5 Places Where the Celebrities Go in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

dolly parton, guy fieri and paula deen in the smoky mountains

The Smoky Mountains naturally attract a variety of celebrities – both celebs who want to invest and build in the area and celebs who simply want to vacation (photos by John Gullion & Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

The Smoky Mountains are a popular destination for celebrities, these are some of the locations where they’ve been sighted

I’ve lived in the area for more than 30 years. So I’m not surprised at this point when I hear about a celebrity visiting the Smokies. Over the years massive stars like Channing Tatum, Jason Momoa, Katie Perry and Nicole Kidman have been seen around the mountains. I’m never surprised to hear about a visit. But I would be and have been very surprised to run into a celeb. It’s not like Hollywood or New York where any street corner could lead to a chance reaction. Typically, when big stars come to the mountains, they move incognito or with enough of a team to keep some measure of privacy. 

Celeb visits to the Smokies aren’t everyday occurrences but they do happen enough that it never hurts to keep your head on a swivel. From reality stars to sports stars to actors and singers and musicians, you never know who you’ll run into on a visit to the Smoky Mountains. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the places that will increase your luck. 

dolly parton at dollywood
Of course, you could see Dolly at the theme park but many other celebrities have visited as well (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

1. Dollywood

Celebrities Spotted: Dolly Parton, Jimmy Fallon, Willie Nelson, Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Katy Perry, Nicole Kidman & Keith Urban

Dollywood, of course, is the No. 1 spot for celeb sightings. Not just Dolly herself, but a myriad of stars who love Dolly have visited the park before. Sometimes, it’s to shoot for a television special – like Jimmy Fallon or Willie Nelson. But sometimes it’s just to enjoy the park. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban posted a Valentine’s picture from Dollywood a few years ago. Since the park is closed in February, it seems they had visited earlier around the holiday season. Katy Perry is another star who got the full Dollywood experience, riding coasters and tearing up turkey legs. When can you spot a celeb at Dollywood? I keep an eye on events at Thompson Boling Arena – the largest concert venue in East Tennessee. There’s always a chance a big headliner from TBA – which is now called the Food City Center or something – will visit. 

A few years ago, when Paul McCartney played Knoxville for the first time, I expected photos of Paul in the park. Dolly is one of the few celebs on Earth who is in Paul’s orbit, and it just seemed natural. Alas, it didn’t happen. Or if it did, nobody told the public. When Weird Al was in town at the Tennessee Theatre, he mentioned he and the band had spent an off day exploring Pigeon Forge incognito. Honestly? A Weird Al sighting might be the best get of all the celebs I’ve heard of visiting the mountains. 

xtreme racing center
Some celebrities have been spotted at go-kart venues such as Xtreme Racing (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

2. Area Go Kart Tracks

Celebrities Spotted: Miley Cyrus & Ashley Judd.

It turns out that celebs ARE just like us. Well, not really. But when they come to the mountains it’s often to do the same stuff, we like to do, including the go kart tracks. A young Miley Cyrus was spotted racing go karts in Sevierville a few years ago as was Ashley Judd. When you get out there on the track be careful who you’re ramming into. 

Guy Fieri at ribbon cutting
Guy Fieri makes an appearance at the ribbon cutting for Downtown Flavortown in Pigeon Forge (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

3. Celebrity owned restaurants

Celebrities Spotted: Blake Shelton, Paula Deen & Guy Fieri.

How often is Blake Shelton at Ole Red’s or Jason Aldean at his place? Not very often, but it is a possibility if you book a table, you might get a rare sighting. Celebrity chefs Paula Deen and Guy Fieri each have a place in Pigeon Forge. And Paula Deen makes regular guest appearances on JTV which is based in nearby Knoxville, TN.

So how likely is it to spot one of these celebs when they are in town? It’s a long shot. But its certainly not zero.

4. Blackberry Farm

Celebrities Spotted: Neil Patrick Harris, Maren Morris, Jessee Tyler Ferguson & Carrie Underwood.

There are quite exclusive and expensive places to stay in the Smokies, like Blackberry Farm where Neil Patrick Harris and his family spent some time in 2019. Maren Morris, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Carrie Underwood have also stayed at the exclusive resort. I will say, however, of all the places you might meet a celeb, the place where they’re staying with their family is probably the one where you should leave them alone. If you bump into Katie Perry at Huck’s fried catfish place, be polite, and don’t interrupt the meal but approaching before or after wouldn’t be out of line. At their B&B, feels like we’re crossing a line somehow. 

Tim and Howard on "Moonshiners"
Some of the “Moonshiners” stars have visited the area as well (media photo)

5. Sponsored events

Celebrities Spotted: Multiple.

Be it a moonshine distillery or a gift shop, each year there are several promotional appearances by celebrities whose Q rating might not be as high as Katy Perry or Nicole Kidman. There are quite a few reality TV stars from the area. For instance, shows like Big Brother, Moonshiners, the Voice or America’s Got Talent. Every so often a business owner will try to drum up some interest by having them appear and have a meet and greet. Some of the musical acts might perform at one of the venues in town. In addition, you might see an actor or actress who had large success in the past – we’re talking Dukes of Hazzard level here – but haven’t had a hit in quite some time. 

Celebrity sightings in the Smokies are a bit like a shooting star. You just never know when they’re going to happen or who you might see. If you want a star-studded vacation, you’d be better off going to LA or New York. But if you want a Smokies vacation with a once-in-a-lifetime chance, the above places are your best shot. 

Are you planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains? Be sure to check out our coupons page for area promos.

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