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25 Things to Do in the Fall

Fall Foliage, Wildlife Viewing, Apple Picking, Photo Tours - just the beginning of many things to do in the Fall in Knoxville and surrounding areas.

cabins usa

Also see: Great Fall Getaways

1. Fall Foliage
fall foliage
Enjoy Tennessee's beautiful Smoky Mountains in the Fall. Fall foliage viewing begins around the first of October and continues through the second week in November. Either driving in the comfort of your car or hiking to get closer to nature, there are trails for all to enjoy the colorful Fall foliage throughout the Great Smoky Mountains. Looking for brilliant reds, gold, yellow, orange and brown? You will find it seeing yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple, hobblebush and pin cherry among 100 species of native trees here. With over 10 millions visitors each year, it's clear why this land is for those who love the outdoors.
2. Train Ride
great smoky mountains railroad
In autumn, the mountains of Western NC are a dramatic display of fiery sugar maples, buttery poplars and crimson oaks. Enjoy the cool crisp air of fall from an Open Air Gondolas or a First Class Car. The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad provides you with the best seat in the house! Take in ALL the colors of this autumn canvas masterpiece! In the month of October enjoy one these fantastic excursions!

Nantahala Gorge Excursion: This 4 ½ hour westbound excursion carries you 44 miles to the Nantahala Gorge and back again. Travel the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers across Fontana Lake and into the magic of the Nantahala Gorge

Tuckasegee River Excursion This 32 mile roundtrip excursion travels eastbound along the Tuckasegee River through old railroad towns and scenic meadows. The train ventures into the historic Cowee Tunnel before passing the movie The Fugitive train wreck. The approximate 4 hour trip includes a 1 ½ hour layover in the town of Dillsboro.

3. Cookie Bake for First Responders and Public Servants
cookie bake
Surprise your local first responders and public servants with a batch of homemade cookies. Firemen, policemen, first responders -- those who are there to help and protect us. Let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.

Organize a group of adults or children and plan a day to bake cookies and deliver them to your local fire station, police station, or hospital. It is probably a good idea to contact them ahead of time to let them know you will be delivering the cookies.

4. Hay Rides
hay ride
Gatlinburg offers old fashioned hayrides through the streets of downtown Gatlinburg. As fall begins in the Smoky Mountains, take this fun filled hayride and enjoy breath taking views of our beautiful mountain foliage. Departure is at traffic light #6 at the Mountain Mall. Rides leave approximately every 45 minutes, November 1 - December 31.
Call 865-436-3897 for more information.

Cades Cove Riding Stables offers a 1.5 – 2 hour hayride around the Cades Cove Loop Road. Passengers sit on a bed of hay in a trailer pulled by a truck and enjoy an open air view of the scenery of Cades Cove. Reservations are generally required and can be made by calling (865) 448-9009. Rates are $6.00 per person.

Apple Valley Riding Stables has a hayride drawn by a tractor while riding on an old wooden hay wagon.

Life Down on the Farm offers hayrides and a corn maze as well as a firepit for group gatherings on the creek.

5. Apple Picking
apple picking
At Baxter's Orchard in Cosby, TN you can pick every type of apple you could want; Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Milam, Staymen Winesap, York, Rome Beauty, Granny Smith, Jonathon. Get all you can then take home and make apple crisps, caramel apples, apple pie or anything else apple that makes your taste buds soar. Baxter's also has pumpkins.

Open: Early September to late November; Mondays - Sundays, 8:00am-6:00pm.
Map & Directions

6. Fall Festivals
fall festivals
From Norris to Townsend to Gatlinburg there is a Fall festival that will meet your needs. There's the Smoky Mountain Harvest festival which is a county wide celebration that includes craft shows, decorating contests, Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival, Fall Grand Rod Run, Dumplin Valley Bluegrass, Rotary Club Crafts Festival, just to name a few.

The Gatlinburg Craftsmen's Fair is one of the largest fall festivals. Over 200 Craftspeople from around the country assemble to exhibit their historic trades at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. This is an event that consistently attracts the country's finest artists and craft people. One of the items that makes the Gatlinburg Craftsmen's Fair so unique is the fact that the artists not only make their art available for viewing and sale, but they also demonstrate their special talents and skills.

The Museum of Appalachia's "Fall Heritage Day" keeps your toes tappin' and your mouth watering.

Foothills Fall Festival is one of the most anticipated events in the southeast. Nestled at the Foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Maryville, Tennessee hosts three days of amazing world class concerts, juried arts and crafts, and activities, shows, and much more for the whole family.

Annual Fall Apple Festival: 9am - 3pm at Washington Presbyterian Church. Free admission This is one of the longest running Apple Festivals in east Tennessee. All money raised goes to Missions. Fresh cider, apple butter & fried apple pies. Crafts, music and pulled pork & dry rub ribs for lunch.

Wears Valley Fall Fest: 3177 Wears Valley Road. FREE There will be over 150 arts and craft vendors, along with food vendors to stir your appetitite. Locals entertainers and events for children.

Mountain Makins Festival: 10:00am - 5:pm Sat. and 11: - 5:00 Sun. 442 W. 2nd North St., Morristown, TN. Mountain Makins is a weekend folk life festival celebrating the traditions of Appalachia. More than just a fine art and craft show, visitors to the family-friendly event enjoy a variety of activities including two stages of mountain music & storytelling.

7. Golf
There are a number of great golf courses to play in Knoxville and surrounding areas. Enjoy playing at scenic beauty, four-season climate courses while enjoying the views of the Great Smoky Mountains -- from scenic to Championship courses.

Whether you are playing from the par 71, 4,781-yard front tees to the par 70, 5,729-yard back tees, the classic design of Whittle Springs Golf Course has small bent grass greens that vary in undulation, and sloping Bermuda fairways. Bent Creek Golf Course, designed by three time Masters and British Open Championship Winner Gary Player, is a par 72 course. The front nine hugs the valley floor while the back nine offers a challenging mountain course. A beautiful sparkling mountain stream meanders throughout the entire course.

Deadhorse Lake Golf Course offers a par 72 course. The rolling landscape ensures that you never know what to expect on the next hole while Dead Horse Lake appears throughout all 18 holes, keeping you on your toes.

Gatlinburg Golf Course offers the well-seasoned golfer as well as the beginner a challenge on every hole, while its scenic beauty is unsurpassed. The course has been acclaimed as one of the most picturesque courses in America with breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Knoxville Municipal Golf Course is known for its scenic views and for the challenging golfing experience for players of all abilities.

Laurel Valley Golf Course offers beautiful mountain views, an abundance of wildlife, laser leveled tee boxes, and challenging undulating greens.

8. Cozy Cabin Getaway
Sitting around the fireplace in a cozy cabin nestled deep in the heart of the Smokies – Would you rather have economy cabins or lavish ones? The Smokies has them all. From Jacuzzis, rock climbing walls, to romantic hideaways on the lake or in the woods you can find your dream cabin. Bring your camera, your painting canvas, or a good book, and you can relax and unwind with great views of nature. You won't have a shortage of things to do if you want to get out as well.

Find a Cozy Cabin for your Fall Getaway!

9. Pumpkin Patches and Corn Mazes
pumpkin patch
There is not a better way to enjoy Fall than by visiting a pumpkin patch and touring a corn maze.

The Oakes Farm Corn Maze is a very intricate design. Your goal is to find each of 12 different posts hidden in the maze, and then to find your way back out. Another maze features The Farm Scene Investigation Game. A mystery adventure through the corn maze. The corn maze is designed as two separate mazes, one 1.3 miles long, and the other 3 miles. The maze should take 1 to 1 1/2 hours to navigate. (And maybe a little longer at night by flashlight.)

Fifty acres of fun -- at Autumn Acres Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch.

Get Lost in Maple Lane Farms' Annual Corn Maze. This year at the southeast's oldest corn maze activities include a ten acre corn maze (haunted from October 19th through Halloween), pumpkin patch, hayrides, Country Store with collectible memorabilia, rock wall and kid's activities.

Cruze Farm has an 8 acre corn maze that overlooks the French Broad River. Inside the maze you will learn each step required to make our delicious farm-made ice cream. Calves, milk cows, chickens, and churns, they will all be hidden deep within the maze.

Deep Well Farm -- Pumpkin Patch, Hay Rides, Corn Mazes, Hay Maze, Mega Slides, Farm Animals, Tire Swings, Stationary Tractor, Duck Pond, Play Areas, Pavilion, Picnic Areas and Concessions.

Kyker Farms is an authentic farm adventure featuring corn mazes, hayrides, pumpkin patch and much more.

10. View Wildlife
Clearly you can enjoy a number of wildlife in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove, Cataloochee and surrounding areas. You will see bears, white tailed deer, elk, wild turkey, fox and even barn owls.

When you spot wildlife in the National Park, please pull to the side of the road to allow other vehicles to pass and to allow traffic to flow smoothly. Most visitors understand that feeding wildlife is against the law, but many people do not realize that disturbing park wildlife is also a violation of federal regulations and can result in fines and arrest.

Most visitors understand that feeding wildlife is against the law, but many people do not realize that disturbing park wildlife is also a violation of federal regulations and can result in fines and arrest.

The laws protecting park wildlife are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations. It states that “Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces bear or elk is prohibited." In addition, feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife is prohibited.

As a rule of thumb, if you approach an animal so closely that it changes its behavior, you have approached too closely. Instead use binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras with telephoto lenses to enjoy wildlife. Watch for any modification in an animal's behavior that indicates that you have approached too closely. Move away from the animal until you reach a distance at which the animal feels comfortable once again and resumes whatever activity it was engaged in before you approached.

Never feed wildlife or bait animals for closer observation or photography. Feeding park wildlife usually guarantees its demise.

To enjoy wildlife a little closer there is Briarwood Ranch Safari Park (taking a 4 mile safari with animals from 6 continents), Deer Farm Exotic Petting Zoo (pet and feed the animals from reindeer to kangaroos), Dinosaur Walk Museum, Parrot Mountain (tropical birds from all over the world), Rainforest Adventures Discovery Zoo (over 400 live animals), and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies (with over 10,000 exotic sea creatures).

11. Coffee at Coffee & Chocolate
coffee and chocolate
This is a classy, but casual coffee and chocolate shop featuring quality coffee, espresso, baked goods, chocolate and more. Kilwins Knoxville is inspired by imagination, the cultivation of new ideas and taking time to savor good taste. Their passion for brilliant coffee and aesthetic make this café the perfect place to connect, share experience, relax and revive.

Kilwins Knoxville is located on S. Gay Street in downtown Knoxville.

12. Farmers Markets
farmers market knoxville
Knoxville has a variety of farmers markets. Market Square Farmers' Market is an open-air farmers' market located on Market Square in the heart of downtown Knoxville. The market is open every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until late November.
The Knoxville Farmers Market operates on Tuesdays and Fridays, 3 to 6 p.m. through late November. Local farmers, growers and bakers bring a wide variety of products to the market located in the lower parking lot of the Laurel Church of Christ, 3457 Kingston Pike at the corner of Cherokee Boulevard.

Dixie Lee Farmers' Market makes it easy to buy fresh locally grown produce. Saturday mornings from 9 am to noon.

13. White Water Rafting
The Little Pigeon River runs through the heart of the Smoky Mountains. If you want heart-stopping sensations while experiencing rapids for the entire family you won't be disappointed. Class 1 and 2 rapids in the Lower Pigeon are an enjoyment for families with small children under 8 (or 70 lbs.), while class 3 and 4 rapids in the Upper Pigeon are for taking it to the edge. Stretches of river also offer you time to enjoy the breath taking scenery and time to relax. Surrounded by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee National Forest, Martha Sundquist State Forest and the Appalachian Trail, the river has carved its rocky riverbed through some of the most thrilling country in East Tennessee. Whitewater rafting

14. Pumpkin Cooking
Get pumpkins at local farmers' markets or from a pumpkin patch at a local farm. Make pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin butter, and jack-o-lanterns.
15. Tennessee Football
ut vols
The University of Tennessee VOLS play home games at Neyland Stadium. The VOLS are a winning team so far this season. Keep up with the scores.

Image by Thomas Mabry

16. Fall Photography Tours
fall photo tours
Some of the most popular photography spots in the Smokies include:

1. Mount LeConte
2. Cades Cove
3. Cataloochee
4. Clingman's Dome
5. Ramsey Cascades
6. The Mountain Farm Museum
1. Mount LeConte, which is the highest peak in the Eastern part of the United States at an elevation of 6,593 feet
2. Cades Cove with white tailed deer, wild turkey, fox and bear are among the 11-mile one-way loop around the cove which features a grist mill, a variety of barns, three churches, and a marvelous collection of log homes and out buildings
3. Cataloochee which is one of the more picturesque areas of the park with elk being reintroduced to the park in 2001,cabins, fields, morning fog and historic churches and buildings; or
4. Clingman's Dome, which is 6,643 feet and the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the highest point in Tennessee and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. From its observation tower on the summit you can have a 360 degree view of the Smokies and beyond this has a steep half-mile walk to the tower.
5. Don't forget the scenery at Ramsey Cascades. Being the highest waterfall in the Smokies, it follows rushing rivers and streams for most of its length.
6. The Mountain Farm Museum is a unique collection of farm buildings assembled from locations throughout the park. Visitors can go into a log farmhouse, barn, apple house, springhouse, and a working blacksmith shop to feel how it felt to live there 100 years ago. Most of the structures were built in the late 19th century and were moved here in the 1950s. The Davis House offers a unique chance to view a log house built from chestnut wood before the chestnut blight destroyed most of the American Chestnut in the eastern United States during the 1930s and early 1940s.

17. Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours
knoxville ghost tours
Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tour is a unique ghost hunting adventure... You are being lead by REAL Paranormal Investigators, not story tellers... All information given on the tour is true and factual... and all the locations visited are true... "Ground Zero's" of traumatic events... Enjoy Knoxville's most exciting late night ADVENTURE.
18. Knoxville Food Tours
knoxville food tours
Knoxville Food Tours -- Participate in a guided walking tour through Historic Downtown Knoxville. Hear the history of some of Knoxville's most notable districts, sample food and drink from locally owned restaurants, and meet the people who bring this unique culinary scene together.

Participating Merchants, depending on tour, include - The Parlor, Shonos in City, Bistro at the Bijou, Dazzo's, Coolato Gelato, The Market, Downtown Grind, Mast General Store, Old City Java, Remedy Coffee, Jackson Ave. Market, Harry's Delicatessen, Bella Luna, Sapphire, Lenny's, Trio, La Costa, Rita's Italian Ice, Cocoa Moon/Koi.

19. Historic Sites
historic sites
1. Tuckaleechee Caverns a.k.a. "Greatest Site Under the Smokies" is one of the earth's oldest mountain chains dating over 20 and 30 million years.
2. Artisans have an 8-mile loop designated as Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail. Established in 1937, it's the largest group of independent artisans in North American. Every arts and crafts lover should be in an arts and crafts heaven.
3. Going back to 1830 you can visit Old Mill & General Store in Pigeon Forge; it's a national treasure that is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. The working mill is over 170 years old.
4. Historic Buildings in Great Smoky Mountains National Park - from grist mills to historic cabins.
20. Wears Valley
Fall in Wears Valley is all about a harvest festival, pit bbq grills, beautiful open fields with a mountain backdrop, pumpkins, fall decor, and the aroma of country cooking coming from the many great mom and pop restaurants located along Wears Valley Road.

The Wears Valley Pumpkin Festival is a simple event, but one you won't want to miss.

The Autumn leaves are turning their rich colors of red, orange, and yellow in Wears Valley located just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fall in Wears Valleyis a time for harvest, rewards of hard work, enjoying crisp cool air, frosty mornings, hot apple cider on a cool night, and the majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

21. Backyard Bonfire
Purchase an inexpensive fire pit at Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, or Lowe's. Roast marshmallows and weiners. Make some homemade chili!

This is a great way to reconnect with the family and enjoy the chilly outdoor air around the bonfire.

22. Apple Barn
apple barn cider mill
The Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store in Sevierville, TN -- It really is a barn that was built in 1910 and has over 4,000 apple trees. There is the Cider Room, Apple Pie Kitchen, Candy Factory, The Creamery, Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, Apple Barn Winery and The Applewood Farmhouse Grill having something for the whole family. From apple fritters with apple butter that melt in your mouth, apple cobbler, apple cake and applewood chicken salad croissant they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
23. Zip Lines
What a way to enjoy the beauty of fall foliage than on a zip line in the Smoky Mountains! You'll find ziplines in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Townsend, and Sevierville. Flying through the trees at up to 40 miles per hour is an exhilarating experience you'll never forget.

Ziplines is the fastest growing attraction in the Great Smoky Mountains, where awe inspiring panoramic views meet heart-pounding excitement!

Have you ever wondered what the treetops looked like from the same view that birds and squirrels have? The amazing expanse of branches, the lushness of the leaves as they wave in the wind. What would you give to soar through the forest the same way that a gliding blue jay does?

24. Hiking in the Smokies
hiking in the smokies
Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides many opportunities for walking and hiking. Much of the interest and mood present in the park depends on finding subtle variations in nature not seen from automobiles. For example, wildflowers, cascading streams, the scent of evergreens, and the sounds of birds are best seen and experienced away from roads. For this reason, the National Park Service maintains 800 miles of trails here.
25. Walk by a Mountain River
mountain river
Throughout the Smokies you may be enticed from your car by the sight, sound, and feel of clear, cool mountain streams that tumble downslope as frothy cascades and waterfalls.

You may enjoy hiking to a waterfall or just listening quietly to a stream and observing the plants and animals that live in these cool waters. At any time of year, streams are inviting.

Water splashing over mossy rocks seems to evoke a response in people, as though they were drawn to it by some ancient instinctive attraction.

Published October 1, 2012; updated October 13, 2021

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