Nestled deep within the Smokey Mountains of southern Tennessee, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are loads of fun, with plenty to do for both adults and children. 100% resort towns, both are comprised of essentially only three things: food, attractions, and lodging choices. There’s only one main road, Highway 321, that runs continuously through both towns, finally ending somewhere in the mountains past Gatlinburg. While two totally separate towns, 7.5 miles apart, they are generally interchangeable and visitors tend to utilize both.
Truthfully, they are not much different from one another, as both contain countless attractions, crazy shaped buildings, restaurants, shops, and live shows. Pigeon Forge is simply just bigger. I call them the Las Vegas of the Smokey’s because that is exactly what they are – albeit more family-centered and not engulfed in a constant low-hanging cigarette fog (Las Vegas: Overpriced & Overrated.).
I’ve been three times, and all three times we rented a cabin through one of the numerous rental companies that are found easily via Google. The first two times we happened to stay at the exact same cabin both times (please see below). We found this cabin through Vrbo both times, costing approximately $300 per night. Split amongst 7 people, it was very doable. It had 3 stories, 5 bedrooms, 3 ½ baths, and a loft area on the 3rd floor that had a pullout couch. This cabin was located in Pigeon Forge and was very nice with a wonderful view. Thankfully, it didn’t feel like we were staying inside an IKEA store.
The 3rd time, we found a cabin with a company called Blue Mist Cabins, booking a 1-bed, 1-bath cabin (sleeps 3) called the Alpine Belle. It was much smaller than the first cabin, but this time, there was only 2 of us. Also located in Pigeon Forge, it was priced around $120 per night, which is decent for cabins in this area. We arrived to this cabin late at night, something I will never advise after our misadventure. Trying to find a cabin in the pitch black mountainside with winding roads and blind curves is not fun, and we got slightly lost. I strongly suggest getting there in daylight, if possible.
Located in Pigeon Forge, and billed as a “family fun center and entertainment complex”, there are tons of restaurants, shops, and even rides on The Island. I’ve been to two different restaurants here; Margaritaville, an island-themed chain restaurant owed by Jimmy Buffet, and Dick’s Last Resort, another chain restaurant whose niche is that they’re rude to you. Both are open 7 days a week with differing hours, so best to check their websites before going. Both have decent food and typical resort-town prices, but with completely different experiences and atmospheres (do NOT go to Dicks if you are easily offended…)
Somewhere I suggest visiting on The Island is Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine, a store that sells (legal) moonshine in every proof and flavor imaginable. Even if you don’t like alcohol, it’s still a very cool store. Open daily from 10am to 11pm, aside from the original moonshine flavor, they sell butter pecan, strawberry, peppermint, margarita, apple pie, buckeye, butterscotch, sour watermelon, and more. They also sell pickles, peaches, cherries, and pineapples jarred in moonshine, plus moonshine creams in pumpkin spice, orange shinesicle, banana pudding, and white chocolate strawberry. If moonshine isn’t for you, they also sell whiskey and canned cocktails.🍹
By far one of the coolest experiences in Pigeon Forge is the famed Titanic Museum. In the shape of the real Titanic, a few exist, this one in Tennessee and four others in Las Vegas, NV, Branson, MO, Orlando, FL, and Indian Orchard, MA. Located at 2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, it’s open daily at 9am, closing at 7pm Monday to Friday, and at 8pm on the weekends. Tickets are $35 for adults and $15 for children. Child under 4 are free and they do offer military discounts. The museum’s official website suggests ordering tickets in advance (something I’d suggest, as well).
Sadly, I have zero pictures from inside the museum because photos inside are strictly prohibited.
History buffs will love this place, or anyone who’s a fan of the movie, as it was extremely interesting to view actual objects recovered from the ship. All items are original and legitimate, and not replicas. There was clothing and other personal effects from real passengers, as well as documents and furniture. There is a complete replica of the famous staircase that you can use to walk up to the second floor (there’s also an elevator). On the second floor, you’ll find more exhibits, including a full-scale replica of what a first-class cabin would’ve looked like. Another fun part of the museum is a room meant to resemble the ships wheelhouse, or where the captain and crew would have been steering the ship. You can walk “outside” and onto the front deck to feel how frigid it was on the night of April 15, 1912. There’s water available so that you can feel exactly how cold the water was. It was a great experience and I highly suggest giving this museum a visit!
Technically located in Sevierville, Tennessee, approximately 15 minutes outside of Pigeon Forge and 25 minutes from Gatlinburg, Jayell Ranch Adventure Park is loads of fun and something I really enjoyed doing. They offer a plethora of activities including zip-lines, ATV rides, off-road go-carts, and horseback riding.
I strongly suggest giving them a visit. Check out my blog on the ranch for more details!👇🏼
Old Mill Restaurant
This particular restaurant is making the blog because it is consistently voted or ranked as the #1 restaurant in Pigeon Forge. The Old Mill Restaurant is located at 164 Old Mill Ave, Pigeon Forge and open daily from 8am to 9pm. In my opinion, it was mediocre and average. It’s “down home country cookin’’”, like fried chicken, cornbread, chicken & dumplings, mashed taters, mac n’ cheese, corn, etc. It’s family-style, i.e. everyone gets the same sides but you choose different main entrées. It’s clearly a favorite amongst the tourists, because aside from the raving online reviews, it was totally packed. As we approached the front, we immediately noticed the gobs of people all over the ramp and congregating near the entrance. However, the advantage of having only two people in our party while vacationing in a summertime family hotspot paid off and we were seated immediately.
Important note: The Old Mill Restaurant does NOT do reservations. If you have a large party, it’s highly suggested to get there during the early bird special… or be prepared to wait for awhile.
Rainbow Falls Trail
Anyone who comes to Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg must take a hike in Great Smokey Mountains National Park! We chose Rainbow Falls Trail, which is a picturesque and lovely trail. Rated “moderately challenging” by the popular hiking app AllTrails, you’re hiking to the top of a waterfall.
Read about Rainbow Falls and hiking in the Great Smokey Mountains in more detail below!👇🏼👇🏼
Home to an incredibly fun and unique experience, I highly suggest checking out the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. Here you’ll find the Gatlinburg Suspension Bridge – the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America, stretching almost 700 feet across, with a 30-foot glass bottom section in the middle that doesn’t take you anywhere in particular.
Check out my blog on the SkyBridge for more detail!👇🏼
It or Not
Located directly across the street from Gatlinburg SkyLife Park is Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Open daily from 9am to 10pm, it cost $30 for adults, $17 for children (6-11), and $5 for children (2-5). If you’d like to purchase a museum guidebook, that’ll be $2 extra. While there are numerous ticket combos, we chose only Ripley’s Odditorium, which is a massive 3-story building with “over 500 exhibits and artifacts”. It’s a mind blowing collection of super cool, weird, gross, and unbelievable things, like shrunken heads (replicas), Tallest Man exhibit, life size replicas of the Lizard Man and Vampire Lady, giant things made out of Legos or tires, the world’s smallest sculptures on a pinhead, and much more.
There are loads of interactive exhibits, including an optical illusion room that makes you look tiny on one end and giant on the other; two small, clear plastic boxes that were used by a contortionist where you can try your own skills out; the “How Many Eggs Can You Hold?” area (the record is 7); a super cool, psychedelic mirror exhibit (please see above); a space area; and a large Smokey Mountains exhibit.
It was tons of fun, and since we were there so late (10pm-ish), it was practically empty. I suggest coming later if you can after all the families have left and gone to dinner. 😉
Overall, I love visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon and would gladly come again. The cabins were great, but there’s almost limitless other terrific cabin options available. The Sky Bridge, Ripley’s, and The Island are loads of fun, and the Titanic Museum is educational and eye-opening. Also, who wouldn’t want to go hiking in Great Smokey Mountains National Park?! Not to mention the countless restaurants to choose from (I’d suggest skipping the overhyped – in my opinion – Old Mill Restaurant). Lastly, there is far more to do here than what was mentioned in this blog, so I suggest definitely doing some research first. Come and see the wonderful Las Vegas of the Smokey’s for yourself!
✨Where the only smoke you’ll see is from the atmosphere and not tobacco✨