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Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Spotlight: Pigeon Forge

Stay a spell in Tennessee’s favorite stomping ground for fun and adventure

Set against the west-facing slopes of the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee, the town of Pigeon Forge is small in both footprint and population. But looks can be deceiving. Big music and big attractions give this otherwise quiet countryside community a bursting-at-the-seams look and feel that seems a far cry from the town’s far more humble roots.

The earliest settlers arrived here in 1788 when the area was still governed by North Carolina. In 1820, a man by the name of Isaac Love built an iron forge on the banks of Pigeon River and voilà, the future town’s namesake of Pigeon Forge was born through a simple act of one-plus-one. Ten years later, Love’s son built a flour and grain mill, further propelling the settlement and growth of Pigeon Forge. The mill still stands (and works) to this day under the charmingly hyper-logical name of “Old Mill.”

Fast-forward to the present day, and you’ll quickly discover that Pigeon Forge has built steadily on its historic foundation of straightforward, no-nonsense place-name poetry. Today, the town is synonymous with country music, gospel music and the effervescent spirit of Dolly Parton, who grew up in the Smoky Mountains region.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Entertainment Abounds

Look no further than the basket of country twang-infused attractions that bring visitors from far and wide to Pigeon Forge and the surrounding area: Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame, the Elvis Presley Museum and the Chasing Rainbows Museum. But like any good country song, Pigeon Forge holds an unexpected surprise or two up its sleeve. For instance, who would expect this to be the home of a Titanic Museum or Hollywood Wax Museum? The Bottom line: Once you set up camp in Pigeon Forge, prepare to be entertained.

Start at Dollywood, the town’s undisputed premiere attraction. Country music superstar Dolly Parton is part owner and the namesake of this unusual theme park, which is jam-packed with eclectic thrill rides and an endless array of live shows set across 10 uniquely themed areas. The park covers more than 150 acres and annually attracts nearly 2.5 million guests.

Dollywood is also home to Splash Country, an adjacent waterpark open during the summer months each year. A variety of wave pools and thrill-ride waterslides are available for all ages (and bravery levels).

The Elvis Museum, Southern Gospel Museum (home to the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame) and Chasing Rainbows Museum (located at Dollywood) are all must-visits for music lovers and pop culture enthusiasts. At the Elvis Museum, visitors can view a range of authentic Elvis artifacts (including his limousine and famous $250,000 ring), as well as take in a nightly mix of live shows and concerts.

Top a day of country music-inspired sightseeing off with dinner at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. This lively dinner theater experience includes four-course meals served during a show featuring acrobats, show riding and live music.

Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge

Titanic Attractions

When you’re ready for a complete change of pace, the Titanic Museum and Hollywood Wax Museum are the places to go. Interactive walk-through galleries and exhibits bring little-known tales and stories from the famous iceberg-doomed ship to life at the Titanic Museum, while the country’s largest collection of celebrity wax figures is on guard at the Hollywood Wax Museum. Top another day of family-fun off at the Island, a sparkling new shopping and entertainment district in the center of town, and also the home to the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, a 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel that gives riders imcomparable mountain vistas.

Finally, when it’s time for some healthy outdoor fun and recreation, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is at your fingertips. More than 10 million visitors flock to the Great Smoky Mountains each year, making it far and away the most visited national park in the country—and for good reason. More than 800 miles of maintained hiking trails weave through the park, as well as five different scenic byways.

Ninety historic buildings and structures are spread throughout the forest, along with a buffet of sparkling waterfalls. And as if that wasn’t enough, this is among the best places in the country to see wild bears, as the Smokies are home to more than 1,500 black bears—approximately two per square mile.

From waterslides and Ferris wheels to black bears and wax celebrities, Pigeon Forge is among the most eclectic small towns in the country. Families traveling with small children will find more than enough to keep them occupied (and all family members smiling) while the Great Smoky Mountains National Forest offers a world of incredible outdoor recreation.

For More Information

Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism
Tennessee Tourism