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Top 21 Fun Things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

The Smokies offer forests to explore with trout-filled rivers and waterfalls. Credit: Pigeon Forge Dept of Tourism

The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina offer travelers glorious scenery to explore along with attractions and entertainment venues. It is a year-round mountain destination and home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Outdoor activities are some of the most popular, like rafting, horseback riding, mountain coasters and zorbing. However, there are tons of indoor attractions too. To help you plan your trip, here are the top things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Table of Contents

Top 21 Places to Visit in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Parrot Mountain and Gardens 
  • Dollywood
  • Ober Gatlinburg
  • Gatlinburg Aerial Tram
  • Titanic Museum Attraction
  • Mysterious Mansion of Gatlinburg
  • The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel
  • Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
  • Wonder Works
  • Pigeon Forge Snow
  • Gatlinburg Sky Lift Park and Sky Bridge
  • Gatlinburg Space Needle
  • Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum
  • Hollywood Star Cars Museum
  • Hollywood Wax Museum
  • Anakeesta Outdoor Park
  • Outdoor Gravity Park
  • Rafting in the Smokies
  • Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster
  • Horseback Riding at Sugarlands Riding Stables

Why Visit Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

As the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this area is packed with fun things to do. The national park is a must, along with top destinations like Dollywood and Ober Gatlinburg. A four-season destination, the area is beautiful year-round.

The area celebrates the influence and culture of the Appalachian mountains, from its food to its music. The museums are a must as well, and the Titanic Museum Attraction is filled with artifacts from the actual ship. Stops like the Salt and Pepper Museum is a quirky stop.

For outdoor enthusiasts, there are oodles to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Best bets: hiking, river rafting or even the Outdoor Gravity Park, where visitors climb inside a clear ball and roll down a hill. The kids will want to do the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster over and over again.

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Great Smoky Mountains
Visit the largest protected area on the East Coast. Credit: Pixabay

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

Spanning two states, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the U.S. With over 520,000 acres, visitors will find plenty of space to wander.

Offering a different landscape to explore for every season, it’s a robust year-round destination. Fall foliage attracts leaf peepers from all corners. Winter offers a snow-draped forest to explore. Spring wildflowers pop up early, coloring the forest. The synchronous fireflies dazzle with a summertime light show.

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Cades Cove

South of Townsend, Tennessee, it’s a popular area with the Cades Loop Road. Find lots of wildlife viewing opportunities along the highest concentration of historic buildings. Additionally, Cades Cove features a visitor center and campground, plus a horse camp. 


Located east on the North Carolina side of the park. The road into the area is narrow and winding. An elk herd can be seen in the Cataloochee area along with historic buildings. Cataloochee Creek is noted for wild trout. Also find camping along with a horse camp. 

Clingmans Dome

At 6,643 ft (2,024m), it’s the highest point in the park and in Tennessee. It’s also the third-highest peak on the East Coast. Find a paved path to the observation tower off Newfound Gap Road.

Deep Creek

Located on the southern edge of the park, near Bryson City, North Carolina. This area is known for its creeks, waterfalls and fishing. Find seasonal camping and hiking as well. 


From early logging to a private resort area to a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, it’s been a hub for activity for over 100 years. Located southeast of Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Find a large campground along with historic cabins, like the Appalachian Clubhouse.

Mountain Farm Museum

Located next to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, north of Cherokee, North Carolina. Find a collection of log buildings reconstructed in this area. Walk through a farmhouse along with the outbuildings, like a springhouse, barn and blacksmith shop. 

Newfound Gap

At 5,046 ft. (1,538m), it’s the lowest drivable mountain pass, so this area offers some of the best views without a hike. Located near Clingmans Dome. 

Roaring Fork—As a Motor Nature Trail close to Gatlinburg, it’s a popular destination. Find waterfalls along historic buildings.  

Spend as little or as much time as you want. It’s open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and its $5 parking permit is at the visitor centers. The Gatlinburg Trolley stops at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, the closest to Gatlinburg.

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Parrot Mountain and Gardens 

Located on four acres of landscaped gardens, visitors will find exotic and tropical birds and views of the Smoky Mountains. The birds are housed in enclosures, and some are even available for sale. The Parrot Mountain and Gardens offers a gift shop and deli. The fall color at the park is another top thing to see.

Located at 1471 McCarter Hollow Rd. Open seasonally from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (5 p.m. in  November and December) from March until December. Adult admission is $29.95, and kids (2 – 10) are $19.95.

Dollywood in Pigeon Forge
Dollywood celebrates the arts and culture of Appalachia. Credit: Dollywood


Celebrating its 35th year in 2020, visit the amusement park that Dolly Parton opened to celebrate the food, culture and music of Southern Appalachia. Sitting on a 150-acre parcel, find Dollywood amusement park, Dollywood’s Splash Country (seasonal waterpark) and Dollywood’s Dreammore Resort and Spa. It’s the biggest attraction outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Find thrill rides, like the Tennessee Tornado, and rides for the littles, like the Dollywood Express train. Take in a show, like country, gospel or animal shows, all scheduled throughout the day.

Dollywood hosts several popular festivals during the year, like Dollywood’s Harvest Festival with Great Pumpkin LumiNights featuring hand-carved pumpkins. The Smoky Mountains Christmas is also a popular event with five million sparkling lights.

Located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd. in Pigeon Forge. Admission is based on age. Open daily from mid-March through New Year’s.

Ober Gatlinburg

As a year-round mountain resort find seasonal events along with a traditional ski resort in the winter. Take the aerial tram from the center of Gatlinburg for the most picturesque way to the resort. It’s nestled in the mountains west of town and the only ski resort in Tennessee.

Fall—Oktoberfest celebrates Bavarian food, beer and entertainment and runs through October.

Winter—Find a ski resort with two ski lifts and one surface lift with a variety of runs and a terrain park for skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing. Equipment rental on-site and lessons are available. Lift tickets start at $40, and multi-day tickets are available. Tubing starts in late November, and skiing in December through March.

Spring—Find an assortment of activities, including an alpine slide, a mountain coaster, a scenic chairlift and more. Mayfest is a popular event.

Summer—Everything in the spring plus more, like ice skating and ice bumper cars, summer tubing and water raft rides.

Located at 1339 Ski Mountain Rd. Admission is based on age and activity.

Gatlinburg Aerial Tram

Soar above the forest in one of the largest trams in the U.S. Depart Gatlinburg for a scenic ride to the Ober Gatlinburg resort, nestled in the mountains above town. The 120-person tram whisks passengers 2.1 miles and departs every 20 minutes.

Located at 1001 Parkway. Admission is separate and is $29 per person (5 and older). Open daily with varying hours.

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Titanic in Pigeon Forge
Visit a half-scale reproduction of the RMS Titanic. Credit: Titanic Museum

Titanic Museum Attraction

It’s hard to miss the one-half-scale replica of the ill-fated ship while driving through Pigeon Forge. Find a two-story facility with an exact replica of the Grand Staircase and 400 artifacts from the sunken ship and its passengers. Touch an iceberg and feel the 28F water surrounding the RMS Titanic as it sank.

Located at 2134 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. Adult admission starts at $35, $15 for kids (5 – 12) with family packages available. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Online reservations are required. 

Mysterious Mansion of Gatlinburg

Wander through the dark with ghouls and goblins popping out of every dark corner. Experience this year-round, three-story Victorian haunted house that opened in 1980.

Located at 424 River Rd. in Gatlinburg. Adult admission is $20, and kids (7 – 12) $15. Open daily from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on weekends from Spring until Fall.

The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel 

Take in the Great Smoky Mountains from 200 feet (60m) up in a glass-enclosed cabin on the observation wheel. Then enjoy The Island Show Fountain with 89 water jets that project water up to 60 feet (18m) in the air, choreographed to one of 14 songs. 

Also, find rides like The Flying Horse Carousel along with an arcade, escape room and ropes course. Additionally find dining and shopping in this complex. 

Located at 131 The Island Dr. in Pigeon Forge. Admission to The Island is free. Adult admission is $16.99 and $11.99 for kids (3 to 11) to the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days of the year. 

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

As one of the best aquariums in North America, the aquarium has an underwater tunnel with lots to see. Visit one of the touch tanks, see the penguins play, and marvel at sting rays. Animal encounters and educational activities are available.

Located at 88 River Rd. in Gatlinburg. Adult admission is $39.99 and, kids (6-11) are $24.99 and tots $9.99. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on the weekends.

Wonder Works 

Walk into the upside-down building to experience 100 hands-on exhibits in different zones, including extreme weather, space and even art. Then, find an indoor ropes course and laser tag. 

Located at 100 Music Rd. in Pigeon Forge. Adult admission is $33.99 and kids (4 – 12) are $25.99. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days. 

Pigeon Forge Snow 

Take a tube down a snow-covered indoor hill year-round. Best of all, the indoor temperature is about 65F/18C. 

Located at 2533 Teaster Ln. in Pigeon Forge. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (9 p.m. Friday and Saturday) Admission is $29.99 for one hour of tubing.

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Gatlinburg Sky Lift Park and Sky Bridge 

Head to the heart of Gatlinburg then board a scenic chair lift to the top of Crockett Mountain. Take in the views on the SkyDeck. If you dare, walk across the largest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. Make it across the glass panels of the 680-foot bridge for a double dare. 

Located at 765 Parkway in Gatlinburg. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday during the summer). Adult admission is $25.95 and kids (6 – 11) are $15.95. 

Note: The Gatlinburg Sky Lift Park and Sky Bridge is undergoing a renovation.

Gatlinburg Space Needle

Head up 407 feet on a glass elevator for an amazing 360-degree view of the Smokies. Also on-site is a large arcade. 

Located at 115 Historic Nature Trail in Gatlinburg. Adult admisstion is $15.95 and kids (4 – 11) are $9.95 and family passes available. Open daily from 10 a.m. until late with seasonal hours.

Quirky Attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum

Who knew you could find a museum dedicated to salt and pepper shakers? And it features 20,000 pairs. 

Located at 461 Brookside Village Way in Gatlinburg. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Adult admission is $3. 

Hollywood Star Cars Museum

Here’s a museum for the automotive enthusiast. See the 1966 Batmobile from the hit TV show. Find the 1969 Dodge Charger, The General Lee, from the Dukes of Hazzard. And don’t forget to catch Dolly Parton’s 1997 Cadillac D’Elegence.

Located at 914 Parkway in Gatlinburg. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Adult admission is $17.99 and kids (6 – 12) are $9.99. 

Alcatraz East Crime Museum 

Explore two floors with notorious crime evidence, like Ed Bundy’s VW Beetle. Then, take a look at OJ Simpson’s white Bronco. Also, learn about crime investigation during your visit.

Located at 2757 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on weekends). Adult admission is $28.95, and kids (8 – 12) are $14.95a

Hollywood Wax Museum 

See the Great Ape of Pigeon Forge as it scales the Empire State Building outside. Inside, explore two floors of your favorite stars in wax with props for selfies. 

Located at 106 Showplace Blvd. in Pigeon Forge. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 midnight. Adult admission starts at $30.99, and kids (4 – 11) are $19.99.

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Outdoor Adventures in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

Anakeesta Outdoor Park

Explore the outdoors with a Skywalk, which features 16 treetop bridges that connect to form 800 feet of high adventure. Or head up to the Anavista Tower for a unique vantage point of the Smokies. You can also find dueling zip lines, a botanical garden and a mountain coaster. 

Located at 576 Parkway in Gatlinburg. Open daily at 10 a.m. with seasonal hours. Adult admission is $34.99 and kids (4 – 11 ) are $22.99.  

Outdoor Gravity Park

Have you heard of Zorbing? The kids have. Don’t feel bad; this is the only zorbing park in the U.S. 

Climb into an 11-foot inflatable ball and bounce down the 1000-foot hillside with several different courses available. And they add water to the ball with you and a couple of your friends—equally exhilarating or nauseating. 

Located at 203 Sugar Hollow Rd. in Pigeon Forge. Open daily with several time slots. One roll is $22 with up to three riders (charged separately), 5 and older. Reservations recommended for this in-demand event. 

Rafting in the Smokies 

With a whitewater trip (class III and IV ) and a family float (class I and II), enjoy the Pigeon River with experienced guides. Navigating the Pigeon River since 1978, trips are offered in the summer only. 

Located at I-40 exit 447 in Hartford, it offers prices starting at $44 a person, with a minimum age restriction.  

Moonshine Mountain Coaster

Zip through the Smokies at speeds up to 30 mph in an individual cart or tandem. Do it at night for a different experience. 

Located at 306 Parkway in Gatlinburg, it is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (11 p.m. Friday and Saturday). Adult rides are $17, kids (8- 12) are $14, and little kids ride for $5. Age and weight restrictions apply. 

Horseback Riding 

Offering one to four-hour guided trail rides through the forest and next to streams. Age and weight restrictions apply.

Located at 1409 Parkway in Gatlinburg. Open from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from mid-March through late November.

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Where to Shop in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg 

The Old Mill

Learn how the water turned grain into flour along the shores of Little Pigeon Forge River starting in 1830. Find two restaurants, two pottery studios, an ice cream shop, a candy maker with some of the best fudge in the area, a distillery along with shopping including the Old Mill products and a shop for cooks. 

Located at 175 Old Mill Ave. in Pigeon Forge. Open daily with varying hours. No admission to enter. 

The Island in Pigeon Forge 

Home of the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, along with shopping and dining. 

Located at 131 The Island Dr. Open daily with varying hours. No admission to enter.

Pigeon Forge Factory Outlet Mall

Located at 2850 Parkway. Open daily with varying hours. No admission to enter. 

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Moonshine in Gatlinburg
Try some local liquor when visiting the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area. Credit: Sugarlands Distilling Company

Where to Eat and Drink in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

Find several dinner-with-a-show venues in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas. 

Dolly Parton’s Stampede 

Enjoy dinner and a show, starting with a tour of the stables along the horse walk. Then, enjoy a family-style meal with rotisserie chicken and sides. The show features horse stunts and pyrotechnics. 

Located at 3849 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. Open daily with a selection of show times. Prices start at $59.99 per person (10+)  and $34.00 for kids (3 – 9).

Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show

Pick your side and enjoy some grub for a dinner music show featuring the legendary family feud. Serving fried chicken and pulled pork BBQ along with sides. 

Located at 119 Music Rd. in Pigeon Forge. Open daily with a selection of show times. Prices at $59.99 per person (10+)  and $34.00 for kids (3 – 9).

Log Cabin Pancake House 

With breakfast served all day, find an assortment of pancakes along with lunch. It opened in 1976 and features a covered wagon out front. 

Located at 327 Historic Nature Trail in Gatlinburg. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 

The iconic chain got its start in Tennessee in 1969 outside of Nashville.  Find two in Pigeon Forge and one in Sevierville. 

Mountain Valley Vineyards

Find an outdoor seating area with free tastings. 

Located at 2174 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Mill Bridge Winery 

Another option with an outdoor seating area and free tastings also serves cider. 

Located at 3331 S. River Rd. in Pigeon Forge. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. ( 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday).

Sugarlands Distilling Company 

Learn how moonshine is produced with a tour followed by a tasting. 

Located at 805 Parkway in Gatlinburg. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tasting is $5 per person. 

Smoky Mountains Brewery 

With a location in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, sample one of its seasonal brews or its flagship brews. Food also available.

Located at 1004 Parkway in Gatlinburg and 2350 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. Open 11:30 a.m. to midnight.

Where to Stay in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

As an easy road trip destination, the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area offers loads of lodging options. Find everything from remote backcountry camping in the national park to glamorous mountain homes. In town, find the hotel brands you know and trust within walking distance of shuttles and attractions. Or head minutes out of town for a quaint mountain escape.

Located south of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Interstate 40, Sevierville is the first of a series of towns catering to vacationers.

Pigeon Forge

Located five miles north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it offers a host of lodging, dining, shopping and attractions. It’s home to Dollywood, adjoins Gatlinburg, and is the largest gateway community. Get around with an inexpensive shuttle or walk along the greenways.


Located directly north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it offers a more outdoorsy vibe. As a four-season destination, visitors will find dining, lodging and attractions and it’s home to the mountain resort, Ober Gatlinburg. Use the shuttle to the Sugarlands Visitor Center from downtown.

Getting Around Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

This area is popular year-round and can bottleneck with traffic, so hop an inexpensive trolley (and sometimes free) instead. 

Pigeon Forge Greenways 

Find six miles of trails in Pigeon Forge, including the Riverwalk Greenway along the shores of the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Free

Pigeon Forge Trolley

With six color-coded routes, get to where you need to go without driving, like Dollywood or the Gatlinburg Welcome Center. The fare is $3 per person for all day. The trolley runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the year and 8 a.m. to midnight during the summer. 

Gatlinburg Trolley 

With seven color-coded routes, the Gatlinburg Trolley stops at 100 different locations. It’s free.

Weather in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

Winter: Highs—50sF (9 to 15C) Lows—20sF (0 to -3C)

Spring: Highs—70sF (21 to 25C) Lows— 40sF (4 to 9C) 

Summer: Highs—80sF (23 to 30C) Lows—50sF (11 to 14C)

Fall—Highs 60sF (15 to 19C) S Lows—40sF (4 to 9C)

Rainfall is consistent year-rou,nd with 4 to 5 inches (100 to 150mm) month,ly with snow in the winter.

How to Get to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg Tennessee

For commercial air travel, use the McGhee Tyson Regional Airport (TYS) near Knoxville, about 40 miles west of Gatlinburg.

Located south of Interstate 40, U.S. Route 441 connects Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and continues south through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Newfound Gap Road). It’s concurrent with U.S. Route 321, though the routes separate at Pigeon Forge and Route 321 doesn’t enter the park.  

Head to the Smokies in Tennessee for a four-season getaway centered around outdoor adventure and unique attractions. Home to Dollywood, Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with the Ober Gatlinburg Mountain Resort. Also find lodging, dining, live entertainment and shopping in the gateway towns just north of the National Park. What to do in the Smokies | What do to in Pigeon Forge | Where's Gatlinburg | Smoky Mountain cabins #Tennessee #PigeonForge #Gatlinburg

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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