A few short weeks ago, Great Smoky Mountains Association officially opened the Great Smokies Welcome Center—a new visitor center and retail space at 7929 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Townsend, Tennessee. In this new and expanded location, GSMA will provide information, educational materials, souvenirs, and other park-related goods to visitors of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
GSMA previously welcomed the city’s national park visitors through the Townsend Visitor Center, a space it shared with the Blount County Chamber of Commerce beginning in 1992. But after more than 30 years, both organizations’ needs had outgrown the shared space, and GSMA embraced the opportunity to establish a separate space of its own—just across the road and down the way.
“This new visitor center allows us to support Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a larger scale, with much more information and merchandise for park visitors to explore,” said CEO Laurel Rematore.
The Great Smokies Welcome Center provides twice the retail floor space of the previous location, with dedicated areas for membership information, merchandise, and educational displays developed in collaboration with the National Park Service. Guests at the new center can browse through books and search for souvenirs beneath a beautiful vaulted ceiling, then exit through the facility’s large log cabin-style porch.
Upstairs, GSMA will operate a dedicated space for private events, and behind the scenes, employees can enjoy a larger break room, larger stock room, a space for wholesale operations, and an audio recording space, where GSMA’s creative team will record audiobooks and podcasts.
The Great Smokies Welcome Center officially began greeting visitors with a soft opening on December 15 and is now operational from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, year-round with the exception of Christmas Day.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening event is being planned, with details to be announced later this winter or in early spring.
GSMA also maintains a presence within seven other visitor centers and retail bookstores in and around the park in coordination with the National Park Service and other local communities and partners : Cades Cove Visitor Center, Clingmans Dome Visitor Center, Gatlinburg Welcome Center, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Swain County Visitor Center and Museum, and Sugarlands Visitor Center.
We can’t wait to see you during your next visit—at the new Great Smokies Welcome Center in Townsend or any other park visitor center from East Tennessee to Western North Carolina.