Attractions in the Smoky Mountains that actually make special accommodations for guests in wheelchairs, as recommended by a local
I see a change in the Smoky Mountains. The ADA, of course, has been a big driver in terms of improving accessibility for area attractions. But as larger corporations have moved in, it has become a standard course to plan with accessibility in mind. From Dollywood to Ripley’s attractions, more forward-thinking planners are building attractions with proper elevators, ramps and wider spaces. Challenges remain, of course. Many of the Gatlinburg shops, for instance, can be difficult to navigate as they tend to be built in smaller places and often wedge as much merchandise as possible into every square foot. In general, the newer a facility is, the better access it provides, but some of the older attractions do a good job as well.
But in this list, we won’t be focusing on access alone. After all, there are plenty of attractions where you can physically get in the door. This list will feature attractions where you can actually be an active participant in some of the fun. Here is our list of some of the most accessible destinations in the area. Here’s a list of some of our tried and true favorites.
Editor’s Note: Did you know you can also see wheelchair-accessible attractions in Google Maps? Just open the Google Maps app on your phone, click on your icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen then click Settings. Scroll down to Accessibility and toggle “Accessible Places” on. You will now see a small wheelchair icon beside the name of area attractions in search.
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Starting with the largest attraction in Pigeon Forge, we have Dollywood. At Dollywood, all front-line members are trained to provide guests with an inclusive experience, and this includes those with special needs, from start to finish. There’s ADA-accessible parking available in lots A and B upon arrival with guest drop-off and pickup areas located at the Dollywood Transportation Hub. Dollywood offers electric convenience vehicles and wheelchairs for daily rental. All retail shops, restaurants and games are accessible although select restaurants may require those using ECVs to transfer into a Dollywood-provided wheelchair before entering. As far as rides are concerned, Dollywood prefers to offer personal consultations upon entry at their Rider Accessibility Center, located at the entrance of the park. Dollywood is located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
2. The Island
Continuing on in Pigeon Forge, with its wide variety of restaurants, attractions and shopping, The Island is a destination that is fun for the whole family. The main attractions, the Great Smoky Mountain (Ferris) Wheel and the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, are wheelchair accessible. The Alcatraz Museum is equipped with elevators to carry guests from one level to the next. The Escape Game is also wheelchair accessible, but guests are encouraged to call ahead to determine the best game room for their team (865-868-3400). SkyFly, a moving theater experience, is also accessible for guests using wheelchairs or other mobility devices. However, at SkyFly, guests must be able to transfer to the ride seat and maintain upper body strength to sit in a moving seat. Alternatively, there’s also the option to experience the film in an alternate viewing room. In addition to wheelchair-accessible activities, The Island offers shopping and a wide range of restaurants. Not to mention its state-of-the-art multi-tiered Fountain Show. The Island is located at 131 The Island Dr, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
3. The Titanic Museum
This is one that I had concerns about. The nature of the shape of the museum might present difficulties. However, the museum is wheelchair accessible throughout with hallways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. The museum also has wheelchairs available for guests to use. All of the upper galleries are accessible via the museum’s elevator. Editor’s Note: This attraction also happens to be one of my area favorites so be sure to add this one to your list! The Titanic Museum is located at 2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
4. The Hollywood Wax Museum
The Hollywood Wax Museum is really just a walk-through (or roll-through) attraction featuring sometimes lifelike, sometimes creepy wax replicas of famous celebrities. It’s a treasure trove for your Instagram. But there’s plenty of space at this attraction to get around and it’s a fairly fun way to spend your afternoon. The museum is located at 106 Showplace Blvd Unit A, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
5. Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Supper Show
Now let’s touch on a few of my favorite accessible area shows. Starting with Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud located in the Shops at Lumberjack Square. The show itself features an interactive competition between two teams of athletic lumberjacks who perform stunts including daring clubs and axe throwing. There’s even a BBQ supper included. And here’s the best news – the entire theater is wheelchair accessible. The Lumberjack Feud is located at 2530 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
6. Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show
Hatfield & McCoy is a slapstick-style comedy show that centers around the famous real-life feud between two rival families in the South with a side of “Southern homestyle feast”. The theater is fully accessible to individuals with special needs. But those in wheelchairs are encouraged to call ahead (865-908-7469) when booking tickets to ensure proper accommodations. The Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show is located at 119 Music Rd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
7. The Comedy Barn
The Comedy Barn is arguably one of the most popular shows in the area. It’s another slapstick-style show, albeit, sans dinner. It’s a snacks-only concession stand situation at this place. So don’t come too hungry. At this attraction, guests are actually able to select ADA/Wheelchair seating upon booking. Pro-tip: Arrive early and have breakfast/lunch next door at The Comedy Barn’s Frizzle Chicken Cafe. The Comedy Barn is located at 2775 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
8. Crave Golf Club
Look, there are a ton of mini golf places in the area that claim to be wheelchair friendly. But when it comes down to it, if we are being honest, the mountainous hilly terrain of the Smokies makes some more ideal than others. Crave Mini Golf features two 19-candy-themed hole courses, one indoor and one on the roof, both of which are fully handicap accessible. Pro-tip: That indoor course may come in handy during your stay in the Smokies as rain is common! Crave Mini Golf is located at 2925 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
9. Toy Box Mini Golf
Toy Box Mini Golf is actually the sister attraction to the previously mentioned Crave Mini Golf. And like Crave, their courses are fully handicap accessible, and as a whole, largely flatter than other similar offerings in the area. Toy Box Mini Golf is located at 112 Dollywood Ln, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
10. Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf
Professor Hacker’s is a Pigeon Forge gem. It features a unique train component that transports guests all around the park, and wheelchair users reportedly have no issues on the course. Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf is located at 3010 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.
11. Anakeesta in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Now, let’s move on to Gatlinburg. Some parts of Anakeesta – Treetop Skywalk for example – are not wheelchair accessible. However, the best parts of Anakeesta, dining, shopping and the view, are all fully available. Accessing the mountain via the Chondola is also possible using the wheelchair-friendly enclosed cabins, which are 32 inches wide and 49 inches deep to comfortably carry riders to the summit and back down. As long as you’re not afraid of heights, you’ll probably love this attraction. Anakeesta is located at 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
12. Gatlinburg Space Needle
Here’s another classic wheelchair-accessible attraction in Gatlinburg with stellar views – The Gatlinburg Space Needle. This 400-foot structure features 360-degree views of the city and features a wheelchair-friendly glass elevator. The Gatlinburg Space Needle is located at 115 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
13. Ober Mountain
Here’s one more sky-high attraction that’s known for its accessibility – Ober Mountain. Ober Mountain’s biggest claim to fame is being the area’s only ski resort in the winter. They are also known for their ice skating rink, eateries, and shops. Now, under new management, they are making major leaps forward by creating additional offerings including a ziplining experience and, in the springtime, mountain biking. There are two wheelchair-friendly ways to get up the mountain. The first is the popular aerial tramway. The tramway has easy ramp access and touts that nearly any sort of mobility-assisted device will “roll right on”. The second is the drivable backroad which allows you to pull right up to the front door (with a $10 charge for parking). Obviously, there are several attractions at Ober that aren’t as wheelchair friendly as others, but there’s still plenty to do for the entire family and we think the unique aerial tramway is a must-see attraction while in the Smokies. Ober Mountain is located at 1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
14. Ripley’s Aquarium
Though many of Ripley’s attractions are fairly old, most have undergone significant remodeling. Ripley’s Aquarium offers elevators and ramps to allow guests access to various levels. It features wide paths with plenty of room. Wheelchairs are offered free of charge at guest services. The aquarium entrance is elevated above the street, but there is both ramp and elevator access to reach the top. Ripley’s Aquarium is located at 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
15. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!
The Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium is also wheelchair friendly with elevator access for guests. Plus, there are plenty of bargains to be had for Ripley’s attractions. For instance, you can get $25 off when you bundle multiple Ripley’s attractions by using this link and booking ahead. Ripleys Odditorium is located at 800 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
16. Metcalf Bottoms
Now let’s talk about activities inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located near Wears Valley, Metcalf Bottoms is one of my favorite picnic areas in the Smokies. Built on a relatively flat area, there are several wheelchair-accessible sites with good views of the Little River, perfect for grilling, picnicking or just enjoying the mountains. The sites are first come, first served so it’s recommended to get there early. We usually designate an early-rising family member to go early and claim our spot. The Metcalf Bottoms picnic area is located at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area Rd N, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
17. Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail
Again, located just outside of Gatlinburg, the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is paved, flat and about a half-mile long. It offers beautiful views of historic homesteads long abandoned. With the river flowing nearby, it is peaceful and serene. It is the only trail in the park designated for all access.
What are your favorite accessible attractions in the area? Let us know in the comments below!