Wheels Through Time Museum

Wonder how we got to the point of everyone having their own form of transportation, whether it is a car, a truck or a motorcycle?  Well, then you might want to step into the Wheels Through Time Museum in beautiful Maggie Valley, NC.  Celebrating all the ways that we get around and of course focusing on the motorcycle.  Yes, ladies and gentleman this is a motorcycle museum tucked into the corner of the Smokies.

The Wheels Through Time Museum boasts more than 300 classic and rare motorcycles from America’s past.  Harley Davidson, Indian, Excelsior, Henderson, Crocker and many more are lined up and cared for to show off the shine of the chrome and the paint jobs that might make you go back to the car for your sunglasses.  This is one of the best niche museums that you will find in the Smokies.

Among the motorcycles you will find:

  • 1917 Henderson Special
  • 1917 Traub
  • 1914 Hedstrom Prototype
  • 1914 Flesher Flyer
  • 1948 Panhead
  • 1949 Hot Rod Panhead ”Revised Modified”

Wheels Through Time MuseumAmong the classic automobiles:

  • 1932 Clobes
  • 1954 Cadillac
  • 1954 Eldorado Convertible
  • The Locomobile

Again, you are looking at a transportation museum, there is something here for everyone.  Bring the bike enthusiast, bring the car enthusiast, bring the family and get ready to learn enjoy and have a great time at the Wheels Through Time Museum.

Wheels Through Time Museum
62 Vintage Lane
Maggie Valley, North Carolina 28751
(828) 926-6266

Little River Railroad Museum

Little River Railroad MuseumVenture over to Townsend and check out one of the hidden gems of the Smokies – the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company. The early history of the Smoky Mountains is on full display at the museum as visitors can come face to face to the inventive, industrious spirit of those early Smoky Mountain settlers. These frontiersmen and their families, as well as other settlers looking for new opportunities, struck their picks in an area of Appalachia eventually becoming the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The beginnings of the Little River Railroad were due partly to the changing landscape. Settlers had to adapt to their new surroundings and adapt their tools to meet the conditions they worked in. The paths they took indirectly assisted in establishing the roads that we travel today through the Smokies.

The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company museum should be a “must stop” for anyone coming through Townsend, whether on vacation or just passing through. History enthusiasts and railroad historians should definitely pay a visit. The old trains that paved their way through the Smokies are now parked for everyone to see in the museum yard – the Shay Engine, a caboose, a set of turn-of-the-century homes, and a water tower. Each was used in the Smokies as part of the early logging industry.

Little River Railroad MuseumThe Shay engine is the centerpiece of the museum and rightfully so. This was the engine that blazed the trail through the Smokies hauling log cars down the mountain to the saw mill. It also transported lumberjacks and other workers up the mountain and back to work. One could say that the Shay engine was the Little River Railroad Company’s backbone in those early years. For train enthusiasts it’s a must-see. You won’t find many of these Shay engines around now-a-days. And to find one as carefully maintained as the one at Little River, that’s a task in itself.

Don’t get too wide-eyed outside, make sure you go inside for a more detailed look at the history of the logging industry in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Elkmont pioneers and the area’s natural history are presented in the first display. Next, you’ll see the rise of the logging industry in detail, as well as the different train models that were used during logging expeditions. The inventiveness of the loggers comes into view in the museum too – designs for new types of rail cars to a swinging bridge for flatcars is detailed and highlighted. The exhibit concludes with a detailed look at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and how the lumber and railroad industries played a role in its beginnings.

The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum is as much a part of early Great Smoky Mountains National Park history as Cades Cove. Another thing is people wonder about the evolution of the land and how it was used before the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here, you see that evolution in vivid pictures. Vivid pieces of history are preserved, read about the logging industry, or just soak up the essence of early America and the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s a historical experience… stop by and stay for awhile.

Teepees in Cherokee

I remember as a child, when we were vacationing in the Smokies, the signs in Cherokee, NC advertising “real live indians” always intrigued me.  Now that I am an adult, I realize that at that time, the people of Cherokee were giving the people that visited the mountains what they expected.  They were giving the tourist a ‘real’ indian, not a real cherokee experience but the indian experience that they expected, full of teepees and tomahawks.  Looking back on this now, it was kind of sad how exciting that prospect was.  Here is th good news though, these roadside attractions are still around but they have changed.

Nowadays when you visit the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, NC, you can still sit on the benches under a small tent.  You can still get your picture taken with a ‘real live’ Indian but the show has changed. Now you will get to see traditional Cherokee dancing.  You will get to hear stories about the Cherokee, about the proud people that settled this land thousands of years before the European settlers go to the Southern Appalachians.  You will hear the true tongue of the Cherokee, you will be able to understand more about their language and their culture.  And of course, the best part is that they are not the cheesy roadside stands of many years ago.  These offer a more modern look at the Cherokee.  No longer are they doing this to make a little income.

Now these Native Americans are using this darker part of their past when these roadside stands were frowned upon and making them an interactive attraction.  They are making these an educational opportunity.  Now, you can sit down and here Cherokee stories and be taught songs about the Cherokee people, you can also see authentic Cherokee dances.  Yes, the teepees are still there, and though they are out of place (the Cherokee never lived in teepees) they are a reminder of the past and great way to bring in the crowds to learn more about the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.

Forbidden Caverns

If you’re looking to cool off in Sevierville, head underground…. Seriously.

The Forbidden Caverns, one of the most well-known Sevierville attractions, keeps a temperature of 58 degrees throughout the year and can be a great respite for families, or just yourself, if you’re driving through Sevierville to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge, or Gatlinburg.

Once a place only known to select few, in particular the Eastern Woodland Indians, Forbidden Caverns is now known by people worldwide for its “buried” earthen structures and rock formations. The Eastern Woodland Indians actually used the caverns to their own benefit. When they weren’t traversing East Tennessee’s forests and mountains in search of good hunting grounds, they used the cave in the winter as a shelter. One of the big draws to staying in the caverns, besides its shelter, is the underground river that provided a consistent water supply.

Forbidden CavernsSo where did that river come from? Its source is believed to stem from an underground lake found beneath English Mountain. Famous for its spring water, chert or flint can also be found on English Mountain, but in limited quantities. Indians once used both to form arrowheads, knives and scrapers to use for tribal hunting and battle. Calcite formations can still be found growing in the cave as well as other rare rock formations. English Mountain boasts the largest wall of rare cave onyx or dripstones known to exist anywhere.

Moonshine was distilled in the cave from the early 1920s until 1943. The cave’s never-ending water supply and the isolated locale was a moonshiner’s dream in order to brew their homemade Tennessee whiskey.

It wasn’t until 1964 that a group of businessmen began the task of preparing Forbidden Caverns for its grand opening to the public. Forbidden Caverns finally opened in June 1967 following three years of excavation work on the expansive cave.

Forbidden CavernsIf you’re making a trip to the caverns these days, a picturesque valley leads you right to the caverns’ opening. You’ll see the peaks of Mount LeConte and English Mountain as make your way through the valley toward the caverns. Along the way, stop and take a look at the grist mill-museum, some primitive farm houses preserved from generations past, and a trout farm.

Looking to make a day of it, well Forbidden Caverns is just a 35-minute drive from Gatlinburg, from Knoxville a short 45 minutes, and should figure into your plans if you’re coming through East Tennessee, specifically the Great Smoky Mountains area. If it’s a tour you’re looking for, plan on at least a 55 minute stop. Cars and buses park for free and guests can peruse the souvenir shop and use the picnic pavilion at their leisure.

Carver’s Orchard

If you ever find yourself in Cosby, Tn, make sure you ask the locals about a little place called Carver’s Orchard. There, you’ll not only find the orchard, you’ll also find a farmer’s market and a restaurant at Carver’s that boasts one of the best fried apple pies in East Tennessee.

The View from Carver's OrchardCarver’s Orchard is a well-marked spot and easy to locate. Carver’s, surrounded by apple trees, really is a roadside wonder. The best way to reach Carver’s is to follow Hwy 321 out of Gatlinburg. The intersection of 321 and the Parkway is at traffic light No. 3 and it will take you straight out of town and past the Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts community. The route from traffic light No. 3 in Gatlinburg to Carver’s Orchard is a hare above 22 miles and takes you through the Smokies and its natural beauty. You’ll pass the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on your way before turning off at the Cosby Campground exit. Eventually you will end up in the middle of Cosby, TN.

Cosby’s beauty certainly shines through at Carver’s Orchard. Apples that grow on the trees in the orchard are processed there. In all, there are more than 40,000 trees to pick from during the process. Included in the orchard are 126 varieties of apple, from standard fare to heirlooms. Literally thousands of apples are processed during the annual harvest. These delicious red apples of various sizes and shapes roll down the conveyor belts to be sorted by hand into bushels. Next, the bushels are packed up for the farmer’s market or loaded on to trucks to be shipped out across the country. The apples that find their way to the farmer’s market floor are then judged by cooks and apple coinsurers before the best are picked. Most markets will even let you sample the apple before you buy it just so you know you’re buying the best of the bushel.

The orchard’s restaurant also benefits from the yearly yield. Appalachian home cooking abounds at Carver’s. A basket of apple fritters is brought out as a starter for each meal as well as a glass of cider. This is quite a beginning and some would even say they could make a meal out of it. Still, if you chose to stop you wouldn’t be able to experience the rest of the menu. The catfish is a particular favorite. They have a wide selection of sandwiches and if you’re out that way early enough you can even get breakfast served to you. And don’t forget to order a slice of Carver’s fried apple pie for desert. It’s definitely not to be missed.

To put it simply, their fried apple pies are amazing. This area is a haven for foodies and when you’re searching for something good, yet off the beaten path and away from the city, Carvers can’t be beat. And not only are they sold in the restaurant, you can purchase their pies in the pastry as well. Have one with ice cream or by itself. A Carver’s Orchard fried apple pie will leave you full and dreaming of the next time you’re in Cosby, Tn. Fried apple pies carry a bit of southern charm and take you back to the good ole days as folks around here like to talk about. If you or someone you know haven’t gotten to taste one, run out quick to Carver’s Orchard in Cosby, Tennessee.

Mystery Hill

A Great Place to Visit

I love a good roadside attraction and Mystery Hill in Blowing Rock, NC is one of the best that you will find in the Smokies.  It is on the side of the road before you get to Blowing Rock proper and if you are looking for a fun activity for you and the family, this is the place to stop.  plus, once you get there you will find that there are actually three attractions in one: Mystery Hill itself, the Appalachian Heritage Museum and the Ntaive American Artifacts Museum.

Mystery House and Hall of Mystery
The Mystery House was the first of the attractions at Mystery Hill and the longest running in the area.  This house is the place where the laws of gravity seem to cease to exist.  Due to the location of the house, or maybe the makeup of the mountainside that it is built into, the basic laws of physics don’t really work right.  Try walking through a room that make sit feel like you are at a 45 degree angle the whole time.  Maybe you will wonder why the Mystery Platform seems to make people appear to be taller or smaller depending on which side you are on.  Then you also have the Hall of Mystery where you and the family get to be hands on with science and various experiments.  Make  a bubble big enough to put your child in, play with holograms and experience the Flying Mirror.

Appalachian Heritage Museum
Then you can walk through a museum dedicated to the people and the culture of the mountains.  This museum came to Mystery Hill in 1989 from its former home on the campus of Appalachian State University.  The museum is still in the same house it was in while it was on ASU campus.  The whole house, one of the first in the area to have electricity was moved to the Mystery Hill location and now it tells the story of the people that lived inthis area and settled the Appalachian area.  Personal belongings, furniture, and other pieces of home life speak to the lifestyle of the people.

Native American Artifacts Museum
Starting from a collection of three arrowheads, this collection of Native American Artifacts now houses 50,000 pieces.  There are artifacts from 23 states and the pieces cover almost all of the time periods of Native American history.  Obviously there is a focus on the Cherokee that called Western North Carolina home, but there are also pieces from other tribes and locations around the US.  This museum is a 70 year testament to a people and to the collectors love for the native peoples that created the original societies in the Americas.  From arrowheads to pottery to ceremonial items and artifacts from the everyday this is a perfect museum for those people that want to see the artifacts of a past people.