The Dancing Bear Hotel

Dancing Bear Lodge, Townsend, Tennessee

By: Erin Byers Murray

Rightfully called the “peaceful side of the Smokies,” Townsend sits at the southeastern corner of Tennessee in between Knoxville and Pigeon Forge. It’s not much on the map, but that’s kind of the point—staying in this area ensures a quiet, mountainside escape. Dancing Bear Lodge has existed in some form there since the late ’90s—it was owned by the team of Blackberry Farm for several years—but a kitchen fire destroyed the original lodge in 2013. The Oldham family, from Nashville, purchased the 38-acre wooded property shortly after and have been quietly rebuilding, starting with the restaurant and a few lodgings. Now, it’s home to 28 individual cottages (some are more like villas) and an Appalachian bistro that acts as a gathering space for travelers and locals alike. With its rustic-yet-comfortable rooms, exceptional bistro dining, and easy access to the area’s hiking trails, caves, and waterfalls, Dancing Bear is the kind of place you’ll want to come back to year after year.

The Neighborhood

The property includes a small shopping center called Apple Valley at the base of the resort, where a café, beer garden, and outdoor outfitters sit just beside the Bean coffee shop attached to the check-in area. You’re only about 40 minutes from Cades Cove and the Tuckaleechee Caverns, as well as hikes like Middle Prong and Spruce Falls. Be sure to check out Company Distilling for a taste of Tennessee whiskey, just a few miles from the resort.

Bouillabaisse DB Tim Robison

The Food Scene

The bistro’s massive original river-rock fireplace beckons you inside the Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro, where executive chef Jeff Carter, originally from Mobile, Alabama, honors both the Appalachian landscape and his Gulf Coast roots. Though he once worked at Blackberry Farm, the food here is more approachable—an Appalachian “lunchable” is a fancified snack board made from local products, and there are lamb ribs, crispy fried Gulf oysters, and trout and grits on the menu. The property is also home to four garden plots, which produce squashes and herbs each season, as well as a 5000 square-foot hydroponic garden that produces leafy greens. Down the road a bit, Carter also oversees the menu at Peaceful Side Social, a popular family-friendly brewpub and pizza kitchen with a massive lawn and a taco truck on-site.  

The Digs

Rustic yet comfortable, the cottages range from one-bedroom lofts to two-bedroom units; newer units feel more modern but retain that cabinlike charm. Many have working fireplaces, outdoor hot tubs, swing porches, and full kitchens stocked with their signature coffee—and a few of them even welcome pets.

Crispy Duck Breast Tim Robison

about this hotel

  • Address

    7140 East Lamar Alexander Parkway
    Townsend, Tennessee

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