Add in the bevy of new and growing attractions, and every destination in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge remains in some varying state of evaluation.
This brings us to Gatlinburg’s SkyLift Park – home of the famous Gatlinburg SkyBridge.
Gatlinburg SkyLift Park was founded in the 1950s, the famous yellow chairs of the SkyLift have been ferrying folks up to the top of Crockett Mountain for nearly 70 years.
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What is there to do at SkyLift Park in Gatlinburg?
There are a variety of attractions at SkyLift Park in Gatlinburg including:
The SkyLift chair lift
The famous SkyBridge (a pedestrian bridge)
Tulip Tower (an observation tower)
The SkyTrail (a walking path)
The SkyCenter (a restaurant and gift shop)
The SkyDeck (an outdoor amphitheater)
The SkyDeck features a large viewing deck, outdoor seating, firepits and thankfully zero scary/exciting glass floor panels – more on this later. The SkyDeck is an excellent place to chill out and soak in the view.
The SkyCenter offers a place to get out of the elements and nosh on a light menu of pizza, wraps, hot dogs and more. There’s also a selection of frozen beverages and draft beer.
The SkyTrail is an elevated boardwalk where visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll alongside the mountain while interacting with informative signage about the area.
Tulip Tower is a 70-ft. steel observation tower that’s accessible by rope bridge from the SkyTrail.
And of course, the highlight of SkyLift Park is the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America.
The bridge stretches 680 feet across a deep valley. It is comfortable for walking with room for a leisurely stroll and for those who move at a brisker pace.
At its highest point, the bridge is 150 feet off the ground. The bridge offers breathtaking views – especially from the glass floor panels in the middle of the bridge.
Park owners recently doubled the glass panels from 15 feet to 30 feet in length, giving visitors a more exciting experience than ever before.
Did the Gatlinburg SkyBridge crack?
Look, you can’t really go to the SkyBridge without hearing the tale of the great SkyBridge crack of 2020.
So are the rumors true? Did the glass really crack?
Unfortunately, the rumors are true. And the glass really did crack.
However, the tale has become somewhat exaggerated over time. Today, the story is mostly used as a tool to taunt families visiting from out of town and scared of heights as slowly make their way across the bridge 150 feet up in the air.
Because ya know, they needed another reason to be scared. Isn’t family great?
Here’s the real story.
Guests were way up in the air, minding their own business, taking in views of downtown Gatlinburg when a man attempted what was described as a “baseball-style slide” across one of the glass panels.
Upon impact, it is believed that the keys from his pocket cracked the glass. And also, I imagine, freaked a whole bunch of people out.
But it should be noted that no one was ever in any danger.
There were multiple levels of redundancies that prevented something bad from happening.
He cracked the upper layer of one of the glass-floor panels on the pedestrian bridge. There were several other layers remaining, and the bridge has been long since repaired.
Is SkyLift Park safe?
In short, yes, the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is safe. But there may be restrictions for certain individuals.
For example, it’s recommended that infants ride the chair lift in a baby harness or wrap attached to the parent.
Dogs are also allowed as long as they are leashed for the visit. Owners must also be able to securely hold their dog while riding the lift.
The chairs can fit up to three individuals, but guests are welcome to ride one or two per chair if preferred. Operators will make sure you get in the chair comfortably.
How long is the Gatlinburg SkyLift ride?
The round-trip ride lasts 20 minutes.
Most folks break up the experience by spending time at the top of the mountain and checking out everything the park has to offer.
Is the SkyLift and SkyBridge the same?
Not quite. Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is the name of the attraction which houses the SkyLift and SkyBridge. The SkyLift is the chair lift up to the top of the mountain. The SkyBridge is the famously long pedestrian walking bridge.
The SkyBridge is one of the most famous features of this attraction.
Do you have to take the SkyLift to get to the SkyBridge?
Yes. Guests at SkyLift Park need to take the chair lift to reach access to the attraction, including access to the famous SkyBridge.
Anakeesta, on the other hand, offers a truck to help guests get up to the attraction in addition to the chair lift. So, if you’re worried about the lift, this may play into your decision on which attraction is best for you.
How long does it take to walk across the SkyBridge in Gatlinburg?
Not very long, but of course, it depends on how much you stop and take photos along the way. On average, it takes about 3-5 minutes if you take a leisurely stroll across the bridge.
Is there a restaurant at SkyLift Park?
Yes, you can grab a bite to eat on the second floor of the SkyCenter at SkyLift Park.
Although, it’s less of a restaurant and more of a snack bar with incredible views and a spacious seating area.
The menu features basic staples like hot dogs, ice cream and beer. Hey, we all have our own definition of staples, no judging.
Do you have to pay to walk the SkyBridge in Gatlinburg?
Yes. The SkyBridge is a part of the attraction, so you will need a ticket to walk across the iconic bridge.
How much does it cost to go on the SkyBridge in Gatlinburg?
Ok. So how much for an admission ticket? Honestly, it’s not bad.
Ticket pricing, at the time of this writing, is as follows:
Kids Under 3
SkyPass Same Day
Single Visit Ticket
Unlimited Visits Ticket
A SkyPass gets you unlimited visits for the day and allows you to skip the line. SkyPasses are cheaper if purchased at least one day in advance and are only available for purchase online.
SkyPasses are really the best way to go because they allow you to save a bit of money and skip the wait. They also give you the opportunity to visit the park in the morning, hit downtown Gatlinburg for lunch, and then head back up to the park to see the lights at dusk.
A Single Visit Ticket is valid for a single visit to the park.
The Unlimited Visits Ticket, like the SkyPass, also gets you unlimited park visits for the day but doesn’t allow you to skip the line. These tickets are only available for purchase at the SkyLift Park ticket window.
Remember, prices are subject to change and may vary by season.
I think, unquestionably, SkyLift Park is worth it.
Anytime you can enjoy a Gatlinburg landmark, I think it’s worth it.
Plus, they’ve added a lot of value to the price of your admission. I suppose the question is whether you choose SkyLift or Anakeesta.
Personally, I prefer Anakeesta’s views of the Smokies. I like to be able to look out over the mountains without seeing the town.
However, I will say that your ticket up the mountain at Anakeesta is really just a starting point. I feel like you’re ultimately likely to spend a lot more money on a trip to Anakeesta than the SkyLift.
The SkyLift does have the glass-bottomed bridge – a major selling point that Anakeesta can’t match.
Honestly, I think you can’t go wrong with either one. You’re going to get amazing views and enjoy more of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park area.
The Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is located at 765 Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. For tickets or more information about SkyLift, visit their website.
Have you visited the Gatlinburg SkyLift? Tell us what you think in the comments.
On the map, the West Prong of the Little River divides Sevierville from Pigeon Forge.
It’s the same as many of the imaginary borders we use to divide our world into sections, arbitrary and relatively meaningless except for man-made concepts like politics, regulations and taxes.
In the real world, unless you saw the sign, you’d have no reason to know that you’d crossed from Sevierville into Pigeon Forge or vice versa. Right there along the city boundaries, there’s very little practical difference between the two.
But it may surprise you to know that Sevier County’s seat is more than just the business end for its two more wild and free siblings, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Years ago, Sevierville siphoned off the best of the county’s shopping – particularly the outlet businesses that had helped make Pigeon Forge strong.
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Is Sevierville close to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge?
Sevierville is closer to Pigeon Forge, near the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s right at the border of Pigeon Forge and about 30-40 minutes from Gatlinburg.
Sevierville siphoned off a major piece of Pigeon Forge’s bread and butter with its shopping outlet, but a funny thing happened to the rest of the city. Sevierville’s food scene became something of a natural balance to Pigeon Forge.
Now, another movement is well underway. In particular, Sevierville is THE place to go in the county for foodies.
When I first moved to East Tennessee, Sevierville was nothing more than the town you had to drive through to get to Pigeon Forge. As the county seat, it had the courthouse and the jail but nothing that would draw people to town who didn’t have specific business there.
That’s not the case anymore.
Wild-eyed artists with little more than a spatula and a dream found a home in the burgeoning Sevierville food scene.
As of late, Sevierville is a good place to find great food.
So, if you’d like to get away from the culinary version of a classic rock station, drive up north of the West Prong and see what Sevierville has to offer.
Below, you will find my personal ranking of the best restaurants in Sevierville.
Look, we had all this build-up about cracking the eggshell that is Pigeon Forge culinary homogeny, but you still got to eat breakfast.
Breakfast items are the one area in which Sevierville restaurants lack options compared to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.
Culinary artists, it seems, aren’t as jazzed at getting up at 4 am to make a bunch of hash brown skillets. Still, pancakes and waffles are big business in Sevier County and Flapjack’s is a great place to get ’em.
It’s comfort food for your breakfast-lovin’ soul.
20. Holston’s Kitchen
Next, we have Holston’s Kitchen. Holston’s Kitchen made the cut on our best Sevierville restaurants list for its variety of menu options and massive portion sizes.
At Holston’s, you can get anything from Greek salads to TexMex to Italian cuisine to steaks and everything in between.
Try the Fried Green Tomatoes while you’re there – a Southern staple.
Just be sure to come hungry as portion sizes are generous.
19. Big Daddy’s Pizza
Everything is fresh at Big Daddy’s Pizzeria, where their wood-fired flame creates unique handcrafted Italian works of art.
The pizza is delicious, but it’s not unique to Sevierville. They also have locations in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
Of course, they are best known for their pizza but also offer sandwiches, salads and apps.
18. Fort Worth Texas Kitchen
Fort Worth Texas Kitchen is a newcomer on the Sevierville food scene.
Their dinner menu features a variety of TexMex style favorites at affordable prices.
17. The Diner
One of the premier attractions to Sevier County over the decades has been the car culture.
In particular, from the Rod Runs to cruising up and down the strip, the 50s/60s American graffiti vibe is a big part of the social fabric of the area.
At The Diner, get a patty melt, some onion rings, french fries, green beans, a chicken tender basket and a big ole shake.
It’s not culinary artistry. Certainly, it’s not Picasso at the grill. But it’s one of the best places in the Smokies for a traditional diner experience.
It’s good and fun and classic and there’s a place in any good food culture for those things, too.
16. Roll On In
Roll On In is a unique, casual concept but it delivers when you need quality food fast.
You can order from a selection of specialty bowls and burritos or completely customize your own creation.
It’s a bit like a Chipotle but for sushi and hibachi. And it’s genuinely great.
15. Gatlinburg Brewing Company
Here, my friends, we may well have found genius.
Founded by a man who discovered his passion for brewing at an Outkast concert – I want to make an Outkast reference here to prove how hip I am but I’ll just say that if I were a professional baseball player my walk-up music would be “So Fresh, So Clean”.
With two locations, the Gatlinburg Brewing Co. offers craft beers, pub-style appetizers and truly delicious pizza.
Pizza varieties include Dirty Hippie, Hangover Helper, Betty White and Basic AF.
14. Applewood Farmhouse Grill
The Apple Barn is one of our favorite places to frequent and it happens to be home to another popular restaurant: Sevierville’s Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant.
Located right on the line with Pigeon Forge, the Farmhouse is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings. The fare is what you’d expect from a farmhouse restaurant – fried chicken and roast and meatloaf and such but with a few surprises as well.
It’s all amazing food that the whole family will enjoy.
And don’t leave until you’ve sampled the chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings, pot roast and apple fritters for a sweet treat with a side of homemade apple butter and apple julep.
13. Comida Hondureña Yobanina
This one is a local favorite.
Comida Hondureña Yobanina is a Honduran restaurant located in a gas station near the Tanger outlets.
This is the perfect place to go when you want to add a little spice to your diet.
12. Graze Burgers
Sometimes you just want a delicious burger. Graze is the place, featuring all grass-fed beef burgers with no hormones, antibiotics or steroids.
This is not your typical burger fare. For example, try the Local Farmer with aged cheddar, house bacon, a fried egg, local greens, onions, tomatoes and house pickles.
I’m gonna be honest. Any place that has its own pickles is gonna be alright in my book.
11. The Hippie BBQ and Grill
The Hippie BBQ is a new restaurant in the area. It’s a 1970s-themed sports bar that specializes in BBQ, burgers and wings.
It’s definitely a contender for some of the best BBQ in the area.
10. Seasons 101
For the record, this is not a freshman-level meteorology course. It is a self-described culinary experience.
Seasons 101 is located in the heart of downtown Sevierville, TN at the Historic Central Hotel. It is a comfortable, casual dining atmosphere, combined with upscale cuisine at moderate prices.
The season determines how the menu selections are curated. “An ever-changing selection of signature dishes and cocktails inspired by the current season is the heart of our dining philosophy.”
And whatever the season, the food is, in fact, always good.
9. Five Oaks Farm Kitchen
For symmetry purposes, I should have ranked this fifth. But let’s move past that.
Five Oaks Farm Kitchen lives up to the name. Run by the family of Dr. John (not the Iko, Iko guy) and Blanche Ogle who originally owned and operated the family farm, Five Oaks is probably the best of the region’s farm-house style restaurants.
I’d recommend something from the smokehouse – but that may be my general preference for smoked meat talking. The fried okra is also a must.
8. El Primo Products Hispanos
If you’re looking for the same-old Tex-Mex that gets slung in restaurants from here to the border this isn’t the place.
In fact, if the idea that the best Mexican food is served in the back of a Hispanic grocery store is a surprise to you, this might not be your place.
However, if you want to eat something with authentic flavor? This is your place. They have all the classics like quesadillas, tacos, fajitas and queso.
7. Trotter’s Whole Hog BBQ
This BBQ restaurant is another new addition to the growing downtown Sevierville foodie scene.
The menu features appetizers like pimento cheese, pork rinds and burnt ends as well as meat plates and a variety of smoked sandwiches with banana pudding for dessert.
It’s conveniently located on Bruce Street.
6. Pinchy’s Lobster
Pinchy’s Lobster is bringing New England seafood to the Smokies.
Freshly opened downtown, they offer fresh sushi, lobster, a raw bar, a beer garden and live music on select nights.
5. Bustin’ Butts BBQ
Delicious BBQ made fresh daily. It’s served on paper plates with beans, potato salad, smoked mac and cheese or coleslaw.
There are also a few outdoor picnic tables if you want to eat on site, but you can call ahead and pick it up to go.
Does Buc-ee’s really have Bohemian Garlic beef jerky?
They do. And it’s magnifico.
That’s not my real lede. I just am enamored of the idea of Bohemian garlic. What makes the garlic Bohemian? No idea. It must be socially unconventional.
It’s rebel garlic, operating outside the bounds of polite society, and it’s one of the best snacks at Buc-ee’s.
So now, here’s my real lede.
Indeed, we have become a Buc-ee’s family.
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For a long time, we’d heard whispers and have been Buc-ee’s curious.
Now, on multiple road trips to Florida and Alabama, we’ve been able to really soak in the Buc-ee’s travel center experience in multiple locations and can confirm it’s one of the best places to stop on a trip.
We are completely smitten with the ever-expanding Texas chain of gas stations.
Buc-ee’s features dozens of gas pumps, world-record-breaking food options and impressively clean restrooms.
And we are counting down the days for Buc-ee’s to open the world’s largest convenience store at Exit 407 in Sevierville, TN. In fact, it will be a half-hour drive from our house.
Over the years of family road trips, I’ve earned something of a reputation. On family pit stops, I will inevitably choose the worst option in a 50-mile radius.
It’s in my head now. And it happened again recently when we had to make a stop without a Buc-ee’s nearby.
The restroom was a single stall – and while it wasn’t dirty, it was a far cry from Buc-ee’s clean bathrooms with several stalls. A father and son team beat me to the door by a few steps, so I had to wait for quite a while as they did their business.
It was suboptimal. And it was a far cry from Buc-ee’s.
But Buc-ee’s is more than gas pumps and bathrooms. It’s an entire road trip experience.
Everything about Buc-ee’s is ratcheted up. The shopping experience, the customer service and the tasty treats, it’s all top-level.
I came to the realization during this latest trip that I’d rather have the food items from Buc-ee’s than almost any fast food place I’ve ever stopped at on a road trip.
The fact of the matter is Buc-ee’s is a great place to eat when on the road. I’m not saying you should take the family out for a meal at Buc-ee’s. However, if you’re traveling and don’t want to stop for a full sit-down meal, Buc-ee’s is a great place to give your taste buds a treat.
What food should I get at Buc-ee’s?
Well, I’m glad you asked. The best Buc-ee’s snacks and my favorite Buc-ee’s snacks aren’t exactly the same thing, but we’ll try to thread the needle with a bit of both.
Buc-ee’s has more than just sodas, pretzels and potato chips. And it’s guaranteed to be the best “gas station food” you’ve ever had.
At some locations, they also offer free samples of some of the more popular items so you can really get a good idea of what you want before you make your purchase.
Also, we’re treating this as a road trip food destination, not a family night out for dinners, so we’re factoring practicality into these Buc-ee’s food rankings.
I’m genuinely sad to report this here as I am typically a big proponent of foods on sticks.
The Buc-ee’s sausage on a stick – which comes wrapped in a tortilla – was difficult to navigate while driving and ultimately underwhelming in just about every way.
16. Buc-ee’s pickled quail eggs
Every once in a while, you get a real hint of Buc-ee’s Texas roots.
Look, I’m an open-minded guy.
Eat what you want to eat. But I do not want to go on a 10-hour road trip with someone eating pickled quail eggs.
15. Buc-ee’s homemade chips
They’re chips. They don’t reinvent the art form or anything.
But they are homemade, so there is that.
14. Fresh fruit
We can’t all live by Beaver Nuggets and beef jerky. We need a little fresh fruit.
Buc-ee’s has a nice selection of fruit – probably slightly better than your typical gas station, but probably not quite as good as a local supermarket.
Especially in the south where fresh fruit is available for most of the year, I can’t imagine targeting Buc-ee’s for the fruit.
In Florida and Georgia, we saw dozens of ads for citrus fruit and peaches at stands up and down the interstate. In my experience, any one of those has better fruit than you’ll get from a large chain.
13. Peach rings
Of the many varieties of gummy foods available at Buc-ee’s, and there are a great many, the peach rings are likely my least favorite.
In truth, it’s not that they’re bad. It’s just that peach rings are not my thing. If you like sugary, peachy flavor, adjust accordingly.
Again, we’re in the realm of personal preference. I’m not a fudge guy. Every tourist town in America hawks fudge and saltwater taffy and I’ve never much liked either.
I think it’s the consistency.
Still, even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, Buc-ee’s fudge counter is a sight to behold.
They have flavors ranging from traditional, like the chocolate peanut butter, to the curious, like a blueberry cobbler, to the downright reckless – I’m looking at you, key lime pie – and also birthday cake.
11. Cinnamon rolls
Buc-ee’s has a variety of pastry selections and honestly, the cinnamon rolls are great.
It’s just that as road trip food, cinnamon rolls can be a bit … messy.
Therefore, I say get a box and put it away for the hotel at the end of the trip. But will I let you eat cinnamon rolls in our new family car? I will not.
10. Caramel corn
It’s a high-floor, low-ceiling kind of snack. Is it possible to mess up caramel corn? I suppose, theoretically, it is, but more often than not you know what you’re getting with caramel corn.
Good. Satisfying. Sweet. Crunchy. Not life-changing. But it’s a good road trip snack.
9. Chicken fajita tacos
I like Buc-ee’s tacos very much.
Plus, bonus points for being easy to eat in a car.
8. Meats and cheese
When on the road, I like meats and cheeses and Buc-ee’s has a fine array of choices.
On our most recent visit, I got a vacuum-sealed pork loin with pepper jack cheese. There are several options including a summer sausage that’s quite good as well.
7. Cold sandwiches
While Buc-ee’s has quite an array of hot food, there is an excellent variety of deli sandwiches as well.
I recently tried the Italian sub and it was really, really good. Not good for gas station food, but enjoyable enough that I’d seek it out again.
The roast beef and the pastrami Reuben are also pretty good.
If you enjoy a good sandwich, also consider their Signature Club which has ham, turkey, bacon, jalapeño Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and a spicy-sweet mayo.
6. Buc-ee’s Beaver Nuggets
A controversial selection here as the Beaver Nuggets are probably Buc-ee’s most recognizable and blogged-about snack.
To me, they’re a cousin of the cereal Honey Smacks. But with more caramel flavor.
It’s not my favorite thing but many people swear by the puffed corn nuggets.
5. Trail mix
Buc-ee’s specializes in walls of various treats. There’s a beef jerky wall, a dried fruit wall and a wall of gummy treats. There is also a large section dedicated to a variety of trail mixes.
It goes far beyond the typical trail mix with a variety for everyone. In particular, it’s a good energy snack for the road.
4. Banana pudding
As you can probably tell from the list, I prefer savory snacks to sweet snacks most of the time, but I’m a sucker for banana pudding.
In case you’re wondering, the best banana pudding in the world is at Dreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa.
Buc-ee’s isn’t that good but when you’re on the road, you have to take what you can get. And this banana pudding is worth taking.
3. Breakfast tacos
Ah. Now we’re on the high ground.
You know that meme from the Sly Stallone movie “Over the Top” which tried to be “Rocky” but for competitive arm wrestling? No. The 80s were a strange time, man.
Anyway, the only cultural relevance left is a meme of two muscular arms – one white, one black – clasping hands as if ready to arm wrestle. It’s used in internet culture to represent the meeting of two disparate cultures on common ground.
So if I knew how to make memes, I would make one representing Mexican cuisine and breakfast foods. It is, in fact, the common ground upon which a society can be built.
Buc-ee’s has a variety of breakfast tacos. However, I think drifts closer to the realm of burritos – but we’re not going to quibble over technicalities.
There are different varieties. The Hippo taco has bacon, egg, cheese, potatoes and beans. The Rhino substitutes sausage for bacon. And honestly, they are all wonderful.
2. Beef jerky
Belinda Carlisle once sang “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” I’m pretty sure she was singing about the jerky counter at Buc-ee’s.
It is like the meat case at a grocery store but instead of selections of steaks, chicken and ground beef, it’s just different flavors of dried meat piled high.
How committed am I to the beef jerky life? I can remember the first time I had it. It was made by hand by a craftsperson who served it on a field trip at Historic Old Fort in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
So, I like to think the reenactor – a champion of jerky tradition and pride – is looking down from somewhere ethereal at the Buc-ee’s jerky counter and pleased that their life’s work wasn’t in vain.
Finally, we have Buc-ee’s barbecue.
Previously, I’d tried the brisket and found it to be not bad. But at that point, I hadn’t tried the pulled pork. I corrected that mistake recently.
While the brisket sandwich is better than most fast food road trip options, it’s not as good as local mom-and-pop barbecue establishments.
The pulled pork, however, is a notch or two above the brisket. I suspect it’s because the pulled pork survives slightly better under the production limitations that Buc-ee’s must overcome.
The calibrations don’t have to be quite as precise.
Certainly, I’m not here to tell you to drive past a local smoker who’s doing barbecue to go to Buc-ee’s, but I am willing to tell you it’s probably the best mass-produced road trip sandwich available.
Do you have a favorite Buc-ee’s food? What items do you think are the best? Let us know in the comments!
The most challenging part of a Pigeon Forge vacation may well be picking a place to eat.
Certainly, there are options and options and options.
It can be hard deciding what to have on a Wednesday night at home. So of course, deciding what to eat on the road is that much more difficult.
Do we want to be daring? Or do we want to play it safe? Do we want dinner and an experience? Maybe we want something specific, like some delicious brisket and coleslaw.
At any rate, we’re going to tackle the top 25 places to eat in Pigeon Forge and see if we can help you out.
A few ground rules. First, we’re going to try and avoid most of the basic chains.
What’s a basic chain? A chain that’s likely located in your hometown. There are tourism chains like Hard Rock or Dick’s Last Resort that aren’t available in every town. Those are fair game.
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But if you want McDonald’s? You don’t need me to tell you where to grab fast food.
Second, we’re going to factor in experiences. In other words, you’re on vacation, the experience is part of it.
To illustrate, would I recommend Frizzle Chicken’s Farmhouse if it didn’t have animatronic singing chickens? It’s a riddle the world may never solve.
Third, dinner shows are out. For example, some people swear by the chicken at Dolly’s Stampede. Personally, I’ve never been that comfortable eating in the general vicinity of defecating horses.
And finally, all things are relative. Is a pancake house really better than a steakhouse? Not by traditional accounting, but if you’re looking for breakfast, do you want pancakes or filet?
Yeah filet, but those places aren’t usually open in the morning and you can’t have a cowboy ribeye every night of the week and expect to live.
Now, on to the show. Here are some of the best restaurants in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee:
25. Reagan’s House of Pancakes
Sure, there are a lot of breakfast places and a lot of pancake places all over Pigeon Forge. But Reagan’s is good enough that they opened a second location about 25 feet from the first.
Lewis Black has a bit about someone opening a Starbucks across the street from another Starbucks. This is like that but with good pancakes.
I don’t know how anyone could rank all of the pancake places in town, but I think if a place is good enough to open a second location within 100 yards or so, they must be doing something right.
As a bonus, it’s also a budget-friendly restaurant.
24. Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen
Some people love eating at Paula Deen’s. Admittedly, they know how to make a really good biscuit.
Overall, it’s pretty good food and one of the most popular restaurants among visitors.
With locals? Not quite as much.
You see, Paula Deen is a Georgian. The food is Southern style, it’s just different than some East Tennessee Southern cooking.
Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, family style.
Calhoun’s is classic barbecue done perfectly.
This East TN powerhouse offers consistent high-quality food. And it’s a Southern barbecue dining experience that the whole family can enjoy.
22. Pigeon Forge Deli
Pigeon Forge Deli is located on E. Wears Valley Road, in the corner of two buildings.
You won’t just happen upon it, but it’s a delicious place to have lunch. They offer handcrafted sandwiches on homemade white, pretzel dough and rye and wheat sub rolls.
Try the house-made pimento cheese BLT and thank us later.
The restaurant is currently closed on Sundays.
21. Bullfish Grill
Sure, it’s a chain but it’s not a restaurant you’re going to see in just any town.
For many, Bullfish Grill is a rare treat.
They specialize in shrimp and seafood.
Seafood selections include fried shrimp, seared ahi tuna and Blackened Tilapia Orleans.
You can’t go wrong with anything you order. It’s consistently good food.
20. Junction 35
Junction 35 is a distillery with a kitchen and bar that specializes in handcrafted cocktails, slow-cooked BBQ and farm-raised burgers.
It’s a delicious spot to grab a bite to eat, conveniently located in the Tower Shops at the Mountain Mile.
Junction 35 is also the winner of the TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award in 2021.
19. Gaucho Urbano: Brazilian Steakhouse
Bring me your finest meats, your most delicious steaks and be quick about it.
I love a Brazilian Steakhouse.
A variety of all-you-can-eat meats brought to your table on skewers? Yes, please.
However, also be sure to check out the salad bar too. It may seem like you don’t want to waste precious space with salad, but if they had a vegetarian night, I could go just for the salad bar.
18 . The Hard Rock Café
I’m a child of the late 80s and early 90s when Hard Rock was cool. I cannot make that argument today.
The Hard Rock is conveniently located in the heart of Pigeon Forge along the strip.
It may be a bit overpriced, but would I rather eat a juicy burger at O’Charley’s or some other place surrounded by unoffending fake regional artwork or at the Hard Rock next to some pants Pete Townsend wore in 1978?
That’s the easiest decision I’ve ever made.
17. Big Daddy’s Pizzeria
At Big Daddy’s Pizzeria, they are so committed to freshness, there ain’t a freezer in the place.
If you’ve never eaten at a brick oven pizzeria, it is certainly different from your average pie.
You’re familiar with pizza’s work and in all likelihood, you’re a fan.
Big Daddy’s has some fun options. I do like alternative pizzas, so the Big Kahuna with pineapple, Canadian bacon and a goat cheese mozzarella-provolone blend is good.
The Pigeon Forge location also features an arcade.
There’s a good chance that one night you’re going to want to keep it simple. And Mellow Mushroom is, in fact, the best in town.
Even though it’s a chain restaurant, it’s still one of my favorite places to get a good pizza.
15. Harpoon Harry’s Crab House
A dual concept by restaurant people out of Florida, Harpoon Harry’s offers a change of pace from Southern fare. They offer a traditional crab house menu but with the added bonus of a quality sushi bar.
Generally considered the best sushi in Pigeon Forge, Harpoon Harry’s offers a delightful change of pace from fried chicken and pancakes.
14. Huck Finn’s Catfish
OK. Maybe you want a traditional Southern twist on seafood entrees.
Something between Mama’s and Harpoon Harry’s. In that case, Huck Finn’s Catfish is the place for you.
The Local Goat is one of the more popular restaurants in Pigeon Forge, which means it can sometimes be difficult to get a table.
As one of the top Pigeon Forge restaurants, they feature a scratch kitchen with locally-sourced menu items.
4. Lil Black Bear Café
A teeny, tiny breakfast and lunch spot located on Veterans Parkway, the Lil Black Bear Café isn’t going to wow you with menu options. It’s a basic breakfast, a basic lunch but it’s done to perfection.
Do you want something memorable from your vacation? The Lil Black Bear Café is memorable for all the right reasons.
The menu features reasonable prices and it’s a great place to eat.
But be warned, wait times often reach up to two hours in the busy season. And this restaurant, like many in the area, does not take reservations.
3. Mama’s Farmhouse
If you’re going to come to the mountains, you might as well try some good Southern cooking.
It’s family-style but nothing terribly fancy. The flavors are that of a traditional home-cooked meal.
And as a member of the Johnson Family of Restaurants, it’s a good option if you want a certain style of meal while you’re on vacation.
2. Old Mill Pottery House Cafe
The Pottery House Cafe is within the historic Old Mill District.
The home used to belong to a local potter. The bread is baked fresh daily and the menu has lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
1. The Old Mill Restaurant
Located nearby the Pottery House along Old Mill Ave, The Old Mill Restaurant is precisely what you’d expect from an Old Mill Restaurant. It’s delicious food and country cooking done well.
With a wide variety of Southern favorites, there’s something here for the entire family.
The menu features a variety of chicken, ham, meatloaf, pork and barbecue.
And most entrees are served with a side of green beans and mashed potatoes.
The biscuits melt in your mouth. The Country Fried Chicken – with gravy of course – is cooked to perfection.
And the chicken and dumpling platter is a dish you won’t soon forget.
But be warned, this incredible restaurant isn’t exactly a local secret. Expect at least a 30-minute to 1-hour wait even in the slow season. In the busy season, wait times could be even greater. And they do not accept reservations.
What are your top restaurants when you visit Pigeon Forge TN? Let us know in the comments.
We are here, friends, to discuss the art of a finely prepared mountain breakfast.
But before we can discuss hen fruit and catheads (more on that later), there’s a bit of chicanery afoot that must be addressed.
Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is a magnificent mecca of mountain breakfast.
But it is playing a bit fast and loose with one of East Tennessee’s folk heroes, attracting the attention of the tourist trade with a famous name.
But the fact is that the Crockett in question is not folklore legend Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier. It’s not even one of his cousins.
In fact, we have no evidence that Davy ever even enjoyed signature corned beef hash breakfast or fried cinnamon rolls.
David Crockett Maples, a Tennessean who fought for the Union in the Civil War, opened a supply store when he returned from the war. It was located at the base of Mt. LeConte, where he and his wife, Mary (Ogle) Crockett earned a reputation for serving a hearty breakfast.
Mr. Maples eventually lost his legs to frostbite while serving as a guide – no word on what happened to the guy he was guiding.
Undeterred, Maples created wooden feet to put in his boots, strapped them to his legs and went on walking around with the help of a pair of canes until 1928 when he passed away at the age of 88.
Maples is more than deserving of having a Gatlinburg breakfast establishment named after him. But Maples Breakfast Camp apparently doesn’t have the same ring.
It’s like opening a huge restaurant in Pigeon Forge called Dolly’s and having it dedicated to former Dolly Pentreath, the last known native speaker of the Cornish language who passed away in 1777.
Editor’s Note: I was going with Dolley Madison here, but she spelled it funky and ruined the joke.
When did Crockett’s Breakfast Camp open?
Crockett’s Breakfast Camp has been one of the area’s top breakfast spots since 2014, where it continues to honor the lesser-known, yet impressive Crockett.
Still, if you can get past the name thing, Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is a place of wonder.
Who owns Crockett’s Breakfast Camp?
Part of the KBS Restaurant family, which also owns The Greenbrier, Holston’s, J.T. Hannah’s and more, Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is a holy place for those who believe – in their soul – that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
If aliens came to Earth and asked what breakfast is, bring them here.
First of all, because it is so good, but secondly because once they eat it, they’ll be so sluggish they will immediately need a nap and we can apprehend them before they have a chance to start messing with major cities.
Crockett’s Breakfast Camp menu
I love everything about Crockett’s Breakfast Camp.
They call the eggs “hen fruit.” The griddle cakes, French toast and waffles are enticing. I love that their cathead biscuits live up to the billing.
The Elk Mountain Grande Burrito features 3 eggs, chorizo, machaca, pico de gallo and jalapeños, just like old David Crockett Maples and his wife Mary Ogle made back in 1875.
In fact, they serve thick Aretha Frankenstein’s Pancakes with no explanation whatsoever. Just here ya go, Aretha Frankenstein! As if everybody knows about the “famous” pancake mix from the restaurant on Tremont Street in Chattanooga.
Also on the menu is the Signature Corned Beef Hash Benedict with diced onions, peppers and herbs.
Try the pan-fried pork chops. Or perhaps the Huevos Rancheros served with refried beans and rice. Build your own biscuit with the Cathead Stacker. There is something for everyone.
For those with a big appetite, try the Black Bear Camp Skillet featuring country or sugar-cured ham and pecan smoked bacon. It is served with Cherokee sweet corn pone and more. Or try the Postmasters Favorite featuring country fried steak and homestyle sausage gravy.
Huge portions and the best breakfast can be found at Crocketts.
In addition, the location right at the top of the strip before you get out of Gatlinburg into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, can’t be beat.
Going hiking? Great. Stop off for a hearty breakfast then turn around and go back to your hotel for a nice nap while you recover.
Can I make a confession? For the life of me, I don’t understand why this restaurant concept exists. I mean, the menu is fine and the food is good, even really good, but the why really bugs me.
For instance, we were in Orlando recently at the Universal City Walk. And there, among a variety of really interesting and different dining options, was Bubba Gump, right there by the exit.
And in fact, it was always busy. Just doing a bang-up business.
Look, I was around for the Forrest Gump craze. Loved the movie, loved the book.
Read the sequel, which was not great.
I also listened to the soundtrack full of hits from the 60s and 70s. Great soundtrack.
The fact of the matter is that I was a fairly big Forrest Gump fan. But never in a million years would I have thought to turn Bubba Gump Shrimp into a real-world thing.
The website notes (brags?) that it remains the only causal restaurant chain based on a motion picture property.
It’s just perplexing on every level. Who demanded this or thought it was a good idea?
Clearly, that person was a genius. Here we are, nearly 30 years later and there are Bubba Gumps all over the country. So it must be a success, right?
I keep trying to think of the next big thing in terms of motion-picture-based restaurant theming. But I’ve got nothing. There has to be another multi-million dollar idea out there just waiting to be licensed.
34. LandShark Bar & Grill
Landshark Grill is the cousin of Bubba Gump’s.
I don’t get the whole Jimmy Buffet expanded universe. I get that Margaritaville was a whole vibe when it came out. Honestly, lyrically it’s probably one of the cleverest songs written.
It captures the ideal of beach life that so many people wish they could live. And I even like some of Buffet’s other songs. In fact, I have the greatest hits CD around somewhere.
But one day I looked up and Jimmy Buffet was no longer a singer-songwriter with somewhat limited range. He was a whole corporation. Restaurants, hotels and publishing. Jimmy Buffett was suddenly the biggest thing in the world.
And his restaurant? It’s fine. Specifically, it’s not better or worse. Fine.
So, if that’s the life experience, the vibe you like on vacation, I’m not here to tell you any different. Get a cheeseburger and a big old beer and have a good time.
To me? It’s basically like O’Charley’s with more novel theming.
33. Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
Part of the Johnson Family of Restaurants, Bennett’s is good but not necessarily life-changing hickory barbecue.
Sharing a place in Gatlinburg with Big Daddy’s Pizza, Bennett’s offers Southern staples like chicken wings, beef brisket and deep fried pickles. Nothing fancy, but it’s not supposed to be.
On the menu, you’ll find everything from chicken wings to beef brisket to deep-fried pickles.
32. Big Daddy’s Pizzeria
I like Hawaiian pizza. You see a lot of folks out there in the world disparaging pineapple on pizza. Philistines. Little bit of ham, some pineapple, that’s a pizza of which anyone could be proud.
I bring it up because Big Daddy’s Big Kahuna with pineapple, Canadian bacon and a goat cheese mozzarella-provolone blend is, I think, an especially good Hawaiian pizza – possibly because of the wood fired ovens.
I like a little adventure in my pizza and Big Daddy’s is happy to oblige.
For example, The Herbivore is loaded with spinach, fresh tomatoes, cheeses, roasted garlic, mushrooms, red peppers and topped with feta cheese. The taco pie with refried beans, ground beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomatoes is excellent as well.
The Smoky Mountain Brewery is a great place if you’re into beer. But it’s also a great place if you like brewery style food in a fun atmosphere. The brews are the stars here of course. But what’s a good brew without some great pizza or a good burger to enjoy it with?
Part of the Copper Cellar family – which includes Cherokee Grill and Chesapeake’s – you know you’re going to eat well.
It’s hard for me to pass up the Big City Reuben, but if you’re looking for something different, the Grilled Yellow Fin Tuna with wasabi mayo will get your attention.
28. Wild Plum Tea Room
This local favorite has sandwiches, salads, burgers and unique creations like Lobster Pie, all of which are made fresh daily.
The recipes are passed down through families and neighbors and the atmosphere is far from the typical high-paced turnover of Gatlinburg restaurants.
It is definitely worth a visit on your next trip to town. They also offer a dog friendly patio.
27. Best Italian on the Parkway
What’s in a name? Some people – ordinary people – name their restaurant after themselves, Johnny’s. Some people find a concept and run with it … looking at you, Bubba Gump.
The people behind Best Italian on the Parkway? They just put it right there on jump street. You know what you’re getting before you walk in the door.
Great pizza. Famous garlic rolls. Traditional Italian dishes like Chicken Florentine or Chicken Marsala. The Linguini & Clam Sauce – which is a little hard to find in the Smoky Mountains – is quite good as well.
26. New Orleans Sandwich Company
Cajun food? Yes, please. Sandwiches? Of course.
With a menu that sings with Cajun goodness, the New Orleans Sandwich company offers a variety of traditional New Orleans Poboys as well as favorites like Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice and Seafood Gumbo.
Get you some fried okra on the side and the Pontchartrain Shrimp Poboy and you’ll feel like your vacation took a turn to Louisiana.
25. Tom & Earl’s Back Alley Grill
I don’t know Tom. And I don’t know Earl. I traditionally avoid eating foods prepared in a back alley – unless it’s one of those back-alley food court things you find in other parts of the world.
However, Tom & Earl’s wraps, sandwiches and specialty drinks are quite good. And Tom and Earl’s is just a great hang.
A place to come and enjoy the evening when you have nothing more on the agenda than eating a little, drinking a little and enjoying the evening. There is live music on Fridays and Saturdays when closing time is a little up in the air.
24. Cheese Cupboard & Hofbrauhaus
First floor? A cheese shop that opened in the Village Shoppes in 1969. They sell cheeses, gourmet mustards and kosher dill pickles and other snacks. It’s wonderful. The last time I was there we got a really earthy leak cheese. It was fantastic.
Second floor? One step closer to heaven. The Hofbrauhaus Restaurant, styled after a German Pub, with a variety of sandwiches, including a famous Reuben and bratwurst. Real, honest-to-God bratwurst in East Tennessee is a rarity.
Sometimes a restaurant menu can be a little too precocious. Crockett’s Breakfast Camp already has one strike for being named after someone who was named after the famous Davy Crockett. I will NOT be bait and switched. They call eggs “hen fruit.”
Too much? I think so. Luckily, everything gets better from there.
Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, named after David Crockett Maples who served in the Civil War and lost his legs to frostbite and spent the last years of his life walking around on wooden feet, offers everything I want out of a breakfast camp.
French toast, waffles, griddle cakes as well as true cathead biscuits.
The Elk Mountain Grande Burrito is made with three eggs, machaca, chorizo pico de gallo and jalapeños. And the Signature Corned Beef Hash Benedict comes with diced onions, peppers and herbs.
The Atrium is open from 7:30 am to 2 pm Wednesday through Sunday. Breakfast offers the usual items of pancakes, bacon and French toast.
I’m a fan of the Famous Apple Pancake, served with apples and brown sugar along with apple syrup. It’s really good.
If you’re a big eater at breakfast, the house specials just may be your thing. The Hungry Bear comes with four eggs, any style, four pancakes, home fries and your choice of meat. The Mountain Man Platter comes with two eggs, two pancakes, home fries and an 8 oz. ribeye. You can add bacon or country ham for a little extra kicker.
For lunch, it’s sandwiches, burgers and fried chicken. Sides include fried okra and fried green tomatoes. Honestly, I could make a meal on those alone.
With more than 20 years in the business of serving the Gatlinburg tourist trade, you know Atrium is going to be good or it wouldn’t still be around.
A trout house is what they promise and a trout house is what they deliver. The menu features 10 different fresh rainbow trout dishes as well as pasta, steaks and seafood.
Of the trout dishes, the Eisenhower is probably the tops. Breaded in cornmeal and fried, served with a side of sautéed mushrooms and onions, it’s a classic.
20. Ruby Sunshine
A touch of New Orleans comes to the mountains.
Ruby Sunshine – from the owners of Ruby Slipper Café of New Orleans – offers Big Easy twists on Southern brunch classics, including benedicts, pancakes and French toast, as well as eye-opening cocktails which are perfect for vacation.
Ruby Sunshine is open from 7:30 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday and until 3 pm on the weekends. Every day is a good day to live that brunch life when you’re on vacation.
The options range from sweet to savory – the Bayou Shrimp Bennies are particularly good.
There seems to be a real push on bringing Cajun and Louisiana flavors to the region. And most of the places that are doing it are quite good. As someone who grew up with Cajun cousins, I applaud the trend and hope that we get more.
Again, what’s in a name? Everything. What do you get at a Taste of Italy? A little bit of Rome, a little bit of Naples. A lot of Southern Italy in general.
I could wax poetic about the meatball sub. I typically avoid marinara dishes in restaurants because the sauce rarely lives up to what I make at home, but their homemade sauce is great.
If you get a chance, order stromboli. In my experience, good stromboli is hard to find in the South, but this is good stromboli.
18. Three Jimmy’s Good Time Eatery
Usually, when a place advertises karaoke and cornhole, I’m heading the other way. But Three Jimmy’s is no ordinary place. Located a little bit off the main strip, Three Jimmy’s is comfort food and good times. It’s right there in the title.
Barbecue options include pulled pork, beef brisket and ribs as well as a USDA prime smoked ribeye that’s excellent.
Comfort food options, straight from your grandmother’s recipe book, include chicken pot pie, open faced roast beef and Southern fried catfish.
Three Jimmy’s also has a surprisingly good selection of artisan pizzas for a place that has a cornhole board. The Blackberry Pie features blackberry chipotle sauce, hickory smoked pork, caramelized onions, bacon, gouda and mozzarella.
Certainly, it is an excellent choice if you’re looking for something off the beaten pizza path. The Smoky Mountain – with smoked pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, smoked bacon, and mozzarella – is a more traditional choice.
Located in the heart of the strip, Howards is a bi-level destination with a steak house downstairs and a pub upstairs.
Billed as Gatlinburg’s oldest restaurant – predating even the Pancake Pantry – Howards is a great spot to enjoy some Gatlinburg tradition.
There’s nothing terribly out-of-the-ordinary on the Howards Menu, but you don’t need food that is shocking to be great.
For example, the Hot Chop Steak Sandwich is a winner and pairs excellently with a Bloody Mary.
16. Mellow Mushroom
Mellow Mushroom is consistently the best chain pizza in the area.
The Mellow Mushroom offers unique and legitimately great pizzas and calzones. And sometimes you just need good pizza.
Sure, there may be fancier options, but pizza is one of the culinary wonders of the world.
I’m a fan of the Pacific Rim with ham, bacon, caramelized onions, pineapple and jalapenos, but the wife prefers the Mighty Meat which invariably sets me up for a “That’s what she said” joke, so everybody wins.
While it can be hard to get a table at Ole Red on a busy night, I find that they have surprisingly good food in a relaxing atmosphere.
And the best part is, it’s a great place to catch some live music.
The menu has standard bar food: Tacos, nachos, fried chicken, salads, sandwiches, burgers, catfish, fries, tater tots, etc. You shouldn’t expect anything too upscale, but it’s not bad, and the atmosphere makes it all worth it.
Ole Red is located in downtown Gatlinburg. Try to go on off-peak times for best results.
Delauder’s BBQ is a holy place. It is a shrine devoted to the divine art of smoked meats.
I’m a fan of their Five Meat Plate. I said, FIVE. MEAT. PLATE.
Specifically, you get ribs, pulled pork, brisket, grilled chicken breast and smoked sausage plus your choice of two sides, the best of which are the fried mac n cheese, fried okra and the collard greens.
It’s consistently one of the best BBQ restaurants in Gatlinburg.
Finally, in a fine-dining world dominated by steakhouses, Chesapeake’s wins by simply standing out.
Sure you can get excellent seafood dishes at The Peddler or Greenbrier, but if you want seafood, and quite frequently I do, it’s best to go to the place that specializes in the fruits of the ocean.
The Maryland Crab Cakes are delicious as an appetizer, a main course or on the crab cake sandwich.
They’re also available to be added to an entrée. The stuffed Maine lobster is also decadent and the steam seafood feast can’t be beaten. I also enjoy the Smoked Trout.
There are non-seafood options available if you’re not in the mood, but I can’t imagine anyone would read this far into this particular blog and then go to Chesapeake’s and order the hamburger – which I’m sure is probably a pretty good burger.
The broiled or fried seafood platters feature shrimp, scallops and cod. Their cod is an awesome cod.
Try the Slower Delaware Pie for dessert.
Since I’ve never been to Delaware, I don’t know if this is an actual thing.
But it’s coffee ice cream, Kahlua liqueur, chocolate cookie crust, hot fudge, candied pecans and cream. And it’s a work of genius.