Attractions

Earthquake the Ride in Gatlinburg Is Just As Bad as You Think It Is

I’ve lived in East Tennessee for most of my life.

I have fond memories of spending my weekends and summers roaming around Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, soaking in all the fun things these Smoky Mountain towns offer.

I’ve eaten at almost every restaurant and tried almost every attraction at least once.

Except that is, Earthquake the Ride.

But a couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I decided to finally check that box.

After all, I thought, how bad could it be?

TheSmokies.com

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What is Earthquake the Ride in Gatlinburg, TN?

Earthquake the Ride is a tourist trap theme park style thrill ride located in downtown Gatlinburg, TN.

The attraction promises to offer a “sensory overload” of “gut-wrenching high-tech special effects” and simulate the feel of a real earthquake.

Why does every cheesy attraction in the Smokies feature nightmare-inducing creepy mannequins? (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

What is it like to ride Earthquake the Ride?

Excited to try this Gatlinburg-strip staple for the first time, we purchased our tickets and got in line behind some creepy mismatched mannequins with missing appendages.

When it was our turn, a ride attendant motioned us onto a prop subway train. And we were greeted by a few rows of movie-theater-like chairs with seat belts.

We, alongside the other guests, took our seats, buckled in, and secured our belongings.

Bags are permitted on the ride, however, you have to hold them in your lap.

The ride began with an “oncoming train” on the tracks – represented by a bright light al la Dollywood’s Blazing Fury.

“Station control – we have a train on our track and it’s coming at us” you hear the pre-recorded conductor yell over the intercom.

That’s when the floor beneath our feet began to move back and forth along the track on a tilt as we, for some reason, lurched closer to the oncoming train.

Then, the strobe lights kick in and the ceiling “collapses”.

After that, I’m not entirely sure what happened to the train because the next thing I knew I was surrounded by a mind-bending random assortment of props including but not limited to, a flood of water, a giant animatronic gorilla, a gaggle of alligators and a handful of rats.

There were also some sirens involved at some point.

As far as the earthquake simulation is concerned, I must admit I’ve never personally experienced a quake in real life. But for obvious reasons, I’m fairly certain Earthquake the Ride’s simulation lacks authenticity.

Editor’s Note: If you’ve been involved in an Earthquake where a gorilla and a runaway train were involved, feel free to comment below.

The entire ride lasts roughly four minutes.

An angry gorilla – because there’s one in every earthquake? (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Is it really that bad?

Yes, it really is that bad.

Some might even call it a big waste of money.

But it’s the kind of bad that almost makes it good.

Like the kind of bad that maybe, if you pre-gamed at Ole Smoky or Tennessee Hemp Care beforehand you’d find the whole thing hilarious.

Honestly, I was stone-cold sober and I kind of found it to be hilarious. But not so hilarious that I was willing to forgive the $14.99 price of admission.

I mean, if I wanted something to laugh at, Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride is just a few miles away for a similar price tag. And it at least offers a full 4-minutes of dilapidated disappointment with dinosaurs.

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

If you feel like throwing your money away, you can find Earthquake the Ride on the main strip in downtown Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

How much is Earthquake The Ride?

At the time of this writing, an admission ticket for Earthquake The Ride is $14.99 for adults and $10.99 for children.

For comparison, you could spend an entire day at Anakeesta for $22.99-$34.99 per person … just sayin’.

Read Also: Is Anakeesta worth it? An honest review

Where is Earthquake the Ride?

Earthquake the Ride currently takes up precious real estate along the Gatlinburg strip and is located at 653 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 across from Fannie Farkles and Ole Smoky Moonshine.

Have you ridden Earthquake the Ride? Do you agree with our review? Let us know in the comments below.

A Walk Between Trees in Tennessee at Anakeesta, What You Should Know

Anakeesta’s world-renowned Treetop SkyWalk in Tennessee reminds me of one of my favorite moments in literature.

In J.R.R Tolkein’s “The Hobbit”, trudging under the dark canopy of a mighty forest, the Hobbit Bilbo and his Dwarven companions are sullen and angry and nearing despair.

Seemingly abandoned by the wizard who’d promised to lead them, they are trapped in a dark, seemingly endless forest that does not allow light to enter or air to move.

Finally, they send Bilbo, the lightest and most nimble of the traveling party, to climb through the canopy and see if he can get a bearing.

Bilbo pokes through and for a few moments is allowed to soak in the sun and enjoy the breeze. Butterflies flit around the treetops and all of the weight he had felt moments before is lifted. 

It’s a lesson in the importance of perspective, one that is driven home throughout popular culture. Perspective can be everything. 

It’s the difference between walking through a forest and walking above it. That’s the experience offered by the Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta

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Where is a walk between trees in Tennessee?

The Skywalk, which is known as a walk between the trees, is located at the Anakeesta attraction in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Anakeesta bills itself as a mountain-top theme park.

The park offers a variety of Smoky Mountain-themed activities, but it’s the Treetop Skywalk that tends to be the real show-stopper.

Anakeesta’s Treetop Skywalk is the longest tree-based skywalk in North America.

treetop skywalk from a distance at night
The Skywalk is an 880-ft walkway (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

How long is the Anakeesta tree canopy walk?

Being romantically predisposed to enjoying a Treetop Skywalk, I especially looked forward to experiencing the Skywalk despite my fear of heights. The 880-foot walkway is suspended 50 to 60 feet in the air.

I liked it immensely. It’s romantic in the idealistic sense of the word. 

But the truth is I think I would have preferred to have it to myself. 

Walking along the swinging ropes over the bright green canopy, my mind wanted to wander. Also, I wanted to find a spot along the course somewhere alone, where I could pull out a chair, sit and think. 

It would be a great place to ruminate, to loosen a few mental shackles and exercise the mind. But, that’s hard to do in the middle of Gatlinburg’s theme park. 

There are couples taking the walk hand-in-hand, families and kids running ahead of their father briefly heeding admonishments to wait and slow down.

It was a place I really wanted to be alone, but that would be a poor business model. 

Not that I begrudged the others the experience. They paid for their ticket as well, after all. 

But there were places built to exercise the mind, and I felt like the Skywalk really could be one. 

Still, as walks through – or above – nature go, the Skywalk is a notch above. 

There is a sense of joy, of wonder, in the changed perspective. It’s a sense of adventure walking from treetop to treetop on rope bridges and wooden planks. And a sense of possibility.

And there are dozens of opportunities to take great pics for the ‘gram. 

anakeesta's bridge vs skylift park's bridge
A side-by-side comparison of Anakeesta’s Treetop Skywalk (left) and SkyLift Park’s SkyBridge (right) (left photo by Marie Graichen; right photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Does Anakeesta have a SkyBridge?

Anakeesta’s Skywalk is sometimes confused with the SkyBridge at Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. A comparison is pictured above.

Anakeesta has the longest tree-based skywalk in North America. It’s a series of bridges where guests immerse themselves in the beauty of nature.

Located nearby, the SkyBridge is the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America. It’s a singular long bridge that towers with a height of 500 feet above Gatlinburg.

Read Also: Is Anakeesta worth it? An honest review [2023]

a walk between trees in Tennessee during the day
We recommend guests take a walk on the Skywalk during the day and at night (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Is the Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta wheelchair accessible?

Unfortunately, accessibility is an issue.

There are stairs down to the Skywalk and then a couple of flights back up and out. It isn’t arduous but if stairs present an issue for you, they are worse upon exit – which is nearer the Anakeesta Chondola – than they are upon entry near the rear of the park. 

At the time of this writing, while many parts of Anakeesta are wheelchair accessible, the Treetop Skywalk is not.

What if you’re scared of heights?

Of course, the Skywalk is plenty sturdy. I never felt remotely unsafe.

But it is a series of rope and netted bridges, it’s gonna jostle and sway. If you get a rowdy batch of teens, you might feel like Indiana Jones in the “Temple of Doom”.

But as long as no one is holding a giant scimitar and promising to help you meet an ancient god, you should be fine. On that note, jumping and running are not permitted.

With that said, guests who are very afraid of heights might want to skip attraction. 

chondola at anakeesta
Anakeesta is located on a mountain in Tennessee (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

What is included at Anakeesta?

The famous Treetop Skywalk is included in the price of admission at Anakeesta.

Your visit to Anakeesta begins with a scenic ride on the Chondola, which is what Anakeesta calls its chair lift. Most guests ride in the 4-person chair, but there is an enclosed gondola cabin as well.

At the top, there are several fun things to do for guests.

The majority of which has to do with Anakeeesta’s majestic views of the Smokies. The included activities are the Chondola ride, the AnaVista observation tower, the Treeventure and Bear Venture challenge courses and the Vista Gardens.

The AnaVista tower now is the tallest point in downtown Gatlinburg.

Guests can also gain access to shopping and dining options. For example, one of the best places to grab a bite to eat is the Cliff Top Restaurant, which offers stunning views of the city.

blue lights on astra lumina night walk
The Astra Lumina experience is an immersive night walk that features lights and sound (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

What is not included at Anakeesta?

The park has a few add-on options as well for guests looking for some more outdoor adventures.

For example, the Rail Runner mountain coaster is an extra cost, as well as the Dueling Zipline.

The park also offers gem mining. Most recently, guests can purchase the Astra Lumina night walk experience, which is the first of its kind in the United States.

Read Also: Astra Lumina at Anakeesta is now open, what you need to know

ridge rambler truck at anakeesta
Guests can go up and down the mountain in a truck if they prefer (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Can you walk down Anakeesta?

No. Once you are on the mountain, you have to take the Chondola to get to the top of Anakeesta as well as back down.

Alternatively, you can also ride the Ridge Rambler adventure vehicle, which is essentially a big truck.

How much does it cost to go to Anakeesta?

At the time of this writing, general admission tickets are $34.99 for adults, $27.99 for seniors and $22.99 for kids (ages 4-11).

Children 3 and under are free. However, you can usually find a better deal and save a couple of bucks per ticket when you book through Tripster.

Anakeesta is located in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg at 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN.

Have you taken a walk between the trees at Anakeesta’s Treetop Skywalk attraction on a Gatlinburg vacation? Let us know in the comments!

View the web story version of this article here.

Is the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Worth It? [2023]

There’s so much to do and see in the Great Smoky Mountains.

But if you go just a little further past the state line of Tennessee, you’ll find that the neighboring state also has a lot to offer – especially for train enthusiasts.

Simply take Highway 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and go just a bit further.

The tiny North Carolina town of Bryson City sits just beyond Cherokee on Highway 19 in the beauty of the Western North Carolina mountains.

It offers a getaway within your getaway.

TheSmokies.com

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Is there a train that runs through the Great Smoky Mountains?

Yes, you can take a scenic tour of the Smoky Mountains by train.

Bryson City, NC – besides being the hometown of former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler – is most famous for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

The railroad offers scenic rail excursions through the fairly remote corner of Western North Carolina.

Passengers wind through tunnels, across the historic train trestle over Fontana Lake, through fertile valleys and into a deep river gorge. 

There are seasonal rides, diesel rides and steam rides.

Amenities vary depending on selection.

For example, the all adult first class ride features a dining table in a car with climate control, large windows and a meal full service. Guests receive a souvenir tumbler with free refills of soda, coffee and tea and limited bar service.

From there, you also have a premium open air gondola, crown class, coach class and the open air gondola.

The most affordable option is coach class, which starts at about $58 for adults and $33 for children.

Food options vary by selection. The first class menu features chicken salad sandwiches, pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and more.

Boxed lunch items include ham and turkey sandwiches with chips and a cookie.

What about special event train rides?

Special events throughout the year include the Bunny Hopper Express, Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience, BBQ & Brews, Uncorked and The Polar Express.

You can also book packages. For example, the Tarzan Train includes a ziplining tour. Rafting and Jeep tours are also available.

The Polar Express Christmas special event during November and December – based on the classic children’s book about a magical train ride to the North Pole – is one of the most popular rides that the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers.

It’s highly recommended that you book early if you wish to ride the Polar Express as it is one of the most popular events in the Smokies.

The holiday-themed rides are usually shorter – and less scenic.

But they offer the perfect opportunity for train-obsessed little ones to get into the spirit of the season and get to ride a real train.

Read Also: There’s a real-life Polar Express train ride in Bryson City

first class seating on the great smoky mountain railroad
First class seating, pictured above, comes with a souvenir cup (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

How much does it cost to go on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad?

It depends. Prices vary by season, ticket, age and train experience.

Generally, you can expect to pay between $58-119 per adult, depending on your selection.

Prices for children range from $33-46 per child. View the current schedule on their website.

fontana train cart in gsmr
The open-air gondolas offer unobstructed views and a roof to protect passengers from the elements (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Is the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad worth it?

Worth is always in the eye of the beholder.

Still, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers a unique experience that you will likely remember for years to come.

I like to think of attraction tickets in terms of dollars per entertainment hour. Considering the train ride will take about half of your day out and about, the prices are reasonable.

How long is the ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad?

The regular Tuckasegee River Excursion to Dillsboro, NC is a 4 hour excursion. It travels 32 miles round-trip. On this trip, you see the famous movie set of “The Fugitive”.

The Nantahala Gorge Excursion is a 4.5 hour excursion that travels along the beautiful Nantahala River Gorge. It includes a one-hour layover at the Nantahala Gorge where guests can relax by the river or go sightseeing.

The special event rides are typically shorter. All excursions are round-trip and return to the Bryson City depot.

sandwich with slaw and fruit on the great smoky mountain railroad
Above: The pulled pork BBQ sandwich in a first class car (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Can you take your own food on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad?

No. The company cites safety and comfort reasons. Food and drinks are available for purchase onboard the train and at layover destinations.

Contact the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad at (800) 872-4681 if you have special dietary needs.

Where do you board the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad?

The depot sits in the heart of Bryson City. The parking lot is located at 45 Mitchell Street, Bryson City. Passengers can be dropped off at the depot, located at 226 Everett Street.

bryson city train museum
Guests can visit a train museum after their scenic ride (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

How much is the train museum in Bryson City?

Guests who take a ride on the Smoky Mountain Railroad will get complimentary admission to the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum. Otherwise, admission is $9 for ages 12 and up and $5 for ages 3-11 years. Children under 3 are free.

If you go to Bryson City, I recommend allowing some extra time for the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum.

It’s a magnificent model train museum featuring a collection of 7,000 classic Lionel engines, cars and accessories and two massive rooms with intricate model railroad villages. 

When I was a kid, I’d go to visit my grandparents in Northeast Ohio, and my grandfather would take me to a train museum that featured a large, intricate model train set.

I was never into trains. I’d not heard of Thomas until I was grown, but there was something about following the trains along the tiny tracks, the small vignettes they passed, the switch tracks, the lights, everything.

I found it incredibly diverting, relaxing and fascinating.

That feeling returned watching the museum’s trains wind their way through the tiny tunnels. The closest way I can describe it is a little bit like the feeling you get watching fish swim in a large aquarium. There’s just something soothing about it.

My son – who was really, really into trains for reasons I don’t understand – and I could have stayed in there for hours without ever setting foot on the bigger trains located just outside.

Read Also: Road to Nowhere, the dam road that was never completed in Bryson City 

kayaks along nantahala
Bryson City is also popular for its outdoor activities (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

What else can you do in Bryson City?

One of the major attractions in Bryson City is, of course, the trains. But there are other things to do as well.

Like most small mountain communities trying to draw tourists, there’s plenty of outdoor recreation. Bryson City is on the Appalachian Trail and thus has some fantastic hiking.

There’s also ziplining as well as tubing, whitewater rafting and fly fishing in the Tuckasegee River and Nantahala River.

Bryson City also offers the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians, which, I suppose if you’re really, really into fly fishing, is a place you can go.

The website promises rods from as far back as the 1800s and in-depth explorations of the history of the sport. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers packages if you are interested in additional excursions.

Have you seen the beautiful Western North Carolina mountains by train? Let us know in the comments below.

View the story version of this article here.

Dollywood roller coasters: A complete list, ranked [2023]

I spent my formative roller coaster years as a child of the Midwest.

King’s Island. Six Flags. Cedar Point. These amusement parks were the roller coaster meccas of my youth. In fact, they were the best roller coasters in the world.

When I came to Pigeon Forge TN for the first time, I was a tourist, following the well-worn path from Indiana to the Smokies.

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The newly-christened Dollywood wasn’t even on my thrill-seeking radar.

“Dollywood is a theme park, John. Not an amusement park,” I was told.

Sure there is a good ride or two, but it’s more about the theme. Dollywood tickets meant bluegrass music, eating at Aunt Granny’s and scoring some kettle corn to take home. Not the kinds of roller coasters that draw visitors from three states over.

Friends, for us adrenaline-rush junkies, the theme is the periphery. It is a side item. The theme is the corn giblets at Thanksgiving. Nobody looks forward to Thanksgiving dreaming of corn giblets.

In other words, here we are now, amuse us.

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Does Dollywood have good roller coasters?

But the Dollywood theme park – which in my opinion is the best-run park in America – has cast its eyes forward since the moment they took down the Silver Dollar City signage. 

Despite the limitations created by the park’s location – mountains are great for the theme, suboptimal for park expansion – Dollywood has turned itself into a credible roller coaster destination while maintaining all the charms of its theme.

By my count, the Pigeon Forge theme park currently offers nine coasters with one on the way.

Some are more successfully executed than others – looking at you Lightning Rod.

And some are less daring than others – looking at you Blazing Fury.

But some are on par with some of the best coasters in the country. Which ones? Read further to find out.

The Blazing Fury
Blazing Fury is the oldest coaster in the park. It’s a dark ride with only a couple of drops (one scary) at the end and no inversions. A “splash landing” was removed from the ride several years ago. Guests today can ride while staying completely dry (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

10. Blazing Fury

This is the least roller-coast-y ride on the list, but Blazing Fury is great for many things.

It’s a classic ride. It’s a historic link to the park’s past as well as a link to Dollywood’s cousin-park Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. It’s a dark ride taking you leisurely through a town set ablaze.

Reminiscent of the Pirates of the Caribbean, there are a number of amusing scenes, quirky historical references and one good drop.

But strictly as a roller coaster? Blazing Fury is pretty tame.

So should you ride Blazing Fury? For sure. It’s a unique ride experience for the entire family, and it’s the park’s only indoor roller coaster.

Located in Craftsman’s Valley, Blazing Fury has a 42-inch height requirement which I find confounding, but I assume it has to do with the drop.

Read Also: I got to walk along the tracks of Blazing Fury at Dollywood; 8 things I learned

Whistle Punk Chaser
Whistle Punk Chaser is chiefly a kids’ coaster (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

9. Whistle Punk Chaser

I struggled with where to rank the Whistle Punk Chaser, a kids’ coaster located in the literal shadow of larger coasters in Timber Canyon.

In fact, it seems unfair to rank a zippy little kids’ ride among the bigger coasters in the park. But compared to other kids’ coasters I’ve tried – like the Goofy Barnstormer in Disney – the Whistle Punk Chaser is decidedly tame and a little lame.

It’s good for small children to be exposed to the idea of roller coaster riding but it feels like something that could be replicated at a good state fair.

The Whistle Punk Chaser has a 36-inch height requirement and guests under 42 inches must be accompanied by those 16 or older.

dragonflier
Dragonflier is one of the smoothest coasters in the park with only one mild inversion (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

8. Dragonflier

Here we get a proper family-friendly roller coaster. 

As one of the newest additions to the park, I’m very fond of this family suspended coaster that mimics the flight of a dragonfly. It’s well-designed, fun and fresh.

Located in the Wildwood Grove area of the park, it gives families a chance to feel the exhilaration of riding a “big” coaster that won’t terrify the timid.

The Dragonflier has a minimum height requirement of 39 inches and a maximum height requirement of 81 inches. Riders under 48 inches must be accompanied by someone 16 or older.

Fire Chaser Express
The FireChaser Express is a dual-launch family coaster that transports riders both forward and backward (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

7. FireChaser Express

Another family coaster that offers an amusing ride for all. The FireChaser is the nation’s first dual-launch family coaster, launching riders forward and backward.

The FireChaser isn’t going to blow anyone away, but the theming – which revolves around battling forest fires – is fun. At 34.5 mph, the ride, located in Wilderness Pass, is quick enough to be exhilarating but it’s not overpowering.

The FireChaser has a minimum height requirement of 39 inches and guests under 48 inches must be accompanied by someone 16 or older.

Tennessee Tornado
Tennessee Tornado was Dollywood’s first g-force roller coaster. It features multiple inversions and high speeds (media photo courtesy of Dollywood)

6. Tennessee Tornado

Dollywood’s first foray into real g-force roller coastering, the Tornado opened in 1999 to rave reviews. The swirling loops of the Tornado include a 128-foot drop through a mountain at speeds approaching 70 mph. 

It has been surpassed over the years by newer editions, but it serves as a significant milestone in Dollywood history. Specifically, the turning point where Dollywood officials planted their flag in the sand signifying Dollywood was going to be more than a theme park. And it still packs a heckuva punch.

The minimum height for the Tennessee Tornado, located in Craftsman’s Valley, is 48 inches.

thunderhead
Thunderhead is a traditional wooden coaster with a 100-foot drop and a top speed of 55 mph (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

5. Thunderhead

I love the old-timey wooden roller coasters like the Blue Streak at Cedar Point or The Racer at King’s Island. These aren’t necessarily technological wonders; they just go fast up and down some hills and give the sensation of free-falling.

I like the idea of riding a coaster my grandparents could have taken my parents on. Thunderhead, located in Timber Canyon, is a modern take on that tradition. There are more twists and turns than on the classic coasters, but I think some of that is simply the demands of the terrain.

With a 100-foot vertical drop and a top speed of 55 mph, Thunderhead doesn’t need a lot of loops or inversions to give thrills. 

The minimum height for Thunderhead is 48 inches.

wild eagle
The Wild Eagle has a unique side-seat design that makes riders feel like they are “flying” alongside the track (media photo courtesy of Dollywood)

4. Wild Eagle

Located in Wilderness Pass, the Wild Eagle is a majestic ride, befitting its namesake. A steel wing coaster, the Eagle was the first of its kind in the United States when it opened in 2012.

The coaster reaches a height of 210 feet and a top speed of 61 mph. With seats beside the track, the Wild Eagle’s riders have nothing above or below them as they soar through a series of loops and inversions 21 stories above the park below.

The ride is relatively smooth and offers some of the best views in the park when you can take the time to look. However, the unique restraints can be uncomfortable at times.

The minimum height for Wild Eagle is 50 inches and the maximum height is 78 inches – or 6-foot-5.

mystery mine
Mystery Mine is a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter which basically means it’s a steel looping coaster with separate cars instead of connected multi-cart trains (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

3. Mystery Mine

Located in Timber Canyon, Mystery Mine is set inside a haunted mining operation from the 19th century. The combination of ride and theming is the best in the park. 

The ride itself isn’t especially tall or fast, but it is thrilling. Top speeds reach 43 mph and height is 85.3 feet. The 1,811-foot track takes riders through the abandoned, haunted coal mine.

The ride changed significantly before the 2021 season when a vertical U-turn was removed. The ride features a pair of vertical lifts, a 95-degree drop and a turnover loop.

The minimum height for Mystery Mine is 48 inches.

Dolly and Eugene stand in front of a screen that premieres the new ride at Dollywood
A rendering of the new ride shows a steel coaster with a Jeep-like car, taking riders on an adventure to find Big Bear (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

2. Big Bear Mountain

We’re speculating that this ride will be No. 2 worthy. It’s set to debut in the spring of 2023.

The coaster will riders on a journey to find Big Bear with Ned Oakley, who has suspected that Big Bear has been hiding around Wildwood Grove.

It’s a record-breaking coaster for the park, and it’s expected to be the park’s longest coaster and the first with on-board audio. The ride will have a top speed of 48 mph and will pass behind a waterfall and have three separate launches.

The minimum height requirement for Big Bear Mountain will be 39 inches tall, making it perfect for the whole family.

Read Also: Dollywood announces new ride, Big Bear Mountain

lightning rod
The infamous wooden/steel hyrbid Lightning Rod experiences a lot of downtime and technical issues. But those thrill-seekers who have been fortunate enough to ride usually agree that it’s one of the best coasters in the park (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

1. Lightning Rod

I was there the day the Lightning Rod was supposed to open. Dolly Parton was there on a make-shift stage ready to announce the park’s massive new attraction, the first coaster on the Jukebox Junction Country Fair side of the park.

Of the three of us there, Dolly, the ride and I, only two were working. The Lightning Rod’s opening was delayed due to problems with the launch system.

Initially marketed as a wooden roller coaster themed to the hot rod cars from the 1950s, the Lightning Rod was modified for the 2021 season with much of its wooden track replaced by steel. In addition to being the first wooden roller coaster to feature that type of launch mechanism, it was the fastest wooden coaster in the world, reaching 73 mph. 

However, the ride has been plagued over the years by frequent issues that have resulted in periodic closures since that 2016 opening. 

Why then, you might be asking, is this the top-ranked coaster at Dollywood? Because when it’s working, it’s a fantastic ride, rated the fifth-best coaster in the United State by USA Today in August of 2021 and the second-best wooden coaster in the United States by TripSavvy in November of 2020. 

Honestly, it is amazing to think how far Dollywood has come in the nearly 40 years since Dolly put her name on it.

Today, the former Rebel Railroad, the former Goldrush Junction – both built on the back of a steam train that is still in operation – is a thriving theme park with great thrill rides, incredible roller coasters and fun for the entire family.

Maybe in a park full of the best rides in the country, the wildest ride has been the one from the 1960s to today.

What is your favorite roller coaster at Dollywood? Let us know in the comments!

View the web story version of this article here.

Things to do in Pigeon Forge: 38 best attractions [2023]

Planning a vacation can be overwhelming. 

Especially when it involves the hottest family-friendly destination in the Smokies.

Are you thinking about staying in a nearby cozy cabin or will the hotel be a bit more convenient? Have you made dining reservations for the more popular nights? Which attractions should you prioritize?

Finding the right balance of time and money and entertainment involves alchemy with a lot of pressure riding on the results.

Besides, most of us only plan one “big” vacation a year. And then, if we’re lucky, a smaller one. 

If you mess up your vacation planning, it can be a long year before you get a chance to relax and enjoy the days you spend the other 50 or so weeks working so hard to earn. 

So when you come to a place like Sevier County with so many entertainment options, how do you plan? The best way, for us, is to sectionalize and compartmentalize.

In Sevier County, that’s fairly easy. You can sectionalize geographically.

What are the things we want to do in Pigeon Forge? In Gatlinburg? Or in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

By breaking things down, tourist attractions become a little less overwhelming. Sevier County? Oh, that’s too much! Gatlinburg? OK. I’m properly whelmed. 

Still, even when you compartmentalize, it’s a lot. That’s why we’re here to help with the absolute, definitive, unimpeachable insiders’ list of the absolute BEST things to do in Pigeon Forge. At least, in our opinion.

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A quick disclaimer about our rankings

This is the list of the things we like and the things we think you’ll like. But the world is a wide and wild place. Different folks will have different strokes and that’s totally cool.

First, we lay a few ground rules: 

We’re not including eating establishments in this list. This is for things to do. Things to eat? That’s another list.

Read Also: Best restaurants in Pigeon Forge, 25 places to eat, ranked [2022]

Finally, the city limits of Pigeon Forge are of a shape not made in nature. It is an amorphous blob covered in janky angles. From a certain point of view, it looks like the head and spine of Barney’s sidekick Baby Bop – but maybe that’s just me.

The point is, things may be included in this list while something cooler right next to it may not. This is a Pigeon Forge list. We’re going to try and stick to the rules. 

This is why we’ve left out popular Gatlinburg-based attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium, Anakeesta and Cades Cove. And why we’ve left off popular Sevierville attractions like Forbidden Caverns and Soaky Mountain Waterpark.

Other than that? There are no rules. This is based on intuition and belief, if you’ve come here looking for logic and reason, you may well have chosen poorly. 

So with no further ado, here we go. Here are some of the most fun things to do around Pigeon Forge, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

38. Cheesy attractions

Listen, the Pigeon Forge area used to be full of things I could credibly make fun of. It’s a great place to enjoy cheesy.

There are a handful of decidedly low-rent attractions that are beloved by some but also easy targets for me.

Maybe I’ve gotten more forgiving as I’ve aged.

But I think the overall professionalism and quality of the attractions in Pigeon Forge have really grown. Anyway, I wanted to put something here to make fun of, but I couldn’t do it in good conscience. 

There’s not much left in Pigeon Forge for me to make fun of. And what is left, I’m afraid I’d hurt their feelings.

Read Also: Not easy bein’ cheesy: Top 5 quirky attractions in the Smoky Mountains

A dinosaur inside the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride
The Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride is a ten-minute Pirates of the Caribbean with dinosaurs (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

37. Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride

It’s Pirates of the Caribbean with dinosaurs.

This should probably be No. 50, but it’s practically an icon along the Parkway, so we’ll include it on the list.

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

Magiquest
MagiQuest is four attractions in one (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

36. MagiQuest

I do not feel like MagiQuest is a top 25 attraction, but I wanted to give it a shout-out.

Listen, I’m a nerd, a geek and a dad. Give me a place where I can crack a few Lord of the Rings jokes, make a couple of Harry Potter references, I’m a happy guy.

MagiQuest is four attractions in one, but don’t go here just for the arcade, mini golf or the mirror maze. For the life of me, I’ve never understood the appeal of mirror mazes. In fact, those things are ancillary to the main attraction.

MagiQuest is an enchanted realm where players use a magic wand to complete quests and adventures and I get to yell “You Shall Not Pass” at decibels that are probably imprudent for my vocal cords.

professor hackers lost treasure golf
Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Mini Golf used to be the site of the Magic World theme park. Some of the old props have even been integrated into the course (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

35. Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf

Mini golf is one of the core staples of the Pigeon Forge economy. As a result, the competition for your mini golf dollar is high. I’m not enough of a fan to rate green speed and hole location difficulty.

Specifically, I like that this course is high up on a hill overlooking the rest of the strip. You can take in some sights while waiting for the group in front of you to challenge a volcano or whatever obstacle it is.

Also, a distant relative once got busted for breaking into the Coke machines there at night. It was his thing for a while. When I go back, I feel like it’s a bit of make-up.

Read Also: Best mini golf in Pigeon Forge: A ranking with prices, coupons

Dolly Parton at the Wax Museum
The Hollywood Wax Museum is a fun and different way to spend an afternoon, with plenty of fun photo ops (photo by Dr. Candi Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

34. The Hollywood Wax Museum

Fun fact, Pigeon Forge almost got a much cooler Hollywood attraction.

The wonderful Debbie Reynolds – famous for Singin’ in the Rain and the dissolution of her marriage when her husband Eddie Fisher left for Elizabeth Taylor – had a massive Hollywood memorabilia collection. Her son Todd – brother of Carrie Fisher – had a deal to build a museum in Pigeon Forge to house the collection and do a whole lot more Hollywood-related stuff.

However, the deal fell through when the economy collapsed and they sold a lot of the collection. Debbie and Carrie passed away within a day of each other. It’s incredibly sad and what I think of when I go to the Hollywood Wax Museum, which is fun and good. Some of the wax figures are great, others look a little like rejects from better wax museums.

Where else can take photos with celebrities like Johnny Depp, Marilyn Monroe or Julie Roberts?

Read Also: Is the Hollywood Wax Museum worth it: An honest review

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woman throws axe at target
Axe-throwing is big business in Pigeon Forge (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

33. The Axe House Tavern Pigeon Forge

Ah. We’re only a few rankings in and already I’m violating my rule.

Technically, I’m not sure the tavern should make the list because of their ethos of “Eat. Play. Throw.” leads with the food.

But the “newest” adventures in Pigeon Forge are hatchet tossing and escape rooms. It’s fun. It’s different. If you’re looking for something to do this vacation you haven’t done, try chucking hatchets. 

Beyond the Lens Museum in Pigeon Forge
The Beyond the Lens museum is themed around pop culture (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

32. Beyond the Lens

Beyond the Lens invites guests to explore the best of pop culture with interactive games, photo ops and entertaining exhibits the whole family will enjoy.

It has a Search for Bigfoot, The Alien Egg Pit, A Human Kaleidoscope, augmented reality games and 4D VR motion rides.

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Crave Golf Club in Pigeon Forge
Crave Mini Golf Club has an indoor and outdoor course (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

31. Crave Mini Golf and Toy Box Mini Golf

Crave Golf is a great mini-golf destination that offers a candy store and both indoor and outdoor courses.

The sister location, Toy Box Mini Golf, has life-sized toys throughout the course, which provide great photo opportunities. Plus, you can save a couple bucks when you use the promo code below.

Crave Golf Club Coupons

Save $3 at Crave Golf Club

Save $3 when you purchase two courses online with promo code TSC at Crave Golf Club mini golf.

You may also redeem this coupon at the ticket counter using the barcode below.

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Indoor Skydiving in Pigeon Forge
If you’re considering going skydiving, try Flyaway Indoor Skydiving first (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

30. Flyaway Indoor Skydiving

I’ve never jumped from a plane and at this point, if I ever do, something has gone incredibly wrong in my day.

I have, however, done indoor skydiving. It’s a blast.

In fact, if you’re athletic and adventurous, it might even be a good way to decide if you’d like to do the real thing. 

The Great Escape Room
The Great Escape Room is located next to McAlister’s Deli in Pigeon Forge (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

29. The Great Escape Room

Escape rooms are the new “it” thing. I get it. You don’t need a lot of space compared to mini-golf or a race track. Adults can play without feeling silly. They’re challenging mentally, but safe.

Escape rooms are popping up like mushrooms all over the place. Certainly, you couldn’t get away from them if you tried.

Lazerport fun center
There are a variety of things to do at the LazerPort Fun Center in Pigeon Forge (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

28. LazerPort Fun Center

If you’re looking for several activities at once, this might be a better option.

The mini golf or go-karts aren’t the best of either category. But the arcade is great and they have two large laser tag arenas, perfect for working out any family aggression that built up on the drive to the mountains.

They also have axe throwing – which for the record is not a perfect place to work out aggression. Gotta be zen when you’re throwin’ that axe. 

man on horseback at big rock dude ranch
Big Rock Dude Ranch does not require reservations and has horseback riding that travels into the mountains (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

27. Big Rock Dude Ranch

Big Rock Dude Ranch is an outdoor adventure destination that’s a short drive from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

They do not require appointments, and weather permitting, they’re open seven days a week.

They offer horseback riding, picnic areas, a general store and a petting zoo. It’s a fun place to spend an afternoon in the mountains.

Shops at The Island in Pigeon Forge
The Island in Pigeon Forge offers a variety of attractions, moonshine distilleries and shopping (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

26. The Island

Pigeon Forge, at one time, was the shopping mecca of the area.

But Sevierville got Tanger and other developments close to the interstate. So the best shopping isn’t necessarily in Pigeon Forge – or at least the best-centralized shopping. While you’re there, enjoy the Island fountain show.

While you’re at the Island, you can try an escape game, visit a gift shop or grab some ice cream. You might even catch live music at one of the breweries if you’re lucky.

However, the last thing you want to do while shopping in Pigeon Forge is to drive all over the place. In fact, you need somewhere with several interesting shops where you can stop and stay awhile. That place is The Island.

Read Also: The Island in Pigeon Forge restaurants: Best places to eat, ranked

Alcatraz East Museum
Alcatraz East is a beloved attraction amongst true crime junkies (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

25. Alcatraz East Crime Museum

While you’re at The Island, consider hopping over to Alcatraz.

I’ve written before there’s something about the crime museum that appeals to our lower instincts but, I suppose, harmlessly so.

Why we have any interest in seeing items owned by the infamous Ted Bundy is a question I’m not sure I want an answer to, but we do.

Since it’s inside, it’s great for a rainy day. There is a lot of reading involved, so little kids could tire out quickly here.

Honestly, I don’t know why there’s an Alcatraz Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge but I do know it’s a diverting way to spend an hour or two. 

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The Lumberjack Feud attraction
Shop, dine and catch a show at Lumberjack Square (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

24. The Shops at Lumberjack Square

Again, with the shopping. Some variety. Some unique shops.

I like this one better because it’s surrounded by better entertainment and some of the best restaurants in town. So it may be cheating. 

The Christmas Place shops in Pigeon Forge
It’s Christmas year-round at The Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

23. The Christmas Place

The Christmas Place is one of the premier Christmas shopping experiences in the nation. But it’s not for everyone.

In particular, it can be a little disorienting in the middle of August.

But if you love Christmas and try to keep the Christmas spirit year-round, this is the place to do it. 

a woman shops at cvs
There are also plenty of pharmacies in the area. Ya know, just in case (photo bu QualityHD/shutterstock.com)

22. CVS

This is a long list. You’re gonna need some aspirin. 

Snow tubing
Rowdy Bear offers snow tubing in the colder months (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

21. Rowdy Bear Amusement Park

Located next to the Local Goat, the Rowdy Bear Amusement Park offers a couple of coasters – including the laser gun coaster and the power coaster. It’s great for kids and big kids alike.

Rowdy Bear’s snow tubing is billed as the largest outdoor snow tube course in East Tennessee. Non-snow tubing is also available in the warmer months. 

Rowdy Bear will sometimes offer discounts on Groupon.

xtreme racing center
Xtreme Racing claims to have some of the fastest go-karts in the Smokies (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

20. Xtreme Racing Center of Pigeon Forge

If you come to Pigeon Forge, you’ve got to do a little go-kart racing. Xtreme Go Karts claim to have the fastest karts in town. Turn your inner Ricky Bobby loose and let’s go ride. 

Read Also: Who has the best, fastest go-karts in Pigeon Forge? [2022]

The Hatfield and McCoy dinner feud
The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud is located along the Parkway in Pigeon Forge (photo by ehrlif/shutterstock.com)

19. Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show

There’s a stratosphere to the Pigeon Forge dinner shows with Pirates, Hatfield & McCoys and Dolly Parton’s Stampede as the top three. 

As one of the many dinner theaters shows in town, the Hatfield and McCoy dinner feud is one that has something for everyone in the family.

Read Also: Is Hatfield and McCoy worth it? A review of the Pigeon Forge dinner show

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A zorbing hill at Outdoor Gravity Park
If you’ve ever wanted to climb into a large inflatable ball and roll downhill this is your chance (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

18. Outdoor Gravity Park

If you’re looking for something new and different, this is it.

There aren’t many zorbing parks in the United States. When else will you be able to get in a giant ball and roll downhill? Plus, you can try it in any season.

You can sometimes find a deal on Groupon.

memories theatre in pigeon forge
Memories Theatre building was formerly Parkway Playhouse (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

17. Memories Theatre

The Memories Theatre is back in Pigeon Forge. The theatre originally opened in the 90s with tribute band shows, and up until recently, the theater was known as the Parkway Playhouse.

But now, Memories is back and offering tribute shows that feature the likes of Elvis, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.

country tonite theater
Country Tonite Theatre was voted “Best Show in the Smokies” by Reader’s Choice (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

16. Country Tonite Theatre

Country music lovers might enjoy the Country Tonite Theatre. Its shows feature live music, family-friendly comedy and dancing. And it’s repeatedly voted “Best Show in the Smokies” by Reader’s Choice.

So if you’re the kind of person who enjoys variety shows, country music and Reader’s Choice recommendations – add this one to the list.

Girl with parrot on shoulders
You can also pose for a photo-op with a bird perched on your hand, shoulders or head (lunamarina/stock.adobe.com)

15. Parrot Mountain

Do you love a good petting zoo? Do you love tropical birds? This is your place.

Walk through the beautifully landscaped grounds, have your picture made with a parrot and feed baby birds. Note that this attraction closes seasonally.

Read Also: Is Parrot Mountain worth the money? Our honest review

The Wonderworks museum in Pigeon Forge
WonderWorks is often referred to as the upside-down house (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

14. WonderWorks

This upside-down children’s museum is great and somewhat of an educational outing with interactive exhibits.

It’s also perfect if you get some bad weather and want something inside to do.

The last time we were there, a few of the attractions were a little worn from use and time. Still, the kids had a great time. 

Read Also: WonderWorks vs. Beyond the Lens: Which attraction is better?

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closeup of smoky mountain coaster
There are many mountain coasters in the area (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

13. Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster

There are several alpine coasters in the area, many of them claiming to have the longest in town. Honestly, they’re all good and whichever one is closer to your hotel may be the best one for you.

Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster is a 7-8 minute ride.

Sign for rocky top mountain coaster
Rocky Top Mountain Coaster is one of the top-rated coasters in Pigeon Forge (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

12. Rocky Top Mountain Coaster

Another great mountain coaster in the region.

Rocky Top Mountain Coaster says the ride is 9 minutes long.

goats on the roof
The second biggest attraction at Goats on the Roof is the mountain coaster (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

11. Goats on the Roof

Shopping and a classic mountain coaster. And … goats on the roof. What more could you want?

I would recommend going to the main location on Wears Valley Road. To be sure, they must do a heck of a shopping business to warrant another location a mile or two down the road on the main strip.

But if you’re going to go see the goats, might as well go all out. 

Dolly Parton's Stampede
Attending a show at Dolly Parton’s Stampede is practically a rite of passage for East Tennessee youth (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

10. Dolly’s Stampede

In addition to being the original dinner show in Pigeon Forge, Dolly’s Stampede remains the classic. And it is the gold standard in the genre for many.

With animals, food and friendly competitions, it’s a show for the whole family.

Read Also: Is Dolly Parton’s Stampede worth the money? What do they serve?

Dolly Parton Stampede logo

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old mill restaurant with running old mill
The Old Mill Square has shops, restaurants and a working mill (photo by J K Laws/shutterstock.com)

9. Old Mill Square

The old mill was built in 1830 and still functions today. The area offers restaurants and shops, and it’s free to explore.

In fact, the restaurants around the square are some of the best in Pigeon Forge. For example, the Old Mill Restaurant often has lengthy wait times, but it will be worth it.

The Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge
The giant Titanic replica is hard to miss along the Parkway (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

8. The Titanic Museum

Why is there a giant Titanic replica museum in the middle of Pigeon Forge? I remain flummoxed.

But it’s one of the best attractions in town.

Is the Titanic Museum interesting? Does it offer diverting exhibits? I can’t lie. It does. Go for the “why wouldn’t Rose let Jack on the door” jokes. Walk down the grand staircase, see real artifacts and touch a real iceberg. Stay because the exhibits will pull you in. 

Read Also: Is the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge TN worth it?

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Pirates Voyage
Pirates Voyage is basically a pirate-themed Dolly Parton’s Stampede (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

7. Pirates Voyage Dinner Show

For my money, this is the best of the top-tier dinner shows in Pigeon Forge, but your mileage may vary. Generally, people of all ages will enjoy the show.

It goes over the top for allowing me to talk like I’m in Master and Commander and tell my kids to look sharp and step lively. Quick’s the word, sharp’s the action, JP! Avast!

Read Also: Is Pirates Voyage in Pigeon Forge worth it? Review, prices and photos

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ferries wheel up close with blue sky
The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel offers great views of Pigeon Forge (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

6. The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel

It’s a giant Ferris wheel in the middle of a tourist town in the mountains.

You get a slow ride and a great view. Worth it. 

Read Also: How much is the Ferris Wheel in Pigeon Forge? Is it worth it?

Mountain Valley Winery
Take a break from all the kid-friendly Pigeon Forge attractions and visit the Mountain Valley Winery (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

5. Mountain Valley Winery

Here, get free tastings. I can’t be the only one who needs a drink.

We’re 2,000 words in at this point. 

4. Gatlinburg Golf Course

Not all the golf in Pigeon Forge is mini.

The Gatlinburg Golf Course, located squarely in Pigeon Forge, is a well-maintained course with challenging tee box locations. Also, it is a great way to spend a few hours outside and enjoy your vacation with some physical activity and competition.

But be warned. This course is in the heart of the city, just off Dollywood Lane and a few of the fairways are tight.

I once caught a flier and launched a 9-iron over the green, over the sand trap, out of bounds and into traffic. The ball bounced in the intersection, over a van whose driver seemed more than a little surprised and harmlessly into a parking lot across the street. 

lumberjack wielding axe at lumberjack show in pigeon forge
Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud features an ax-wielding competition between lumberjacks (media photo provided by Lumberjack Feud)

3. Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud

If you’d prefer to just watch someone else do a little exercise and compete, The Lumberjack Feud is legitimately entertaining from a sporting point of view. It’s a great attraction.

They need to introduce betting. The competition seems genuine and it’s fun to watch. Truth is, I’d rather watch the feud than any of the dinner shows in town and then go eat at Calhoun’s next door. 

Lumberjack Feud Coupons

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Save $5 when you book online with promo code TSC at Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud.

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Actors perform on stage at The Comedy barn
An actor performs on stage at The Comedy Barn (photo by Marie Graichen/TheSmokies.com)

2. The Comedy Barn

The Comedy Barn isn’t for everyone. But for those who tend to enjoy shows that bill themselves as “side-splitting comedy”, The Comedy Barn tends to deliver just that.

Fans of the slapstick comedy genre report that it’s one of the best shows in the Smokies. People who don’t, fervently disagree.

Know thyself.

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Dollywood at Wildwood Grove
Dollywood guests dance during the Sweet Summer Nights celebration at Dollywood (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

1. Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country

Could there be any doubt?

Dolly Parton reigns supreme. You want to experience everything Pigeon Forge has to offer? Most of it can be found at Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country water park.

With roller coasters for thrill seekers, cinnamon bread for foodies and live entertainment for all, not only is it one of the top attractions in Pigeon Forge. It’s one of the best in the state. Maybe even the United States.

Read Also: Dollywood rides ranked: 10 best coasters and rides in the park

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What are your top things to do in Pigeon Forge? Let us know in the comments.

View the web story version of this article here.

Dollywood at Christmas, your guide to this year’s festival [2022]

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas event is a favorite for Dolly Parton, who enjoys bringing families together for a magical holiday celebration each year.

The Dollywood crew traditionally works behind the scenes beginning mid-June, stringing lights on days when the park is closed, overnights and early mornings.

The park usually closes for about a week after the Great Pumpkin LumiNights and Harvest Festival event to transition into a winter wonderland overflowing with holiday lights.

It’s no easy feat hanging up over 6 million Christmas lights while simultaneously preparing for other seasonal events and offering park-goers an uninterrupted experience.

The entire process takes almost 5 months from start to finish each year.

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building and hung christmas lights at dollywood
Dollywood will soon be illuminated with millions of Christmas lights (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Is Dollywood open on Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Dollywood will reopen on Nov. 5, 2022 to kick off the Christmas season with its Smoky Mountain Christmas event, presented by Humana.

The park will be on a reduced holiday schedule with closures scheduled for most Mondays and Tuesdays throughout the season.

However, Dollywood will be open the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 22, as well as the Monday and Tuesday before and after Christmas.

Notably, Dollywood is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

On operating days, the park will be open from 11 am until 9 pm during the festival.

The last operating day of the season will be Jan. 1, 2023

We encourage all guests to double-check the operating calendar when making plans to visit the Dollywood theme park in the Smokies.

dollywood christmas tree at night with snow falling around guests
Dollywood is returning with fan favorites, including the “Wonderful Christmas!” Plaza Tree Show, which features a 50-ft. tall animated tree (media photo by Curtis Hilbun/Dollywood)

What’s new at Dollywood this Christmas?

Dollywood will sparkle this Christmas season with new lighting elements throughout the park. Guests riding the Dollywood Express will enjoy a special light show draped across the field located inside the train’s upper turning loop.

Another new lighted area is the Village Pass, which features a 130-ft light curtain wall that includes programmed movement. This area leads guests from lower Craftsman’s Valley to The Village.

Adventures in Imagination will shine in pink, platinum and gold decorations, as well as 60 LED butterflies and a new 20-ft. tall Christmas tree in an area called Dolly’s Christmas.

The new elements add one million lights, meaning guests will enjoy 6 million lights during this season’s festival.

fireworks above wildwood grove tree at Dollywood
The fireworks display “Merry & Bright” will return on Friday and Saturday evenings at Dollywood (media photo by Curtis Hilbun/Dollywood)

Will Dollywood have fireworks for Christmas this year?

Yes! Returning this year on Friday and Saturday evenings is the “Merry & Bright!” fireworks display. The display lights the sky above Dollywood and is set to the rhythm of upbeat contemporary holiday hits.

After Christmas, the music changes to help guests ready to ring in the new year. The New Year’s version of the show takes place nightly from Dec. 26-Jan. 1.

For those looking to celebrate the holidays with the perfect family meal, Dollywood’s chefs have a menu full of culinary surprises. From herb-roasted turkey breast and citrus-glazed carved ham to chicken pot pie in a bread cone, there are a number of savory items to satisfy every appetite.

Dollywood will also be featuring eggnog cupcakes, gingerbread-dusted funnel cake, holiday limeade and more.

hidden hollow at dollywood with christmas lights
Hidden Hollow in Wildwood Grove also gets decked out for the holidays (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Is Dollywood good at Christmas?

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas festival is one of the most beloved traditions in the Smoky Mountains. In fact, it is the 14-time winner of the Best Theme Park Christmas Event award.

Throughout the park, you’ll see several Christmas trees, decorations and holiday cheer throughout Timber Canyon, Wildwood Grove and Craftsman’s Valley.

Holiday favorites are expected to return this year, including the heartwarming story of the Polar Bear and his Black Bear cousin in Glacier Ridge. The story will be told on the animated tree after dark at the Plaza at Wilderness Pass.

Also, did you know Santa Claus himself has a Smoky Mountain cabin? Kids of all ages can take an immersive trip to visit the North Pole at the “Santa’s List … Naughty or Nice” interactive experience.

Dollywood also brings a wide variety of live entertainment to the Dollywood Christmas event.

Dollywood’s family favorite shows light up both indoor and outdoor stages. The festival’s headline show, “Christmas in the Smokies”, has been a must-see for families every Christmas season since it began in 1990.

Many other Dollywood Christmas classics return including:

  • “Twas the Night Before Christmas”
  • “O’ Holy Night”
  • “Christmas with the Kingdom Heirs”
  • “Heart of the Holidays”
  • “Candlelight Carolers”
  • “The Mistletones”
  • “Appalachian Christmas with the Smoky Mountain String Band”
  • “Holiday Wild Roots”
Dollywood train at Christmas
The Dollywood train will also be decorated for Christmas (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Are rides open during Christmas at Dollywood?

Rides do traditionally continue to run throughout the winter season at Dollywood. However, operations are dependent upon the weather.

For example, each ride has a temperature at which it must close. Most rides will close if temperatures reach about 36 degrees or below.

View the weather guidelines for each attraction or ride here.

Read Also: The ultimate guide to Dollywood: Rides, shows, food and more [2022]

the northern lights at Dollywood at Christmas
The Northern Lights at Glacier Ridge is a fan-favorite feature (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Tips for going to Dollywood for Christmas

First things first, make sure the park is open when you plan to make your visit. The park runs on a limited schedule in November and December and is closed for most of January.

Also, remember to wear layers if you plan to visit Dollywood during the Christmas celebration.

Even though daytime temperatures may be pleasant and sunny, temperatures cool down quickly at night in the mountains of Tennessee.

Read Also: Dollywood announces new ride, Big Bear Mountain

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How much does it cost to go to Dollywood at Christmas?

At the time of this writing, a day pass for Dollywood is $89. Two-day passes are also available for $109. Of course, you get the most out of your dollar if you visit for two days.

You can also book with Tripster and save time in line before your arrival.

We encourage all guests to check the daily schedule on the Dollywood website for the latest information on showtimes and other updates.

Double down on your Dollywood experience and stay in Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa and truly treat yourself.

The resort’s halls are also decked in beautiful décor inspired by warm, rich memories of Christmas in the Smoky Mountains.

Interested in a season pass for 2023?

Diamond or gold season passes purchased during Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas provides admission to this year’s Christmas festival along with admission for Dollywood’s big 2023 operating season.

Guests can purchase their 2023 season pass online now or upgrade their paid one-day admission ticket on the day of their visit.

Ticket purchasers receive credit for the value of a regular one-day ticket toward the purchase of a 2023 season pass.

Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Have you been to Dollywood for the Christmas celebration? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.

View the web story version of this article here.