Raise a glass; find your pint and support the Blue Ridge Parkway 2018.

Find your pint while exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. But remember HeySmokies fans – explore responsibly!

Raise a glass; find your pint and support the Blue Ridge Parkway. For the second time in as many years breweries from Asheville to the High Country and Virginia raised funds for the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and its “Find Your Pint” event. Each brewery, some of which  created special beers to honor the highway and others, who highlighted flagship brews, donated a portion of sales to support the non-profit Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The Blue Ridge Parkway is considered the “sister” national park to the Great Smoky Mountains and a portion of the participating breweries are found in the HeySmokies region. More than 15 million people visited the 469-mile scenic highway last year; a number that exceeds the

The Blue Ridge Parkway via duct is an amazing and beautiful engineering achievement and must be driven to be believed!

combined visitation of Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Parks. A Passport Program encourages beer fans to collect Parkway Beer Passport stickers and booklets available at participating breweries. Be sure and set your calendar for 2018 and the 3rd annual find your pint tour!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Bridges the Foothills Parkway Missing Link

Great Smoky Mountains Foothills Parkway

The HeySmokies expeditionary team is excited about touring the new section of the Foothills Parkway!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Bridges the Foothills Parkway Missing Link. The long awaited bridge completion will herald the opening of a beautiful new section of the Foothills Parkway.

 National Park officials hosted a celebration for the bridging of the ‘Missing Link’ which completed a seven-year project to design and build five bridges at a cost of $48.5 million. This marks the first time that vehicles can travel the entire 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway extending from Walland to Wears Valley, TN.

“We are excited to mark another milestone in the completion of this spectacular section of the Foothills Parkway,” said Acting Superintendent Clay Jordan. “With the missing link now bridged, we look forward to finishing the final paving and then opening the roadway to the public by the end of next year.”

Construction of this 16-mile section began in 1966. Most of the roadway was completed by 1989 when the project came to a halt due to slope failures and erosion during construction of the last 1.65 miles – known as the ‘Missing Link.’ The engineering solution included the construction of nine bridges to connect the roadway in an environmentally sustainable manner. These last five bridges mark an important milestone by completing the ‘Missing Link.’ Since 1966, $178 million has been invested in this 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway spanning parts of Blount and Sevier Counties.

The HeySmokies expeditionary team has had the pleasure of touring the incomplete sections of the Parkway in recent years and we are excited to explore it completely when opened. In the meantime we can still enjoy the two sections that are open: Foothills Parkway East and Foothills Parkway West! Join us in 2018 for an auto tour that is destined to be absolutely incredible! Don’t forget to gas up!

Smoky Mountain Halloween Fun Events

Smoky Mountain Halloween Fun Events await those who dare enter these mountains during the month of October. Ghost stories about these mountains are legend but you don’t have to search the history books to discover fun here this Halloween with all of these great events happening!

Things are getting spooky at Dollywood this Halloween. Photo credit – Tricia Ford

Dollywood’s Great Pumpkin LumiNights This all new event for Halloween is a spook-tacular time for the entire family! Explore a Halloween path lined with thousands of carved and illuminated Jack-o-lanterns. LumoNights is the largest addition to the ever popular Dollywood’s fall festival. Come on down to Dolly’s and discover whimsical scenes of delight with Halloween inspired art sculptures and explore a friendly path thru Timber Canyon. Enjoy some great pumpkin flavored food and say hello to Harvey the Pumpkin and Vine Vinny. Cool weather treats like sliced candy apples, candy corn, cotton candy, and warm Coca-Cola apple cider will satisfy fall appetites. A master craftsmen will offer insider tips on carving the perfect pumpkin, and youngsters will enjoy getting a little spooky with glow in the dark face painting. The fun never stops at Dollywood!

Steel yourselves for the haunted adventure of a lifetime at Ripley’s! Photo credit – Ripley’s Haunted Adventure

Ripley’s Fright Night – It is no secret that Ripley’s Haunted Adventure is one of the scariest destinations in the Smokies year round. Each October, Friday thru Sunday evening, the fear factor gets an adrenaline shot! The 10,000 square foot facility is packed with ghosties and beasties, and things that go bump in the night. Due to the intense nature of the experience children must be at least 6 years old and those under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. There are no additional fees to experience the fright night fun except perhaps your screams!

The Halloween Carnival at The Island will be a scream of a good time!

The Island Halloween Carnival – Step right up! One day and one day only, Saturday, October 28, 2017 5 p.m. till 9:00 p.m. Be amazed by contortionists, stilt walkers, high- flying acrobats and much more at this action-packed outdoor carnival! Tap your toes along with roaming dance performers as they transform their traveling act into a creepy haunted caravan. Stop by the Selfie Studio and take free pics of your family and friends. Arriving early in costume will earn you 1/2 off unlimited ride passes for the enire day! You may be a winner in the costume contest which begins at 6:30 p.m. and is open to all ages with no pre-registration required. The festivities wrap up with a killer dance party hosted by the ringmasters and will include games and giveaways! Parking is free. If you want to avoid the traffic, a free trolley ride from Patriot Park is a great option. Overflow parking can be found at Belz factory Mall behind the Island.

If you just want to sit back and pass out candy to trick or treaters enjoy the re-release of our HeySmokies Halloween Matinee video in the safety of your own home. This video is rated “W” for Whaaaaaaaaat?


Make your fortune in Smoky Mountain-opoly!

Make your fortune in Smoky Mountain-opoly! Relay for Life of Sevier County acquired exclusive rights to create a Smoky Mountain version of the beloved board game to help raise funds for cancer research. Filled with the iconic amusements and attractions in the Smoky Mountain region, your family and friends will have mountains of fun playing Smoky Mountain-opoly!


Choose from six different game pieces! The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island in Pigeon Forge, the Helicopter from Scenic Tours, a Wine Bottle from Rocky Top Wine Trail, a Pick from Pigeon Forge Gem Mine, the Cable Car from Ober Gatlinburg’s Aerial Tramway, or the cuddliest Bear from Three Bears General Store.

Proceeds from sales of the board game will benefit American Cancer Society and our fight to end cancer,” says Relay for Life of Sevier County Chairman, Sophia Conerly, “We are so excited about Smoky Mountain-opoly because it is something that both locals and visitors can enjoy.”

Get a Smoky Mountain-opoly Game and make someone’s birthday or holiday and help in the fight against cancer!

The game is available at these fine establishments.

Coffee & Co. @the Village Shops

Pigeon Forge
Red Roof Inn
Emery’s 5 & 10
Norma Dan Motel
3 Bears General Store

Atlantic Bay Mortgage
Charlotte Wear Gallery
Holiday Inn Express & Suites

Tennessee Smokies Stadium, Kodak
Holiday Inn Express & Suites

Our Place, Your Favorite shop in the Smokies

Bush Beans Visitors Center

American Cancer Society Office


Smoky Mountain Ironweed

Giant ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) is one of the most striking and beautiful wildflowers in the HeySmokies.com region!

Smoky Mountain Ironweed is a beautiful flowering plant commonly found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If a hike takes you through a sunny meadow in the Smokies during the late summer or autumn, you are likely to see a tall graceful wildflower with a head of deep purple flowers and bright green spear-shaped leaves growing along the meadow’s wet margins, often accompanied by goldenrod. This will be ironweed. You might also see it growing along roadsides and in pastures in Cades Cove, largely unnoticed until it begins to bloom in late July, with flowers continuing into late October. Orange and brown skipper butterflies are also likely to be flitting about the plant’s flowers, feeding on its nectar, which they greatly favor. But as you approach ironweed and look more closely, you’ll find that its beauty disguises its truly tough nature.

First, ironweed is tall. The most common variety in the Smokies, giant ironweed (Vernonia gigantea), grows up to 9 feet in height, though 7 feet is more normal. Next, it has a coarse, stiff, rather thick stem, reddish in color, that easily supports the plant’s great height and gives it its name. At its base, the plant forms a clump of stems that hold tenaciously to the soil mostly by way of a long tap root, making it difficult for farmers to eradicate the plant from their pastures, where its toxicity poses a threat to livestock. (Native Americans, however, used the dried tap root in a bitter drink to combat fevers and purify the blood.) The plant propagates itself over an extensive area through the thousands of seeds it produces each autumn. A single plant can produce up to 19,000 seeds.

While farmers view ironweed as a pest, gardeners favor it as a background plant for butterfly and native plant gardens, especially when partnered with sunflowers, milkweed, or hollyhocks. It is relatively easy to grow in East Tennessee, requiring a sunny spot, some compost to amend the clay soil, regular watering until established, and mulch to prevent drying out. Gardeners may wish to consider New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) as their ornamental of choice instead of giant ironweed since it is a more prolific bloomer.

Ironweed is easy to find this time of year no matter what part of the Smokies you visit. Keep your eyes peeled for it’s showy blooms in Sugarlands, Oconaluftee, Cataloochee, Greenbrier, Cosby, Smokemont, and Tremont.

HeySmokies.com is honored to have Carl Parsons as a contributing writer. Carl is Deputy Editor for Storyteller Magazine, a member of the Writers’ Guild of Sevier County, TN, and a Tennessee Master Gardener.


Sources: GardenKnowhow,

Ironweed, and Ohio State.