Fall weather is finally here in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, and with it comes beautiful foliage, cool mountain air and the most anticipated festival of the year: Grains & Grits. This festival of southern spirits and gourmet grub takes place November 3 and draws whiskey lovers from across the region to the quaint, southern town of Townsend, Tennessee, nestled at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


As distillers, brewers and chefs from across the region prepare to showcase their spirits and fare, it’s the perfect time to plan a trip to the Smokies and enjoy the Grains & Grits Festival. Between sampling whiskey and food, enjoying a bonfire and live music and taking in the mountain scenery, this festival is not-to-miss—along with other great restaurants and attractions that Townsend has to offer.


For those who may be visiting Townsend for the first time, or for returning visitors looking for new experiences, this itinerary provides a great taste of the Smokies:



Upon arrival into Townsend, head over to Cades Cove Cellars for a wine tasting…since you will be filling up on whiskey during the weekend. For dinner, grab the best burger around at Burger Master Drive-In, a staple in the community for over 50 years. End the evening at the Townsend Abbey and sit by the Little River while enjoying regional and local craft beer.


Or, for a memorable, whiskey-filled evening and prelude to Grains & Grits, attend the Grains & Grits Whiskey VIP Event at Dancing Bear Lodge from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Delicious food by Chef Shelley and other chefs from across the region will be paired with tasty cocktails from Tennessee distilleries. Each guest will be able to Pull a Spirit for a takeaway, and two spirits will include a Golden Ticket—one VIP Tour of Jack Daniels with Master Distiller Jeff Arnette, and one VIP Tour of George Dickel with Head Distiller Nicole Austin George. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Helen Ross McNabb Center Veterans Program.



Offering one of the best destinations for wildlife viewing, Cades Cove is a popular destination. There’s a lot to see along the 11-mile loop circling the cove like historic buildings and wildlife. The best way to see Cades Cove is to rent a side-by-side vehicle from MNT Trax and tour around the national park, taking in all the natural beauty. Remember the leaves will still be on display so this is a prime opportunity for great fall pictures.


When visiting Cades Cove, take a picnic lunch with you from Apple Valley Cafe and enjoy all the great picnic areas, or just take a blanket and enjoy all the free space in the cove. While in the area, take advantage of the great hikes. There are hikes for every level. After a fun-filled day, head back to your hotel or cabin and get ready for the Grains & Grits event.


Do you golf?  We have a beautiful course in our backyard.  Wild Laurel is a public golf course located in Laurel Valley and nestled in the breathtaking Smoky Mountains.  Providing a uniquely beautiful golfing experience, Wild Laurel is a full-service, par 70, 18-hole golf course.  Wildlife abounds and after a scenic round of golf, guest can visit a well-stocked pro shop or sit on the veranda with a refreshment in the company of friends.



In the morning, take in freshly brewed coffee and breakfast at Country Steak N’ Eggs or Black Bear Café. Either one will please the taste buds! Follow up a delicious breakfast with shopping. The Townsend Visitors Center offers souvenirs or gear-up on outdoor clothing at the Smoky Mountain Outdoor Center.


For those who enjoy antiquing, the Rivermill Antique Mall or Antiques Outlet Mall offers unique finds. After working up an appetite while shopping, enjoy a barbecue lunch at Smokin’ Joes.


The Townsend area has numerous options for accommodations, restaurants and activities. For a full listing of what to see and what to do during your stay, visit smokymountains.org. Also, be sure to purchase your tickets for the Grains & Grits Festival and for the Grains & Grits VIP Whiskey Event before they sell out. Visit grainsandgritsfest.com for more information and tickets.