Tips for going to Pigeon Forge TN with toddlers, from a parent
As a parent of three, I’ve done my fair share of traveling with a baby or toddler. We’ve done big trips and small ones. Several of those trips have been to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, which are just about 40 minutes away from where we live in East Tennessee.
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While there aren’t a lot of things specifically designed for babies and toddlers in the Smokies, there are many things you can do to keep them entertained while the older kids and adults have fun, too. With this in mind, here are my top picks for toddler-friendly activities throughout the Smoky Mountains of Pigeon Forge and nearby Gatlinburg:
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1. Take a drive and see the lights
This is especially true around Christmas time. But year-round, Pigeon Forge gets lit up at night. For the especially little ones, the magic of the mountains is nothing compared to the twinkling Christmas lights, or the various twinkling neon up and down the strip.
2. Visit Soaky Mountain Waterpark
If you’re visiting in the summer, Soaky Mountain Waterpark is definitely worth a mention for the little ones. Soaky Mountain has something to offer for the whole family, but Boomer’s Bay is specifically built for the tiniest “tadpoles” in your family. I particularly love how the park has small versions of the big-kid slides so the youngest members of the family do not feel left out.
3. Picnic at Metcalf Bottoms
Metcalf Bottoms picnic area is a peaceful spot to rest, relax and enjoy the great outdoors. The waters of the Little River typically run a little faster here, but there are spots where your little one, under your close guidance, can dip their toes in the water.
4. Picnic at The Wye in Townsend
Not far from Metcalf Bottoms is the Wye in Townsend. There are a lot of places you can get off and dip your toes in a mountain stream, but none are more accessible or gentle than the Wye. Located just inside the park at the intersection of Laurel Creek Road, Little River Gorge Road and Townsend Entrance Road, the Wye may be the closest thing you find to a beach within the park.
There’s a gentle grassy slope that locals use for sunbathing and picnics. And there’s also a deep swimming hole created where the prongs of the Little River meet. The water is typically gentle – but very cold. It can get a little crowded and/or hectic at the height of the swimming season. However, it’s a reliable place to take your young one where you don’t have to negotiate giant rocks just to get to the water.
5. Spend time in Wildwood Grove at Dollywood
Designed specifically for older adults and families with small children, Wildwood Grove within the Dollywood theme park offers a splash pad when seasonally appropriate, rides for small children and an indoor play area known as the Hidden Hollow. The Hidden Hollow offers air conditioning and cool black-lit elements which can be a little noisy, but is still a good place to hang out.
Overall, Wildwood Grove was designed with plenty of spaces to rest, to relax and enjoy Dollywood at a gentler pace. If your family wants to tackle big fun while the little one needs a different pace, Wildwood Grove is the perfect compromise. If you plan a trip to Dollywood, remember you can purchase tickets with Tripster ahead of time.
6. Visit a petting zoo
The Pigeon Forge area has a handful of good petting zoos and animal experiences that young children and toddlers can enjoy. For example, SkyLand Ranch is located just outside of Pigeon Forge in Sevierville and has a miniature animal experience featuring mini donkeys, cows, goats and sheep. Alternatively, Big Rock Dude Ranch is known for its horseback riding, but offers a lot more including a petting zoo, gem mining and a fishing pond. SkyLand Ranch requires an admission fee to enter. At Big Rock Dude Ranch, a bag of feed is just $8. Pricing is subject to change.
7. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg
Temperature controlled with calming mood music and lighting, the aquarium in Gatlinburg is a great place to nap. And your toddler might even get some winks in, too. There are toddler-eye-level brightly colored exotic fish and plenty of dark spaces where you can pull off and let your young one soak up the atmosphere.
If your little one is walking, there’s plenty of room to safely roam around. The penguins will delight them and entertain the rest of the family as well. Plus, children under 2 are free. The rest of the family can also benefit from purchasing a combo pass and enjoy multiple Ripley’s attractions in the Smokies. So if you’re looking for a place to entertain your young one while the family shops or explores the area, you could do worse than the aquarium. Where are your favorite places to take toddlers in the Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments.