The area surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a world-renowned family vacation destination, which means the demand for places to stay is significant.
That means the competition to be the supplier to meet that demand is also significant.
From Pigeon Forge hotels to cabin rentals, there are hundreds of suppliers who want to be the one to provide you a vacation home base for family fun.
It is a buyer’s market. You can be picky, searching for the best resorts with prime locations to make your family vacation the best it can possibly be.
And your choice goes beyond picking from an array of Pigeon Forge cabins, inns, hotels or resorts.
You can choose the right vacation community for your family as well.
My family prefers Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge or Sevierville or even Townsend. But to each their own.
Is Gatlinburg a good family vacation?
I think so. Gatlinburg, I think, has the reputation of being a little more grown-up than its neighbor Pigeon Forge. Gatlinburg feels like a cozy, cloistered weekend getaway. Pigeon Forge is more expansive, with more room for bigger attractions and the flashing lights that might keep families with kids happier.
But we like Gatlinburg. We think it’s a great place for a family vacation. Particularly, we like to get a room with a private balcony overlooking the Little River.
We like getting up in the morning and walking over to the Pancake Pantry for breakfast, then exploring what the Burg has to offer. Maybe we’ll go up to the mountains, maybe we’ll have a day of mini-golf. Or we’ll drive over to Pigeon Forge and have the best of both worlds.
Is Pigeon Forge a good family vacation?
Yeah. I think it’s a more natural family vacation spot. Whereas Gatlinburg is limited by its topography, Pigeon Forge has room to spread out. It has room for massive resorts and theme parks and go kart tracks and giant dinner theaters and a lot more things that just won’t fit in Gatlinburg.
It’s funny because they’re so relatively close together and are so closely related. However, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer surprisingly different family vacation experiences.
What are the best family resorts in Pigeon Forge?
The area has a lot of options from campgrounds to traditional hotels and motels. So what do we mean when we say resort? A resort is a destination in and of itself. Maybe it offers spa services. Maybe it offers its own on-site water park or an on-site restaurant.
It takes more than being located in a popular destination to be a resort. Therefore, here are some good rules of thumb. For example, got an outdoor pool in full view of the cars passing by on the parkway? You’re at a motel. Got an indoor swimming pool, maybe with a community hot tub? That’s a hotel.
Lastly, got an indoor water park with a lazy river and in-room Jacuzzi tub? Now, you’re at a resort, my friend.
With this in mind, here are some of our favorite family resorts for staying in the Pigeon Forge area.
8. Country Cascades Waterpark Resort
There are going to be a lot of waterpark resorts on this list, so some of this is going to come down to personal preference. Do you like the water slides better here or at Wilderness or one of the other waterpark resorts? Then that may well be what sways your decision.
Located just off the main strip in Pigeon Forge, Country Cascades can be overshadowed by some of its brethren. However, it comes with two fun water slides, a kids splash area, the beach entry leisure pool, an indoor pool and a hot tub.
There’s a lot to like about this lesser-known resort.
7. Margaritaville Island Inn
Now, you might be thinking to yourself that Margaritaville doesn’t sound much like a family place. And I understand. But I also took my family on a beach vacation to an ocean-front casino/hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi, so let’s just admit our standards might be different.
Still, The Island itself is a family-friendly destination. There are plenty of things for the whole family to do on the Island, including the giant Ferris wheel. And also, the Island itself proves an effective boundary in which you can give your older kids some measure of freedom.
There are plenty of restaurants, shopping and family-friendly activities. If a resort is a place where you can have an entire vacation without really having to leave the property, the Island certainly qualifies.
The in-room amenities include private balconies, free wifi, a 50-inch LCD TV and a mini-fridge and microwave. The inn offers a complimentary hot breakfast. The hotel has indoor and outdoor pools, a fire pit lounge as well as a fitness center and a gathering room.
6. Black Fox Lodge
A Hilton family facility, the Black Fox Lodge is located in the heart of Pigeon Forge.
The Lodge offers a seasonal outdoor pool with a water fountain and slide, a patio with a fire pit and a restaurant with a full bar. Other amenities include free wifi, fitness centers and free parking. Suites are available.
5. Music Road Resort, Hotel, Inn and Convention Center
Who says you can’t have it all? The Music Road Resort is a complex that hosts the Music Road Hotel and Music Road Inn as well as the convention center. Both the inn and the hotel have their own water parks for guests only.
They have 60-foot corkscrew slides that empty into large refreshing pools as well as a lazy river for relaxed floating as well as mushroom fountains that allow guests to cool off in the cascading water.
The in-room amenities depend on the style chosen. Some of the pricier options have in-room Jacuzzis and a fireplace.
The penthouses come with full kitchens, a living room with a sofa and private French balconies with views. There’s also an iron and ironing board. You may be in the penthouse, but you’re going to get your own wrinkles out, buster.
4. Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort
A variety of villas offer real luxury at this Gatlinburg resort, which offers beautiful mountain views and fresh mountain air away from traffic and congestion that plagues downtown Pigeon Forge. Here you can feel like you’re in a real mountain oasis rather than a hotel with a couple of water slides tucked behind the TGI Fridays parking lot.
The Wild Bear Falls Water Park is a world-class mountain-themed, heated indoor Gatlinburg water park which – unless you purchase a special package – is not included in your room rate.
All the features are named after famous locations in or around the national park. For instance, Ramsey Cascades is an interactive treehouse filled with flowing water and named after the famous waterfall while Cades Cove is a 900-foot lazy river.
Clingmans Dome and Laurel Falls are water slides. Moonshine Hollow is an indoor/outdoor sauna good for melting tension. Grotto Falls is – in my opinion – an unfortunately named hot tub experience. The Swimming Hole is a pool.
The resort also houses the Serenity Spa which offers soothing treatments, age-defying facials, full-body massages, manicures, pedicures and body wraps that melt away stress and induce deep relaxation.
3. RiverStone Resort and Spa
I love everything about RiverStone Resort. Luxurious condos, overlooking the Gatlinburg Country Club Golf course, are fully furnished and elegantly appointed with professionally arranged décor, featuring convenient amenities and practical layouts perfect for couples, families and multi-family groups.
The facilities are top notch and the thought put into them is evident.
The lazy river, for example, is beautifully landscaped with rock features and trees that elevate the experience entirely. Too many lazy rivers in the area feel like you’re floating through a parking lot.
The Riverstone Resort facility makes you feel like you’re in the mountains even though you’re only a football field or two away from the main strip. The spa offers a variety of packages including massage, facial and nail treatments, body treatments, waxing and more.
2. Wilderness at the Smokies
Those other resorts have heated indoor pools, maybe a Jacuzzi? Big whoop.
Welcome to Tennessee’s largest indoor waterpark. A variety of suites are available onsite as River Lodge Suites where the amenities are pretty basic, honestly, but you do get access to the water park as part of your room. The facility also has Stone Hill Lodge and a variety of villas.
What’s at the waterpark? The Great Wave pool is a surf rider ride that brings body surfing to the Smokies.
Additionally, multiple slides, a play area and the Storm Chase thrill ride in which four guests plummet 55 feet down a thrilling, dark tunnel ride before dropping through a zero gravity fall into a funnel where they experience several fast oscillations before splashing into a pool below.
There’s also Lake Wilderness Outdoor Waterpark at the River Lodge – bringing everything you’d expect from any of the great outdoor waterparks: slides, rides, cabanas and more.
Recently, officials announced a huge expansion that will be coming soon to the resort, which will add nearly 40,000 square feet to the indoor waterpark. Stay tuned for more details.
1. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort
The best resort in the area – at least until Dolly’s HeartSong opens next year – the DreamMore Resort is more than a place to rest after a long day at the amusement park. DreamMore is an oasis, perfect for family time or a romantic getaway.
The spa offers a variety of packages perfect for a getaway with the girls – or the guys, really. Resort guests with theme park tickets get priority access to Dollywood and Splash Country as well as a complimentary Time Saver pass that allows guests to skip the line on certain rides a total of 8 times.
You also get door-to-door transportation to the theme park. Guest rooms and suites have standard amenities. The resort has indoor and outdoor pool facilities, a sit-down restaurant Song and Hearth and a family game room with a pool table and more.
What is your favorite family resort in the area? Let us know in the comments.