Autumn is a great time of year to visit eastern Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains for fall foliage, harvest festivals and some down-home music at Dollywood.
Before you go, fire up your computer to gather travel information from the Web for spots such as Sevierville (www.seviervillechamber.org), a town east of the big city of Knoxville where you can hit a few antique shops and visit Forbidden Caverns.
Then, on your way farther into the mountains, give your kids (and yourself) a fun break with a visit to Pigeon Forge -- http://www.mypigeonforge.com/ -- home of everything from museums to stage shows and amusement parks. The town's autumn Harvest Festival runs from mid-September through October. If you can't make it for the festival, think about holding off until winter and the Jan. 7-15 Wilderness Wildlife Week. For more details, you'll have to click on "Special Offers" and look for "Request a Travel Planner."
You can't go to Pigeon Forge without a visit to Dollywood (www.dollywood.com), Dolly Parton's country-themed amusement park. Along with the rides, including the Thunderhead wooden roller coaster, there's a Music & Harvest Celebration running now through Oct. 29 with free gospel, gospel and bluegrass music.
Drive up the highway about a half-dozen scenic miles to Gatlinburg (www.gatlinburg.com), a bustling town with its own collection of amusements that serves as a gateway to the Smokies. And yes, they also have a fall festival, including hay rides and the Gatlinburg's Craftmen's Fair. If you have a few minutes to kill, peruse their photo gallery. Then check out "Attractions" and "Special Events."
After the amusements in town, it's time to head into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (www.nps.gov/grsm), which has installed two Web cams to give you an idea of the area's fall colors. Click on "InDepth" or "Expanded Webpages" for details on hiking, biking, waterfalls and fishing for wild trout. If you have time, you'll find information on hiking trails; if you don't, there are tips for road tours such as Clingmans Dome Road, which will take you close to the park's highest point.
Be sure to click on the park's "Plan Your Visit" for fees, maps, directions and links to other resources, including the Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies.
Pick up some ideas of other places to see in the area by visiting Tennessee State Parks -- (www.state.tn.us/environment/parks/findapark.php) and looking through the entries under "East Region," such as Fort Loudoun, where an English frontier fortification was built in 1756.
Then go to the state's official Tennessee Vacation (www.tnvacation.com) and click on the eastern part of the map for information on campgrounds, historic sites, recreation, galleries and theaters.
Roger Petterson, Associated Press