Best Of Pigeon Forge – Category Rules

Below is a list of the qualifications for each category in our Best Of Pigeon Forge annual contest. For a business to be nominated in any of the following categories, they must meet the terms listed in the description. For other general rules in our Best Of Pigeon Forge contest, please see our contest rules page. PigeonForge.com reserves the right to alter these categories and their respective restrictions at any given time. Nominations may be removed from categories if PigeonForge.com is unable to verify any business’s qualification status.

Attractions & Events

Animal Encounter

An attraction in the Smoky Mountains area primarily offering services focused around interacting with live animals. The names of individual animals do not qualify.

Arcade

Any arcade in the Smoky Mountains area. An arcade is defined as a venue housing coin or ticket-operated games. These games include but are not limited to video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, merchandisers, billiards, and air hockey.

Axe Throwing

An attraction in the Smoky Mountains area whose primary source of revenue is ticketed axe throwing at a bullseye or target. Displays of axe throwing alone are excluded. Patrons of the establishment must be able to throw the axe themselves.

Bowling

An attraction in the Smoky Mountains area that offers any variety of bowling.

Car Show

An annual event involving a public exhibition of specific auto models, debuts, classic vehicles, or out-of-production automobiles. Eligible car shows must have at least two (2) past annual events on record and one (1) upcoming event scheduled or a past event this calendar year.

New!Comedy

An attraction in the Smoky Mountains area that offers entertainment primarily consisting of live comedic performances. The attraction must offer a bookable comedic service a minimum of four (4) days a week for ten (10) months out of the year.

New!Destination

A localized attraction in the Smoky Mountains area that offers multiple indoor and outdoor activities including but not limited to shopping, dining, rides and other in-park entertainment. Candidates must include a minimum of one shop with multiple forms of merchandise, one dining establishment (a restaurant, food truck, or small bites concessions), and one ride or outdoor recreational activity. Hotels and resorts are excluded from this category unless they offer these activities to patrons who are not utilizing the establishment's lodging services. Cities, counties, or other generalized areas (i.e. "parkway" or "downtown") do not qualify. Dollywood is excluded from this category.

Escape Room

Any escape room in the Smoky Mountains area. An escape room is a game where people are required to solve a series of puzzles within a time limit to accomplish a goal.

Festival

An annual event or celebration involving organized entertainment, showcases, competition, and/or vendors at a singular venue or collective group of venues. Eligible events must have at least two (2) past annual events on record and one (1) upcoming event scheduled or a past event this calendar year. Car shows are excluded from this category. Periods of seasonally themed decor at amusement parks, local attractions, or within cities do not qualify as festivals for the purpose of this category.

Go Karts

Any business in the Smoky Mountains area with a go kart track on the premises.

Horseback Riding

Any business in the Smoky Mountains area that offers guided horseback riding tours or horseback riding trails. Private vendors within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are accepted in this category.

Indoor Attraction

Any attraction in the Smoky Mountains area that offers exclusively indoor activities. This category excludes shows and dinner theaters as well as attractions that offer both indoor and outdoor activities. The indoor attraction must be available for ticketed admission independently of any lodging opportunities at the establishment.

Mini Golf

Any business in the Smoky Mountains area that offers putt putt or mini golf. Standard full-sized golf courses are excluded from this category.

Mountain Coaster

Any business in the Smoky Mountains area with a mountain/alpine coaster track on the premises. A mountain coaster is defined as an outdoor rail with passenger carts whose speed is controlled by the rider.

Museum

Any attraction in the Smoky Mountains area whose venue houses objects of historical, scientific, artistic, amusing, or cultural interest. Museums may also host interactive activities of the same nature. Aquariums, zoos, and similar attractions can fall under this category. Dollywood museums are excluded from this category.

New!Live Music

An attraction in the Smoky Mountains area that offers live musical entertainment at least two (2) days a week for at least four (4) months out of the year. This includes but is not limited to theaters, dinner shows, live concert performances, and attractions with house bands.

New!Outdoor Attraction

Any attraction in the Smoky Mountains area that offers exclusively outdoor recreational activities. This category excludes attractions that offer both indoor and outdoor activities.

Rafting

Any business in the Smoky Mountains area that offers guided whitewater rafting tours.

Ride

Any single specific amusement-park-type ride on the premises of a business in the Smoky Mountains area, or a business that primarily operates as a ride. Mountain coasters, go kart tracks, horseback riding, guided tours, vehicle rentals and Dollywood rides and roller coasters are excluded from this category. Standard zip lines are also excluded from this category unless they offer a unique experience different from traditional ziplines. Virtual reality games are excluded unless they include full motion seating.

Show

Any theater or regularly scheduled performance at a business in the Smoky Mountains area with live performers on stage or within the venue. The venue must have shows scheduled at least four (4) days a week for at least ten (10) months out of the year. This category includes dinner theaters, comedy, music, and more. Must include live human performers. This category excludes any Dollywood performances or theaters.

Guided Tours

Any business in the Smoky Mountains area that offers guided (not self led) tours. Tours must be led by a human or an audio guide via a personal audio device. Guided tours may include motor vehicle excursions, helicopter and plane rides, food or drink based tours, and recreational activities alongside professionals. Whitewater rafting and ziplines are excluded from this category.

New!Tubing

An attraction in the Smoky Mountains that offers water tubing or snow tubing. Tubing is defined as a leisurely floating experience with an inflatable inner tube on natural, open water or a recreational activity on an inner tube sliding down a hill. Water parks and lazy rivers are excluded from this category.

Water Park

An amusement park featuring water play areas and other barefoot environments. For a location to be considered a water park it must have at least three (3) of the following features: more than one pool, a water slide, a separate water play area, a wave pool, a lazy river, a swim up bar, a water based ride, or a splash pad.

Zipline

Any business in the Smoky Mountains area with a zipline course on the premises.

Dining & Drinks

Asian Food

A dining establishment in the Smoky Mountains area primarily offering cuisine that incorporates significant provincial cooking styles from the continent of Asia. Eligible categories include but are not limited to Chinese food, Japanese food, and Indian food.

Bar

Any restaurant or venue in the Smoky Mountains area that serves alcoholic beverages for consumption within the establishment at a seated countertop space dedicated to service via a bartender. Distilleries that only offer tastings do not necessarily qualify.

Barbecue

Any restaurant or venue in the Smoky Mountains area that serves plated barbecue meals in house. Establishments must offer more options than barbecue flavored wings alone. Restaurants at Dollywood are excluded from this category. Dinner shows are excluded from this category.

Breakfast

Any restaurant or venue in the Smoky Mountains area that offers breakfast. Must have a dedicated breakfast menu or breakfast items on the restaurant's regular menu. Restaurants that offer special brunch menus but not regular breakfast options do not qualify. Individual breakfast food items are not accepted. Restaurants at Dollywood are excluded from this category.

Brewery

An establishment in the Smoky Mountains area that primarily brews their own beer.

New!Brunch

A dining establishment in the Smoky Mountains area that offers a specialty brunch menu daily or only on select days. Must offer brunch menu at least one day a week. Restaurants that offer both breakfast and lunch menus alone do not necessarily qualify.

Burger

Any restaurant or venue in the Smoky Mountains area that offers burgers. Restaurants at Dollywood are excluded from this category. Dinner shows are excluded from this category.

Coffee Shop

A dining establishment in the Smoky Mountains area that sells custom brewed coffee.

Distillery

An establishment in the Smoky Mountains area that primarily distills hard alcohol like whiskey, gin, vodka, or rum.

Fine Dining

A dining establishment in the Smoky Mountains area that offers a more sophisticated, unique, or expensive restaurant experience. Qualifications for a restaurant to be considered "fine dining" include but are not limited to: high quality ingredients, professionally trained or significantly recognized chefs, a distinctively upscale menu with possible seasonal variations, formal server etiquette & dress code, an elegant dining environment with spacious, uncrowded seating options, multiple course options, reservations recommended or required, and higher price points. Qualifications for a restaurant to be removed from this category include but are not limited to: family style meals, buffets, pre-packaged food, casual server etiquette focused on quick turnaround, casual server dress code, frequent promotions or discount options, and informal dining arrangements.

Italian Food

A dining establishment in the Smoky Mountains area primarily offering cuisine that incorporates significant provincial cooking styles from the country of Italy.

Mexican Food

A dining establishment in the Smoky Mountains area primarily offering cuisine that incorporates significant provincial cooking styles from the country of Mexico.

Moonshine

Any restaurant, venue or distillery in the Smoky Mountains area that offers moonshine or custom ciders.

Pizza

Any restaurant or venue in the Smoky Mountains area that offers pizza. Restaurants at Dollywood are excluded from this category.

New!Seafood

A dining establishment in the Smoky Mountains area that primarily offers seafood entrees.

Southern Food

Any restaurant or venue in the Smoky Mountains area that offers food traditionally specific to the southeastern region of the United States. Restaurants at Dollywood are excluded from this category. Dinner shows are excluded from this category.

New!Specialty Cocktails

A dining establishment or bar in the Smoky Mountains area that serves specialty alcoholic beverages with propriety recipes. A cocktail is defined as an alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or several spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice, lemonade, or cream. Flavored moonshine, distilled spirits, and ciders do not necessarily qualify as cocktails. Places of business that only offer contained alcoholic beverages for sale do not qualify.

Steak

Any restaurant or venue in the Smoky Mountains area that offers beef steak as an entree.

Sweets

A dining establishment or shop in the Smoky Mountains area that offers items in the dessert category. These include but are not limited to ice cream, milkshakes, candy, fudge, frozen yogurt, cupcakes, Italian ice, and cakes.

Winery

Any winery in the Smoky Mountains area.

Wings

A dining establishment in the Smoky Mountains area offering cooked chicken wings.

Lodging

Bed & Breakfast

A small lodging establishment or inn in the Smoky Mountains area that offers overnight accommodations and breakfast.

Cabin Rentals

Any cabin rental company or privately owned cabin rental located within Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and the general Smoky Mountains area. This category excludes Dollywood cabins. Camping cabins do not necessarily qualify. Rental inventory must be comprised of at least 51% cabins.

Campground

Any privately owned campground or campground franchise located within Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and the general Smoky Mountains area. The focus of this category is primarily tent camping. Back and frontcountry camps located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are not accepted.

Condos

Any condominium complex located within Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and the general Smoky Mountains area. Single units within condo complexes are not accepted. Rental inventory must be comprised of at least 51% condominium units.

Hotel

Any hotel located within Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and the general Smoky Mountains area. A hotel is defined as a place that provides lodging and sleeping accommodations to its patrons. Rental inventory must be comprised of at least 51% hotel rooms/units. Dollywood resorts are excluded from this category.

Luxury Camping

A campground in the Smoky Mountains area that offers lodging options beyond primitive camping and RV hookups. These include but are not limited to camping cabins, tiny homes, and glamping tents. Onsite vacation homes and full cabin rentals do not necessarily qualify as camping cabins or tiny homes. Single recreational vehicles alone do not qualify.

Resort

Any resort located in the general Smoky Mountains area. The resort must offer hotel style lodging in addition to two (2) out of the following four (4) on-site amenities: a restaurant or concessions, dedicated event space, spa services, and recreational activity grounds such as a water park (see definition of water park), arcade, bowling alley, or golf course. Cabin rental communities are excluded from this category. Campgrounds and RV resorts are excluded from this category unless they include hotel style lodging. Dollywood resorts are excluded from this category.

RV Resort

A campground in the Smoky Mountains area that offers locations for recreational vehicle hookups and amenities such as swimming pools or other recreational areas.

New!Small Cabin Company

Any cabin rental business in the Smoky Mountains area whose inventory of local cabin rentals consists of more than one (1) and a maximum of ten (10) properties available for booking at the start of the nomination process.

Shops & Services

Antique Store

A retail store in the Smoky Mountains area specializing in the sale of antiques.

Boutique

A small shop in the Smoky Mountains area specializing in the sale of fashionable apparel and accessories.

Catering

A business in the Smoky Mountains area that offers the provision of food and drink at an event or gathering as a professional service.

New!Clothing Store

A shop in the Smoky Mountains area that primarily offers the sale of clothing. Shop inventory must consist of at least 51% clothing & apparel.

Event Venue

A business in the Smoky Mountains area that offers a rentable location for organized events.

Home Decor Shop

A shop in the Smoky Mountains that primarily offers the sale of specialized furniture and home decor.

General Store

A shop in the Smoky Mountains area that specializes in the sale of a wide variety of goods. Includes gift shops.

New Business

Any business that opened to the public in the Smoky Mountains area for the first time between January 1, 2023 and June 1, 2024. Winners in this category from previous years will always be excluded. Businesses must have an active EIN or tax ID number. Businesses that have changed their location or ownership but were previously located in the area do not qualify. New additions to large attractions do not qualify. Cabin rental companies are excluded from this category.

Specialty Shop

Any business in the Smoky Mountains area whose primary source of revenue is based on selling goods of a specific category. Clothing stores, antique stores, tattoo shops, smoke shops, and home decor shops are excluded from this category.

New!Smoke Shop

A shop in the Smoky Mountains area that primarily offers the sale of smokable products (including but not limited to cigars and other tobacco products as well as legal THC and CBD) and smoking and vaping equipment.

Spa

An establishment in the Smoky Mountains area that offers massages, relaxation treatments, and/or beauty services. Dollywood spas are excluded from this category.

Tattoo Shop

An establishment in the Smoky Mountains area where tattoo artists offer their services.

Adventure Rentals

A business that rents out vehicles to licensed drivers for unsupervised use. Such vehicles include but are not limited to side by sides, ATVs, UTVs, Polaris Slingshots, and Jeeps. Guided tours are excluded from this category.

New!Wedding Venue

A business in the Smoky Mountains area that primarily serves as a wedding venue or functions otherwise with a suitable location for wedding event space.

Other Rules & Considerations

Eligibility: For any business to be eligible in any Best Of Pigeon Forge category, they must be open and operational upon the first day of the voting period and remain open and operational through the voting period’s conclusion.

Dollywood: Unless otherwise specified, the local theme park Dollywood is excluded from all Best Of Pigeon Forge categories. Our goal with this annual contest is to highlight all the different kinds of businesses in the area and give them the opportunity to be known and celebrated. Because Dollywood has so much to offer and is beloved by countless locals and visitors alike, it could easily dominate in any of the above categories. We have excluded Dollywood from the contest since 2019 in order to give some of the area’s smaller businesses a fighting chance.

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