Welcome to Gatlinburg, Tennessee: home of North America’s Largest and most diverse group of independent artists and craftsman. The Heritage Trail is an historic eight mile loop established in 1937 where artists paint, sew, carve, quilt, and make very fabulous hand-made items such as: candles, brooms, leather, baskets, silver-smithing, and so much more. Make plans to visit the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community and stay in one of the local lodgings and eat at one of the many restaurants, tea rooms, soda fountains, cafes, and delicious candy shops. Shops are open 10am-5pm daily and are open year round. They can be reached by car or by the convenient trolley lines. Parking is free and available outside all the shops, but for those who don’t want the hassle of driving, you can pay the whoppingly huge trolley fare of $1.00 and ride all day, getting on and off as you wish, at as many stops as you like. But be aware that there are many trolleys running so make sure to catch the right color or you may not end up where you wanted to be. Maps are available.
Sore of foot and tired after many years of working in down town Gatlinburg, local artist John Cowden and his friends decided it would be much easier if they stayed home, closer to their supplies, tools, and crafts and let the viewing world come to them. In 1937 The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community (The Glades) was born. As visitors started arriving, more and more artists opened their doors. Some built studios and workshops alongside their houses, but many just opened shop in their homes and barns. Today many shops are still run from the fronts of homes and you will be invited in warmly and offered coffee and tea while you browse. To these wonderful people it’s not just about making a living it’s about saving a way of life. You may see these quilts, these carvings, these paintings, as objects of beauty to be treasured and loved, but to these craftsmen they are so much more. They signify a way of life they are struggling to hold on to. It’s about pride, dedication, hard work and family values. The eight mile loop has been designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts and Crafts Trail. Be sure to look for the distinctive logo displayed by the community members as this is your assurance of the fine workmanship, dedication and quality that goes into all of our one-of-kind, handmade items.
Some of the local artist and craftsman are still using techniques handed down through two, three, and even four generations. They carry on a tradition of detail and excellence making a living creating items the way they were made back in the 1700s, when things were built for beauty, lasting endurance, and function. Some of our most dedicated artists still grow the cotton that they lovingly hand pick, card, spin, and weave into beautiful cloth on old-fashioned looms. That’s amazing attention to detail, and what about the carvings done on old peddle lathes? Someone has sure got strong legs! Come to Gatlinburg and find that special piece that will start a family heirloom of your own. You are sure to find something that catches your eye and steals your heart. There are many shops and items to choose from, including: pottery, jewelry, woodcarving, quilting, art galleries, furniture, and loads more fine art forms. Craft shows are held three times a year in the Gatlinburg Convention Center and as always, admission is free! You can meet and visit with the local artists and watch them produce one-of-a-kind handmade items, while learning about the history of the items each shop has for purchase. Classes are also available for the adventurous folk who want to try their own hand at making some of these wonderful items.
Bring the whole family. Learn how to make brooms, candles, or learn to weave. The kids will love this chance to get up close and personal with history in the making. Where else will they be able to experience this kind of love and true dedication to the art of simply living with beauty? There are many options available for those looking to rent cabins in and around the Gatlinburg area. Prices vary depending on your budget, but there is always something for everyone. Whether you have a small budget and wish to stay somewhere affordable, or whether you have a larger budget and want something a bit more luxurious, you’re sure to find something that suits you and your family. You can even choose the amenities you want! Choose whether you want your cabin to be pet friendly, motorcycle accessible, or even hot tub ready! You can also choose to stay at one of the many lodgings for rent right on the Heritage Trail itself and enjoy submerging yourself completely in the Art Community. Treat the kids to an old-fashioned soda, homemade fudge, ice cream, and taffy at such places as ‘Glades Homemade Candies and Ice Cream Parlor”, or ‘Fudegewrights’. For those of you needing a little more fuel for you hungry tummies you might like to try ‘Delauders BBQ’ for a quick bite or the ‘Fox and Parrot English Tavern’ for a draught of good English ale. The ‘Morning Mist Café’ and the ‘Wild Plum’ will fill you up with some of the best home cooking to be found.
Having seen two centuries of statehood, Tennessee has a wide and rich history, including trails, music, and historical sites. The many stops along the Tennessee Heritage Trail paint an important portrait of a colorful and unique way of life that can only be found in the Great Smoky Mountains. This beautiful pathway through time will allow you to discover the people and workmanship that has made Tennessee one of the most sought after vacation spots in the country. Whether you are coming for the day or staying for a week you are sure to find a plentiful array of beautiful items and treats to delight and tempt even the grumpiest of souls.