Ready to head to the mountains? Here is a shortlist of things to do, see, and eat in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Pigeon Forge is nestled at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and is the perfect location for spending quality time with your family. There are tons of fun things to do in the mountain resort city that hosts millions of visitors annually.
1. Visit The Island
The Island in Pigeon Forge is a shopping and entertainment complex that offers something for everyone. The Island is home to The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel - a 200 foot tall Ferris wheel that offers some of the best views of Pigeon Forge.
Kids will enjoy the various arcade games and rides at The Island and adults have fun things, too, like shopping at the 60+ retail and specialty shops and getting a massage at St. Somewhere Spa. (My husband can personally testify that the massage is incredible!)
The Island is also home to over a dozen places to wet your whistle, get a little something sweet to eat, or to dig into something totally filling.
The Escape Game at The Island
For those who have never been to an escape room, then let me tell you briefly how they work. You select the type of “escape room.” Once there, you are briefed about what to do. Much of what needs to be done will have to be figured out by YOU along the way. You have only 1 hour to complete your mission.
At The Escape Game in Pigeon Forge, guests are given 3 clues. You are allowed to request more clues, but each clue adds 3 minutes to your time. The possibility exists that you may have to play with others during your time slot unless you book the entire room (see their website for more information). You are not allowed to take pictures inside.
The Island Ropes Course
If you are feeling brave, then the three-story tall Sky Trail Explorer should be on your list of things to do. The staff securely fastens guests in safety gear and then lets them go. There are beams, ropes, and ziplines that take people from one point to another on the course.
2. Learn About Famous Crimes
Near the entrance to The Island is Alcatraz East Crime Museum, a museum devoted to educating guests about all things crime-related. The museum has five galleries spread across 2 floors and 25,000 square feet of space that delve into criminal profiles, the penal system, victim’s stories, crime prevention, forensic science, law enforcement, and the American justice system. The museum's collections are very tastefully arranged and pay respect to those who are/were victims.
Be sure to allow yourself at least 2 hours to explore the museum. It has over 100 interactive displays which you will want to check out. My family and I went thinking that we could do it all in an hour - we were so wrong. It's on our list of places to visit (again) when we go back.
3. Dig Into Authentic Southern Cuisine
Pigeon Forge is truly a Southern town, and with that, there is plenty of good old-fashioned Southern fare to be found. From pancakes to the all-you-care-to-eat offerings at Paula Deen's Family Kitchen to classic comfort food at Dollywood, you'll find it in Pigeon Forge.
Local Breakfast Buffet
When you are in the Smoky Mountains, you have to begin your day with a hearty breakfast. Pancake houses are everywhere and you can even find those with breakfast buffets, like the one shown below at Reagan's House of Pancakes.
The Old Mill
Step back in time and enjoy a Southern breakfast by the Little Pigeon River.
The Old Mill’s history dates back to the 1830s when a water-powered gristmill was built on the banks of the what-was-to-be-called the Pigeon River. Meals and flours were ground at the mill and it became a popular gathering spot. Fast forward almost 200 years, and it is now a popular place for people to grab a bite to eat, buy some freshly milled meal, flour, and mixes, and also buy some locally made unique pottery pieces.
Dining at Dollywood
Dollywood is home to sit-down restaurants serving everything from meat and veggies at Aunt Granny's Restaurant to slow cooked barbecue at Miss Lillian's Smokehouse.
The Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grille
This quaint restaurant sits next door to The Old Mill Pigeon River Pottery. What's neat about it - in addition to some really good Southern food - is that they serve up their dishes on handmade pottery. I recommend the Shrimp & Grits. (You can see the full menu here.)
Of course, you'll also find classic steakhouses, casual fast-food restaurants, sit-down BBQ joints, ice cream parlors, Chinese restaurants, a saloon, dinner theaters and so much more. There's no reason anyone should be hungry in Pigeon Forge.
4. Attend a Dinner Theater Show
What's not to love about attending a dinner theater in Pigeon Forge? Nothing. It's a fabulous way to enjoy a show and sit down to a filling dinner. There are several dinner theaters in Pigeon Forge, including the Dolly Parton's Stampede, the Hatfield and McCoy, the Grand Majestic Dinner Theater, and the Biblical Times Dinner Theater.
In addition to a really good show, the Dixie Stampede knows how to serve up a delicious meal. The four-course meal starts with a creamy soup and savory biscuit, followed by a whole rotisserie chicken, smoked barbecue pork loin, a potato wedge, corn-on-the-cob, and topped off with a delicious pastry.
5. Bond with Your Kids
Pigeon Forge is a family-friendly destination. There are over 70 attractions along the parkway PLUS award-winning Dollywood. Many of the attractions are located inside, making them weather-proof and a good back-up plan for rainy days. If the weather is nice, there are go-karts, outdoor coasters, mini-golf, zorbing, and more!
The Tomb Escape Game might seem a little cheesy, but it is a lot less intense than The Escape Game and it's fun trying to figure out the necessary clues. It’s a great option for people with younger kids and for those times when you want to escape the heat, rain, or snow and still do something fun as a family. (The Tomb has seasonal hours, so be sure to visit the website for updated info.)
MagiQuest houses four different attractions under one roof. The pirate golf is set in a Caribbean pirate village, the blacklight course has colorful pirate paraphernalia and a few obstacles which will challenge your putting skills.
Another attraction at MagiQuest is The Vault. Think security lasers coming from a hundred different angles protecting something valuable. It will make you want to channel your inner Catherine Zeta-Jones (from the movie Entrapment) while avoiding the laser beams.
Think you could find your way out of maze of mirrors quickly? You can find out at The Odyssey – A Mirror Maze Adventure. There are twists and turns and just when you think you have found an opening, you discover quickly that you haven't.
6. Learn About the Fate of the Passengers on the Titanic
The Titanic Pigeon Forge pays respect to those souls who boarded the ship that "could never sink."
The museum displays artifacts recovered from the wreckage and has a few interactive displays to give visitors an idea of what the Titanic passengers experienced. As visitors enter the museum, they are given a card with a name of an actual passenger from the Titanic. At the end of the voyage, visitors learn of the fate of that passenger.
7. Shop Local
Artisans have been creating beautiful pottery works of art for over 50 years in Pigeon Forge. You can find beautiful pieces for your home at The Old Mill Pigeon River Pottery. You might even see some of the artisans at work on the pottery wheel.
At Dollywood, master craftsmen forge iron and steel into beautiful items such as knives and home and garden decor. Other mementos that you will find in Pigeon Forge are a reminder of yesteryear, like the vintage firetruck replica pictured below.
8. Explore Dollywood
Dollywood ranks high among my favorite theme parks. It's clean, beautiful, the people are friendly, the food is good, the shows are great, and the rides are thrilling. There is so much more to say about it that I wrote a separate post. You can read it here.
If your Spring Break coincides with Dollywood's Festival of Nations, I highly recommend that you check it out. There are special performances featuring acts from around the world that will amaze you.
Previous dishes at the Festival of Nations included Poutine from Canada, Gluehwein from Germany, Bobotie from South Africa, Beef Bulgogi Nachos from Korea, and Paella from Spain.
For Summer Fun - Dollywood's Splash Country
Dollywood's Splash Country is a fun water park with water slides, a lazy river ride, a wave pool, places to dine at the park, lockers, and retreats. It's a great place to soak up some sun while the kids play in the water. Tip: Book a cabana and enjoy your own private space to take a break from playing in the sun.
9. Take a Hike
There are over 800 miles of trails in the Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge area. There are trails for novice hikers as well as experienced. Spring is a great time to watch as flowers and wildlife start to emerge.
Before heading out, be sure to check the forecast and dress accordingly. Don't forget to bring your camera, because there will be plenty of picture-taking opportunities of the beautiful scenery.
10. Explore the Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains is THE most visited national park in the United States. It comprises 500,000 acres of Southern Appalachian wilderness on one of the oldest uplands on earth. Explore Cades Cove and visit historic homesteads and churches.
There is a one-way, 11-mile loop around Cades Cove with spots that you can pull-off so that you can explore the area. Be on the lookout for wildlife. There are deer, squirrels, foxes, beavers, raccoons, and even bears!
Those are just some of the things that you can do in Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge is THE vacation destination that combines the scenic beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains with so many family-friendly attractions, you'll want to return again and again.
To discover more fun things, go to MyPigeonForge.com and be sure to request your free travel guide.
If you like tours and shows as much as I do, then check out these deals at Get Your Guide (affiliate link):
Where To Stay in Pigeon Forge
Dollywood's DreamMore Resort
The DreamMore Resort opened its doors in 2015 and is located by Dollywood's Splash Country and Dollywood amusement parks. The resort has all of the amenities that you would expect and more. The beautifully appointed resort is a reflection of Dolly, herself. It's the best place to stay if you are planning on visiting the Dollywood parks.
Yes - Dollywood has cabins. Beautiful cabins with stunning views of the mountains. There are park perks, too, for being a cabin guest. Guests can purchase a Length of Stay Pass for the same price as a regular day's pass and have unlimited visits to the park for the duration of their stay.
Another great option is to stay at the Margaritaville Island Hotel. It’s located at The Island, a shopping and entertainment complex in the heart of Pigeon Forge. The Jimmy Buffett-inspired hotel has a laid-back tropical vibe with modern amenities and is only steps away from good food and fun. If you like being within walking distance of restaurants and entertainment, this is a great option.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to partner with Pigeon Forge Tourism and tell you about this awesome destination. All thoughts and opinions are my own.