Experience the Rich History and Culture of the Smoky Mountains at the Heritage Center
Experience the rich history and culture of the Smoky Mountains during your visit to East Tennessee and Western North Carolina! The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center offers a variety of indoor museum galleries, 17 historic outbuildings in our Appalachian village, living history demonstrations, concerts, festivals, and other special events throughout the year. Check out our events calendar for more information. Additionally, don't miss out on our Cades Cove Heritage Tours, where you can sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while we handle the driving.
Explore the centuries-old culture of East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains region at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. Park your car and step into our galleries, where you can take part in educational programs, attend special events and festivals, and learn about the diverse peoples and Native Americans who have inhabited the Southern Appalachians.
Our permanent exhibits include the Native American Collection, featuring prehistoric artifacts discovered in Townsend, and a collection of over 10,000-year-old pottery, stone tools, and other artifacts uncovered during one of the largest archaeological dig projects in Tennessee history in Tuckaleechee Cove. You can also explore exhibits on Appalachian music, education, vintage cars, trucks, fire engines, cannons, and more.
As a Non-Profit 501(c)(3) organization governed by a Board of Directors and managed by a dedicated staff and volunteers, we remain committed to preserving, interpreting, and sharing the history and culture of the region. We are constantly working to improve our offerings, and have plans for future development including an Appalachian Village, Amphitheater, and more. Come visit us and experience something new every time!
Festivals, Events and Concerts:
Experience the best of festivals, concerts, and special events at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. Our ten acres of historic structures and green spaces provide a unique and picturesque setting for public and private outdoor events throughout the year.
Join us for the Summer Concert Series on Friday evenings, the Blue Ribbon Country Fair, the Holiday Handcrafter’s Festival, Christmas in the Village, and the Storytelling Festival. Our 350-seat outdoor covered amphitheater is home to the annual Sunset Music Series, a popular Friday night concert series featuring new and established musical groups such as bluegrass, jazz, blues, Americana, country, or a combination of genres.
Our facilities are fully accessible and air-conditioned, ensuring your comfort no matter the weather. We can also provide referrals for catering, tent and table rentals, music, and other special services. Come and enjoy the best of cultural events in the beautiful setting of the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.
The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center takes pride in preserving historic Appalachian buildings and ensuring their responsible stewardship. We often receive donations of structures from patrons who wish to contribute to our mission. Our team of experts carefully move, restore, and reassemble these structures on our campus, allowing visitors to connect with their history and spirit.
Our Historic Village is home to many of these structures, each furnished to reflect the period in which they were built. However, please note that the Historic Village may be partially or completely closed to visitors in Winter 2023 due to the replacement of walkways. For more details, please call 865-448-0044.
For those unable to visit the Heritage Center in person, we offer virtual tours of five buildings curated by our staff and interns in 2022. Our goal is to develop tours for all 18 structures, including those housed inside the museum galleries. Come and explore the rich history of the Appalachian region with us, either in person or virtually!
At the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, we believe that education plays a vital role in our mission. Through education, we can better understand and appreciate the sacrifices and contributions of those who came before us.
Our center is a leading destination for experiential and non-traditional learning in East Tennessee. We offer programs that explore the rich history of the Southern Appalachians and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including the culture and traditions of the Cherokee people and European settlers.
Our educational programs are designed to provide enriching experiences for a diverse range of groups, from students and day camps to civic organizations and retirement groups. We are committed to sharing the fascinating traditions of our past with as many people as possible.
Cades Cove Heritage Tours (May to October)
Explore the beauty and history of Cades Cove with our guided bus tours! Available on most Tuesdays and Thursdays from May to October, our 14-passenger bus tours are led by a knowledgeable driver-guide who will share interesting historical facts about the families that lived in Cades Cove. Keep an eye out for bears, deer, and other wildlife during the tour. Tours start at 9:00 am and typically return between 12:00 and 1:00 pm.
Private Bus Tours are also available for your family or group. Customize your tour schedule and interests with your guide. Contact us for private tour pricing.
Park Ranger Tour: For the ultimate Cades Cove experience, join a retired park ranger for a behind-the-scenes tour. You'll visit places like Gregory's Cave, the CCC camp, the WWII Memorial Tree, and learn about wildlife management by the Park Service. This all-day tour includes a boxed lunch and costs $90 per person.
We went to the Christmas Village hosted by the Heritage center and it was neat to wander through the museum and go to find out the history of the area. The Hot apple Cider was very yummy as well. Jennifer - TripAdvisor
Quaint museum and fun tour. I really enjoyed going through the old cabins, church, barns, etc. Everything was set up as it would have been in the old days. It was decorated for Christmas as well. It only takes a couple of hours tops. Angela - TripAdvisor
This is one of our favorite places. So much history here, and attending the Christmas event was incredible. Lots of traditional craftsmen and the candle light made history seem real. We enjoy the museum, their special events, and they have a fun gift shop as well. We take our out-of-town guests here regularly. pkc57 - TripAdvisor
About Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center:
The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is a museum and cultural center located in Townsend, Tennessee, near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The center is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history and culture of the region, including the traditions of the Cherokee people and the early pioneers who settled in the area.
The Heritage Center features a variety of exhibits and interactive displays that explore the natural history, cultural heritage, and folk art of the Great Smoky Mountains region. The exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including the history of the Cherokee people, the region's early pioneers and the development of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
In addition to its exhibits, the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center offers a range of educational programs and events for visitors of all ages. These programs include guided tours, hands-on workshops, and cultural demonstrations that provide a deeper understanding of the region's history and culture.
For the most up-to-date hours and information, please contact Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center directly.