Here are 17 new (and coming soon) attractions in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and the surrounding area
A few weeks ago, we were driving along the strip in Pigeon Forge, something that I – as a local with more than 30 years of experience avoiding the Pigeon Forge traffic – try to avoid but still have to do periodically. We were coming up towards the Wax Museum and I glanced over to my left, which I rarely do in that spot because the kids are so excited to see the giant statue of King Kong’s derriere overlooking the strip like the edifice of Mt. Rushmore but featuring a giant ape’s hairy behind. But this time, something piqued my interest to the left where I saw a new mini-golf course under construction and immediately got excited. Why? It’s a bit of a mystery.
Does Pigeon Forge NEED a new mini-golf course? Yes and No. There are already millions it seems. However, many of them are pretty worn down and if you’re a local who has been playing the area’s many mini golf courses for decades, a new course offers a refreshing change. In fact, when there’s something new afoot in Pigeon Forge – which is frequently – I’m down to explore. Which brings us to this article. If you’re like me, you might be wondering … what’s new (and coming soon) in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg as of late? Well buckle in reader, it’s going to be a long list.
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1. Sky Pirates of Mermaid Bay
COMING SOON – Sky Pirates is only weeks away from opening in Pigeon Forge. The attraction will feature 36 holes of “Epic” mini-golf theming. You choose from two 18-hole courses – one mermaid-themed and one Sky Pirate-themed. In addition to the regular mini-golf obstacles on the courses – one indoor and one on the roof – there are mermaid and sky pirate characters you can meet and interact with along the way. Sky Pirates is located at 2420 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN.
2. SkyPark store
NOW OPEN – This is an idea that is frankly embarrassingly late in its arrival. Gatlinburg SkyPark – the tourism venue, formerly known as Gatlinburg SkyLift Park – just opened a modern, bright, and sleekly designed retail location down on the strip. If you remember for decades the Lift – which is the oldest continually running chairlift in Gatlinburg – had that little kiosk-like stand and kind of an open-air thing where you loaded to go up to the little village atop the mountain.
Now, the shop – which also serves as the ticketing center – offers a great spot for souvenirs ranging from clothing to travel cups and mugs as well as fun gifts. At the time of this writing, it’s open from 9 am to 9 pm and makes for a great access point to head up the mountain to see the SkyBridge – the 700-foot-long cable bridge with 30 feet of glass bottom in the middle that hangs 500 feet above Gatlinburg. SkyPark is located at 765 Parkway, Gatlinburg.
3. Ober Mountain additions
COMING SOON/NOW OPEN – Ober Mountain – for generations known as Ober Gatlinburg – is under new management and trying to recapture the heights of its former glory. In addition to renovating the rundown nature of things, Ober’s new ownership is bringing some new and/or improved attractions to the mountaintop facility. Including:
- Mountain biking: The Ober Mountain Biking program opened in the spring of 2023 and will reopen in the spring of 2024. Ober calls it mountain biking but really, it’s mountain coasting. The chair lift takes you to the top of the mountain and allows bikers to coast down. You can rent a bike, pads, and helmets on-site if needed. You are welcome to bring your bike – but it must meet safety standards and helmets are required. Lessons are available for all levels of riding.
- Skiing and snow tubing: These activities aren’t new attractions on the mountain, but Ober is doing more to improve the experience in addition to adding $4 million in state-of-the-art snow machines from Latitude90 and SMI Snow Makers they’ve increased the number of snow tubing lanes to cut down on the wait times in your 90-minute window. The new L60 machines will ensure the production of impeccable snow – it’s real snow made from water – even in the most challenging conditions. This snow tubing season will have multiple 400-foot lanes and a 50-foot vertical drop as well.
- Ziplines: Work is also underway on a new family-friendly zipline adventure. Ober said it will be the only facility in the Eastern United States to offer four-line racing.
Ober Mountain is located at 1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg.
4. Jurassic Tymes @ Goats on the Roof
NOW OPEN – There are times when it’s painfully clear to me that I am out of step with the rest of the world. If someone had asked me: “Hey, do you think it would be a good idea to put a dinosaur-themed mini-golf attraction at Goats of the Roof, the Pigeon Forge attraction known for … having live goats its roof?” The answer would have been simple: “No. Are you crazy? Didn’t you see Jurassic Park? Keep those precious goats far, far away from the dinosaurs!” But the folks at Goats on the Rood were so worried about wondering whether they could, they never stopped to think about whether they should. The results? As Dr. Ian Malcolm would say, “Chaos!” Ok. Not really.
In the spring of 2023, Goats on the Roof added a very tasteful 36-hole mini golf facility with what I believe to be very well-rendered dinosaur statues. I like dinosaur statues, but I am fighting the urge to quibble with the decided lack of feathers. Dinosaurs were early avian people … we ALL know that. The course is clean and new. It could be a bit more exciting but all in all, it’s a nice course. I just fear for the poor goats’ psyches. Hopefully, they are not Spielberg fans. Goats on the Roof is located at 1341 Wears Valley Rd, Pigeon Forge.
5. Dig N’ Zone
COMING SOON – We drove by the Dig N’ Zone construction site the other day and a simple realization dawned on me. When you are building a theme park dedicated to life-size Tonka toys, it’s very hard to tell which parts are ready and which parts are still under construction. Couldn’t they have saved money on construction by allowing paying customers to come in and do the work and you just tell them it’s part of the experience?
Scheduled to open in early 2024, Dig N’ Zone will be the world’s largest construction-based theme park with over 25 attractions spread over 27 acres. Attractions will feature real-life construction equipment and guests – young and old – will be able to live out their Tonka truck dreams operating things like skid-steers, excavators, pavement rollers, articulating loaders, tractors and forklifts with some special instruction and plenty of supervision. There will also be construction equipment-based rides including a dump truck ride, duelin’ diggers, and an excavator spinner. Dig N’ Zone is located at 1707 Veterans Blvd, Sevierville.
6. Lost Mine Mountain Coaster and Mini Golf
NOW OPEN – The Lost Mine Mountain Coaster and Mini-Golf facility is the latest – as of this writing, there will probably be three more mountain coasters open before I finish this sentence – in the mountain coaster game in the Smokies.
The Lost Mine ride – which opened in the fall of 2023 – boasts of having the area’s longest ride, a next-generation safety system (designed by Jean-Luc Picard?), and an immersive themed environment. The mini golf course has 18 holes of fun with water features and trick shots. The course is a little basic in design – there aren’t any goat-eating dinosaurs for instance – and I prefer some theming and shrubbery amongst the holes so I don’t have to interact with other people – but it’s new and clean and not falling apart which puts it in the upper half of Pigeon Forge golf courses. You can bundle a mountain coaster ride with a round of golf for some savings. Lost Mine is located at 2509 Teaster Ln, Pigeon Forge.
7. The Wayback Hotel
NOW OPEN – We’re going back. How far are we going back? Way back. The folks at the Wayback Hotel’s goal is to transport you back in time AND SPACE – to Palm Springs, California. The hotel, located next to another time-traveling adventure, the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride – is a Marriott Family Hotel with flair. It’s billed as a retro paradise in a quirky mountain town. It’s located directly across from, and within walking distance of, The Island in Pigeon Forge. The hotel features booth standard rooms as well as upgraded suites. There’s also a heated pool and a giant hot tub on site. And here’s the best part – you don’t even have to stay at the Wayback to enjoy the vibe. The Paloma, the hotel’s Latin fusion restaurant and bar, is open to the general public complete with poolside dining. The Wayback is located at 2760 Parkway, Pigeon Forge.
8. The Crayola Experience
COMING SOON – According to a press release, BrightColors LLC – in partnership with Kingsmen Xperience Inc. and Crayola LLC – announced that Pigeon Forge, Tenn. will be home to the creativity brand’s newest Crayola Experience family entertainment venue. The 30,000-square-foot indoor family entertainment center planned for Pigeon Forge will have more than 20 hands-on attractions as well as a retail store that features the world’s largest selection of Crayola products and unique souvenirs. The new experience is expected to open in the fall of 2024.
9. NERF Action-Xperience
COMING SOON – Hasbro recently announced a new family-friendly NERF-themed play arena coming to Pigeon Forge in the fall of 2024. The attraction will reportedly feature more than 29,000 square feet of blaster battle zones, sports challenges and obstacle courses. There will also be a food and beverage area as well as a souvenir shop. There will even be a space for adult activities such as team building corporate events and parties.
10. The Smoky Gap District
COMING SOON – Officials with Kituwah, LLC are officially beginning the development of Smoky Gap, a new entertainment district that will be located in The 407: Gateway to Adventure in Sevierville. The development is a partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. According to a release, the new entertainment complex will be home to attractions, restaurants, retail shops, and more. At the center, it will feature a large clock tower. During phase one of the project, the venue is expected to open the Smoky Gap District and a Marriott Courtyard in 2025. Phase two, according to the release, will be home to an overnight destination with a premier resort.
11. Puy du Fou
COMING SOON – Speaking of exciting things expected to come to Exit 407, we also have Puy du Fou to look forward to. In case you missed it, the European theme park company Puy Du Fou plans to bring its unique historical attraction to The 407: Gateway to Adventure. The two have agreed to develop a “spectacular, immersive show” as part of the 200-acre development just south of Interstate 40 in Kodak. Tribal leaders approved $75 million for phase one of the project. The immersive walk-through show will be inspired by the journey of Cherokee Indians who served in World War I. The show is intended to be a “patriotic and moving journey for the entire family,” according to a press release.
NOW OPEN – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably already heard the news about this one. The Sevierville (technically Kodak) Buc-ee’s location in Tennessee is officially open. The store held a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 26, 2023. The Sevierville store is currently the largest travel center in the world, at least for a while. The new location offers 120 fueling positions just outside its store with thousands of snack, meal, and drink options for travelers on the go. The store’s 74,000-square-foot floor plan will remain the biggest Buc-ee’s until that record moves back to Texas, where construction is currently underway on a 75,000-square-foot location in Luling. Buc-ee’s is located at 170 Buc-ee’s Blvd, Kodak, TN.
13. Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood
NOW OPEN – Most folks know by now about Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. The new family coaster is part of the $500 million expansion plan that was first announced in 2021. The new coaster opened in May, setting the record for the longest and largest roller coaster in the park. Dollywood is located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN.
14. Heartsong Lodge & Resort
NOW OPEN – Speaking of the $500 million Dollywood Company expansion, Heartsong Lodge & Resort opened earlier this month in Pigeon Forge, TN right across from Dolly’s first resort, DreamMore. The new resort features 302 rooms with high ceilings, exposed beans, and layered textures. Suites are designed for families and couples. There are even a few lofts available. There are also indoor and outdoor pools as well as 6-on site dining options (from room service to quick service to table service). Heartsong is located at 1210 Dollywood Resorts Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN.
15. Wilderness at the Smokies expansion
COMING SOON – Expansions are underway at Wilderness at the Smokies Resort. To celebrate the resort’s 15th anniversary, Wilderness has started a 40,000-square-foot expansion of Wild WaterDome. The expansion will include a new three-story water coaster and a new lazy river. The resort will also have an expanded rooftop which will include a rooftop pool with a glass edge, complete with a rooftop bar. These expansions are expected to be completed in the spring of 2024. Editor’s Note: If you’re considering a stay at Wilderness, be sure to check Groupon for discounts. Wilderness at the Smokies is located at 1424 Old Knoxville Hwy, Sevierville.
16. Xperia Ocean Journey
NOW OPEN – Xperia Ocean Journey is a cinematic experience that uses visual effects and technology that transport guests into the depths of the ocean to see humpback whales, thresher sharks, sea lions, and more. The experience is created by impressive artists who have worked on “Game of Thrones”, “Wonder Woman” and “Westworld” according to the attraction’s website. The new feature will be part of Tanger Outlets in Sevierville. Xperia is located at 1645 Parkway #780, Sevierville.
17. Anakeesta expansion
NOW OPEN/COMING SOON – The ever-growing Anakeesta recently unveiled two parts of their three-part expansion: BirdVenture – an imaginative birds-best themed child’s play area complete with slides and life-sized bird houses; and Hellbender Mountain Coaster featuring heart-pounding twists, gravity-defying drops, and jaw-dropping views. Both are now open at Anakeesta. The final part of this expansion features a brand new shopping area, which, at the time of this writing, is still under construction but expected to open soon.
Are you looking forward to a new attraction on your next Smoky Mountain vacation? Do you know of any additional attractions we might have missed? Let us know in the comments.