“I’m Planning a Pigeon Forge Vacation – Will I Need a Mobility Scooter?”

a reddit question asks "I'm planning a Pigeon Forge vacation and sometimes struggle to get around. I am embarrassed to ask, but will I need a mobility scooter?"

A redditor asks "I'm planning a Pigeon Forge vacation and sometimes struggle to get around. I am embarrassed to ask, but will I need a mobility scooter?"

A question was recently posted online – “I’m planning a Pigeon Forge vacation and sometimes struggle to get around. I am embarrassed to ask, but will I need a mobility scooter?”

Editor’s Note: The following is a new advice series where readers can write in and get personalized advice from Smoky Mountain travel experts. Do you have a question that you would like us to answer? Email us at info@thesmokies.com with the subject line “Smokies Advice”.

As someone who has used a mobility scooter on vacation, I know firsthand both the convenience of increased mobility and the judgment that can come with it. There’s a stigma for certain people who choose to use items like mobility scooters to get around in situations that require more walking than they are used to. Pigeon Forge often gets overwhelmed by vehicle traffic. But it isn’t ideal for foot traffic, so a mobility scooter or similar device is a real lifesaver. 

Pigeon Forge Aerial View During Car Show
Pigeon Forge is not designed for safe foot traffic (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

But is Pigeon Forge mobility-friendly?

Located in the heart of East Tennessee, on the very edge of the Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. But unlike its Sevier County sister City Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge is not an ideal town for pedestrians. 

Pigeon Forge is spread along a lengthy strip of six-lane roadway that is often choked with heavy traffic. Unless you have access to Teaster Lane – which runs parallel to the strip – navigating a day in Pigeon Forge by car can be frustrating. City officials have tried to mitigate the situation by providing nice, wide sidewalks and plenty of crosswalks but if you plan a day out in Pigeon Forge on foot, you’re going to be accumulating a lot of steps. Miles’ worth. Especially in the heat and humidity of an East Tennessee summer that can be challenging for anybody. For someone whose mobility is less than 100%? It can be a nightmare. 

people riding mobilty scooters on the sidewalks of pigeon forge in front of the Dolly Parton Stampede
Some people like to cruise the Pigeon Forge Parkway via sidewalk on mobility scooters – especially when car shows are in town (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Is there any shame in the ‘scooter game’?

Look, I’m a big guy – obese – AKA fat. For years I carried the excess weight well enough that I could do things like Disney or other vacation spots, like Dollywood that required a lot of walking without assistance. There were some prices to pay, of course. Soreness. Blisters. Hot spots. I sucked it all up, figuring the pain and discomfort was a bit of penance for who I am. But I’m getting older and carrying the weight is harder. This past June we went back to Disney in the middle of a heat wave. The heat index was north of 100 every day and after a few days in the park, I was holding my family back. I found myself looking over at the mobility scooter rentals a little longingly. 

On our fifth day, after a long day in the park, we had a very long walk back to the Skyliner to get to our hotel. I struggled quite a lot. It was embarrassing and painful and more than a little heartbreaking. I was so frustrated with myself. On the next to last day, I broke down and I rented a scooter. I expected to feel a little self-imposed shame. Shame that I’d allowed myself to reach a point in life where I needed assistance. The familiar sting of self-recrimination for allowing myself to become the way that I am. But I didn’t. 

I was elated. First of all, the scooter was fun. I was also careful. As a new driver, I erred on the side of never bumping or crowding anyone. I was quick to apologize and quick to defer in situations of right-of-way. Secondly, and more importantly, I was able to better participate in my vacation. No longer was I bringing up the rear, serving as an anchor as we navigated our way around the park. I was able to keep up, even lead the way as I had when I was younger and lighter.

I also want to say here that my scooter only provided mobility. We didn’t receive special access or the benefits of any disability services. I’m not disabled. I just needed a little help getting around. I found myself regretting I’d put off renting a scooter longer. The experience was chiefly a positive one. If you’re someone who struggles with mobility but is struggling with pride, I’d suggest giving it a try. Especially in a place like Disney – or Pigeon Forge – or anywhere else where you may have to walk a great distance, the freedom provided by a mobility scooter far outweighs any stigma that might be attached. 

Folks Getting Around on Scooters Pigeon Forge
Sometimes scooters are used by folks who do not use other disability services (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

Regardless, haters gonna hate 

Let me tell you another story. After the successful mobility scooter experiment, I rented again on the final day. That afternoon I was parked on the edge of a pathway in some shade while the kids rested and enjoyed a drink and a snack. We weren’t blocking the pathway. There was plenty of room. I may have gotten up to stretch my legs when a passing woman made a comment to her kids about lazy people who get scooters when they don’t need them. It wasn’t her business. I wasn’t in her way. Hadn’t affected her or her kids. But she made sure that I heard what she thought of me and her scooter. 

Look, I don’t think even the hardest of hearts begrudges someone who has a medical issue that makes a scooter necessary or even prudent. But someone like me? Someone who can get around and only needs a scooter because I’m overweight? Yeah, there’s some judgment out there for people like me. Maybe rightfully so. I’m probably too close to the situation to judge. But you know what? It didn’t bother me. Not really. I did have to hold back my teenage daughter who was ready to go snatch that woman right up. But I knew right then the difference the scooter had made for me and no amount of scorn was going to make me regret it. 

2 Riders on One Scooter in Pigeon Forge
Scooters are commonplace in Pigeon Forge, especially during car and truck shows (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

So do you need a scooter in Pigeon Forge? 

That’s a decision for you. I will say that if you have a scooter or other mobility device you won’t be out of place in Pigeon Forge – especially not during Rod Runs. For years car enthusiasts have brought their prize possessions to Pigeon Forge to show off but also will tow or haul a mobility device to get around the crowds. Puttering around Rod Runs is a tradition that’s been going on for generations. It’s practically built into the event’s DNA. 

Mobility scooters are essential for a certain part of our population. For others, like me, it’s a decision of weighing the positives of being able to get around better with the negatives of societal and personal expectations. Should you use a mobility scooter to get around Pigeon Forge and the Rod Runs? If you need one, yes. Even if you just want one, sure. 

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