Labor Day weekend is almost upon us, marking the end of summer and the start 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.
Still, it’s the perfect place to be for many folks in the area. 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.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are nine ideas for celebrating Labor Day in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas:
Also, for Labor Day events, be sure to check out our calendar.
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1. Visit a waterpark
Since fall colors and cooler temperatures are just around the corner, be sure to enjoy the last few days of the summer heat while you can.
Labor Day weekend is one of the last weekends to enjoy waterparks like Dollywood’s Splash Country in Pigeon Forge or Soaky Mountain in Sevierville.
2. Check out a distillery
If the hustle and bustle of the holiday weekend is getting to you, blow off some steam with a trip to one of the county’s legal stills.
The summer can be a stressful time for some. 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 Moonshine Tours.
3. Race some go-karts
For some people, ‘shine isn’t the answer. Either they don’t care for the stuff, or they care for it a little too much. So if that 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.
4. 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. Either way, 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, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.
5. Go mini golfing
September is a great month to try your hand at some mini golf courses.
Enjoy the outdoors 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 combination pass to help you save big when you visit multiple Ripley’s attractions.
If the weather isn’t cooperating, you can also find a great indoor course at Crave Golf Club in Pigeon Forge. Also, you can save $3 when you purchase two courses online with promo code TSC at Crave Golf Club mini golf.
6. Get outside
As much fun as the attractions are around 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 explore the rapids with whitewater rafting. Notably, it’s one of the last opportunities in the season to do so.
Remember to pack accordingly. Temperatures are cooler at higher elevations.
7. 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. I also enjoy the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which closes seasonally in the winter.
Cades Cove near Townsend is another popular choice for drivable sightseeing with its drivable loop, though it is often crowded this time of year.
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. The possibilities are vast in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
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.
Read Also: 9 Best Scenic Drives in the Smoky Mountains, Ranked
8. Visit the Apple Barn
With fall approaching, it’s the perfect season to visit the Apple Barn.
While you’re there, you can also dine at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant or Grill. Then, 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.
9. 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. Try your hand at ziplining. Find a car show. Visit the Arts and Crafts Community in Gatlinburg. Make your family getaway memorable.
Feed some goats on a roof. See the animals at the SkyLand Ranch attraction. 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.
Is Pigeon Forge crowded on Labor Day weekend?
September as a whole is not the most popular time to visit the Smoky Mountains, but it’s not the slowest time, either. It falls in the lower curve of the other popular months, which include June, July, August and October.
However, holiday weekends are always a bit more crowded than usual, so be prepared.
For example, make reservations where you can.
But in my experience, Labor Day weekend isn’t as bad as the Rod Runs car show, which is Sept. 14-16 this year. It’s also not as crowded as it usually is during holiday weekends in Winterfest around November and December.
Do you have fun things planned for Labor Day weekend in TN? Let us know in the comments.