Ultimate Guide to Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

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Is your family planning a vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee? There are so many fun things to do in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area that we have put together a full guide for you. Our guide is full of places to visit in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN. We share attractions, places to eat, suggestions on where to stay, and more for this East Tennessee region.

For even more ideas on fun family trips, see our travel guide.

A few tips:

  • Almost all shows in Pigeon Forge offer combo tickets, which are significantly discounted when bought together. So do the math and figure out what works for your family. 
  • There are a bunch of coupon books in almost every restaurant and shop in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge. They all offer a least a couple dollars off attractions, which can save money in the long run if you do a lot of activities. 
  • Sign up for the email list of your favorite attractions and hotels since they often send out discount codes throughout the year. 
  • If you come to East Tennessee more than a couple times a year, consider a season pass to some of the attractions like Dollywood and Anakeesta, which can pay off in just two visits. 

This article includes:
What Is There to Do in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
Free/Cheap Things to Do in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
Things to Do During the Holidays in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
Where Should We Stay in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
Where Should We Eat in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

Find a place to stay in Gatlinburg, TN. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.

What is There to Do in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge?

Anakeesta
This mountaintop village theme park hosts a Rail Runner alpine coaster, ziplining, stunning gardens, a beer garden, a village with restaurants and shopping, an outdoor movie space, a treehouse play area, seasonal themed events, and an awesome Chondola ride up and down the mountain. Admission ticket prices range from $20 – $29. The alpine coaster, gem mining, and ziplining are extra costs. You’ll want to read our Anakeesta review of tips and tricks on how to make the most of your visit to Anakeesta.

576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN

Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta

PINK Jeep Smoky Mountain Tours
Ride around in a bright pink Jeep and see all the very best sights in the Great Smoky Mountains and get the adrenaline going with their 4×4 off-roading course, built especially for PINK Jeeps. Tickets depend on the tour you choose but kids ages 18 months+ are able to do the tours and costs range from $57-$74 per person. Our PINK Jeep review gives you the lowdown on what to expect with the tour.

3152 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN

PINK Jeep Smoky Mountain Tour

Wonderworks
A truly fun experience for the whole family, Wonderworks is an indoor entertainment facility with a glow-in-the-dark ropes course, 3-D roller coaster, a bubble room, laser tag, climbing wall, earthquake simulator, and tons more. You can easily spend all day here but allow at least two hours at Wonderworks to really do everything, more if you see the magic show (extra charge). Read our review of Wonderworks to get all the details.

100 Music Road, Pigeon Forge

Dollywood
The iconic theme park is fun to visit any time of the year but they do have special events for summer, fall (a big pumpkinfest), and winter (a huge festival with a nightly parade and lights). The new Wildwood Grove encourages guests to explore their imaginations with an indoor black-lit playground, splash pad, rides for the whole family, and the new DragonFly coaster. Our Dollywood review will tell you all the best places to visit while at Dollywood. Adult tickets are $84 and kids are $74/each ages 4-9.

2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN

Dollywood’s Splash Country
A wet and wild theme park that opens right next to the Dollywood theme park over the summer, Splash Country has a wave pool, multiple water slides, a lazy river, concessions, and a tube coaster. We love this theme park and it’s on our must-do list every summer! For the 2021 season tickets were $49.95/ages 10-61, $39.95/ages 4-9, and $39.95/senior citizens 62+. Parking is $15/day. Read our review to learn about the best things to do at the park. 

2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN

Dollywood’s Splash Country

The Island in Pigeon Forge
Home to the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, The Island is a popular spot in Pigeon Forge. There are numerous amusement rides, restaurants, shops and other attractions like an escape room and mirror maze. There’s something here for the whole family.  We have information about all that this destination offers in our review of The Island at Pigeon Forge.

Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show
If you don’t know, the Hatfield and McCoy families were two groups who really hated each other in rural West Virginia in the 1800s. The show is a dinner theater experience so you get all-you-can-eat soup, rolls, pulled pork, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cole slow, and corn plus a dessert. This was the best meal I had while in Pigeon Forge and my kids loved it as well. At the end of this show, you’ll leave feeling full and happy. Total time you’re in the theater is a little over two-and-a-half hours. Tickets are $59.99/adults and $29.99/kids ages 3-11 and under 2 are free.

119 Music Road, Pigeon Forge

Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show

Titanic Museum
Experience the history of the Titanic, and the stories of those aboard, at the Titanic Museum. You’ll find hands on exhibits, an audio tour, and even the largest Titanic replica ever built out of lego bricks! Want to know more? Check out our Kidding Around review of the Titanic Museum

2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN

Wild Bear Falls Water Park
This is an enormous indoor waterpark at the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa in Gatlinburg. It’s open year round and you can go even if you’re not a guest at the resort.

915 Westgate Resorts Road, Gatlinburg, TN

Dolly Parton’s Stampede
The is one of the more popular shows in Pigeon Forge and features horse stunts, lots of special effects, and a four-course meal plus dessert. Families love this show especially.

3849 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN

Smoky Mountain Opry
From music to magic, it all happens at the Smoky Mountain Opry. Be sure to check out the show schedules because they change all year and include a special Smoky Mountain Christmas one as well.

2046 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN

Pirates Voyage
Lots of energy and fun at this dinner show in Pigeon Forge, the newest show to come to town. Kids will love the mermaids and pirate fights plus the water features of the show are always fun.

2713 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies (and other Ripley’s attractions)
This aquarium was voted best in the nation with sharks, sea turtles, penguins, and a glass-bottomed boat and it sits right in the heart of Gatlinburg. You can read our review of the aquarium plus other reviews of Ripley’s attractions in Gatlinburg such as the Mirror Maze, 5D moving theater, and world records museum

88 River Road, Gatlinburg, TN

Soaky Mountain Waterpark
Located just 15-20 minutes north of Gatlinburg is an enormous 50-acre waterpark with tons of slides, a lazy river, watercoasters, and a 35,000 wave pool. Read our review here.

175 Gists Creek Road, Sevierville, TN

Soaky Mountain Waterpark near Gatlinburg, TN

Ole Smoky Moonshine
The distillery is the oldest in the state and you can taste several moonshine varieties for $5 – they are really good! Be sure to try the Buckeye if you like peanut butter. You can also see how moonshine is made through the glass walls of the distillery at the Holler in Gatlinburg, which totally counts for homeschooling your kids.

Locations in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Gatlinburg SkyBridge

Just opened in 2019, the SkyBridge is a mile high and has a glass bottom in the center. It is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America and overlooks the town and the surrounding Smoky Mountains. You have to take a chair lift up to the mountain to access the SkyBridge. Buy tickets in advance online to save a couple dollars off each ticket. Read our review here.

765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 

Boot Factory Outlet

I’m not big into shopping but the Boot Factory Outlet was awesome. They have amazing customer service – people who help you until you find what you want and make suggestions and seem to genuinely care about service. I was blown away. The outlet offers a continuous deal of buy one pair of boots and get two free. I had to see it for myself because that didn’t seem real. It was! I walked out with three fantastic pairs of boots for my family, all well-made and of excellent quality. Highly recommend.

1842 Winfield Dunn Pkwy, Sevierville, TN

The Lost Sea Adventure

This is such a cool experience that we recommend for anyone looking for a super unique adventure underground. The Lost Sea tour explores the expansive Craighead Caverns with its rare rock formations. But the coolest part is the boat ride in the underground lake! Read our full review here. It’s about an hour and 20 minutes from the Gatlinburg area. Visit Sweetwater Valley Farm nearby for awesome grilled cheese and milkshakes.

140 Lost Sea Road, Sweetwater, TN 423.337.6616


Free/Cheap Things to do in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The park is the most visited in the whole country, with over 11 million people visiting every year. And there is no admission cost whatsoever. The park boasts over 850 miles of hiking trails plus two long stretches where you can drive to see wildlife and take in the natural beauty of the area. Get up to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the park or Newfound Gap for stunning views. Cruise through Cades Cove or Roaring Fork Motor Trail to see if you can spot black bears. Read more in our review of the park and all there is to do and see in the Smokies.

Please note that beginning March 1, 2023, the National Park is instituting parking fees to be able to handle the millions of visitors each year. Parking tags must be displayed anywhere in the Park, except for cars spending 15 minutes or less there. Fees are $5/single day, $15/up to 7 days, and $40/annual parking pass. You can buy them at the Visitor Centers or online.

Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Thanksgiving Fireworks
Fireworks are shot off at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge at 7 pm the evening of Thanksgiving Day – and they are free!

2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge

See Elk in Cherokee or Cataloochee Valley
Elk were originally native to the area and have been reintroduced. They are thriving thanks to the protection of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Guests can see the majestic animals at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, NC, right outside the park, or in the Cataloochee Valley. In the fall, the bulls loudly bugle and it’s quite the animal sound to hear!

Elk in the Smokies

Go Swimming
The Smoky Mountains have some desirable swimming holes during the hot summer months. One is the Townsend Wye right near the entrance to the park in Townsend, TN. It’s a huge swimming hole with small rapids for tubing and deeper waters for swimming. The National Park’s official stance on swimming is that it discourages it. 

Townsend Wye

Go Fishing
Trout are stocked in the miles of rivers and streams that cut through the Smokies and visitors are allowed to fish from those waterways. In Tennessee, both residents and non-residents ages 13 or older must have a fishing license. In North Carolina, ages 16 and older need a license. Fishing is permitted all throughout the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Things to Do During the Holidays in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Thanksgiving Fireworks
Fireworks are shot off at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge at 7 pm the evening of Thanksgiving Day – and they are free.

2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas
The experience at Dollywood at Christmastime deserves its own review because it is so beautiful and enchanting. You and your kids can step into a life-size snowglobe, watch a nativity show, and enjoy the rides. They have beautiful light displays as well. It’s an amazing time to visit the park. Read what we loved about the Smoky Mountain Christmas in our review. The Christmas event takes from November 6, 2021 to January 2, 2022. Adult tickets are $84 and kids are $74/each ages 4-9.

2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN

Smoky Mountain Christmas in Dollywood

Winterfest in Pigeon Forge
From the end of November until early February, Pigeon Forge is decked out in Christmas lights and guests can ride the trolley all around town (small fee) to check out the beautiful decorations. Shows and events correspond with the Christmas theme and the whole town becomes a winter wonderland. It’s totally free to drive around and see all the lights. Learn more with our Kidding Around Greenville review of Winterfest.

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

Margaritaville Island Hotel
A stay at this beautiful and trendy hotel will be a relaxing experience. Margarita makers are in every room and balconies overlook either the river or the Island at Pigeon Forge. You can explore the Island, take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, grab a margarita at the bar (or in your room) and just chill. Read our review of our stay at this awesome hotel. 

131 The Island Dr, Pigeon Forge, TN

Margaritaville Island Hotel in Pigeon Forge

Greystone Lodge By the River
One of the very last family-owned hotels in Gatlinburg, the Greystone dates back originally to the early 1960s and has become the go-to hotel for generations of families. The location cannot be beat as it is steps from the aquarium and across the street from Anakeesta, within walking distance to shops and restaurants. They also have a great pool and free breakfast. It’s perfect for families looking to have a restful and accommodating place to call home during their trip. We stayed there and absolutely loved it

559 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN

The Greystone Lodge By The River

Camp Margaritaville RV Resort & Lodge
A water slide, pool, beautiful rooms, on-site restaurant, arcade, and amazing staff make this spot an incredible place to stay. Relaxation and fun are perfectly balanced here. Read our review of Camp Margaritaville RV Resort & Lodge to plan your own trip.

149 Cates Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN

Pool at Camp Margaritaville

Camp LeConte
Kicking up the glamping a notch further is Camp LeConte, which offers a treehouse, safari tents, and a retro camper. You can even catch the trolley into Gatlinburg from the campground. Depending on the time of year, the two-person safari tent starts around $136/night. Read our review here.

1739 East Pkwy, Gatlinburg, TN


Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park

The Westgate Smokies is a beautiful resort overlooking Gatlinburg that has lots of different room types to choose from, a huge indoor water park, spa, zip line, mini-golf, two outdoor heated pools, and a fabulous restaurant. Read our review here.

915 Westgate Resorts Road, Gatlinburg, TN

Go Lodge

Be blown away by the 17 room game mansion in Gatlinburg! It has more than 300 indoor and outdoor games and sleeps up to 20 people. This is perfect for a multi-family or big friends vacation and about 15 minutes from the main strip in Gatlinburg.

Smoky Hollow Outdoor Resort
Stay in a covered wagon or tipi at this resort in Sevierville, TN for the ultimate pioneer adventure. The resort is close to Soaky Mountain and minutes from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smokies. Read our review here.

660 Gists Creek Road, Sevierville, TN

Smoky Hollow Wagon

Foothills RV Park & Cabins
If you are not into tent camping but are still looking for a cheaper option than a hotel, Foothills has bare bones cabins to rent where you bring your own linens/sleeping bags and pillows. This is a good option if you’re really trying to stay within a budget but want someplace clean and comfortable. The location is right on the cusp of Pigeon Forge and maybe ten minutes from Gatlinburg. Camping cabins are rented April through October and start at $58/night.

4235 Huskey St, Pigeon Forge, TN

Wilderness at the Smokies
This family-friendly hotel has three waterparks on-site, including Tennessee’s largest indoor waterpark. You won’t even need to leave the resort for entertainment and dining once you get there! Rooms are spacious and some suites offer bunk beds for kids. And it’s directly across the street from Soaky Mountain Waterpark. Read our review here.

1424 Old Knoxville Hwy, Sevierville, TN

Indoor waterpark at Wilderness at the Smokies

Where to eat in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

If you’re not headed to a lunch or dinner show, there are plenty of options to enjoy a good meal. Gatlinburg is known as the Pancake Capital of the World so be sure to hit up a good pancake house while you’re there. 

Pancake Pantry
Gatlinburg’s first pancake house, which opened in 1960, is hugely popular. Get there when they open and bring cash since they don’t take credit cards. 

628 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN

Log Cabin Pancake House
Opening in 1976, the Log Cabin Pancake House serves up breakfast all day long and also has delicious pancakes (of course). 

327 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN

Apple Barn & Cider Mill
The fried apple pies and apple cider donuts are what people usually come to the Apple Barn for. It’s worth it. Both are delicious and well-worth the calories. 

230 Apple Valley Rd, Sevierville, TN

The Old Mill Restaurant
This is the place that people who have been to Pigeon Forge will recommend. They have generous portions and authentic, local Southern cuisine. Country fried steak, cornbread, and chowder are staples of a great meal here. They served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

164 Old Mill Ave, Pigeon Forge, TN

Cliff Tops Bar & Grill at Anakeesta
If you are spending a day up on the mountain at Anakeesta, the Cliff Tops Grill & Bar is a great place to grab lunch or dinner. The Brisket Philly Cheesesteak is especially tasty and the kids meal of mac & cheese is also quite delicious. 

576 Parkway Suite A, Gatlinburg, TN

Cliff Top Bar & Grill at Anakeesta

Big Daddy’s Pizza
With a handful of locations in both towns, Big Daddy’s is a decent option for families who want something simple, easy, and pleasing to everyone. 

Various locations in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN

Southern Comfort
The flagstone restaurant at the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg, Southern Comfort serves up lowcountry cuisine with a Cajun twist. It’s delicious and you’ll want to keep coming back for more. The hospitality is just as sweet as the s’mores dessert.

915 Westgate Resorts Road, Gatlinburg, TN

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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