Top 5 less obvious attractions for kids in the Smoky Mountains

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You’ve brought the family to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Now what?

Great news person who doesn’t do a hell of a lot of planning for family vacations! There are quite literally hundreds of fun things to do in the area and not all of them cost the gross national product of Bolivia!

First and foremost, let’s start off with a caveat: There are some pretty obvious options here. If you need me to tell you to go to Dollywood, the Aquarium and to go play mini-golf and ride go-carts, there’s a decent chance the kids you have in the car are not actually yours and something hinky is going on. Go to the police station and turn yourself in.

1. Pigeon River Canopy Tours

Located about 30 miles out of Gatlinburg in the tiny mountain community of Hartford near the Tennessee-North Carolina state line, you will find the Pigeon River Canopy Tours.  The tour, which accommodates kids ages 8 and up with a minimum weight of 60 lbs., isn’t for those afraid of heights. The tour soars over the Big Pigeon River at heights up to 120 feet above the river. This is an adventure and riders must be in good physical condition and able to raise their arms over their head to regulate speed and braking, but if you’re capable and brave enough, it offers a unique experience the family will remember for a lifetime.

Pigeon River Canopy Tours – Visit website

Location: 3565 Hartford Rd, Hartford, TN 37753

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday)

Indoor waterpark at Wilderness at the Smokies (Photo by Alaina O’Neal/

2. Wilderness at the Smokies

We’ve had year-round snow, now let’s try a year-round waterpark. The Wilderness at the Smokies is a hotel/waterpark/adventure zone all in one. There are multiple rates included if you stay in the hotel, but there are a limited number of tickets available if you just want to experience the waterpark. For years, the classic Ogle’s Waterpark dominated the summer months in Pigeon Forge, but was outdoors and thus seasonal. Eventually, the realization that the prime spot was more valuable if it could be open year round, the lot sold, was torn down and paved over for dozens of businesses and restaurants. Into that waterpark void stepped the Wilderness at the Smokies, which has indoor tube slides, the Smokies Surf Rider, the Storm Chase Thrill Ride and the Great Wave pool. It’s all the fun of a classic waterpark –updated with modern technology – and indoors for year-round fun.

Wilderness at The Smokies – Visit website

Location: 1424 Old Knoxville Hwy, Sevierville, TN 37876

Hours: Hours vary by season

3. Forbidden Caverns

Everyone who visits the Smokies gets a view of the mountains from above the ground – but Forbidden Caverns offers a view of what’s down below. Open April through November, the caverns, located in Sevierville, provide an entertaining and educational tour. The trail is well-lit with handrails where necessary, but it goes without saying you’re going underground through uneven terrain. If you have mobility issues – or a fear of damp, dark spaces – maybe just stay above ground.

Forbidden Caverns – Visit website

Location: 455 Blowing Cave Rd, Sevierville, TN 37876

Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, Closed Sundays

4. Pigeon Forge Snow

Year round snow? Indoors? With temperatures set to 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit?  Avert your eyes, Hezekiah! Surely this be the work of the Devil. But No! There is no witchcraft or sorcery here. Just science that I don’t pretend to understand. Pigeon Forge Snow offers an indoor winter wonderland all year round with – what they promise is real, chemical free snow made with nothing but water run through a snow machine. We live in magical times, my friends. This indoor tubing spectacular is for anyone 38 inches tall and at least 3 years of age. Younger children can enjoy the SnowPlay area as well. The hill is tall and wide so tubers get up to a nice speed and several can go – in their own lane – at once and race. This is a perfect activity when the weather outside is frightful – or you know – rainy. Tickets are sold for an hour of tubing, which is just about the right amount of time.

Pigeon Forge Snow – Visit website

Location: 2533 Teaster Ln, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Hours: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Friday & Saturday

The Coaster at Goats on the Roof (Photo by Alaina O’Neal/

5. Ride an alpine coaster

Along with the moonshine boom, there’s been a real uptick in alpine coasters in recent years. That’s right, the business people of Sevier County have found out there’s real money in the gravity business and they’ve invested heavily in it. For years, Ober-Gatlinburg had the monopoly on the alpine slide business, but today’s coasters are safer, better built and capable of providing real thrills. There’s several to choose from in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, I like the one at Goats on the Roof because there’s a lot of other things to do – including feeding the goats on the roof – and they offer a smaller version for the smaller kids. But honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster – Visit website

Location: 867 Wears Valley Rd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Hours: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. Friday & Saturday

The Coaster at Goats on a Roof- Visit website

Location: 1341 Wears Valley Rd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Hours: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Weekdays, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Weekends

6. Indoor Skydiving

Want to feel the sensation of flying without worrying about peeing yourself? Try indoor skydiving.  In fact, go to the indoor waterpark, go to the indoor tubing and then hit indoor skydiving for the trifecta. Basically, you dress as a skydiver, then go into a room where you stand above a giant fan.  Don’t worry there are several layers of safety nets between you and the massive, rotating blades of death below. The more athletic among you can do tricks as your guide controls the level of air blast that lifts you into the air and allows you to ride the wind. It’s an exhilarating ride, though I’d imagine decidedly less so than actually jumping out of a plane.   

Flyaway Indoor Skydiving – Visit website

Location: 3106 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Hours: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Thursday-Tuesday, Closed Wednesdays

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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