Labor Day is almost upon us, marking the end of summer and the beginning of fall.
Considering the fact that Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are already busy tourist areas, adding a holiday weekend can make traffic thicker, lines longer and tempers shorter.
Since it’s the perfect place to be for many folks in the area, the crowds are usually heavier on holiday weekends.
If you plan to visit the Smokies this Labor Day, or any holiday weekend for that matter, we always recommend that you plan ahead and make reservations whenever possible.
For Labor Day events, be sure to check out our calendar.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are 9 ideas for celebrating Labor Day in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas:
9. Visit a waterpark
Fall colors and cooler temperatures are just around the corner, so be sure to enjoy the last few days of summer while you can.
Labor Day is usually the last weekend to enjoy Dollywood’s Splash Country in Pigeon Forge.
The good news is, you can still visit Soaky Mountain Waterpark on weekends throughout the rest of the month of September. Be sure to check for current deals and specials.
8. Check out a distillery
Blow off some steam with a trip to one of the county’s legal stills.
Look, this past year or so has been pretty stressful. You might need to take the edge off just a little. What better way to unwind than with a Bloody Mary stirred with a shine-soaked dill pickle?
If you want a more educational experience, consider a guided tour with one of Gatlinburg’s Best Moonshine Tours.
7. Race some go-karts
For some people, alcohol isn’t the answer. Either they don’t care for the stuff, or they care for it a little too much. So if moonshine isn’t your thing, a little competition is a good way to work out any pent-up anxiety.
Now, if you have road rage tendencies, maybe go try some retail therapy or something. But, for some people, a little healthy bumpin’ and racin’ is just the thing.
6. Go shopping
If you’re an early planner, this may be the time you want to start your Christmas shopping. Or maybe you want to just enjoy some retail therapy. You will likely find some good Labor Day sales.
Whether you’re looking for a mom-and-pop shop or some outlet malls, the shopping opportunities are just about endless in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
5. Go mini golfing
September is a great month to try your hand at some mini golf courses.
Enjoy the outdoors as the temperature starts to cool while partaking in some family-friendly competition.
There are so many choices to consider when you’re in the Smokies. Remember, if you end up at one of the two Ripley’s mini golf courses, we recommend considering a combo pass to help you save big when you visit multiple Ripley’s attractions.
4. Get outside
As much fun as it is in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you may want to escape the crowds and get outside.
There are great hiking options in the area, and it’s the perfect time to get outside the walls of your cabin. We suggest maybe checking out some local waterfalls, exploring trails, picnic areas and more in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Also, Labor Day is always a great time to go tubing along the Little Pigeon River or go whitewater rafting, and one of the last opportunities in the season to do so.
Remember to pack accordingly. Temperatures are cooler in a higher elevation.
3. Take a scenic drive
Go see the sights that made the Great Smoky Mountains a tourist destination in the first place.
Highway 441 offers a beautiful drive through the Great Smoky Mountains from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina.
You can stop and enjoy a meal by the rushing creek at the Chimneys picnic area on the Tennessee side, and you can get out of the car and stretch your legs at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on the North Carolina side.
There is also a great opportunity for animal watching, specifically elk. The vast majority of the elk I’ve seen in the park have been on the Carolina side near the visitor center.
Cades Cove is another popular choice for drivable sightseeing, though it is often crowded.
2. Visit the Apple Barn
With fall approaching, it’s the perfect season to visit the Apple Barn.
Dine at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant or Grill. Here, you can enjoy several apple-themed treats, snacks, ice cream, apple butter and more.
The Apple Barn is located in Sevierville, close to the Pigeon Forge border.
1. Do something new
For my final thoughts, I’ll encourage you to try something new. Look, we all get into a bit of a rut, even on vacation. When you come to the Smoky Mountains, you tend to want to maximize the fun so you do the greatest hits, the things you and your family have enjoyed in the past.
Maybe it’s Dollywood. Maybe it’s a favorite hiking spot. For many who come to the Smokies, it’s an act of nostalgia. Maybe a father brings his kids to show them the same places his father took him.
Maybe it’s a place the kids loved when they were little and we come back to experience that through a different lens. But the Smokies are vast. The options are not quite unlimited, but nearly so.
Find a car show. Visit the Arts and Crafts Community in Gatlinburg.
Feed some goats on a roof. Ride a mountain roller coaster. For this long weekend, do something different. Whatever it is, get out there and add some new experiences.
We promise you, there is something in the Smokies that fits your comfort level and it’s quite a bit better than another day in the backyard.
Do you have fun things planned for Labor Day weekend TN? Let us know in the comments.