One of the most popular tourist gateways to the Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is very much its own draw. Absolutely packed to the gills with attractions and activities perfect for families and other groups, the town is an absolute blast, whether you’re en route to Great Smoky Mountains National Park or spending the bulk of your Smoky Mountain getaway right in Pigeon Forge itself—entirely possible to do.
Here’s a look at 10 of the very best things to do with a gaggle of kids or friends in “The Center of Fun in the Smokies!:
The person most associated in the public consciousness with Pigeon Forge must be famed country singer-songwriter Dolly Parton, who’s attached to a number of high-profile family-friendly destinations here. Among them is the Stampede Dinner Attraction, at which you can tuck into a multi-course Southern dinner while enjoying quite the variety of live entertainment: from stunt riding and musical performances to pig and ostrich (yes, ostrich) races. It’s all structured around a good-humored “North vs. South” competition, and the show’s capped off with a video of Parton herself singing “Color Me America” with the support of the cast.
Trampoline setups of every sort await you and the gang at TopJump Trampoline Park, including “bouncified” versions of popular sports. Besides the high-flying trampolines themselves, you’ll also find such good stuff as a 5,000-square-foot arcade, ball and foam pits, and an impressive climbing course on offer here, plus the well-named Sugar Rush candy shop. Grownups will appreciate the relaxing hangouts of the TopJump lobby and viewing area while the younger crowd goes nuts (under supervision, of course).
No, Pigeon Forge isn’t a seaside town, but you can indulge in the fantasy that it is at The Island, a beach-themed complex of shops, restaurants, and amusement attractions. From the “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” vibe of Margaritaville and puzzle and comic-book stores to such rides as the 200-foot-tall Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, a 7D theater, and an elaborate fountain show, The Island’s got all age appeal.
One of The Island’s attractions warrants its own treatment: the awesome Escape Game, which challenges you and your teammates to solve your way out of a themed room within an hour’s time. A nationally top-rated escape-room experience, Escape Game Pigeon Forge includes such specific setups as Gold Rush, in which you’re trying to track down Clyde Hamilton’s loot; Mission: Mars, a race against time to fix your broken-down spaceship amid cosmic radiation; and, hardest of all, Prison Break, an attempt to bust out of a jail cell you’ve been (wrongly, of course) locked in.
Here’s a Pigeon Forge experience you just can’t have anywhere else! The Outdoor Gravity Park gives you the one-of-a-kind thrill of climbing inside a giant inflatable ball and rolling—in oversized-hamster fashion—your way along multiple downhill tracks: the FUNnel, the Speed Demon, and the Extreme Zig Zag. Even the name of the activity is itself irresistible: zorbing. There’s both “dry zorbing” and “wet zorbing” (which slicks up your blow-up ball with a bit of water) on offer depending on the season.
Rub shoulders with icons of the silver screen and the concert arena at Pigeon Forge’s Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center, unmissable given a facade incorporating King Kong scaling New York skyscrapers and a version of Mount Rushmore. The two floors of this wax museum include lifelike statues of such Hollywood stars as Marilyn Monroe, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom Hanks, plus Johnny Cash, Taylor Swift, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton (naturally), and other legendary musicians. Besides the waxy celebs, you can walk through the Outbreak–Dread the Undead zombie experience or Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors, or strap in for the Castle of Chaos 5D theater experience.
Soak up the beauty and the history of the Smoky Mountain foothills from the saddle at the Five Oaks Riding Stables, which leads guided trail rides across its 70 lovely, wooded acres. Your horseback perch will give you views of vintage moonshine stills, Pigeon Forge city prospects, and, potentially, such native critters as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys.
These aren’t your grandparents’ go-karts! At the Xtreme Racing Center, you can crank up the speed on a twisty, 3,500-foot main track in “Xtreme Karts” that can go past 40 miles per hour. There are slower go-karts available, though, and indeed a separate, tamer elevated track ideal for parents and younger kids.
Logging’s central to Pigeon Forge history, and that sawdust-swirling history’s on full and entertaining display at Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show & Adventure Park. You’ll enjoy quite the thrilling contest between two rival “logging families” as elite athletes show off their skills in hand-sawing, chainsawing, log-rolling, wood-chopping, and more. There are even opportunities at intermission to roll up your sleeves and give these lumbering skills a try yourself.
How in the world could Dollywood not make this list? Pigeon Forge’s best-known attraction, which adjoins the Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark and the aforementioned Stampede Dinner Attraction, draws better than three million visitors each year to its dozens of rides and multiple live shows. From the Sky Rider and the Lightning Rod to the Tennessee Tornado and the Smoky Mountain River Rampage, Dollywood ramps up the thrills and serves as a quintessential Smoky Mountain family experience.
Oodles of Fun in Pigeon Forge
Whether you’re visiting with a passel or two of kids, or on a vacation with friends, Pigeon Forge has just about endless opportunities for year-round indoor and outdoor fun right at the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains. (C’mon: You’re ready to try zorbing now, aren’t you?)