Pigeon Forge, along with the adjacent cities of Gatlinburg and Sevierville, has become one of the most touristy small towns in America. All three cities are located within about a 30 minute drive from one another – Pigeon Forge is right in the center of the three. With Dollywood, a world class theme park, Dollywood’s Splash Country water park, The Gatlinburg Aquarium, dozens of great shows, restaurants and one of the largest indoor water parks in the country, the Wilderness At the Smokies, “ya’ll” are sure to have a great time! Be sure to go hiking or biking in the most visited national park in the country, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which welcomes about 10 million visitors each year. Pigeon Forge is located 50 minutes outside of Knoxville (30 miles), 2 hours outside of Asheville, a little over a 4 hour drive from Atlanta (250 miles) and 3½ hours outside of Nashville (213 miles).
Top 12 Attractions
1. Dollywood, Pigeon Forge is by the far the biggest attraction in the region. This theme park owned by country music singer Dolly Parton is a ton of fun. In 2013 Dolly announced that they plan on investing over $300 million in Dollywood over the next 10 years, which begins with Fire Chaser Express, the first dual-launch “family-style” roller coaster, which is expected to open in March 2014. Admission is $57 for adults and $45 for children.
Dollywood’s River Battle is a child’s favorite, it’s one of the newest rides in the park.
2. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Gatlinburg is a world-class aquarium, located in Gatlinburg. It was recently voted the number 1 aquarium by TripAdvisor. The aquarium boasts over 10,000 exotic creatures, including sharks, baby penguins, giant sea turtles, and stingrays that you can touch. Walk through underwater tunnels, explore a rainforest, and enjoy great shows – all in the middle of the Smoky Mountains. Admission is $22.99 for adults and $12.99 for children.
3. Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort – You will never be bored and there will be something for everyone at Ober Gatlinburg. Not only can you ski and snowboard during the season, but they also offer an amusement park, an ice-skating rink, a wildlife encounter tour, and the alpine slide. All-inclusive wristbands range from $20-$30 for adults and $17-$25.50 for children.
4. Dollywood’s Splash Country, Pigeon Forge is a 35 acre water park located beside Dollywood. Enjoy fantastic mountain views as you slide down twisty water slides and your kids play in their own playground areas. You can stay on site in one of the luxurious Dollywood Cabins to relax after your long day of playing. Splash Country is open from May-September. Admission is $47 for adults and $42 for children.
5. Titanic Pigeon Forge, Pigeon Forge – Take a self-guided tour through this unique museum that your whole family can enjoy. Upon entry, each guest is given the boarding pass of a real Titanic passenger or crew member and at the end of your journey, you can discover their fate. As you walk through the museum, you will experience what life may have been like aboard the Titanic. Shovel coal, walk across the reconstructed grand staircase, and admire over 400 recovered artifacts. Tickets are $22 for adults and $11 for children.
6. Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Pigeon Forge – Dolly Parton loves her Tennessee, and has created yet another fantastic area attraction. The Dixie Stampede offers the best of both worlds – dinner and a show. The shows feature family friendly acts with horse riding stunts, phenomenal music, and child-friendly humor. Buy your tickets online before your trip to reserve your spot. Adult admission ranges from $50-$55.51. Child admission ranges from $24.61-$30.13.
7. WonderWorks, Pigeon Forge – A mind blowing adventure that a person of any age would enjoy, WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge is full of fun and discovery combined. You will enter into what appears to be an upside down building, experience an earthquake, play laser tag, enjoy over 100 hands-on activities, and end your day with a magic show. Tickets for WonderWorks are $23 for adults and $15 for children.
8. Gatlinburg Sky Lift gives you the chance to take in the magnificent view of the Great Smokies. At 1,800 feet above Crockett Mountain, you can dangle during the day or at night. Rates are $14 for adults and $10.50 for children.
9. Clingmans Dome, Appalachian Trail – Experience the highest point of the famous trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. You may not have the months to make the whole hike, but you can stand at the second highest peak east of the Mississippi and admire the Great Smoky Mountains. Bring your warm hiking gear, as you’ll be traipsing up steep inclines, possibly through snow. The Dome is about a 30 minute drive from Gatlinburg, but the final stretch of the road is closed during treacherous seasons, so be sure to check out the road’s status online before making the journey. Entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free of charge (it’s one of the only free national parks in the country).
10. Christmas Place – Noted as the South’s largest Christmas shopping village, you can’t miss stopping into this magical place for new family ornaments any time of the year. The shopping center in Pigeon Forge is a large complex that houses a variety of shops selling Christmas trees, decorations, food, gifts, and you’ll even get a visit from singing santa, if you come during the right season!
11. Ghost Walk of Gatlinburg – The Ghost Walk of Gatlinburg is a unique way to learn the old folklore of the Smokey Mountain area. This hour long walking tour takes you to Gatlinburg’s historic haunts rich with forgotten tales and murder stories from the past 100 years. The tour guides are mighty entertaining and dress old garb, and you are even give an EMF detector during the tour. We rank it at #4 on our list of 13 Bone-Chilling Haunted Tours in the US. The tours run at 9 pm, 10:30 pm and midnight each night. Adults cost $15, children 6-12 cost $8, and there is a Money Back Guarantee. Meet your tourguide at White Oak Flat Cemetery in Gatlinburg.
12. Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, Gatlinburg – Come see the world’s only salt and pepper shaker museum! In search of the perfect pepper mill, Andrea Ludden discovered a new hobby. Fast-forward about 30 years, and she’s accumulated 80,000 shakers and mills, half of which can be found in this museum near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; the others occupy a new, sister museum in Guadalest, Spain. To the Ludden family, it’s more than just a novelty. They believe that the condiment containers are petite pieces of art that reflect societal shifts and are worth your time of day! We consider it to be one of the 27 Coolest Museums In America. A $3 admission fee goes towards any shaker purchased in the gift shop.
Applewood Farmhouse Grill – Along Apple Valley Road in Sevierville lies a delightful surprise that anyone would enjoy. Applewood Farmhouse Grill serves down-home country cooking. Next door, you can go shopping for sweet country gifts and peruse the wine selection.
Huck Finn’s – For some fish and family fun, head over to Huck Finn’s in Pigeon Forge. Well known for their catfish, southern cooking, and live music, this is bound to be one of your family’s favorite places.
The Pancake Pantry – Experience Tennessee’s first pancake house with mouthwatering made-from-scratch breakfasts all day long in Gatlinburg.
Incredible Christmas Place – It’s Christmas place year-round here at the “South’s Largest Christmas Store,” which received a 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
Wilderness at the Smokies, Sevierville – Lodging at this resort is available for small and large groups. Here is another place where no family member will be bored. At Wilderness at the Smokies Resort, guests have access to the largest indoor waterpark in Tennessee. There is also an outdoor waterpark, a ropes course, golf, and a variety of in-house dining options.
Take The plunge on the Runaway Canyon water slide at Wilderness at the Smokies.
Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort, Gatlinburg – Another favorite resort and waterpark combination awaits your family at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg. This resort is pet friendly, allowing family pets to join in the fun for a fee. There is also a spa for guests. The indoor portion of the waterpark is open year-round for your pleasure.
The Inn at Christmas Place, Pigeon Forge – After your long day of shopping, you won’t have to go too far to relax. Stay in the four star hotel for comfort and luxury. The elegant hotel offers a swimming pool, the “Elve’s retreat room” for some billiards or foosball, and even a glockenspiel in the lobby.
COMING IN 2015: Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, Pigeon Forge is set to open in 2015 for the park’s 30th anniversary. The 300 room resort will be located on 100 acres near Dollywood Splash Country and will feature a variety of accommodations, including fire pits, swings and hammocks, and story spots scattered throughout the grounds. Parton says the goal is to celebrate the “iconic Southern gathering spot.” The resort will also feature an indoor and outdoor resort pool complex, a spa, and a full-service farmhouse-style restaurant. Parton says the “crown jewel” of the resort will be the 2,200 square-foot “Dolly’s Suite Dreams” celebrity suite, with decor inspired by Parton herself.
“There will be a suite there on the top floor. It’s my suite,” said Parton. “And when I’m not there, people can stay in it. But it’s really a huge space up there on the top floor, with other rooms that can open into it. You can almost have a whole family reunion.”
Those looking for fun day trips will want to drive two hours (passing through Knoxville and Sevierville) to get to Asheville, NC’s Biltmore Estate, the number one most visited attraction in North Carolina – receiving over one million visitors each year. It is America’s largest home, which was built in the late 1800s and has provided self guided tours since the 1930s.
Another worthwhile venture would be to drive out to Oconaluftee Indian Village, right across the state line in Cherokee, North Carolina, where you will experience a recreation of an 18th century Cherokee village.
America’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers a vast amount of land, so how do you choose which part to visit? A local favorite spot is Cade’s Cove, located about 30 miles outside of Gatlinburg. Getting there will be a windy and breathtaking adventure through the mountains, and once you arrive, you can spend time in the largest open air museum in the Park. Take an auto or bike tour to learn the history of both the Native Americans and Pioneers who lived there. You can even see the first cabin built in the Smokies, and lots of wildlife.