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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
PROMO CODE: TSC
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a long list. You’re gonna need some aspirin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
12. Rocky Top Mountain Coaster
Another great mountain coaster in the region.
Rocky Top Mountain Coaster says the ride is 9 minutes long.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Save $5 when you book online with promo code TSC at Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud.
You may also redeem this coupon at the ticket counter using the barcode below.
PROMO CODE: TSC
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.
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.
What are your top things to do in Pigeon Forge? Let us know in the comments.
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