Disclosure: Thank you to Pigeon Forge Tourism for hosting me on a recent visit. All opinions are my own.
If you are planning a weekend getaway to the Great Smoky Mountains then consider spending a few days in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Not only is it within driving distance of many major cities such as Charlotte, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Birmingham, among others but there’s something for all ages. During a long weekend getaway, we went to a water park AND snow park in June! Whether you are visiting as a family or a couple, you won’t be disappointed.
Despite being born in Georgia and raised in Alabama, I never visited the Smoky Mountains until now.
My oldest daughter went to college last year so I’m under no illusion how quickly time passes and how our children grow. My son heads to college this time next year. Then it’s just my husband and I along with our 8 year old daughter. Over the years I’ve tried to create special travel memories with all of my children. To me, travel provides something much more than a material item that will eventually be thrown away. The memories and education that come from travel will last a lifetime. We’ve traveled internationally with all three children. I’ve tried to surprise all three with trips over time. Trips for just ‘us’. It was Los Angeles for my oldest daughter (and her best friend) the Dominican Republic with my son, and Great Wolf Lodge with my youngest. What can I say? She’s easy to please! Ha! While I missed having my husband and my oldest daughter travel with me this last weekend, I was happy to enjoy some time with my youngest two in Pigeon Forge.
I often see the question on Facebook “What should we do while in Pigeon Forge?”. This seems to be a common destination for many of my old friends. It’s rare that I take a trip where I enjoy every single activity. Usually when we vacation to a new place, you learn there’s something you may not be fond of. That’s why we take repeat vacations to those places we love. Right? I have to admit. There’s nothing I didn’t like about Pigeon Forge. I was worried it would be a bit to ‘touristy’ for me. Despite the area being small, there was so much to do and I never felt it was cheesy. Because I loved it so much, I wanted to share my personal itinerary with you!
We arrived to Pigeon Forge on a Friday afternoon. I don’t like to be rushed on my day of arrival on holiday so we had an easy evening ahead of us planned. We spent a couple of hours walking around the Island in Pigeon Forge which was only a 2 minute drive from our hotel, the Black Fox Lodge. There’s so much to do at the island. Restaurants, shops, and plenty of activities for all ages. My children really enjoyed the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel while I enjoyed the Island Show Fountain which plays every 30 minutes. The wheel stands at 200 feet tall and is one of the tallest attractions in the Southeast. I’m a wuss so I let the kids ride this alone.
We had a hard time making a decision when ordering at this lodge-themed restaurant. My son said it best “we could come here nearly every day and still have new things to choose off the menu.” We started with Fried Pickle Spears with Jalapeño Ranch. I then ordered the Smoky’s Fancy Chicken-grilled chicken breast brushed with homemade sweet bourbon glaze, topped with sautéed onions, creamy goat cheese and thick cut peppered bacon accompanied by fresh steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes. Hungry yet? My son ordered the Ribs and Brisket platter with mac & cheese and sweet potatoes. The kids meal was enough for an adult! Thumbs up from Harlow. She was happy with her steak. And somehow they had room for ice cream after!
I am going to be honest when I say that I’ve never been much of an amusement park person. I don’t ride many rides. I’m usually the purse holder. I am not afraid of heights but my heart just doesn’t handle rollercoasters or even kid rides for that matter. I don’t love big crowds either. However, I was pleasantly surprised with Dollywood’s Splash Country. There was plenty for all ages but I didn’t feel it was so large that you’d end up lost. Everyone around us was having a great time. I’m an observer and I loved seeing all of the smiles and laughter. I highly recommend getting there early. We arrived as the park was opening and this allowed for closer parking, shorter lines, and we had no trouble getting a locker upon entering the park. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t ride rides. That is, until my children beg me to. I fell into their trap and agreed to ride River Rush. It’s a water coaster! I don’t mind water rides. They seem safer so I agreed. Now for a good laugh. All smiles at the beginning of the ride.
And….AFTER. In my defense, this was after the first drop. I wasn’t ready!
I agreed to visit the Alcatraz East Museum as my son was really interested. He and I both love crime documentaries and are fascinated by some of the stories that are highlighted at the museum. One of their most famous artifacts is THE white bronco OJ Simpson drove during that famous chase many of us are familiar with. They also have Ted Bundy’s Volkswagen Beetle. There’s one section dedicated to murders and kidnappings. I tried to distract my 8 year old but it wasn’t that easy. This area did scare her a little bit. She’s a really good reader so she didn’t miss anything. Her fear only lasted for that night and she eventually forgot about it. Just use caution in this area of the museum with little ones.
Hand crafted dough, wood fired pizza, and an arcade. This restaurant is so committed to the freshness of their pizzas that they don’t keep a freezer on site. I’ve never even heard of that before!
I’m still dreaming of this taco pie.
This cafe is so adorable. Not only does it have 100 animatronic chickens that serenade you while you eat but how can you not love a place that has funfetti pancakes, cinnamon roll pancakes, and pancakes that are shaped like bears.
This place is one of the coolest (see what I did there) places I’ve been to! It’s the only indoor snow park in the United States. You can snow tube all year long here plus they have a great snow play area. I loved seeing my little girl’s face every time she came down the hill but what I also enjoyed watching was the adults. They seemed to be having as much fun as all of the children. In fact, I witnessed a small group of adults that came to Pigeon Forge Snow and they didn’t have any little ones with them. This place is truly for all ages. Same tip as I’ve mentioned about other places. Arrive early. We arrived about 10 minutes after they opened on a Sunday and the line moved quickly.
Let me start off by saying I love museums. I have visited museums all over the world and this is by far one of my favorites. The creator thought of absolutely every detail needed to tell the complete story of those onboard the Titanic. It was a little busy so I missed a few displays. I plan on returning in the future. It’s absolutely incredible. In addition to original artifacts and an unbelievable amount of information, the Titanic Museum has the world’s largest Titanic Ship that was built with LEGO Bricks! It took 11 months to build. 56,000 LEGO® Bricks. It’s 26ft x 5ft.
This masterpiece was created by a 10 year old boy from ICELAND who actually has Autism. It’s something that one should truly experience in person.
If you are looking for a clean comedy show that your entire family will love then the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud is the place to be. When I received my itinerary, this is what my daughter was looking forward to the most. (aside from the water park). She was so excited to eat and watch a show. Arrive HUNGRY. The food is all you can eat!!! Of course this was something my son was looking forward to. If you are a Southern Belle like myself then you’ll also be thrilled to see your favorites. Fried chicken, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, rolls, and banana pudding. I felt like I didn’t need to eat for days after dinner was over. The show was really funny and I was extremely impressed by the talent. Singing, clogging, acrobats, the show wasn’t lacking of talent.
On our final morning in Pigeon Forge, we grabbed a pre-ordered lunch from Bullfish Grill and made our way to Metcalf Bottoms. This is a great place to have a picnic, enjoy the views of Little River, and spend some time just exploring the Great Smoky Mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is filled with historic cabins from so long ago. There’s some pretty amazing stories to come from the park including the one about the Walker Sisters. We did go searching for the cabin which we never found. I later found out we were only .5 miles away! We did get to see the Little Greenbrier School which is a former school and church from the late 1800s to early 1900s. If in the area, I suggest giving yourself plenty of time to explore. We had to hit the road to begin our drive but we plan on returning. We are determined to see the Walker Sisters home!
Where to Stay? Black Fox Lodge 3731 Parkway Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
This hotel is now part of the Hilton Tapestry Collection.