If someone asked me to describe Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, I would say it reminds me of an east coast beach town without the beach! Think of a place with every attraction you can imagine for kids of all ages, a variety of lodging options, and plenty of restaurants and ice cream shops. Throw in a scenic mountain location just a short drive from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and you have a family-friendly vacation destination with something for everyone. Our road trip to Tennessee several years ago was inspired by my daughter's invitation to a school related conference in Nashville, and Pigeon Forge seemed like an ideal spot to explore before heading to Nashville. With the recent devastating Tennessee wildfires in the news, I thought it would be a good time to finally write a more detailed blog post about Pigeon Forge and the surrounding area.
First, a word about accommodations. Visitors will find all sizes and price ranges, from budget friendly and deluxe hotels on the main parkway, to rental cabins in the mountains with amazing views, game rooms and hot tubs. As a family of 5, we always appreciate finding an affordable vacation rental which offers extra space and a full kitchen, giving us the option of not having to eat every meal at a restaurant (plus having a grill means laid back summer meals on the porch that I don't have to cook). Our cabin rental was in the peaceful community of Brother’s Cove, with a winding drive up to our house, and spectacular views from the road, our back porch and hot tub! I would have been happy sitting on the porch with coffee and a book but that never goes over well with kids. So here’s my list of 8 cool things that will appeal to teens in Pigeon Forge.
1. Soar Through the Air on a Zip Line. Hands-down this was my favorite activity, and of course, my teens loved it too! We choose Wears Valley Zipline Adventures based on the reviews, and we weren’t disappointed. My kids loved watching me scream on the first two lines while I got used to dangling in the air with nothing under my feet! But the highlight for all of us was traveling a zipline over 250 feet high for over half a mile with nothing but mountain views. Participants can choose from two courses, with a few new lines being added since we visited.
2. Get Muddy with an ATV Rental. Riding an ATV through the foothills of East Tennessee on muddy trails was definitely an experience for my kids. Unfortunately I stayed back with a sick child, but my dare devil husband and two kids certainly had a muddy adventure with Bluff Mountain Adventures. They took the 1 hour family ride, which was a perfect introduction for beginners, riding through the forest and across creeks and streams. It was definitely a learning experience for my family! Kids 12 and over can ride their own ATV.
3. Go White Water Rafting. We took advantage of a combination zipline and rafting package with Outdoor Adventures to try our first family white water rafting adventure. The Upper Pigeon River was perfect, with enough Class III and IV rapids to make it exciting. Kids must be 8 years old or weigh at least 70 pounds. During the summer, the river is dam controlled, with scheduled guaranteed water releases.
4. Visit the Titanic Museum Attraction. When I started planning this trip, the last thing I expected to find in the middle of Tennessee was a Titanic Museum! But since my daughter is a huge fan of the Titanic movie, I knew this was a must see! With interactive displays, real artifacts and rooms from the ship that have been carefully re-created, it’s easy to see why it’s Trip Advisor’s #1 rated attraction in Pigeon Forge. Read more about the highlights of our visit to this wonderful museum. Don’t forget to ask about the family pass if you have more than 2 kids in your group.
5. Head to The Island and Ride the Wheel. There’s plenty to do at The Island at Pigeon Forge, where you’ll find restaurants, shops, and attractions. Take your pick from a multitude of food choices but be sure to try the Pomme Frites at Poynor’s. The whole place lights up at night, with the colorful lights of the dancing fountains and the 200 foot tall Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. With 20 attractions to choose from, kids of all ages will love The Island.
6. Go Hiking in the Mountains. Spend at least a day exploring the most visited national park in the US, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s an easy drive to the Gatlinburg entrance from Pigeon Forge. Take a hike to one of several waterfalls. We choose the trail to Rainbow Falls and were rewarded with a beautiful waterfall at the end. Hikers of all ages were on the trail, just be sure to carry water during the summer. Find more tips and ideas for visiting the this popular national park at Celebrate the Outdoors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
7. Visit Dollywood. We knew ahead of time that Pigeon Forge was home to the popular Dollywood, but because half of my family are not fans of amusement park rides, we decided not to make a visit on this trip. But roller coaster fans will love the popular park, which boasts the world’s fastest wood coaster, along with dozens of other attractions. Families will also enjoy the seasonal 35 acre Splash Country Water Park.
8. Feed the Goats on the Roof. I had to throw this activity on the list because it’s just something you won’t find on most vacations! Each time we drove into town from our cabin, we passed by Goats on the Roof, so of course I was curious and had to stop. The gift shop is perfect for picking up fun, local gifts and foods, like homemade fudge and moonshine jelly. But the real fun is when you hop on the “goat-cycle” and send a bucket of feed up to the goats on the roof! It was by far one of the most unusual roadside attractions we found in Tennessee.
My list could go on and on, as there are so many fun activities to choose from in both Pigeon Forge and nearby Gatlinburg. Signature Pigeon Forge shows include dinner shows like Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede and the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show. Other popular places include The Comedy Barn Theatre and WonderWorks. We also spent an afternoon and evening exploring nearby Gatlinburg, with more family-friendly attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and the Mysterious Mansion. For a comprehensive listing of all attractions along with seasonal events, visit the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg official tourism websites.