No trip to the Smokies should be complete without a hike on a mountain trail, some delicious Southern cooking and – believe it or not – a trip to one of the area’s amazing museums. Here are some of my favorite museums here in our mountains.
All Things Dolly. I have probably been in this coolest of museums over a hundred times, and it never gets old. Maybe it’s because Chasing Rainbows, the museum of Dolly Parton’s life on site at Dollywood, is constantly changing and there is always something new that I haven’t seen before. From the original Coat of Many Colors to her high school band uniform to the more glitzy costumes from her movies, TV shows and award show appearances, I can’t get enough of these glimpses of what it’s like to be Dolly. And the gold records, Grammys, and every award you can think of in the entertainment industry – it’s all there. Our Smoky Mountain songbird is a treasure – and your trip down memory lane with Dolly will be a memory you will hold close.
Odd and Unusual. You would expect a place named Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium to be unusual but what you might not believe is how much entertainment is packed into this Gatlinburg attraction. This museum makes the weird wonderful and fun for all ages. Thirteen galleries feature more than 500 exhibits, many of which are interactive. Where else can you see an unusual list of “star attractions” that include an authentic shrunken head, a 12-foot robot sculpture made entirely of scrap car parts, and an authentic vampire killing kit! The Odditorium is open daily and located conveniently on Gatlinburg’s main Parkway.
Much More Than The Tip of the Iceberg. In Pigeon Forge, you’ll find an amazing and inspiring tribute to the Titanic that celebrates the ship, its passengers and crew through stories and authentic artifacts. The Titanic Museum Attraction transforms visitors into “passengers” for an experience that mimics what it was like to be part of the ship’s maiden voyage in 1912. My favorite part is receiving my boarding pass of an actual Titanic passenger or crew, and then discovering “my” fate in the Titanic Memorial Room where 2,208 names line the wall. The museum recreates Titanic from its cabins to the signature Grand Staircase to more than 400 artifacts directly from the ship and its passengers. You also can touch an iceberg, feel the 28 degree water, and try to stand on the sloping decks to learn firsthand what it was like on the ship. In 2018, Titanic has added an amazing replica of the ship build with more than 56,000 LEGO® bricks; the 26-foot-long structure was created by a 10-year-old boy from Iceland!
Case Solved: Fun Definitely Found at this Crime Museum. Don’t let the name fool you. Alcatraz East is a crime museum including artifacts from Alcatraz, but this new Pigeon Forge attraction features an in-depth look at the history of American Crime. Five galleries paint a picture of crime: the History of Crime, Crime Scene Investigation, the Consequence of Crime, Crime Fighting and Pop Culture. Within the different galleries, interactive exhibits and over 500 artifacts help tell a unique history story. My favorite? The Ford Bronco that carried O.J. Simpson during the televised car chase.
Cars and Stars. You’ll feel like you’re cruisin’ with celebrities at the Hollywood Star Cars Museum, located in the heart of Gatlinburg. It’s like taking a road trip and experiencing famous movies and television shows in person – through the cars that were their stars!
In “sets” featuring sound, lights, and action, some of the popular movie vehicles include the DeLorean time machine from the Back to the Future trilogy, the Ecto-1 vehicle from Ghostbusters and wheels made famous in The Fast and The Furious series. The TV cars include the Batmobile from the 1966 TV show Batman, Drag-u-la from The Munsters, the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard and The Beverly Hillbillies jalopy. Talk about a star lineup!
Soar at This High Flying Attraction. My dad loves planes and the unique combination of American and world history at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation. Historic artifacts in the exhibit galleries include countless planes (including a full-scale replica of the 1902 Wright Glider), uniforms and memorabilia used in the airborne adventures depicted in patriotic stories.
The aircraft and other items on display are constantly changing, and most unique aspect of the museum to me is its airport lets aircraft actually land and taxi up to the museum!