Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountain Staycation: Visit East Tennessee Safely This Summer

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”20872686″]

Every time I get an email asking for recommendations on how to travel this summer while safely socially distancing during this pandemic, I revert back to a few of my go-to tips: seek out nature. Steer clear of crowds. Road trip when possible. And find places where you can have plenty of space for yourself—destinations like Maryville, Tennessee, a stone’s throw from the Smoky Mountains and the perfect spot for a summer staycation.

Visit Maryville, Tennessee this summer

Maryville is just 18 miles due south of Knoxville; its downtown is also only four miles from McGhee Tyson Airport, the main airport for East Tennessee. For those devoted to road trips for the foreseeable future, Blount County is also a convenient drive from many major Southern cities, clocking in at three hours or less from Nashville, Lexington, Asheville, and Atlanta and under two from Chattanooga.

Visiting downtown Maryville, Tennessee

Note: No matter where you decide to go this summer, travel safely and be mindful of those around you. Wear a mask at all times when you’re in public, stay a safe distance apart from others and please observe the CDC’s protocol.

Interested in a Blount County staycation this summer? Here are some ideas of what to do in Maryville and Townsend while visiting the Smokies and staying away from crowds.

Stay in a former airplane hangar

I love a unique vacation rental, and when I say that Terminal 1344 is spectacular, that’s an understatement. I first came across this Airbnb property last year and several times intended to book it, only to have my travel plans unexpectedly change. So I was thrilled when we made a last-minute visit to East Tennessee earlier this month for some photography work and found the hangar available for the night. Not only that, but it is surprisingly affordable at just $119 a night, plus taxes and service fees.

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains
Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

In 2016, the Smith family—Dean, Adrienne and their daughter Tayler—purchased the six-acre plot upon which this piece of paradise is located; it houses their own home in addition to an old airplane hangar and World War II train car. The previous owner had been a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force who bought the train car from a military surplus in Florida and relocated it to Tennessee.

Stay in a converted World War II car in Tennessee

A year later, the Smiths decided to begin renovating the external structures and fulfill Adrienne’s dream of owning a B&B. The train car came first—a labor-intensive eight months in which the Smiths consulted the help of a contractor team for the build while Adrienne and Tayler tediously worked on the design, keeping quirky historical elements while also adding in both comfort and convenience—and then the hangar, now a luxury two-bedroom loft, debuted last year.

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains
Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

The newest addition to the compound is a Dolly Parton-themed fantasy trailer that the family was finishing up while we were there with the plans to open for bookings this summer, bringing their “Planes, Trains and Automobile” concept to life.

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

This property is truly one of a kind. As someone who works in travel media and has stayed in hundreds of short-term rentals, I can honestly say this is within my top three of all-time. Not only is there gorgeous Tennessee countryside surrounding you (plus, a private airstrip just beyond the property line!), but Adrienne, Dean and Tayler put so much time and care into outfitting the hangar not only to be ridiculously comfortable, but to look like something out of the pages of Architectural Digest.

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

It’s no big secret that we’re huge midcentury modern lovers, so the design of the hangar was visually appealing to us, but often with MCM functionality, you sacrifice comfort. Not in this case. The beds, couches, everything were complete luxury, and we slept like kings and queens (in separate bedrooms, too, because you know SVV’s snoring).

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains
Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains
Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains
Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

Every detail and furnishing was carefully considered, and the Smiths thought of absolutely everything, providing far more kitchen and bath amenities than you’d ever find in a hotel. Fellow aviation enthusiasts will go wild for all the subtle nods to the Jet Age.

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains
Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

The rentals are very much separate from each other with plenty of privacy, but they also share several outdoor spaces: a fire pit, a beer garden, a reflection pond and greenery galore.

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains
Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

The icing on the cake is the owners’ six adorable dogs—a mix of standard poodles and miniature and golden doodles—who chilled with us and kept us company on the hangar patio as we were missing our own fur babies. 

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains
Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains
Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

On a scale of 1 to 10, this property is a 100, and we will absolutely be back. One night was such a tease! We’re in East Tennessee often, and I look forward to making this our home away from home in future visits. Thanks to Dean, Adrienne, Tayler, and the pups for creating such a cool space and sharing it with travelers like us.

Stay in an Airplane Hangar in the Smoky Mountains

Stroll downtown Maryville

Downtown Maryville is part of Tennessee’s Main Street program, and on top of a thriving retail and entertainment district, it’s got charm to boot. 

Visiting downtown Maryville, Tennessee

A few shops were still closed due to the virus while we were there, while others like homes store Roost were able to safely allow shoppers inside thanks to ample space and an outdoor setup.

Shop in Downtown Maryville

Visit Coning Family Farm in the Smokies
Visit Coning Family Farm in the Smokies

Take advantage of the ample street parking along Broadway and leave your car as you stroll or park in the free lot right next to Bluetick Tavern. If you happen to find your way into Capitol Coffee & Ice Cream Parlor for a scoop or three, don’t worry, I won’t judge.

Visiting downtown Maryville, Tennessee

Shop at Coning Family Farm

After checking out of Terminal 1344, we decided to veer west along the ridge before driving the 15 minutes back into Maryville. As we neared the road that flanked the mountains, we saw this hand-drawn sign announcing Coning Family Farm.

Visit Coning Family Farm in the Smokies
Visit Coning Family Farm in the Smokies

We decided to get a closer look and found that they were readying the market to open for the season. This family-owned and -operated farm specializes in produce and had an abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables for sale. Currently, the farm market is open 9am to 6pm from Monday through Saturday, noon to 5pm on Sundays.

Visit Coning Family Farm in the Smokies

Visit Coning Family Farm in the Smokies
Visit Coning Family Farm in the Smokies

Enjoy Maryville’s green spaces

In the center of Maryville is the college of the same name, and branching off from the campus is the Maryville-Alcoa Greenway, popular with runners and bikers of all ages.

Maryville running trails

The nine-mile Maryville-Alcoa Greenway connects downtown Maryville to Alcoa, crossing streams, creeks and parks while providing peaceful shade for those who want to use the paved path for a variety of recreational activities.

Bike the Maryville Greenway

How to visit Maryville safely this summer
How to visit Maryville safely this summer

Dine and drink alfresco

Downtown Maryville has a number of great dining options, but to comply with social distancing recommendations, on this visit we were interested solely in patio options, of which we found a few contenders:

Where to Stay: RT Lodge in Maryville, Tennessee

And while another of my favorite local restaurants, Bluetick Tavern (formerly Barley’s Taproom), may not have patio dining, you can still order takeout then take it to a nearby park—the Maryville Greenway right behind Vienna Coffee Co. is a nice spot—and create your own alfresco dining experience.

Picnic in Maryville, Tennessee

Venture into the Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was one of the first national parks to reopen in mid-May, and with more than half a million acres, it’s the prime spot to enjoy the outdoors while putting space between you and other travelers. It’s also one of the few national parks that doesn’t charge an entry fee. Keep up to date with any pandemic-related closures via the Great Smoky Mountains NPS site.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Townsend, Tennessee

Once you’re in or near the park, there are so many things to do outdoors in the Smokies that you could spend days hiking to waterfalls, biking Cades Cove, tubing down the Little River in Townsend, spelunking at Tuckaleechee Caverns or driving the 318 curves of the Tail of the Dragon (U.S. 129).

Tubing in Townsend, Tennessee

If you’re more of a leisure traveler and less of an adventurer, you can still enjoy the area in your own way: I recommend grabbing a six-pack or two from local brewery Blackberry Farm Brewery and food from Burger Master Drive In in Townsend and making a picnic under the leafy canopy.

Picnic in the Smoky Mountains
Picnic in the Smoky Mountains

For more Tennessee trip ideas, check out these tips and itineraries:


 

PIN IT! SAVE THIS POST FOR LATER

How to visit Maryville safely this summer
How to visit Maryville safely this summer
COMMENTS
  • June 16, 2020
    Sarah

    This place is incredible! Immediately added both properties to my Airbnb “wishlist.” We love supporting fellow hosts and getting a unique experience at the same time.

    • June 18, 2020

      I totally agree! What’s your Airbnb property? I’d love to check it out!

  • June 17, 2020
    Christine

    This is exactly what I needed to see, since I just cancelled everything for our Glacier NP trip at the end of August and am re-planning for the Smokies and AVL. That AirBnB is stunning and went straight onto my wishlist. And although we’ve been there many times I had no idea Blackberry Farm had a brewery! It’s always great to have something new to look forward to in a place that you already know and love!

  • June 18, 2020
    Carliss T Dawson

    More info on how to book for October 9-12,2020

  • June 22, 2020
    Nate

    I absolutely love this!

Leave a Comment

GET MY POSTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
+ Sign up and receive your free copy of my eBook