Guy Fieri’s Downtown Flavortown, a new mixed-use entertainment venue, restaurant and bar is now open in Pigeon Forge.
But Downtown Flavortown isn’t just another Guy Fieri themed restaurant.
This 43,000-square-foot, 300-seat restaurant and entertainment center features food, state-of-the-art arcade games, a 14-lane duckpin bowling ally and a full premium bar.
Think of it along the same line as Dave and Busters, but Guy Fieri themed.
Who owns Downtown Flavortown?
The flagship attraction is owned and operated by FACE Amusement Group in partnership with Guy Fieri.
If FACE sounds familiar to locals, it’s because Downtown Flavortown is FACE amusement’s seventh establishment in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Additional properties include Arcade City, Rockin’ Raceway, Big Top Arcade and 7D Dark Ride Adventure. It also includes Chicken Guy Gatlinburg and Arcade City Gatlinburg, both of which opened in 2021.
Inside the huge venue, an iconic 1968 Chevy Camaro is on display for a photo opportunity. There’s also a gift shop and several entertainment options to explore. Additionally, the entertainment center offers several options for private parties.
That one-liner took off. Before he knew it, he had built an imaginary world in his own mind called “Flavortown”, frequently making jokes and references to the fictional land during his shows.
Eventually, he started referring to himself as “Mayor of Flavortown”.
The name would later become the inspiration for Flavortown Kitchen – a delivery-only restaurant concept with multiple locations across the United States and eventually, Downtown Flavortown in Pigeon Forge.
“No matter where you go in this great country, I can put ya on the road to Flavortown, real-deal food and good times, that’s what I’m all about. But there’s one experience that I’ve been saving for a special time and place.”
“I’m talking next level, go big or go home, the ultimate party … Scratch-made food, craft cocktails, tiki bar, bowling, gaming … you name it, we’re bringing it!” said Guy Fieri in a press release.
What is on the menu at Downtown Flavortown?
Pigeon Forge visitors will undoubtedly get a unique dining experience at Downtown Flavortown.
Some of the worldwide bestsellers include a wide selection of sandwiches, burgers and waffles.
For starters, the famed chef offers Trash Can Nachos, served in a tin tower stuffed with corn tortilla chips, smoked pork, cheddar, black beans, jalapenos, sour cream, pickled red onions, cilantro, pico de gallo and bourbon brown sugar with Motley Que BBQ sauce.
Other famous starters include the Dragon’s Breath Chili Cheese Fries (crispy fries with chili, cheddar, sour cream, pico de gallo, crispy onions and bacon) and Cheeto Dusted Chicharrones (crispy chicharrones with cheddar cheese powder, sea salt, chopped bacon and crispy jalapenos).
Main menu items at Downtown Flavortown
For your main meal, Downtown Flavortown offers some huge burger creations, like the Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheeseburger with crispy applewood bacon, SMC (short for Super Melty Cheese), lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle with crispy onions and a garlic butter brioche bun.
The Motley Que Pulled Pork sandwich has pulled pork shoulder, signature bourbon brown BBQ sauce, American slaw, pickle chips, aged cheddar, crispy onion straws and signature donkey sauce on a toasted pretzel bun.
This menu item was featured on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”.
There are also creations here you won’t find anywhere else. For example, we tried the Spaghetti Meatball Waffle, which was certainly one of the most unique dishes we’ve ever had.
Downtown Flavortown offers an extensive selection of liquors and craft cocktails. Craft beers are also available at the full-service tropical Tiki Bar.
Be sure to try Guy’s Famous BBQ Bloody Mary, the Tattooed Mojito, the Caliente Margarita or Flavortown’s Long Island.
For the more adventurous, they offer Bubblin Bowls, which are made for parties of three or more to share.
Lastly, desserts include selections such as cheesecake and layered chocolate whiskey cake.
How is the food at Downtown Flavortown?
If you’re looking for a restaurant experience, there may be no better place than Downtown Flavortown.
If you’re a meat and potatoes kind of guy, it may not be your jam.
These culinary creations combine some pretty unique flavors. The BBQ is sweet. The marinara was a little spicy. The food combinations are something you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
For example, in case you skimmed over it, I just mentioned that I ate a waffle with spaghetti on top. Spaghetti. On a waffle. Actually, it was in the waffle.
Honestly? It wasn’t bad. Would I eat it again? Probably not.
Did it make for a good conversation piece? Absolutely.
One of our favorite items we ordered was probably the Chicken Avocado Flatbread. But if your goal in life is to combine Southern foods like shrimp and grits on top of a waffle, this is your place.
Where is Guy Fieri in Pigeon Forge?
Downtown Flavortown in Pigeon Forge opened on March 8, 2022.
It is located at 2655 Teaster Lane, Suite 100 in Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 at the Mountain Mile shopping complex.
Finally, what do you think about Guy Fieri’s local stamp on the area? Have you tried Downtown Flavortown?
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is one of the crown jewel attractions in Gatlinburg, Tenn., featuring over 350 species of aquatic life in its massive facility.
But when you’re planning out your precious vacation dollars, budget and time, a question commonly comes up: Is the Gatlinburg aquarium worth it?
While “worth” is different for different people, we believe this review will help you determine if an aquarium visit is right for you and your family.
Let’s start with the basics.
How much does it cost to get into the Gatlinburg aquarium?
At the time of this writing, an adult ticket (12 and up) is $39.99. Children (6-11) cost $24.99 and children (2-5) cost $9.99.
Didn’t see the price of admission for toddlers? That’s because children under age two are free!
Now, shelling out (turtle jokes) $40 on an aquarium ticket might seem a little steep.
But, for comparison sake, I looked at two nearby competitors: The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.
Chattanooga currently costs $34.95 for adults and $21.95 for children.
The Georgia Aquarium is $39.95 for everyone except for children under 2.
So, Ripley’s is actually quite affordable when you compare.
For example, let’s say you have a family of four with two kids between the ages of 3-10.
A day at the Georgia Aquarium would cost roughly $160 (pre-tax). A day at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga would cost about $114, and a day at Ripley’s would cost about $130.
However, if your children are younger than five, it would make Ripley’s the most affordable option of its competitors.
But here’s where the vacation math really gets exciting. If you get combo tickets with Ripley’s, you can save up to $30 per person when you visit two other Ripley’s attractions, or up to $40 per ticket if you visit three other Ripley’s attractions.
In my opinion, this makes Ripley’s the best deal of the three.
How long does it take to go through Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg?
Google says that most people spend an average of about 2.5 hours here. However, I can easily spend about half my day exploring the aquarium.
Honestly, if you stop to read everything, do everything, touch everything, you could easily spend several hours here.
To me, the longer I stay at an attraction, the further my vacation dollar goes. Aquariums are a place to slow down and appreciate the wonders of aquatic life.
Could you speed walk through it and see it in less than two hours? Probably. But you might just be missing that one giant fish in that one tank.
When you buy a ticket online, your ticket is valid for one year from the date of purchase.
At this time, reservations are not required for general admission. However, we recommend buying in advance to save yourself some time upon arrival.
Is Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg worth it?
In my opinion, the aquarium is very well done.
And my vacation math, especially for a family of four, also checks out.
Certainly, I have not personally been to every aquarium in North America (unfortunately), but I’ve visited some of the big ones, including the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans.
I even had a brief stint as a volunteer at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.
And not to hate on those guys, because they are all great in their own right.
Still, Ripley’s remains one of my favorites.
Even though it’s still a large aquarium, it doesn’t get quite as crowded as the aquarium in Georgia. Plus, Ripley’s does a great job offering hands-on experiences, such as touching the gentle stingrays at Stingray Bay.
How big is the Gatlinburg aquarium?
According to Ripley’s, the aquarium is an 85,000-square-foot facility with two levels full of interactive experiences.
Two of my personal favorite features of this aquarium include the 340-foot underwater tunnel with a glide path. And of course, there’s the Penguin Playhouse. The adorable creatures enjoy both an indoor and outdoor habitat.
Popular areas to explore include the coral reef, the tropical rainforest, Gallery of the Seas and the Discovery Center.
In fact, being face to face with jellyfish, a giant sea turtle, sawfish, octopi, moray eels, tarpons, cuttlefish, squirrelfish, giant stingrays, garden eels and even flounder is an experience not soon forgotten.
The glass-bottom boat that travels over the Shark Lagoon is a family favorite as well.
Hillbilly Golf is a classic mini golf course in Gatlinburg that opened more than 50 years ago.
But what makes it stand out from the other mini golf courses in the area is the location and the method of transportation.
An incline railway transports guests “up a mountain” to the attraction.
You may think that “mountain” might be an overstatement, but “up” is not. If this was any steeper, you might blast off into space at the end.
But don’t worry, it’s a smooth and steady ride up. The trip is short. You won’t have time to be nervous about the ride.
Each cart holds about 6-9 people. At the top of the hill, there are two 18-hole courses to choose from.
Along the courses, you’ll see many Appalachian stereotypes and obstacles. For example, the courses feature moonshine stills, farm equipment, wagons and decoration outhouses. My aunt once compared it to visiting the set of “Hee Haw”.
If you do have a serious fear of heights, you might want to choose a more grounded mini golf course in the area. Both courses start on top of the mountain and are completely outside.
Even though you’re on top of a mountain, help is never far away. There are signs posted throughout to call a staff member if you see a bear or if you need additional golf balls.
Did Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg burn down?
Hillbilly Golf almost burned completely during the 2016 fire, and the incline was replaced. We are happy to say that it is still open and operating in Gatlinburg.
Owners wisely worked some of the damage into the landscaping for the course. For example, the root of a downed tree has been integrated into the course.
In all honesty, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I bought my tickets for the Autumn at Oz event this year. But, I was pleasantly surprised.
The musical journey begins in Kansas, just like the story and movie.
While characters are staged throughout your walk-through adventure, you can stroll through leisurely at your own pace. As the tornado comes, you make your way through the storm cellar and then come out on the other side in Oz.
Along the way, you meet your favorite characters including the cowardly lion, scarecrow, Glinda the good witch and the wicked witch of the West. And you ultimately end up in Emerald City.
Overall, I was really blown away by the singing, dancing and costumes. It is clear that the current ownership is investing back into the park to make this event a high-quality, memorable experience for the guests.
And even if you’re not the biggest Oz fan, the attraction is located in a gorgeous setting with beautiful scenic views that will pull on your nostalgia-loving heartstrings.
I loved walking along the yellow brick road and thinking about everything the theme park has endured over the years. And how lucky I was to be able to experience it.
But today, we want to compare two of Sevier County’s most popular summertime attractions: Dollywood’s Splash Country and Soaky Mountain – the area’s two largest outdoor water parks.
First, we break down several key factors including rides, slides, shade, cabanas, food and drink and affordability.
Then, we will answer a few of the internet’s most frequently asked questions about the two attractions.
Finally, we will declare a winner.
Splash Country vs Soaky Mountain: A comparison
1. Who owns the two parks?
Let’s begin with the topic of ownership and overall operations.
Dollywood’s Splash Country, like Dollywood itself, is operated by Herschend Family Entertainment in partnership with Dolly Parton.
Soaky Mountain is owned and operated by Wilderness Resorts and Waterparks (who also own and operate Wilderness at the Smokies).
The winner in this category: Splash Country. All hail the queen.
2. Which park is newer?
Next, let’s take a look at which is newer.
Splash Country is the older of the two parks. In fact, it originally opened in 2001. In other words, Soaky Mountain is considerably newer having just opened in 2020.
While, in our humble opinion, both parks are doing a great job of keeping things looking up to date, Soaky Mountain’s newness is noticeable. Everything is just a little newer, a little brighter, and a bit more modern than its Splash Country counterpart.
And as a relatively new waterpark, semantics also feel a bit more well thought out at Soaky Mountain.
For instance, one of our biggest complaints about Splash Country is the scorching hot floorboards that surround the lines and the dismount areas. They actually keep signs posted throughout the park warning riders to keep their shoes and sandals on until they are ready to board.
Soaky Mountain simply used heat-resistant materials that don’t get quite as hot in the sun on their ride queues. One can easily stand barefoot while waiting to ride the Avalaunch Watercoaster without a care for their bare little tootsies.
The winner in this category: Soaky Mountain.
3. Which has more water slides?
Now, let’s talk about slides and rides.
While Soaky Mountain is bigger – coming in at 50 acres vs Splash Country’s 35-acre blueprint – the two are actually quite similar in the rides department.
At the time of this writing, Splash Country has four float slides (two family-style), a water coaster, three body slides, three water mat slides, two children’s play areas, a regular pool, a wave pool and a lazy river.
It is also important to note that some attractions at Splash Country and Soaky Mountain have multiple tubes listed under the same attraction. But for the sake of simplicity, we will just count multi-tube attractions as one.
Not to be outdone, Soaky Mountain, at the time of this writing, has six float slides (two family-style), two watercoasters*, one boogie board surf simulator, two children’s play areas, one wave pool, one not-so-lazy river, a water obstacle course – Slippery Salamanders – and one regular pool.
And also for bonus points, one of the children’s play areas at Soaky – Boomer’s Bay – features pint-sized smaller versions of some of the adult slides including Mini Mayhem and Lil Rattlers. Our staff thinks this is a very nice touch. In particular, it’s a great way to make the whole family feel included.
However, again, for the sake of simplicity, we aren’t adding those mini slides to the slide count as they are really just a small part of the kid’s play area.
Soaky Mountain also has multiple tubes listed as the same attraction, so to keep things fair, we will count those as one just as we did for Splash Country.
*Soaky Mountain’s latest water coaster, The Edge, is still under construction and is set to debut in summer 2022.
Attractions at Splash Country vs Soaky Mountain
Kid’s Play Areas
Attractions at Splash Country vs Soaky Mountain
In total, Splash Country has 17 separate attractions. Soaky Mountain has 20.
And finally, Soaky Mountain also boasts a better variety of unique water attractions.
The winner in this category: Soaky Mountain.
4. Which has better slides and rides?
This one is a bit of a toss-up as we think slide preference is really very subjective.
Do you prefer float slides? Soaky Mountain is going to be your jam.
Or perhaps you prefer high-intensity body slides or a good head-first mat racing challenge. If so, you’re better off at Splash Country.
If you have little kids, we recommend Soaky Mountain for their mini slides.
But if you like lazy rivers that are actually lazy, you’ll prefer Splash.
Or if waves are more your thing, you’re going to love Soaky Surge – Soaky Mountain’s gigantic 35,000 square foot wave pool.
So for this category, we are just going to go with the overall staff opinion on which is better.
Winner for this category: Soaky Mountain. By a hair.
5. Which has a better lazy river?
Again, this is going to come down to personal preference. However, I cannot stress enough that the “lazy” rivers at Soaky Mountain and Splash Country couldn’t be any more different.
Splash Country’s lazy river is everything you’d expect out of a traditional lazy river attraction. Surely, no explanation is needed.
Conversely, as Soaky Mountain clearly states in all of their marketing materials – their river is not a lazy river.
In fact, their river attraction is more like rapids. Thus the name, Black Bear Rapids.
It starts just like any normal lazy river might. Riders grab a float and begin their peaceful journey down a cool, calm mountain stream via tube. That’s when all heck breaks loose.
Specifically, every few minutes, a wave machine produces a monster wave that creates a massive ripple effect that spans nearly the entire length of the 24,000 square foot ride.
Of course, it’s fun. But it’s definitely not lazy.
We kinda wish that Soaky Mountain had followed Universal’s Volcano Bay suit by having two rivers – one lazy and one not. So again, we are just going to go with our personal preference on this one.
Winner in this category: Splash Country. We prefer to be lazy.
6. Which park has more shade?
We think you will find this one to be a bit surprising.
Soaky Mountain has more shade. In fact, there is no comparison.
Certainly, Soaky Mountain, on the surface, looks like a concrete jungle. Especially compared to Splash Country’s lush mountain landscape.
But this is just one of those things that Soaky does best – they focus on the guest experience. And it shows.
At Soaky, there are giant-sized umbrellas covering almost every lounger. And also, there are loads of shaded areas to relax and enjoy.
Splash Country only has a couple of shaded pavilions – mostly near the kid splash pad area – and when those are full your only option is upgrading to a private cabana. Boo.
Winner in this category: Soaky Mountain. By a landslide (mountain joke).
7. Which park has better cabanas?
Here, we wanted to automatically deduct points from Splash Country because they make us feel forced to upgrade to cabanas for shade on a sunny day due to their lack of shaded rest areas.
But we will strive to be impartial here.
Soaky Mountain has two main cabana-style options. Each comes at an extra cost to admission.
Soaky Mountain Clamshell Cabanas
The first option is the Clamshell Cabana. Clamshell Cabanas are nothing special. Additionally, in our humble opinion, mostly a waste of money. They are nothing more than little pop-up tents that fit over two loungers with a small table in between.
The biggest benefit to renting these loungers is the host drink service that’s included. These loungers start at $50 per day, but we more often see them run between $75-$99. Yikes.
Soaky Mountain Tents
The second option at Soaky Mountain is the Soaky Tent, which comes in three sizes with seating for 8-16 guests. The smaller tents start at $129.99 per day. The largest tents start at $169.99 per day. But just a warning, we frequently see both going for nearly double those introductory prices during peak season.
Each tent is equipped with:
a table and chairs
food and drink host service (cost of food and drink not included)
a ceiling fan
If you have a lot of people in your group and are planning on spending the entire day at the amusement park, we think these tent cabanas at Soaky Mountain are absolutely worth every penny.
Soaky Mountain Cabana Comparison
Soaky Mountain Cabana Type
Soaky Mountain Cabana Features
After you’ve been pressured into buying a cabana for lack of shaded options at Splash Country, you’ll be glad to know that there are three primary options from which you can choose.
Splash Country Luxury Loungers
First, we have the Luxury Loungers – which are similar to Soaky Mountain’s clamshells.
These are nothing more than little pop-up tents that fit over two lounge chairs with a small lockbox. But unlike Soaky Mountain, they do not include beverage service. They start at $45 per day.
Splash Country Canopies
Next up, we have the Canopies. The Canopies resemble mini wooden sheds. Each provides 65 square feet of shade and features two chaise lounge chairs with a lockbox.
These Canopies offer actual privacy vs the loungers but are still rather tiny and do not include drink service. Prices start at $65 per day.
Splash Country Retreats
Finally, we have the Retreats. The Splash Country Retreat Cabanas come in two different varieties: A Basic Retreat, and a Deluxe Retreat.
The Basic Retreat features 200 square feet of shaded space and a 100 square foot sun deck. Retreats can house up to 8 people with a maximum occupancy of 10 (you have to pay extra for persons #9 and #10).
Retreats start at $210 per day and again, we think are absolutely worth the price, especially if you have a big family.
All Retreats include a:
dining table and chairs
food and drink service (cost of food and drink not included)
ADA accessible Retreats are also available.
The Deluxe Retreat is just like the Basic Retreat only it also includes:
additional lounge chairs
Deluxe Retreats start at $325 per day.
Personally, we don’t really see the value for the extra $100. As a result, we would recommend just sticking to the Basic Retreat.
Splash Country Cabanas Comparison
Splash Country Cabana Type
Drink Service (Bottled/Dry)
Splash Country Cabana Features
If we had to pick a winner in this category, overall it’s a tough call. We think Dollywood’s Retreats are more comfortable than the tents.
Splash Country also has more options in this category. Not entirely helpful options, but more options all the same. After all, who is really going to buy the Luxury Lounger over the Canopy?
But then again we also like the fact that all of Soaky’s options feature beverage service which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but as y’all know, waiting in lines at waterparks just to get a drink is no fun.
It’s also helpful to add that Soaky has adult beverages too. Splash Country is dry.
However, this category isn’t about who offers better service or better food. This is about who has the better cabanas. And for that, there is, we believe, a clear winner.
Winner in this category: Splash Country.
8. Can you bring your own food and drink?
You cannot bring outside food and drink to Soaky Mountain. Nor can you bring outside food and drink to Splash Country.
But you can, however, bring one sealed bottle of water or an empty plastic water bottle (to refill as needed) to Soaky Mountain.
Likewise, you can bring empty water bottles to Splash Country.
And also, both parks provide free tap water in disposable cups to guests.
But never fear, there are plenty of other food and drink options available at each park – for an extra charge.
Winner in this category: Soaky Mountain. Thanks for the bottled water.
9. Which has better food?
Both parks have solid food options, ya know, for a water park. Long gone are the days when your theme park food was limited to hot dogs and a bag of chips (looking at you Ogle’s Waterpark).
We particularly enjoy the Beavertails at Splash Country, which are fried on location as you order so they are always warm and fresh.
But Soaky, as we said before, also has its fair share of sweet treats (shoutout to the Soaky Shake Shoppe – YUM) including adult beverages and specialty food trucks like Philly Up and the Tacolicious.
Who doesn’t love specialty tacos after a long day in the water?
We also love Soaky’s Base Camp Bistro.
In fact, we almost hate to say it, as we’ve given them so many points already, but we think Soaky Mountain overall has the better food options.
Winner in this category: Soaky Mountain. Cheers!
10. Which is cheaper?
Finally, let’s talk about affordability.
At the time of this writing, daily admission to Splash Country costs $54.95 per adult (ages 10-61). And a 2-day water park ticket runs at $74.95 per adult, and a 3-day water park ticket runs at $84.95.
Multi-park tickets and season passes are also available.
And of course, season passes are available at both locations. Prices vary seasonally.
As a general rule of thumb, if you plan to go more than twice to either park, a season pass is probably going to be a good idea.
Winner in this category: Again, Soaky Mountain.
Frequently asked questions about Splash Country and Soaky Mountain
1. Is Soaky Mountain indoor?
No, Soaky Mountain is not an indoor water park. However, its sister attraction, Wilderness at the Smokies across the street is partially an indoor water park.
2. Does Soaky Mountain have a lazy river?
Sort of. Soaky Mountain has a river attraction, but it is not lazy. It is actually more of a thrill ride. They call it an adventure river instead of a lazy river.
3. Does Dolly Parton own Splash Country?
Splash Country is owned and operated by Herschend Family Entertainment in partnership with Dolly Parton.
4. Can you do Dollywood and Splash Country in one day?
Anything is possible. However, we would recommend against doing Dollywood and Splash Country in one day. There’s a lot to see and do in each park. Personally, we consider Dollywood to be a 2-day park, and Splash Country a 1-day park.
Trying to cram both parks into a single day isn’t advised.
5. What’s the best ride at Soaky Mountain?
Our favorite rides at Soaky Mountain are Rainbow Revenge, Blue Mountain Mayhem and Avalaunch.
Rainbow Revenge is a five-person raft ride. As is Blue Mountain Mayhem. Avalaunch is a water coaster.
We also suspect we will fall in love with The Edge coaster when it opens later this year.
Honestly, we are just suckers for water coasters and thrill rides in general.
6. What’s the best ride at Splash Country?
Our favorite rides at Splash Country are the Raging River Rapids, RiverRush and the Downbound Float Trip.
Raging River Rapids is one of two family-style rides in the park. RiverRush is Splash Country’s only watercoaster. Furthermore, the Downbound Float Trip is a classic lazy river ride.
Nice and relaxing as God intended.
7. Is the water heated at Splash Country and Soaky Mountain?
The water is not heated at either Splash Country or Soaky Mountain. With nary a hot tub in sight at either location.
Therefore, on a cool day, prepare to freeze your tush off. It’s all part of the Smoky Mountain experience.
Conclusion: Which water park is better?
If we were going off of points alone, Soaky Mountain would be the clear winner here.
Indeed, our staff mostly tends to prefer Soaky to Splash for all of the reasons mentioned above. Specifically, it’s a modern park, with a better variety of rides and food options. It’s also a park that really caters to the guest experience.
However, it is important to note that we also genuinely love Splash Country.
All in all, the parks are very similar, but also very unique.
If you only have one day to dedicate to a water park on your next visit to the Smoky Mountains, consider going to Soaky Mountain. However, if you have two days, go to both. We think your entire family will have a great time either way.