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Is Pigeon Forge on your bucket list? I’m sharing some of my favorite things to do in Pigeon Forge as well as places to eat, sleep and a sample itinerary to help you pull it all together. “
For years, I listened to some of my friends talk about how amazing Pigeon Forge and the surrounding area was but my husband and I weren’t convinced.
That all changed the first time we visited with our children. Our kids were young, we had never been to the mountains and we all fell in love. What could be better than a family vacation destination located at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains? How about one that also offers a distinct variety of new and established entertainment and activities that inspire unforgettable memories and stories?
It didn’t take us long to realize what we were missing.
We were sold on that first visit and couldn’t wait to return. Lucky for us, Pigeon Forge is easily driveable from Ohio. It takes about six and a half hours to reach Pigeon Forge from our home in northeastern Ohio, an easy road trip.
My kids are now grown and return to the area on their own but I know that like many other areas in their lives, my husband and I helped lay the foundation for not only their love of the Smokies but their love of travel as well.
I’ve returned to Pigeon Forge many times since that very first visit and I have never been disappointed with my stay. I’ve traveled with my family, with only my husband, with my own mom and dad, and I’ve met friends there. It doesn’t matter who I travel with, or what their interests are, there has never been a shortage of available activities.
Pigeon Forge is well-known to Tennessee travelers as a hub of theme parks and outlet shopping. Dollywood may be the most famous, but there are many more things to do in Pigeon Forge for families of all ages. It doesn’t matter if you’re on spring break, a quick weekend getaway or a multi-generational family vacation, you’ll find plenty of options in Pigeon Forge! I’ll start by sharing some of my families favorites!
Entertainment Options in Pigeon Forge
Old Mill Square
An early 19th-century water-powered gristmill on the Pigeon River has been preserved and now serves as the centerpiece of Old Mill Square, one of Pigeon Forge’s best attractions.
You can easily spend a full day at Old Mill Square with all of the things to see. There’s a General Store, The Old Mill Creamery, a pottery studio, candy kitchen, and a ladies’ boutique shop.
The Old Mill Restaurant is legendary, with family-style Southern comfort food, or for a quicker bite, grab something at the Old Mill Pottery House Cafe & Grille.
The Christmas Place
The Christmas Place is the largest Christmas store in the South and draws crowds year round. My mom and I spent two hours walking through the store and admiring the beautifully decorated trees.
Most Pigeon Forge vacations will involve a visit to Dollywood. In 1985, a local amusement park partnered with country music singer Dolly Parton to bring tourism to the Pigeon Forge area. Dollywood was born, and the rest is history!
The one amusement park has grown into an entertainment complex and it’s about to get bigger with the addition of Wildwood Grove, the largest expansion in Dollywood history!
Dollywood currently has more than 40 rides and attractions, plus live entertainment shows and over two dozen dining options, from funnel cakes to BBQ. My family loves to visit during the Festival of Nations and Rock the Smokies.
If you want to be the first in and the last to leave Dollywood, you can spend the night at the luxurious DreamMore Resort & Spa.
Pro Tip: Don’t leave the park without trying the Cinnamon Bread which is sold at the grist mill. Your taste buds will thank you.
Dollywood’s Splash Country
For water park fun, don’t miss Dollywood’s Splash Country. Next door to Dollywood, Splash Country has waterpark fun for the whole family. There’s an 8,000 square foot lagoon, speed slides, a 25,000 square foot wave pool, and a lazy river.
For an additional fee, you can use the TimeSaver H20 Pass to reserve a spot in line and avoid waiting in long ride lines. If you plan to visit both Dollywood and Splash Country, you can save money with combo tickets.
Pro Tip: Shaded Waterside or Riverside Retreats are the perfect spot for the families to sit back and relax in between water rides.
Dolly Parton’s Stampede
Formerly known as the “Dixie Stampede” this is a dinner show featuring fun banter and a playful competition of the North vs. the South. Guests dine on Southern comfort food served medieval style (i.e. no utensils!) while watching the performance. The room is divided into North and South and through various competitions, a victor is declared. The Stampede is fun for the whole family, and the kids will get a kick out of eating a whole dinner with their hands!
Pro Tip: If you really can’t stand the thought of eating with your fingers, you may request plasticware. Just be prepared for a bit of chiding from your server.
Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show
Another popular dinner show in Pigeon Forge is the Hatfield and McCoy. This one pits the Hatfields against the McCoys instead of the North against the South. With two shows each evening, you’ll experience singing, dancing, stunts, and comedy.
While you watch the Hatfield and McCoy families continue the famous feud, you’ll enjoy down-home cooking until you can’t eat anymore. In an age when clean family fun is hard to find, this is a great option for dinner and a show the whole family will love.
Wonders of Magic
Magician Terry Evanswood is the longest-running headline performer in Pigeon Forge and his magic show will not disappoint! My family was enthralled during the entire performance.
Pro tip: Reserve your tickets in advance, this show is likely to sell out.
The Island in Pigeon Forge
The Island in Pigeon Forge is yet another amusement park and entertainment complex and a must-see for my adult kids.
The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel takes riders 200 feet in the air, for a birds-eye view of The Island. The water fountain has a light and music performance The Island has more than sixty retail stores and two Margaritaville hotels. Dining options include Margaritaville, Dick’s Last Resort, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen and many more.
Must See Museums in Pigeon Forge
A replica of the Titanic ship, and sister to the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri. The Pigeon Forge Titanic Museum is built to 1/2 the scale of the original Titanic ship.
In addition to over 400 artifacts, the museum is highly interactive with an iceberg and water matching the temperature of the ocean when the Titanic sank. The owner of this museum co-led an expedition to the wreckage in 1986, so this museum is a real passion project and historically accurate and interesting.
This is not a feel-good museum, but it is a must for the history lover.
Hollywood Wax Museum
For fun photo opportunities with life-like wax sculptures of Hollywood celebrities, head to the Hollywood Wax Museum in Pigeon Forge. To make your photos even more fun, props are available to set the scene. Along the way, you’ll learn little tidbits about your favorite celebrities.
A great option for a rainy day in Pigeon Forge!
This eye-catching upside down building is fun for all! You’ll find over 100+ hands-on exhibits- from an overhead ropes course to optical illusions, to a 4-D simulator ride there is truly something that appeals to everyone. While I love the Far Out Art, my kids enjoy laser tag and laying on a bed of nails. Yes, you read that correctly. Clearly, this isn’t your typical museum.
Pro Tip: Save money when you purchase a combo ticket for entrance to Wonderworks and The Wonders of Magic Show whose theater is located at Wonderworks.
Things to do in Pigeon Forge for Adventure Seekers
Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster
For an outdoor adrenaline surge, check out the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. It was the first alpine coaster in the Smokies and is also the longest alpine coaster in the U.S, at over a mile long.
Tickets are sold for individual rides, but you can ride again for a reduced rate. The coaster is even open late for nighttime rides under thousands of colored LED lights.
Zip Pigeon Forge
For an adventure in the air, check out the Dome Ziplines, with a mile of line reaching as high as 150 feet. The course has 11 total zip lines that take you through mountains and ravines with views high above Pigeon Forge.
Kids as young as five can enjoy this adventure!
Outdoor Gravity Park
The only gravity park in the United States can be found in the hills of Pigeon Forge. This one of a kind experience especially appeals to my adventure seeking kids. Zig zag, funnel or zip down the 1,000-foothill solo or with up to three friends inside a zorb.
Riders may opt for a wet or dry experience or try both.
Xtreme Racing Center
The Xtreme Racing Center boasts the fastest karts in Pigeon Forge. Racers can choose from the X-Treme Track with winding curves and narrow straightaways or the Elevated Track which welcomes two-seat karts for riders of all ages.
Where to Eat in Pigeon Forge
The Alamo is a casual steakhouse that caters to all ages. While not inexpensive, we’ve found our meals to be worth every penny and judging by our wait time, other people feel the same way.
Pro Tip: To beat the crowd and save a bit of money, visit this restaurant at lunchtime.
Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin
I know, I’m mentioning pancakes yet again, but you’d be remiss to visit the area known as the “Pancake Capital of the South” and not eat all the pancakes. You can order your choice of pancakes including options with gluten-sensitive options or stray from the flapjacks and opt for omelets or campfire skillets.
Mel’s Classic Diner
For a fun 1950’s dining experience, hop into Mel’s Classic Diner. You’ll find menu items that range from Potsy’s Cheese Fries and Bacon, Bubba’s Big Dog and Big Daddy’s Gut Buster Breakfast- served all day.
If you like unique dining experiences, this is a fun restaurant to try. My kids appreciate Mel’s because it stays open until midnight.
Big Daddy’s Pizzeria
Dine in or order ahead and take your pizza to go. Big Daddy’s Pizzeria serves up wood-fired pizza. You can’t go wrong with the BooBoo Bomber.
Where to Stay in Pigeon Forge
You’ll find lodging options for every budget in Pigeon Forge.
Red Roof Inn & Suites
For those that plan to explore from sun up to sun down and spend little time in their room, the Red Roof Inn & Suites offers large, clean rooms with the option to reserve large family suites with up to three queen size beds or bunks. Located right on the Parkway, your stay at this property includes a free pancake breakfast next door at Reagan’s House of Pancakes.
Red Roof & Suites is within walking distance to many attractions in Pigeon Forge and a short walk to the Pigeon Forge Fun Time Trolley. For only $3 you may purchase an All-Day Pass that will take you to over 200 area stops.
Located right along the river, Creekstone Inn offers comfortable accommodations in a layout that I really like. You’ll find rooms with two queen beds divided in the middle by the bathroom which offers a bit more privacy, especially when traveling with my mom and dad.
Dolly Parton’s DreamMore Resort and Spa
Dolly Parton’s DreamMore Resort and Spa is a bit more luxurious and offers enough amenities that you could stay on site and experience an amazing visit to Pigeon Forge- though not that I would suggest that. You’ll find indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, restaurant and evening entertainment for the kids in the family. The tastefully decorated rooms offer comfy bedding and are available in several configurations including family suites for families.
A stay at DreamMore also offers bus service to and from Dollywood and Splash Country so you can save on parking fees.
Cabin Fever Vacations
Cabin Fever Vacations offer area cabins to accommodate every family configuration. A great way to spread out and get some breathing room, many of the cabins offer gorgeous mountain views. Imagine waking up and enjoying your morning cup of coffee as the sun begins to rise over the mountains in the distance. Cabins are my preferred lodging when traveling with my adult kids.
A Weekend Getaway Sample Itinerary
Since we drive to the Smokies from Ohio, we normally arrive in Pigeon Forge in the late afternoon. My kids are hungry and tired so we check into our cabin (my preferred lodging when traveling with our big kids), freshen up and head out to dinner. The Alamo is an excellent option for meat eaters and one of my favorite places to eat in the area.
After dinner, we could head to The Island for the evening. Our children are all 21+ so they enjoy the free moonshine tasting at the Tennessee XXX Moonshine. I’m not a fan of moonshine but they do offer wine tastings and I can certainly get on board with wine. The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel offers an amazing view of the city.
Day Two would be full of fun-filled adventure. After a breakfast of pancakes (please don’t tell me you were surprised), we’d head out to zip line and ride the Alpine Coaster.
Take a break for lunch at Mel’s Classic Diner.
After lunch, you can add in a trip to the Xtreme Racing Center and Outdoor Gravity Park, in that order. If you opt for the wet ride in the zorb, you could be pretty soaked as bathing suits are recommended.
Head back to your cabin or hotel room to rest a bit and freshen up.
Go to a dinner show. My absolute favorite is Dolly Parton’s Stampede. Not only can you enjoy the show, but you get a fantastic meal and incredible service. It’s truly a fun night.
Return to your hotel or cabin. Relax in the hot tub (if one is available) to soak your sore muscles before you turn in for the night.
Breakfast at Flapjack’s Pancake House. Don’t worry, if Sticky Bun pancakes don’t sound appealing, you’ll find plenty of other delicious options on the menu.
Visit Dollywood for the day.
Grab a late lunch in the park. My favorite is Aunt Granny’s Buffet.
Pro Tip: Plan your day in advance so you don’t miss any of the shows or events that you’d like to see.
On the way to the hotel from Dollywood, stop by Big Daddy’s Pizzeria for a yummy Pepperoni Pizza or two.
If you spent the entire day at Dollywood, you’re probably worn out. Enjoy a low-key evening in your rental cabin.
If you didn’t stay all day and still have energy, get dressed and check out the Wonders of Magic for a special treat.
Today is your chance to check out a museum or two before heading home. As history lovers, my family has enjoyed touring The Titanic but you’ll find other options.
Grab Chick-fil-A (we don’t have one near us in Ohio) and head for home.
Order the Pigeon Forge Travel Guide or view it online for more ideas of things to do in Pigeon Forge.
Have you visited Pigeon Forge? I hope it doesn’t take you as long to explore as it did me!
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© 2019, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.