20 Cool Things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
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20 Cool Things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Getaway Staff

For being two small mountain cities sat next to one another in Tennessee, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are fairly different. The two towns are linked by a five-mile stretch of road but have incredibly unique atmospheres. The best part about going to "the Smokies" is that you can take in both cities on the same trip. You'll also find tons of other things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forgeon top of that. Whether you're planning to go skiing or camping in a spot with a wistful view of the Great Smoky Mountains, you're in for a darn treat.


01 Rent a cabin in the Smokies

cabin great smoky mountain view wbritten / Getty Images

Whichever way you prefer to sleep, there's an option for you in the Smokies. You might be a glamper, a camper, or a resort kind of person. Or, you could stay in one of the hundreds of cabins littered throughout the area. There's a cabin for your every whim, from luxe, decked-out cabins for the whole family to the kind of remote cabin in the middle of the mountains some of us dream of. Most of the cabins in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge come with stunning views of the Smokies. Close your eyes and picture waking up to the sun coming up over the mountains. Can you imagine it? Here, it's a fully-realized dream.


02 Saddle up to Miss Parton at Dollywood

Christmas time at The Island at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge

Ask yourself whether the one and only Dolly Parton would ever put a theme park in a spot she wasn't in love with. Then, take on board the fact that Pigeon Forge is the location of the infamous, Appalachian-themed metroplex, Dollywood. Not simply for fans of Miss Parton - though those who are will find it extra special - Dollywood is nestled in the foothills of the Smokies. It features exciting rides for all ages, homemade crafts, award-winning festivals, and seasonal spectacles that are never replicated. You can ride the Dollywood Express through the park, past the Grist Mill and weeping willows, explore the mystery mine, and grab some cinnamon bread that'll have you singing "I Will Always Love You" the whole day through.


03 Drink some good ole fashioned moonshine

bottle of moonshine SergeyChayko / Getty Images

Although this one ain't entirely for the kids, couples and groups of friends over 21 should certainly taste some good ole fashioned moonshine while in the Smokies. It'd be crazy not to! There are tons of distilleries where you can try the Smoky Mountain traditional beverage. The Island at Pigeon Forge is probably the best place to go if you're wanting to sample the drink while also with your family. As well as distilleries and museums, it has shopping opportunities, delicious traditional Southern food options - yum! - and all kinds of entertainment from bluegrass buskers to a good ole knees-up.


04 Take in the Hatfields and McCoys dinner show

The unique facade of the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show Theater

The tale of the Hatfields and the McCoys is one prevalent enough to have even been turned into a TV series. But have you ever wondered what it was like to live in the Confederate South? At the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge, you can kind of find out. Granted, the reenactment of the infamous family feud isn't exactly historically correct, but you can't go wrong with classic country food and a darn feastin' good time. Whichever family you pick to be part of, you're in for a jaw-dropping, hilarious night of family-friendly entertainment you'll want to see again and again.


05 Fixin’ to do some relaxin’?

milky way over the smokies Orchidpoet / Getty Images

The day after the dinner show, why not give yourself a day of relaxation? Or, while Pop takes the kids to do some fishin', you can slide in a few hours of pampering before they get back. The Canyon Spa at Lonesome Valley is small but delightful; the luxury treatments and amenities available will make you feel like you're the Queen of the Prairie. There, you can indulge in everything from a deep-tissue massage to facials, manicures, and more. The staff at Canyon Spa are there to make you feel good with their Southern Charm, and the spa itself offers its own natural gems in the shape of the landscape mountain views from every window.


06 See all of Tennessee’s craziest stuff

Ripley's Believe It Or Not Odditorium in Tennessee

As a state, Tennessee has its fair share of weird and unusual things to do. Between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, however, there might be the biggest concentration this side of Nashville. Believe it or not, Ripley's has eight different attractions spread out across the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area. In fact, the Odditorium has called the Smokies home since 1918. Enter the Odditorium to find shrunken heads; a dragon made entirely out of scrap pieces of metal, and oddities from all corners of the world. As well as these, it's home to the Vampire woman, a maze of mirrors, sharks, and jellyfish that roam the waters of the aquarium, and dozens of year-round events to keep kids and adults on their toes.


07 Hit the road, Jack

country road through smoky mountains KenWiedemann / Getty Images

Gear up for the Smokies and take a drive around the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. The trail consists of six miles of incomparable scenery with a road only big enough to allow cars and bikes. Along the route, you can pull up, lock up your car, and explore all of the secrets the Sapphire Valley has to offer. Hikes such as the one to Rainbow Falls, an 80-foot waterfall join the historical buildings of the Noah Ogle farmstead. The best thing to do on this trail is to take the family, take a picnic, and marvel in the Appalachian hills it’s hard to believe are real.


08 Wind Up at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

smoky mountain sunrise WerksMedia / Getty Images

The Roaring Fork Motor Trail is inside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Possibly one of the most stunning sights in the country, meadows of wildflowers and sprawling, lush, green forests coat the mountains like a blanket. Hiding away are more waterfalls, babbling brooks, crystal clear streams and part of the Appalachian Trail. For those who want to see everything, there's even an observation tower on top of the highest peak in the Smokies, Clingman's Dome. Offering vast, seemingly endless views of the misty, dusk-covered mountains, visiting it will make you feel like you're on top of the world.


09 Catch the Dance of the Fireflies

fireflies in the woods iStock / Getty Images

Every June, something special happens in the Great Smoky Mountains. For two weeks, you can witness the natural synchronized light show put on by thousands of fireflies. First documented in 1917, the dance of the fireflies has been capturing imaginations and hearts for generations. If you're in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg in mid-June, you'd be remiss to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not even photographs or videos can truly encapsulate what it feels like to see this for yourself. Simply jump on a trolley from the Sugarlands Visitor Center and it'll take you right where you need to be.


10 Visit Dr. Seuss and Friends

The gloved hands of a magician performing a magic trick with a rabbit in a top hat Halfdark / Getty Images

Dollywood isn't Pigeon Forge's only amusement park. Just down the road from the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show is the WonderWorks indoor amusement park. With hundreds of interactive exhibits and activities for kids and parents alike, it's worth taking a few hours out of your Gatlinburg vacation to visit. In the complex, you'll be able to experience what an earthquake feels like that measures six on the Richter Scale, lie on a bed of nails, and put yourself in the driving seat of dozens of simulations from fighter jets to roller coasters. While you're there, don't forget to check out the magic show from master illusionist Terry Evanswood. Between him and the Smokies at large, you'll see how real magic actually is.


11 Embark on a historical journey at the World’s largest Titanic Museum

Exploring Tennessee's Pigeon Forge George Rose / Getty Images

Step aboard the Titanic without ever leaving Pigeon Forge. This museum is not just a museum, it's a time capsule, a journey back to the ill-fated ship's maiden voyage. With over 400 pre-discovery artifacts spread across 20 dramatically-lit galleries, it's a poignant tribute to the lives lost and a fascinating exploration of the ship's history. You'll feel the chill of the iceberg and touch a real iceberg. The museum is a voyage of discovery that's not to be missed. It's a place where history comes alive, where you can walk the grand staircase, feel the captain's despair, and marvel at the opulence of the first-class suites.


12 Experience the thrill of the Rocky Top Mountain Coaster

Screaming girl riding mountain roller coaster with outstretched arms. Forest in background vlado85rs / Getty Images

Feel the wind in your hair as you hurtle down the longest roller coaster in East Tennessee. The Rocky Top Mountain Coaster is more than just a ride, it's a thrilling journey that reaches speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. As you twist and turn through the stunning mountain scenery, you'll feel your heart race and your adrenaline surge. It's a roller coaster ride like no other, and a must-do for thrill-seekers visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The coaster is nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, offering a unique blend of natural beauty and exhilarating fun.


13 Challenge your wits with an escape room adventure

Friendly family solving conundrums n chess quest room JackF / Getty Images

Test your wits and your nerve at one of Pigeon Forge's exciting escape rooms. The Escape Game offers a range of challenging scenarios that will push your problem-solving skills to the limit. Whether you're breaking out of prison, finding hidden treasure, or stopping a global threat, you'll need to work together to beat the clock. It's a fun, immersive experience that's perfect for families, friends, and team-building events. Each room is meticulously designed to immerse you in the story, making you feel like you're living out a real-life adventure.


14 Unleash your imagination at WonderWorks

Upside-down indoor amusement park, Wonderworks, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

Step into a world of wonder at WonderWorks. This family-friendly attraction is home to six Wonder Zones, each one filled with interactive exhibits that will spark your curiosity and ignite your imagination. From the mysteries of space to the marvels of art and sound, there's something to captivate everyone. It's a place where learning and fun go hand in hand, and where every visit is a new adventure. The building itself is an architectural marvel, designed to look like it's been picked up by a tornado and dropped upside down.


15 Immerse yourself in nature at Five Oaks Adventure Park

man during a Zip-line Tour Guatemala THEPALMER / Getty Images

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Five Oaks Adventure Park. Whether you're ziplining through the treetops, horseback riding along scenic trails, or simply soaking up the tranquility of the great outdoors, you'll find plenty to keep you entertained. It's a place where adventure and relaxation meet, and where memories are made. The park is set on a 70-acre nature park, offering stunning views of the Smoky Mountains and a peaceful retreat from the busy tourist areas.


16 Witness the excitement of Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show

Ax in the target, entertainment throwing an ax Gerasimov174 / Getty Images

Experience the thrill of the lumberjack life at Paula Deen's Lumberjack Feud Show. Watch as professional log rollers, axe throwers, and tree climbers compete in a series of exciting challenges. It's a show that's packed with action, humor, and a healthy dose of competition. So grab a seat, cheer on your favorite lumberjack, and get ready for a show you'll never forget. The show is set in a custom-designed outdoor amphitheater, complete with a 25-foot waterfall and a lumberjack-themed playground for the kids.


17 Discover diverse wildlife at RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo

A crocodile basking closeup. marlenka / Getty Images

Get up close and personal with over 600 animals at the RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo. From cheeky monkeys to lazy lizards and creepy crawlies, there's a world of wildlife waiting to be discovered. It's a place where learning comes to life, where children can feed the animals, learn about their habitats, and develop a love for the natural world. It's a day out that's fun, educational, and unforgettable. The zoo is home to creatures from the rainforests of the world, offering a unique opportunity to learn about these diverse ecosystems.


18 Soar above the trees on a helicopter tour

Helicopter flies in the mountains at sunset in the dark rbkomar / Getty Images

See the Great Smoky Mountains from a whole new perspective on a breathtaking helicopter tour. As you soar above the endless forests, you'll be treated to stunning views that few people ever get to see. It's a thrilling, awe-inspiring experience that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. So buckle up, take to the skies, and see Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge like never before. The tour offers a unique bird's eye view of the mountains, valleys, and towns, giving you a new appreciation for the area's natural beauty.


19 Take a jeep tour through the Great Smoky Mountains

Customized off-road vehicle driving on a wet road in the forest Serhii Prystupa / Getty Images

Experience the rugged beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains on an open-air jeep tour. As you tackle the rocky terrain, you'll be treated to stunning views, fascinating wildlife, and a sense of adventure that's second to none. It's a journey into the heart of the mountains, a chance to see the wild side of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and an experience you won't want to miss. The tour takes you off the beaten path, showing you hidden gems and secret spots that most tourists never get to see.


20 Enjoy year-round Winter fun at Pigeon Forge Snow

Father and son snow tubing in the winter GROGL / Getty Images

Cool off from the summer heat with a trip to Pigeon Forge Snow. This year-round attraction offers a hillside of snow tubing hills that are perfect for family-friendly fun. Whether you're racing down the slopes or simply enjoying the winter wonderland, it's a refreshing retreat from the summer sun. So grab a tube, hit the slopes, and get ready for a day of snowy fun. The facility uses state-of-the-art snow-making technology to create a winter wonderland, even in the middle of summer.


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