The 3 Big Mistakes I Made When Visiting Pigeon Forge

a car pulls up to the dollywood parking lot

Who among us hasn't accidentally shown up to Dollywood on a random week day only to learn that they were closed? (photo by Morgan Overholt/

Regardless of whether or not you’ve visited Pigeon Forge once, or a hundred times, you’ve probably made at least one of these common mistakes

As someone who has been knocking around Pigeon Forge for more than 35 years, you wouldn’t think I’d be prone to making mistakes. But I still do. You get complacent and forgetful. In other words dear reader, you get – cocky. And the next thing you know you’re there stuck in traffic or a two-hour wait at a restaurant and wondering – David Byrne-like – How did I get here? You got there by not learning from others and by not learning from yourself. 

Pigeon Forge – one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world – requires a certain level of forethought and a certain level of planning. It requires the ability to learn from the mistakes of the past – both those committed by you and others. 

Rod Run Vehicles Line the Parking Lots
Remember to check for Rod Run dates if crowds are not your thing (photo by James Overholt/

1. I forgot to check the calendar

Let me set a scenario for you. We’re heading down the strip. Traffic is heavy but it’s a busy time of the year. We come around the bend approaching the main drag to brake lights as far as the eye can see. Trying to be upbeat, you point the family’s attention to a cool classic car. Look at that one, you say. Then you see another. And then one more. 

Then everything shifts to slow motion as the cold realization creeps across your consciousness. Like a gangster in a Scorsese movie who realizes a second too late he’s about to get whacked you realize … It’s Rod Run weekend. The busiest weekend of any place on planet Earth.

“OH, NO! I would rather endure a full-body waxing than drive Pigeon Forge on a Rod Run weekend. But it’s too late. Like the end of the Sopranos or something. 

PS: Another related honorary mentionable mistake goes that time we planned a whole Dollywood day only to show up and the park was closed. Again, always check the calendar.

Harpoon Harrys Entrance Pigeon Forge
If you have a certain eatery in mind, do not forget to check for wait lists or reservations (photo by Alaina O’Neal/

2. I assumed I didn’t need dinner reservations

Let me set another scene. It’s July 4th weekend. My son – who has multiple food allergies and is a picker eater – is turning 11. We’re in Pigeon Forge. Do I call around to his favorite spots to check for reservations? Nah. We’ll go a little early and beat the rush should be fine.

Was it fine? It was not. Luckily, we were able to get in at Harpoon Harry’s at the last minute. Is a seafood place the best birthday option for a picky eater with a ton of allergies? It is not. Harpoon Harry’s however went the extra mile and made the guy feel like a king so it all worked out. 

lost mine mountain coaster and mini golf
The Lost Mine mountain coaster and mini golf – a newer attraction and one of so many in the area (photo by Morgan Overholt/

3. I forget to price things out

Sometimes I forget that things are more expensive than they used to be. Hey guys, let’s go to the arcade. We can do some mini-golf, ride the go-carts and get some dinner. Then, you get on-site and the cash register in your head starts ringing up the prices and you remember you didn’t take out a second mortgage before leaving the house today. Now you’re too focused on the old wallet to relax and have fun with the family. 

Ultimately, the mistakes I tend to make stem from the same stream. Hubris. It’s a lack of planning. I know Pigeon Forge like the back of my hand. I know the shortcuts. Of course, I know the places off the beaten path. Will I decide to set out for Pigeon Forge on a whim? Just to see what’s going on? Reader, I will. And sometimes everything turns out just fine. But when it goes wrong – and sometimes it goes dreadfully wrong – the mistake I made all goes back to a lack of planning.

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