Is there more to do in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg? 5 things to consider

There are 5 factors that to into determining whether or not there's more to do in Pigeon Forge than in Gatlinburg when planning your trip to the Smokies (photos by Alaina O'Neal/TheSmokies.com and Miro Vrlik Photography / shutterstock.com)

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They’re only separated by a few miles of four-lane road, but getting back and forth from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge can be a real pain.

So much so that some families choose a Gatlinburg vacation or a Pigeon Forge vacation and limit the time spent driving the space betwixt the two.

So. You’re planning a getaway vacation to Sevier County but you have to choose between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge … What do you do?

Which one has more things for the family?

Let’s break it down, tale of the tape style:

Dollywood
Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge, ’nuff said (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

1. Number of attractions

There are more establishments designed to take your tourism dollars in Pigeon Forge than Gatlinburg.

There are more restaurants, more mini golf, more dinner theaters and more museums.

Plus there’s Dollywood and Splash Country

If you’re counting quality by counting quantity, Gatlinburg has no argument.

However, as the learned counsel representing Gatlinburg in the matter, how many mini golf courses do you really need? How many different go-kart tracks?

Pigeon Forge’s numbers advantage can be somewhat misleading on repetition alone.

Are you going to try for the mini-golf grand slam? Playing 12 or 15 courses on a vacation? No, you are not.

Still, the question is which has more things to do and no amount of cheap tricks is going to help Gatlinburg’s clever gambit. 

Winner: Pigeon Forge.

Jurassic Boat Ride Storefront
The Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride is one of the more questionable attractions in Pigeon Forge (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

2. Number of quality attractions

Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge suffer a few “misses” or attractions that won’t have much interest to most families.

Read Also: Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride Pigeon Forge: Tourist trap or beloved icon?

But, by and large, I find Gatlinburg has a higher percentage of things I’d actually like to do.

Buoyed by Anakeesta, Ober and the Ripley’s attractions, Gatlinburg has a nice variety of activities spread throughout the village. 

Read Also: Is Ripley’s Aquarium worth the money: A review of Gatlinburg’s aquarium

Throw in improved shopping and – in my opinion – better restaurants and Gatlinburg acquits itself quite nicely in round two.

Despite being home to Dollywood, Pigeon Forge still has a higher percentage of somewhat shady attractions. 

Winner: Gatlinburg (sorry Dolly).

Traffic in Gatlinburg during peak times can back up for miles (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Traffic in the Smokies during peak times can back up for miles (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

3. Better overall accessibility

All of the great things in the world do not matter if you can’t get to them.

When Pigeon Forge traffic is manageable, everything is within an easy drive.

But when things are bad, they are very bad.

Read Also: Tips on how to avoid traffic in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

We flirted with Pigeon Forge traffic last weekend, daring a run to the Hollywood Wax Museum. Traffic was busy but not oppressive. However, gazing further down the Parkway to the main strip was a bit like gazing into the gaping maw of the gates of Hell.

In Gatlinburg, you can park your car and walk everywhere.

Winner: Gatlinburg with a slight reduction in points because the hill on the main drag can be a pain.

A family enjoys a scenic mountain view
Gatlinburg offers better access to the mountains (stock.adobe.com)

4. Access to the mountains

We still come to the area for the natural beauty of the mountains.

Gatlinburg is a stone’s throw away from the National Park, with access to Cherokee, North Carolina, Cosby and Hartford.

There is also the back road to Townsend which was built by Satan and is an absolute nightmare for anyone who suffers motion sickness.

Most of Pigeon Forge’s best access to the mountains is through Gatlinburg but it also has the Wears Valley Road connector to Townsend.

Read Also: Things to do in Wears Valley TN: Our top 5 recommendations

Wears Valley has turned into this cool little artistic area in the mountains with gorgeous views, interesting restaurants and the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. 

Winner: Gatlinburg, but Pigeon Forge is better here than you think.

The Comedy Barn in Pigeon Forge is one of the many places in the Smokies that brings joy to our cheesy little hearts (photo by Zoe Cappello/shutterstock)
The Comedy Barn in Pigeon Forge is one of the many attractions in the Pigeon Forge that brings joy to our hearts (photo by Zoe Cappello/shutterstock)

5. Overall

I’m on the record with a preference for Gatlinburg’s vibe.

I like the bars and the restaurants and the shopping and the attractions (for the most part) better in Gatlinburg.

I like that you can let the family have some measure of freedom, stretch out and explore.

I like the Willy Wonka’s Europe vibes. I like Ripley’s Aquarium and Anakeesta and the ride across the mountains to Cherokee.

I just like Gatlinburg better than Pigeon Forge.

That being said, Pigeon Forge has Dollywood and the dinner theatres and lots more opportunities to do things, which ultimately is the name of the game when deciding where to vacation.  

Winner: Surprisingly, Pigeon Forge.

So is there more to do in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg?

Look, I know Gatlinburg won more of the arbitrary categories and that it is my personal choice.

But you’ve got to be ready to zag when you’re in the tourism blog game.

Dollywood’s footprint is just too big, especially with Splash Country.

Throw in the wide assortment of dinner theatres and great big museums like Titanic and the Hollywood Wax Museum and it’s hard to make an argument against Pigeon Forge having the most and best things to do in the county. 

In my humble opinion, there are simply more things to do in Pigeon Forge!

Pigeon Forge is the winner!

Do you agree with our assessment? Let us know in the comments below.

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at info@thesmokies.com for questions or comments.

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2 thoughts on “Is there more to do in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg? 5 things to consider”

  1. For our family Pigeon Forge is definitely the winner. We love renting a cabin and going to Dollywood. Most of our favorite restraunts are in Pigeon Forge. We also like the shows it offers. If we want to go in the Smokies we just take the bypass. Plus Wears Valley is easy to get too and also the back way to Cades Cove. We usually spend at least part of a day in Gaitlinburg too.

  2. To me it’s more to do in Pigeon Forge than Gatlinburg however Gatlinburg is very quaint, unique and one of a kind but is still enjoyable. I prefer Pigeon Forge because the driving space is 100x large than Gatlinburg.

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