How Goats on the Roof got its start, and why we can’t seem to get enough
Look, I’ve lived in the Smokies for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of attractions and tourist attractions come and go. Everything from restaurants to rides to places selling ice cream, homemade fudge and tourist trinkets. In this town, if you want to stick around, you’ve got to do something to stand out. At this tourist attraction, standing out means having live goats on the roof.
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How Goats on the Roof got its start
The story begins with a Chicago-born Swede who moved to Door County, Wisconsin to sell square pancakes, whitefish and Swedish meatballs. Al Johnson and his wife, Ingert, renovated their eatery to be more – well – Swedish. This included a sod roof. It didn’t take long before a man snuck a goat up on the roof as a gag. However, this gag proved to be a godsend for a natural marketer like Al. So, more rooftop goats followed, and soon, people wanted to come see the restaurant, check out the goats and try the whitefish. In fact, the legendary Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik still remains a destination of fascination – live goats, Swedish pancakes, goat cameras and all – in Sister Bay today.
So how did a goat-themed, Swedish eatery in Wisconsin beget a pair of tourist stores in Sevier County? It appears old Al trademarked Goats on the Roof even if that isn’t the name of his restaurant and gift shop. And thanks to a licensing agreement with the restaurant, the Pigeon Forge attraction now shares the “same fun and unique features” with visitors to the Smokies.
So what can you do at Goats on the Roof?
At the main location, you can feed the goats using a bicycle-powered conveyor system called the “goat-cycle” which carries the goat food and cans of goat chow to the top of the building. I always enjoy the homemade fudge and ice cream from the souvenir shop. There’s also a gem mining operation where my kids like to pan for treasures like “rare gems, emeralds, sapphires and rubies” as well.
The attraction also now features its new Jurassic Tymes Mini Golf, which has two 18-hole courses on-site. But the premier attraction at Goats on the Roof of the Smoky Mountains – aside from the goats – is the Goat Coaster. Located on Wears Valley Road, the Goat Coaster is a nearly mile-long alpine coaster. Like many coasters in the area, it carries you up into the mountains above the goats and the roof and then sprints you back down through a series of curves. The coaster – which is as of this writing $12 per ride in a “limited time offer” – reaches top speeds of 27 mph but with a handbrake, you can control your speed.
What you should know about the Goats on the Roof Coaster: Age and height requirements
The ride time is listed as seven minutes, but in my experience, that depends on the rider. The cart can hold one or two passengers. There are restrictions, including a height limit and an age limit. Younger kids can ride, but only when accompanied by an adult. Currently, drivers must be at least 16 years old and at least 54 inches (4.5 feet) tall. Passengers have to be at least three years old and 38 inches (3.1 feet) tall. The maximum rider height is 84 inches (7 feet). The rider weight limit is 375 pounds per sled (or 330 pounds in wet weather).
Goats on the Roof has two locations in the Smoky Mountains
One location features goats located on the roof, the other does not. Both locations are just minutes outside of Gatlinburg. The Goats on the Roof gift shop is located on the main strip in Pigeon Forge at 2631 Parkway. And while there are no roof goats, there are baby goats on the premises for photo ops, but petting and feeding are not allowed. The main location is on Wears Valley Road. This location features the famous (or infamous) roof-dwelling goats as well as the aforementioned mountain coaster. To learn more about the Pigeon Forge attraction, visit them online.
Have you visited either of the Goats on the Roof locations on your Tennessee vacation? What did you think? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.