Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg is getting a facelift, of sorts. In actuality, its lobby and visitor contact area are being renovated in order to improve the layout of the building’s main space.
That doesn’t mean you can’t still stop by as officials said the building would remain open through March 31, when the project is scheduled to be completed.
For the visitors center, it will be a welcome change to the building’s aesthetics, “many of whom find the current museum entrance to be difficult to locate,” said Molly Schroer, park spokesperson. “This renovation will alleviate that problem.”
Interactive exhibits will enhance park information for all visitors coming into Sugarlands. The center’s lighting system will be overhauled, as well as the information desk and the building’s overall accessibility. The aforementioned interactive exhibits in the lobby will highlight the park’s recent natural resource challenges, such as forest health and air quality.
Constructed in 1960, the Sugarlands Visitors Center sees thousands of park visitors come through its doors every year. Until 2011, when the Oconaluftee Visitor Center was constructed, Sugarlands was the only visitor center in the Great Smoky Mountains that was built specifically as a visitor center.
Park rangers provide the public with educational programs at Sugarlands Visitors Center including talks surrounding the park’s first settlers, edible wild plants that grow along the trails, or a simple GSMNP history lesson. The talks and presentations are specifically developed for Sugarlands by the Park Service. One good move might be to contact the visitors center before coming to the park to see what programs are running during your specified trip.
Another reason to visit Sugarlands is if you plan staying overnight in the Great Smoky Mountains at a campground or backcountry site. Not only can you make reservations at one of the park’s campgrounds, Sugarlands is an ideal place to make lodging plans for one of the park’s backcountry shelters. Each backcountry shelter must be reserved as they are managed by the park service. For anyone planning an overnight trip on one of the trails, make plans to stay in one of the shelters. Any of the Sugarlands park rangers will be able to help you out with that process.
Construction work will occur between 2 – 11 p.m. daily, Monday through Friday, through the end of March. During construction, the natural history museum portion of the visitor center will be closed. All other services, including general information, the park film, and the bookstore will be open.