During a recent brutal heatwave, I was already saying OUT LOUD how I was longing for the arrival of fall.

I don't like wishing for it so early in July; there's still so much summer left. But hey, high heat and humidity forced my hand. Of course, SINCE then, we've had really nice days that were warm but with far less humidity. And I'll take that all day long.

AUTUMN IN THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS

But I'll take AUTUMN 24/7/365. It is my favorite time of the year, unquestionably. And while I'm good at finding all sorts of things to do--in any location--that are great compliments to the best season of the year, there's nothing that beats spending time in Gatlinburg or east Tennessee during the fall months.

And the towns and communities in the Smoky Mountains KNOW it. That's why it's never a surprise when I see the schedule for fall festivals there.

THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS HARVEST FESTIVAL

The newly-expanded Smoky Mountains Harvest Festival will kick off in mid-September and run through the end of November. There will be lots to do throughout the Smokies this fall, including the three main hubs--Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg, where you might just be joined on an afternoon stroll by the Pumpkin People.

In Sevierville, it's all about Dolly. I mean why wouldn't it be? In this interview with a member of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, the country music icon's mark is everywhere.

In Pigeon Forge, Dolly also reigns supreme; that's where you'll find Dollywood and the annual Smoky Mountains Harvest Festival LumiNights.

Keep in mind that the Smoky Mountains Harvest Festival is a blanket fall event with other festivals happening throughout eastern Tennessee from September through November.

THE KYKER FARMS CORN MAZE

The Kyker Farms Corn Maze is not something you want to skip when you head to the Smokies for a fall celebration. I mean, it's a CORN MAZE. Wait...I stand corrected. It's FIVE corn mazes.

OKTOBERFEST

Of course, with fall comes October and Oktoberfest, which is celebrated everywhere including Gatlinburg at Ober Ski Mountain.

Don't forget the leiderhosen.

GRAINS AND GRITS

And don't forget to bring your appetite--no, I know you won't--because the Grains and Grits Festival is all set to go for November 5th in Townsend, Tennessee.

I once planned a trip through the mid-Atlantic states for extra credit in my 8th-grade history class. The vacation centered around well-known locales in American history. The trip was for my teacher. I have no idea if he ever went.

But I say this because if I have helped plan a fall getaway for you and your family for friends, that makes me smile.

Gatlinburg makes me smile. The Smokies make me smile. Most of all, FALL makes me smile. I'm thinking about it and smiling right now.

SEE: Have You Ever Heard of the Abandoned Amusement Park in Downtown Gatlinburg?

Gatlinburg is home to an abandoned amusement park and we have photos.

Forget a Cabin, You Can Stay in a Smoky Mountain Castle Near Gatlinburg

This Airbnb will definitely make you feel like Smoky Mountain royalty!

SEE INSIDE: Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in the Smoky Mountains

Brushy Mountain was an operating prison for more than 100 years but has been a popular destination for tourists since its closure in 2009.