Did you know Wilderness at the Smokies is under three hours’ drive and has three waterparks? Sign us up! Kristina took her family to Wilderness at the Smokies in Sevierville, TN to experience this family-friendly resort and tells us all about it and why it’s such a perfect place for a family trip. Thanks to the Wilderness at the Smokies for providing us with media tickets.
If you are looking for a weekend trip, a few days for a family vacation, or a special getaway with a birthday kid or special occasion, the Wilderness at the Smokies resort is an excellent option. Why? Because you don’t even need to leave the property for entertainment and dining. Park the car and have a blast. And it’s all under three hours driving distance from the Upstate.
Wilderness at the Smokies: The Resort
Owned by Wilderness Resorts and Waterparks, the Wilderness at the Smokies has several room options, includes ones with bunk beds for kids and adjacent rooms with full kitchens and living rooms. The room we stayed in had a queen bed and bunk bed plus had a pullout bed and a Murphy bed in the adjacent living room. It was huge. Our room faced one of the enormous outdoor waterparks at the River Lodge and had easy access to entertainment and dining and a short walk from the parking lot.
We had the option to take advantage of early check-in so we could spend as much time as possible checking out the property, which got us in our room by Noon. If you have this option, we would recommend it, especially since it got more crowded as the afternoon wore on. We never had to wait long for any ride but it was nice to run through quickly everything we wanted to do.
Wilderness at the Smokies: Dining
There are several dining options at the resort, most of which have burgers, salads, fries, and desserts. We opted for the buffet dinner at the Thirsty Miner restaurant, which overlooks the indoor waterpark. It was pretty decent for a buffet and we got to try all the desserts, which was a win for the kids.
They have a new Candy Cabin (to buy candy by the pound) and frozen yogurt place also, both of which are right next to the Thirsty Miner at the indoor waterpark. And for adults, there are lots of options for adult beverages throughout the resort. I saw several huge frozen drinks that grownups were toting around. They looked delicious, I have to say.
The resort also offers food delivery right to your room. Prices are pretty much the same as dining at restaurants so this is a great option if you’re totally wiped out at the end of the day. We were pretty beat and I was starving so I dragged my kids to the restaurant (really, I wanted all the desserts).
Wilderness at the Smokies: Waterparks
The resort has three waterparks, including Tennessee’s largest indoor waterpark with an attached arcade, snack bars, and restaurants. The largest waterpark, one of the two outdoor ones, is at the main building, the River Lodge. There are three water slide attractions, a mat tube run, a bigger tube vortex ride, and a free-fall water slide. Kids have to be 42” to ride the mat tube run and the larger tube ride. You need to be 48” tall to ride the free fall. That was a hard no for me! My kids and I did several runs on the mat tube one, especially in the hour before closing as there was no line.
Other favorites were the big wave pool and lazy river. There’s also a ton of chairs and tables to hang out at or eat your lunch or dinner. Cabanas can be rented for anywhere from $180 up to $250 a day, which are personal covered tents that come with plenty of chairs and towels. You can even have food and drinks delivered to them.
The indoor waterpark, the Wild WaterDome, is Tennessee’s largest indoor waterpark. It also has several tube rides, most of which kids can easily ride. They have a big wave pool with ocean-like waves. My kids loved this one as they splashed and jumped in the bigger waves. There is also a play area for kids with water features and zero-entry pools.
A flow rider-type ride is a blast to watch. We didn’t try it but people can attempt to not wipe out on a boogie board. And there’s an enclosed area that is super shallow and perfect for little kids. Cute little swings are perfect for babies. We saw lots of families with little ones enjoying that area.
Safety is a huge priority at the waterparks. Lifeguards are everywhere. Literally everywhere. They are methodical about when you can ride down the slides, measuring people to make sure they are at the height limit, and watching the pools closely. Life jackets aren’t mandatory but the waterparks all have them available for free if parents feel their kids need them.
Hours are different for all the waterparks so it’s best to confirm the waterpark hours before you go.
Wilderness at the Smokies: Indoor Arcade and Adventure Forest
The indoor waterpark is enormous as it is but it’s attached to a huge arcade as well. At first glance, it doesn’t look big but once you start walking around – and looking up – you realize how big it really is. There’s a ropes course, mini-golf course, climbing wall, tons of arcade games, a little frogger ride for kids, and even a laser tag course.
You can purchase day adventure passes or buy rides individually and they vary in cost. Arcade games can be played by purchasing points on a card.
The resort also has a paint-your-own-pottery place. My oldest daughter really wanted to do this but we just ran out of time. If you are at the resort for a few days, this could be a fun way to break up your waterpark adventure time.
During the winter, usually starting in mid-November, there is ice skating available at the resort. They convert part of the outdoor wave pool into an ice rink for some festive fun for both guests and the public.
My Favorite Things about Wilderness at the Smokies
I’ve been wanting to visit this resort for a while and was thrilled when I finally got the chance. It’s so close to Greenville and I had heard many great things about it from local families. And it didn’t disappoint.
- Even though the resort is huge, I didn’t find it hard to navigate. At the River Lodge, signs are posted everywhere on where things are and all the rooms surround the waterpark so it’s not hard to find your way around.
- The staff everywhere we went were very kind, considerate, and helpful, which is always appreciated.
- My kids were in heaven with the waterparks. They loved it all and as a parent, seeing your kids truly enjoy an experience makes me happy. I really liked that the resort had everything I needed, from food to entertainment, right there, and I didn’t need to drive anywhere if I didn’t want to.
- The location is fantastic. My GPS clocked the trip from Greenville at two hours and 49 minutes. It’s an easy ride that is beautiful, with views of the mountains as you head towards Tennessee on route 40. Mountains make me happy so the drive was enjoyable. Also, the resort is 40 minutes to the Sugarlands Visitor Center at the Great Smoky Mountains and an hour from Cades Cove and many popular hiking trails.
- All kids are going to enjoy this place. It seems the resort took pains to make sure the place would be enjoyable for kids of all ages. There are more adventurous rides for older kids and lots of places for the little ones to splash around and have a good time also.
- The waterparks are included with your stay at the resort, which is a nice perk when it comes to budgeting for the trip. And the indoor waterpark is open year round so you can visit any time of year!
Tips on Visiting Wilderness of the Smokies
After spending some at Wilderness of the Smokies, here are a few ideas that may make your time there even more awesome:
Get the early check-in: You can spend so much more time at the attractions before the rush around dinner time when most people check-in.
Do an early dinner: Have dinner early so you can rest a little before getting back out to the parks during the slower evening hours and not have to wait in line long.
Get a locker: You can rent a small locker for $10 for the whole day and keep your wallet, phone, or camera in there without worrying about it.
Visit Soaky Mountain: When you stay at Wilderness of the Smokies, you can purchase heavily discounted tickets to Soaky Mountain, a huge waterpark right across the street, for $19.99. They also offer free tickets sometimes over the summer so always check the Wilderness of the Smokies social media for deals. They are open during the summer.
Fantastic weekend adventure: If you just need to get away for the weekend, this resort is ideal. Everything you need to have fun is right there and you can see and do a lot of what’s offered in a couple of days.
Ask about free/discounted tickets to local attractions: Be sure to ask Guest Services about any discounted or free tickets they have to local attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg and WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge.
Booking your trip
Book Stone Hill Lodge at Wilderness of the Smokies
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You’ll definitely want to check their website for specials like Homeschool Days where rooms are as low as $89 for the Stone Hill Lodge and $109 per night for the River Lodge, discounted/free passes for Soaky Mountain, specials on back-to-school, etc.
Room prices will vary by season and room type. Wilderness at the Smokies has suites, one and two bedrooms, and villas available. There are free shuttles amongst all the buildings at the resort.
Day passes may be available for certain dates so if you’re in the area but not staying at the resort, a Wilderness at the Smokies Day Pass could be really fun.