The Old Mill District: the Shopping Hub of Pigeon Forge
I was recently asked where the best shopping was in Pigeon Forge. They were a family, short on time and wanted to pick up some souvenirs. The choices in Pigeon Forge can be overwhelming: outlet malls and the customary photo & souvenir shops at every attraction, and rows of t-shirt shops and gift boutiques lining the Parkway. Now, I do not pretend to be a shopping expert, (but ironically, I held that “personal shopper” badge once), but I do know where to steer a family towards fun, and luckily enough, when following up on a recommended restaurant, we DID find the perfect one-stop shopping hub for the family: The Old Mill District.
The historic Old Mill district, (as known as Old Mill Square), located just off the Parkway at traffic light # 7 on Old Mill Avenue, is the main hub of Pigeon Forge. Behind the working grist mill and Old Mill restaurant, Patriot Park provides free parking and trolley shuttles to various parts of the Parkway, Dollywood, Splash Country, Wears Valley Road and the Gatlinburg Welcome Center. Rides averaging 50 cents one-way make it an affordable family travel option. Travels aside, the Old Mill District offers visitors an eclectic choice of shopping, be it local souvenirs, handmade arts and crafts, antiques & collectibles or just freshly made taffy, sweets and other edible treats. Hanging out in the Old Mill District is not just for shoppers- it’s an entire event in itself! Just park up at Patriot Park and everything is a short walk away!
We ended up in the Old Mill District because of food: a wet morning exploring the Great Smoky Mountain National Park had our stomachs grumbling, the kind of hunger that requires more than fast food to satisfy. After learning my husband was a chef, someone suggested we try The Pottery House by the Old Mill. The smells of freshly baked cinnamon bread greeted us at the open door of The Pottery House Café & Grille, an enticing invitation to taste the local delights from the lunch and dinner menu. The flour and grains used in the on-site bakery come from the working grist mill across the road. The Old Mill was the original Pigeon Forge Mill, dating back to the 1800’s.The breads are not the only handmade twist at The Pottery House Cafe. Each plate and bowl is crafted and fired in kiln at the actual pottery house adjacent to the eatery (even the ceramic sinks in the bathrooms!)
Though we did not dine at The Old Mill restaurant, known for its Smoky Mountain cuisine, we toured the Old Mill itself and their general store that sold jams & preserves and bags of freshly milled grits and flour, along with local souvenirs, old fashioned toys and Old Mill t-shirts, of course! Bags of corn “Food for Ducks” sat in a bin and we soon found ourselves heading down the wooden steps to the Pigeon Forge River for a bit water-wheel watching and duck calling.
My husband and son adore that popular television show “American Pickers.” Actually, after Netflix binging their way through the available episodes, I’d say they were a tad bit obsessed. So imagine their surprise when we wandered into the Lock, Stock & Blade shop: It was like wandering into a set from their favorite antiquing show! In the small corner shop in the Millstone Village plaza (across of the Old Mill) we found old gas pumps, signs, and general things you would find, forgotten in the back corner of a dilapidated Tennessee barn. The owner was on hand to help the kids solve the metal brain teaser puzzles from his collection.
That antiquing call: sorry, picking-call, was strong that afternoon, and we crossed the bridge to the shops closer to the parkway where other vintage gas pumps had caught my husband’s eye. Country Mill Crafts & Antiques brimmed over with collectables-( glass slippers anyone?), memorabilia and crafts- the perfect gifts to take back home. My daughter was more interested in The General Store & Co. and their barrels of taffy, though she had no intention of letting them leave Pigeon Forge uneaten!
We watched an iron monger (blacksmith) bend metal at the actual Old Forge- they give lessons! And checked out some other local art in the art gallery behind the Pottery House.
The shops around The Old Mill District beg to be explored. So if there is one place you should stop to buy some souvenirs, grab a bite to eat, solve a puzzle, and maybe learn an art or craft too, explore the The Old Mill District in Pigeon Forge.
There was so much to do and see in the Old Mill District. Check out our other photos from the shops we found on our Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/adventuresofmom
For a complete list of shops in all of Pigeon Forge, try the My Pigeon Forge Website: http://www.mypigeonforge.com/things-to-do/shopping/ They are the official tourism site for the Pigeon Forge area. Check out their coupons too for attraction savings!
Other stories from the Pigeon Forge area that may interest you: