, it originally opened in 2001. In other words, Soaky Mountain is considerably newer having just opened in 2020.

While, in our humble opinion, both parks are doing a great job of keeping things looking up to date, Soaky Mountain’s newness is noticeable. Everything is just a little newer, a little brighter, and a bit more modern than its Splash Country counterpart.

And as a relatively new waterpark, semantics also feel a bit more well thought out at Soaky Mountain.

For instance, one of our biggest complaints about Splash Country is the scorching hot floorboards that surround the lines and the dismount areas. They actually keep signs posted throughout the park warning riders to keep their shoes and sandals on until they are ready to board.

Soaky Mountain simply used heat-resistant materials that don’t get quite as hot in the sun on their ride queues. One can easily stand barefoot while waiting to ride the Avalaunch Watercoaster without a care for their bare little tootsies.

The winner in this category: Soaky Mountain.

Soaky Mountain has more slides and attractions than Splash Country, but its variety of attractions is what really makes them special (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)
Soaky Mountain has more slides and attractions than Splash Country. But it’s the variety of attractions that really makes them special (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

3. Which has more water slides?

Now, let’s talk about slides and rides.

While Soaky Mountain is bigger – coming in at 50 acres vs Splash Country’s 35-acre blueprint – the two are actually quite similar in the rides department.

At the time of this writing, Splash Country has four float slides (two family-style), a water coaster, three body slides, three water mat slides, two children’s play areas, a regular pool, a wave pool and a lazy river.

It is also important to note that some attractions at Splash Country and Soaky Mountain have multiple tubes listed under the same attraction. But for the sake of simplicity, we will just count multi-tube attractions as one.

Not to be outdone, Soaky Mountain, at the time of this writing, has six float slides (two family-style), two watercoasters*, one boogie board surf simulator, two children’s play areas, one wave pool, one not-so-lazy river, a water obstacle course – Slippery Salamanders – and one regular pool.

And also for bonus points, one of the children’s play areas at Soaky – Boomer’s Bay – features pint-sized smaller versions of some of the adult slides including Mini Mayhem and Lil Rattlers. Our staff thinks this is a very nice touch. In particular, it’s a great way to make the whole family feel included.

However, again, for the sake of simplicity, we aren’t adding those mini slides to the slide count as they are really just a small part of the kid’s play area.

Soaky Mountain also has multiple tubes listed as the same attraction, so to keep things fair, we will count those as one just as we did for Splash Country.

*Soaky Mountain’s latest water coaster, The Edge, is still under construction and is set to debut in summer 2022.

Attractions at Splash Country vs Soaky Mountain
Attraction TypeSplash CountrySoaky Mountain
Float Slides46
Mat Slides32
Surf Simulator01
Body Slides32
Water Coasters12
Kid’s Play Areas22
Wave Pools11
Lazy Rivers**11
Wave Pools11
Normal Pools11
Obstacle Course01
Attractions at Splash Country vs Soaky Mountain

In total, Splash Country has 17 separate attractions. Soaky Mountain has 20.

And finally, Soaky Mountain also boasts a better variety of unique water attractions.

The winner in this category: Soaky Mountain.

Avalaunch is Soaky's original water coaster (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)
Avalaunch is Soaky’s original water coaster (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

4. Which has better slides and rides?

This one is a bit of a toss-up as we think slide preference is really very subjective.

Do you prefer float slides? Soaky Mountain is going to be your jam.

Or perhaps you prefer high-intensity body slides or a good head-first mat racing challenge. If so, you’re better off at Splash Country.

If you have little kids, we recommend Soaky Mountain for their mini slides.

But if you like lazy rivers that are actually lazy, you’ll prefer Splash.

Or if waves are more your thing, you’re going to love Soaky Surge – Soaky Mountain’s gigantic 35,000 square foot wave pool.

So for this category, we are just going to go with the overall staff opinion on which is better.

Winner for this category: Soaky Mountain. By a hair.

Splash Country has a true lazy river, whereas Soaky Mountain's is more of an thrill ride (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Splash Country has a true lazy river, whereas Soaky Mountain’s is more of a thrill ride (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

5. Which has a better lazy river?

Again, this is going to come down to personal preference. However, I cannot stress enough that the “lazy” rivers at Soaky Mountain and Splash Country couldn’t be any more different.

Splash Country’s lazy river is everything you’d expect out of a traditional lazy river attraction. Surely, no explanation is needed.

Conversely, as Soaky Mountain clearly states in all of their marketing materials – their river is not a lazy river.

In fact, their river attraction is more like rapids. Thus the name, Black Bear Rapids.

It starts just like any normal lazy river might. Riders grab a float and begin their peaceful journey down a cool, calm mountain stream via tube. That’s when all heck breaks loose.

Specifically, every few minutes, a wave machine produces a monster wave that creates a massive ripple effect that spans nearly the entire length of the 24,000 square foot ride.

Of course, it’s fun. But it’s definitely not lazy.

We kinda wish that Soaky Mountain had followed Universal’s Volcano Bay suit by having two rivers – one lazy and one not. So again, we are just going to go with our personal preference on this one.

Winner in this category: Splash Country. We prefer to be lazy.

Soaky Mountain recently added more shaded areas to their park (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Soaky Mountain recently added more shaded areas to their park (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

6. Which park has more shade?

We think you will find this one to be a bit surprising.

Soaky Mountain has more shade. In fact, there is no comparison.

Certainly, Soaky Mountain, on the surface, looks like a concrete jungle. Especially compared to Splash Country’s lush mountain landscape.

But this is just one of those things that Soaky does best – they focus on the guest experience. And it shows.

At Soaky, there are giant-sized umbrellas covering almost every lounger. And also, there are loads of shaded areas to relax and enjoy.

Splash Country only has a couple of shaded pavilions – mostly near the kid splash pad area – and when those are full your only option is upgrading to a private cabana. Boo.

Winner in this category: Soaky Mountain. By a landslide (mountain joke).

Splash Country's deluxe cabanas are nothing short of bougie (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Splash Country’s deluxe cabanas are nothing short of bougie (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

7. Which park has better cabanas?

Here, we wanted to automatically deduct points from Splash Country because they make us feel forced to upgrade to cabanas for shade on a sunny day due to their lack of shaded rest areas.

But we will strive to be impartial here.

Soaky Mountain has two main cabana-style options. Each comes at an extra cost to admission.

Soaky Mountain's clamshell cabanas provide simple shade (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Soaky Mountain’s clamshell cabanas provide simple shade (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Soaky Mountain Clamshell Cabanas

The first option is the Clamshell Cabana. Clamshell Cabanas are nothing special. Additionally, in our humble opinion, mostly a waste of money. They are nothing more than little pop-up tents that fit over two loungers with a small table in between.

The biggest benefit to renting these loungers is the host drink service that’s included. These loungers start at $50 per day, but we more often see them run between $75-$99. Yikes.

Soaky Mountain's Tents include food and beverage service (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Soaky Mountain’s Tents include food and beverage service (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Soaky Mountain Tents

The second option at Soaky Mountain is the Soaky Tent, which comes in three sizes with seating for 8-16 guests. The smaller tents start at $129.99 per day. The largest tents start at $169.99 per day. But just a warning, we frequently see both going for nearly double those introductory prices during peak season.

Each tent is equipped with:

  • comfortable seating
  • a table and chairs
  • food and drink host service (cost of food and drink not included)
  • a ceiling fan
  • power outlets

If you have a lot of people in your group and are planning on spending the entire day at the amusement park, we think these tent cabanas at Soaky Mountain are absolutely worth every penny.

Soaky Mountain Cabana Comparison
Soaky Mountain Cabana TypeClamshell LoungerTent Cabanas
Drink ServiceYesYes
Food ServiceYes
Secure StorageYes
Ceiling FanYes
Power OutletsYesYes
Dining TableYes
Cost$50+$129+
Soaky Mountain Cabana Features

After you’ve been pressured into buying a cabana for lack of shaded options at Splash Country, you’ll be glad to know that there are three primary options from which you can choose.

Splash Country's Luxury Liners are similar to Soaky Mountain's Clamshells (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Splash Country’s Luxury Loungers are similar to Soaky Mountain’s Clamshells (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Splash Country Luxury Loungers

First, we have the Luxury Loungers – which are similar to Soaky Mountain’s clamshells.

These are nothing more than little pop-up tents that fit over two lounge chairs with a small lockbox. But unlike Soaky Mountain, they do not include beverage service. They start at $45 per day.

Splash Country's Canopies offer an affordable mid-priced option (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Splash Country’s Canopies offer an affordable mid-priced option (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Splash Country Canopies

Next up, we have the Canopies. The Canopies resemble mini wooden sheds. Each provides 65 square feet of shade and features two chaise lounge chairs with a lockbox.

These Canopies offer actual privacy vs the loungers but are still rather tiny and do not include drink service. Prices start at $65 per day.

Splash Country Retreats are for Smokies guests who prefer laps of luxury to laps in the pool (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Splash Country Retreats are for Smokies guests who prefer laps of luxury to laps in the pool (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Splash Country Retreats

Finally, we have the Retreats. The Splash Country Retreat Cabanas come in two different varieties: A Basic Retreat, and a Deluxe Retreat.

The Basic Retreat features 200 square feet of shaded space and a 100 square foot sun deck. Retreats can house up to 8 people with a maximum occupancy of 10 (you have to pay extra for persons #9 and #10).

Retreats start at $210 per day and again, we think are absolutely worth the price, especially if you have a big family.

All Retreats include a:

  • satellite television
  • ceiling fan
  • dining table and chairs
  • lounge chairs
  • secure storage
  • food and drink service (cost of food and drink not included)

ADA accessible Retreats are also available.

The Deluxe Retreat is just like the Basic Retreat only it also includes:

  • additional seating
  • additional lounge chairs
  • bar counter
  • a refrigerator

Deluxe Retreats start at $325 per day.

Personally, we don’t really see the value for the extra $100. As a result, we would recommend just sticking to the Basic Retreat.

Splash Country Cabanas Comparison
Splash Country Cabana TypeLuxury LoungerCanopyRetreatDeluxe Retreat
Drink Service (Bottled/Dry)YesYes
Food ServiceYesYes
Secure StorageYesYesYesYes
Ceiling FansYesYes
Dining TableYesYes
FridgeYes
TelevisionYesYes
Cost$45+$65+$210+$325+
Splash Country Cabana Features

If we had to pick a winner in this category, overall it’s a tough call. We think Dollywood’s Retreats are more comfortable than the tents.

Splash Country also has more options in this category. Not entirely helpful options, but more options all the same. After all, who is really going to buy the Luxury Lounger over the Canopy?

But then again we also like the fact that all of Soaky’s options feature beverage service which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but as y’all know, waiting in lines at waterparks just to get a drink is no fun.

It’s also helpful to add that Soaky has adult beverages too. Splash Country is dry.

However, this category isn’t about who offers better service or better food. This is about who has the better cabanas. And for that, there is, we believe, a clear winner.

Winner in this category: Splash Country.

Food and drink are not permitted in either park. But Soaky Mountain does allow sealed water bottles, and there are plenty of great food and drink selections available at each park for an extra charge (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Food and drink are not permitted in either park. But Soaky Mountain does allow sealed water bottles. And there are plenty of great food and drink selections available at each park for an extra charge (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

8. Can you bring your own food and drink?

You cannot bring outside food and drink to Soaky Mountain. Nor can you bring outside food and drink to Splash Country.

But you can, however, bring one sealed bottle of water or an empty plastic water bottle (to refill as needed) to Soaky Mountain.

Likewise, you can bring empty water bottles to Splash Country.

And also, both parks provide free tap water in disposable cups to guests.

But never fear, there are plenty of other food and drink options available at each park – for an extra charge.

Winner in this category: Soaky Mountain. Thanks for the bottled water.

We love Splash Country's Beavertails. However, Soaky Mountain has more food options overall (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
We love Splash Country’s Beavertails. However, Soaky Mountain has more food options overall (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

9. Which has better food?

Both parks have solid food options, ya know, for a water park. Long gone are the days when your theme park food was limited to hot dogs and a bag of chips (looking at you Ogle’s Waterpark).

We particularly enjoy the Beavertails at Splash Country, which are fried on location as you order so they are always warm and fresh.

But Soaky, as we said before, also has its fair share of sweet treats (shoutout to the Soaky Shake Shoppe – YUM) including adult beverages and specialty food trucks like Philly Up and the Tacolicious.

Who doesn’t love specialty tacos after a long day in the water?

We also love Soaky’s Base Camp Bistro.

In fact, we almost hate to say it, as we’ve given them so many points already, but we think Soaky Mountain overall has the better food options.

Winner in this category: Soaky Mountain. Cheers!

Soaky Mountain is the more affordable of the two waterparks. Plus, at Soaky, you get to wear your season pass on your wrist (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Soaky Mountain is the more affordable of the two waterparks. Plus, at Soaky, you get to wear your season pass on your wrist (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

10. Which is cheaper?

Finally, let’s talk about affordability.

At the time of this writing, daily admission to Splash Country costs $54.95 per adult (ages 10-61). And a 2-day water park ticket runs at $74.95 per adult, and a 3-day water park ticket runs at $84.95.

Multi-park tickets and season passes are also available.

Sometimes you can also save a bit of money by purchasing your Splash Country tickets on Tripster.

Soaky Mountain’s pricing is all over the place because they run so many specials throughout the year. But on average, daily ticket prices run between $39.99-$47.99 per adult.

Check the Soaky Mountain website for current specials.

And of course, season passes are available at both locations. Prices vary seasonally.

As a general rule of thumb, if you plan to go more than twice to either park, a season pass is probably going to be a good idea.

Winner in this category: Again, Soaky Mountain.

oaky Mountain is a seasonal outdoor waterpark that's usually open between May-September each year (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)
Soaky Mountain is a seasonal outdoor waterpark that’s usually open between May-September each year (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

Frequently asked questions about Splash Country and Soaky Mountain

1. Is Soaky Mountain indoor?

No, Soaky Mountain is not an indoor water park. However, its sister attraction, Wilderness at the Smokies across the street is partially an indoor water park.

2. Does Soaky Mountain have a lazy river?

Sort of. Soaky Mountain has a river attraction, but it is not lazy. It is actually more of a thrill ride. They call it an adventure river instead of a lazy river.

3. Does Dolly Parton own Splash Country?

Splash Country is owned and operated by Herschend Family Entertainment in partnership with Dolly Parton.

4. Can you do Dollywood and Splash Country in one day?

Anything is possible. However, we would recommend against doing Dollywood and Splash Country in one day. There’s a lot to see and do in each park. Personally, we consider Dollywood to be a 2-day park, and Splash Country a 1-day park.

Trying to cram both parks into a single day isn’t advised.

5. What’s the best ride at Soaky Mountain?

Our favorite rides at Soaky Mountain are Rainbow Revenge, Blue Mountain Mayhem and Avalaunch.

Rainbow Revenge is a five-person raft ride. As is Blue Mountain Mayhem. Avalaunch is a water coaster.

We also suspect we will fall in love with The Edge coaster when it opens later this year.

Honestly, we are just suckers for water coasters and thrill rides in general.

6. What’s the best ride at Splash Country?

Our favorite rides at Splash Country are the Raging River Rapids, RiverRush and the Downbound Float Trip.

Raging River Rapids is one of two family-style rides in the park. RiverRush is Splash Country’s only watercoaster. Furthermore, the Downbound Float Trip is a classic lazy river ride.

Nice and relaxing as God intended.

7. Is the water heated at Splash Country and Soaky Mountain?

The water is not heated at either Splash Country or Soaky Mountain. With nary a hot tub in sight at either location.

Therefore, on a cool day, prepare to freeze your tush off. It’s all part of the Smoky Mountain experience.

In conclusion, we really love both parks. It's hard to choose just one. I mean how can you say no to this cute little beaver face? (photo by Alaina O'Neal/TheSmokies.com)
In conclusion, we really love both parks. It’s hard to choose just one. I mean how can you say no to this cute little beaver face? (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Conclusion: Which water park is better?

If we were going off of points alone, Soaky Mountain would be the clear winner here.

Indeed, our staff mostly tends to prefer Soaky to Splash for all of the reasons mentioned above. Specifically, it’s a modern park, with a better variety of rides and food options. It’s also a park that really caters to the guest experience.

However, it is important to note that we also genuinely love Splash Country.

All in all, the parks are very similar, but also very unique.

If you only have one day to dedicate to a water park on your next visit to the Smoky Mountains, consider going to Soaky Mountain. However, if you have two days, go to both. We think your entire family will have a great time either way.

And don’t forget to check Tripster for discounts.

Splash Country is located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.

Soaky Mountain is located at 175 Gists Creek Road, Sevierville, TN 37876.

Which water park do you prefer? Do you agree with our review? Let us know in the comments below.

Things to do in downtown Sevierville TN, is it better than Gatlinburg?

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to escape my home office and enjoy one of my favorite things during a workday: Work on site.

Our staff at TheSmokies.com had a long list of photos that we needed of new attractions and new restaurants around the Smokies, so we split up. I took Sevierville, and the rest of my team headed to Gatlinburg.

As they looked for parking and fought the crowds of downtown Gatlinburg, I was walking around a nearly deserted downtown Sevierville.

And it made me realize that guests who visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park may be overlooking this area.

A sign about the history of downtown Sevierville
Signage about the history of Sevierville can be found throughout downtown (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

What is there to do in downtown Sevierville?

After reconvening with the team, we agreed downtown Sevierville is often overlooked.

We even argued back and forth if it should be called “little Gatlinburg”.

Now, does Sevierville have a different overall vibe than Gatlinburg? Yes. Are there more fun things to do in downtown Gatlinburg? Also yes.

Are we firing the staff member who wanted to call it “little Gatlinburg”? Nah.

But, if you like to be adjacent to the mountains, and want to walk around while observing some landmarks and having access to some of the highest quality restaurants, you could reasonably trade a bit of time in downtown Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge for Sevierville instead.

Especially if you’re not a fan of the crowds.

The city went through a renovation project not too long ago which improved the look and feel of the downtown area and made it more pedestrian-friendly.

And the Sevierville Convention Center is a great place to hold or visit special events.

Read Also: Tips on how to avoid traffic in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

A canvas of Dolly Parton hangs in Honeybee Coffee
A canvas of Dolly Parton inside the Honeybee Coffee Co. near downtown Sevierville (photo by Kimberly Grayson/TheSmokies.com)

Downtown Sevierville shopping

There aren’t nearly as many shops specifically in downtown Sevierville as there are in Gatlinburg.

It’s mostly offices, yoga studios or banks. But still, you have a handful of options:

If you like crafting, be sure to check out The Cherry Pit Quilt Shop, where you will find a wide selection of fabrics, books and sewing accessories.

Sweet Pea & Ivy is also a hidden gem in the downtown area. It features home and garden decor, jewelry, candles, cards and gourmet foods, all arranged in an 1800s vintage home. Note, it is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Beyond 436 offers a variety of hand-selected accessories and home decor. Here you’ll find clothing, home accessories, candles and purses. Beyond 436 is also closed on Mondays and Sundays.

If you venture away from downtown, Tanger Outlets in Sevierville easily offers some of the area’s best deals, so I would consider it worth the drive.

Graze Burgers downtown Sevierville
Graze Burgers is one of the most popular restaurants in downtown Sevierville (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Downtown Sevierville restaurants

If you spend an afternoon in downtown Sevierville, there’s a good chance you’ll spend a lot of that time eating some great food.

Graze Burgers is famous for its locally sourced, grass-fed beef and family-friendly atmosphere. On select nights, they have live entertainment on the patio.

If you’re looking for a more upscale experience, The Appalachian offers a romantic aesthetic with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

The main menu features include chicken, duck breast, pork, burgers, fish and a variety of steaks.

Read Also: New restaurant opens in downtown featuring Appalachian cuisine

Seasons 101 provides another upscale dining option in Sevierville at the Historic Central Hotel. It offers signature dishes and best of all (in my opinion) accepts reservations.

Hickory Cabin Restaurant is a hidden gem located on Joy Street in Sevierville. Its specialty features sweet, southern barbecue with a house-made, top-secret seasoning.

And if you’re in the mood for a pick-me-up, Honeybee Coffee Co. offers some of the best coffee in the entire area.

What is there to do in Sevierville TN for free?

If you are exploring downtown, you can take a free walking tour.

Multiple greenways are available, including the West Prong Greenway which offers views of the Little Pigeon River.

If you want to venture outside of downtown, one of my favorite “free” things to do in Sevierville visiting The Apple Barn Cider Mill.

The area is free to explore, but you’ll probably be tempted to let go of a little cash once you smell the apple fritters.

You can also sample wine and apple cider while you’re here. The tastings are free, but tips are always recommended.

Read Also: 4 reasons you should visit the Apple Barn in Sevierville this fall

3 points of interest in downtown Sevierville TN

If you wish to do a tour of downtown Sevierville, walking tour brochures are available for free near the Dolly Parton statue. They can also be found online here.

As you walk around, you’ll also see additional signage about the city and its history. You can also check out the Visitors Bureau for more information.

Be sure not to miss a few of my favorite spots:

Dolly Parton Statue downtown Sevierville
A Dolly Parton statue sits outside the Sevier County Courthouse (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

1. The Dolly Parton statue

Crafted by artist Jim Gray, the statue was built in front of the Sevier County courthouse to honor the hometown hero, Dolly Parton.

In an interview, Dolly once said that her dad would go down to the courthouse to clean off her statue for her while he was still alive.

She said that he would tell her, “To your fans, you may be some sort of an idol, but to the pigeons down at the courthouse, you’re just another outhouse.”

All joking aside, Dolly has said she is very proud of this statue. Plus, it’s probably the closest thing I’ll personally ever get to a selfie with her, so I’ll take it.

2. Jackson Magnolia tree

Did you know that a piece of White House history grows in Sevierville? The Jackson Magnolia tree has quite the history behind it.

In the 1800s, Andrew Jackson took a seedling from his wife’s favorite magnolia and planted it at the White House.

A seedling from that tree was shared with Senator Howard Baker, who planted it and has since provided a seedling from his tree to Judge Rex Henry Ogle, who donated it to the City of Sevierville. It is near the Bruce Street Gazebo.

Wings of Wander mural downtown Sevierville
The Wings of Wander mural is located along E Main Street in downtown Sevierville (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

3. Wings of Wander mural

During part of the city’s renovation projects, some murals can now be seen around downtown.

For an Instagram photo opportunity, look for a set of wings that are inspired by Dolly herself.

The Wings of Wander was done by local artist Pinkie Mistry and features a monarch butterfly, inspired by Dolly’s song “Love is Like a Butterfly”.

There’s also another mural downtown that depicts a young, blonde child enjoying a burger at Red’s Cafe, a former Sevierville restaurant that young Dolly was said to have favorited.

Things to explore nearby

A popular restaurant that is also in Sevierville, but not downtown, is the Five Oaks Farm Kitchen.

And of course, if you like Dolly Parton, you’ll want to visit her namesake park Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, which I would say ranks as one of the best theme parks in the country. Her waterpark, Dollywood’s Splash Country is also nearby in Pigeon Forge.

If you’re staying in Sevierville, be sure to also check out Soaky Mountain Waterpark, located just off the Parkway. It is one of the newer attractions in the Smokies area.

And above all else, don’t skip out on what made the Smokies famous: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

What are your favorite things to do in downtown Sevierville, Tennessee? Let us know in the comments.