Things have improved significantly over the years in terms of accessibility for attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
The ADA, of course, has been a big driver of that, but also 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 so that everyone can get a chance to enjoy their mountain vacation.
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.
Here is our list of some of the most accessible destinations in the area.
7. Anakeesta in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Some parts of Anakeesta – the 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.
6. Metcalf Bottoms in Wears Valley Tenn.
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.
5. Ripley’s attractions (multiple locations)
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.
The Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium is also wheelchair friendly with elevator access for guests.
And Ripley’s touts all of its attractions as ADA compliant.
Plus, there are plenty of bargains to be had at the the local Ripley’s attractions.
For instance, you can get $25 off when you bundle multiple Ripley’s attractions by using this link and booking ahead.
4. The Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
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.
3. The Island in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
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 your team.
In addition to wheelchair accessible activities, The Island offers shopping and a wide range of restaurants and its state-of-the-art multi-tiered Fountain Show.
2. Laurel Falls in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
The mountains are, to borrow a phrase, the reason for the season. There are a lot of great things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but seeing the wonder of nature is atop the list.
The 2.6 mile paved trail to Laurel Falls is one of the most beautiful and accessible destinations in the mountains. The 80-foot cascade is popular with photographers and is located right outside Gatlinburg.
Arrive early to beat the crowds. The path is billed as walker and wheelchair friendly.
1. Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail in Gatlinburg Tenn.
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.
Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments!