Is your family planning a vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee? There are so many fun things to do in Gatlinburg, TN and the Pigeon Forge area that we have put together a full Gatlinburg Travel 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 vacation destination.
A few tips:
- Starting March 1, 2023, you must have a parking pass on your car if you park for more than 15 minutes inside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. A daily pass is $5, a weekly pass is $15, and a yearly pass is $40.
- 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. Pigeon Forge has a wonderful guide with coupons that is available online and via hard copy at the Welcome Center. It can also be mailed to you.
- There are a bunch of coupon books in almost every restaurant and shop in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge. They all offer a least a couple of 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 a couple of visits.
What is There to Do in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge?
Check out these Gatlinburg attractions and things to do near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN.
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, Astra Lumina light display, 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
Read our KA review of Anakeesta to see how amazing this place is!
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
A truly fun experience for the whole family, Wonderworks is an indoor entertainment facility with a glow-in-the-dark ropes course, a 3-D roller coaster, a bubble room, laser tag, a climbing wall, an 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
Wonderworks could easily fill up a day of adventure while in Pigeon Forge. Learn more in our KA review of Wonderworks!
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 KA Dollywood review will tell you all the best places to visit while at Dollywood. Adult tickets are $89 and kids are $79/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.
2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN
Read our Dollywood Splash Country review, written by a local mom with lots of tips. Learn about the best things to do at the park.
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. The total time you’re in the theater is a little over two-and-a-half hours. Tickets are $59.99/adults and $34.99/kids ages 3-11 and under 2 are free.
119 Music Road, Pigeon Forge
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 KA review of the Titanic Museum.
2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN
Learn why the Titanic Museum is a must-see when visiting Pigeon Forge, Tennessee!
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
This 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
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 downtown 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 Guinness 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. You will learn everything you need to know before going in our KA review of Soaky Mountain Waterpark.
175 Gists Creek Road, Sevierville, 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
This snow tubing place is open all year round because it’s indoors! This place has real snow for the tubing lanes plus a snow area where kids can build forts and snowmen. Plus, it’s always around 60-70 degrees inside so you aren’t freezing. Kids must be 38″ tall to tube. If not, you can buy them a ticket just to play in the snow. Tickets start at $29.99 for an hour of snow tubing and at $36.99 for tubing plus 30 minutes of snow play. No reservations are needed. See our full review here.
2533 Teaster Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN
Learn why Pigeon Forge Snow is such an epic place to play while visiting Pigeon Forge!
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 this mountain 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 of dollars off each ticket. Read more in our KA review of the Gatlinburg SkyBridge here.
765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
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. They 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
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! You can read our KA review of The Lost Sea Adventure to learn more. 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 of the smokies. Cruise through Cades Cove or Roaring Fork Motor Trail to see if you can spot black bears. Read more in our KA review of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and all there is to do and see in the Smokies.
Please note that since March 1, 2023, the National Park has instituted 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.
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!
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.
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.
Every year around June, the synchronous fireflies appear in the Smoky Mountains to do their annual mating dance. And it is a sight to see! Millions of these fireflies light up all around you then go quiet for about eight seconds and then light up again.
It is completely fascinating to see and we highly recommend trying to get a lottery ticket or booking a campsite at Elkmont during that time of year to see them. To enter the lottery, you pay $1 and if you win, your parking pass is $25. A campsite at Elkmont is around $30.
Things to Do During the Holidays in Gatlinburg and 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 snow globe, watch a nativity show, and enjoy the rides. They have beautiful light displays as well. It’s an amazing time to visit the amusement park. Read what we loved about the Smoky Mountain Christmas in our review.
2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN
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 KA review of Winterfest and be sure to pick up the guide that the City of Pigeon Forge offers, which includes coupons.
Where to Stay in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
There are hundreds of places to stay in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area. All of these places we list below are places we have personally stayed at and where we’ve had excellent experiences. Reviews are all linked below. If you are not staying in a Gatlinburg cabin, then these campgrounds and hotels are the best there is for a family-friendly vacation Gatlinburg vacation. So, start planning your lodging today!
You can also use the map below from Stay 22 to find other options! When you book through the map and links, we may earn through an affiliate relationship with Stay22.
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 KA review of Margaritaville Island Hotel to learn why it is such a great option.
131 The Island Dr, Pigeon Forge, TN
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 beaten 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
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
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 at around $136/night. Read our KA review of Camp LeConte and learn why we love it so much.
1739 East Pkwy, Gatlinburg, TN
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 KA review of the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort to learn more.
915 Westgate Resorts Road, Gatlinburg, TN
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 is 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 of the Smoky Hollow Outdoor Resort to get a good idea of why it’s so cool!
660 Gists Creek Road, Sevierville, TN
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 from April through October and start at $58/night.
4235 Huskey St, Pigeon Forge, TN
Inn on the River
The Inn on the River has pretty awesome amenities like both indoor and outdoor pools, free breakfast, free popcorn, hot chocolate, coffee, and tea, a free gift bag for kids, and really nice staff. Plus, they are located right on the main strip in Pigeon Forge and within walking distance to several restaurants and attractions. Read our KA review of the Inn on the River to help you decide where to lodge.
2492 Parkway, 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. Learn why we love Wilderness at the Smokies for families in our KA review!
1424 Old Knoxville Hwy, Sevierville, TN
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.
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
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
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
Looking for more travel ideas? Check out our Travel Guide, with ideas for travel throughout the Southeast and beyond!