Many people ask about what to do in Pigeon Forge, TN. So we thought as locals we would give you some of the things that we love to do in Pigeon Forge, TN and the Smoky Mountains. We have also included some recommendations from visitors as well. It’s good to get off the beaten path and discover something NEW!
Pigeon Forge Midnight 8K
Named one of 200 Races To Run Before You Die, The Pigeon Forge Midnight 8K has a unique 12:00 AM start time and a fast and flat course, making it easy and fun for all runners. The race is fun for spectators to watch. It is a rare and unique nighttime event. It is a special time of the night when Pigeon Forge visitors come out of their hotels and rental homes to line the streets and applaud the runners who participate.
Whether one is just watching the race or actually running and achieving a personal milestone… this race is a guaranteed good time for all who attend. My favorite part of the race? I get to fire the starting pistol!
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Bush’s Beans Visitor Center
A short relaxing scenic drive over to Chestnut Hill, TN and you will find yourself at a fantastic junction of cuisine and East Tennessee history…the Bush’s Beans factory! What seems to be out in the middle of nowhere is this beautiful fully functioning factory with a modern interactive museum. Jay and Duke from the Bush’s TV Commercial are the stars of this fun-filled adventure. My kids loved getting on the scale that measures your weight not in pounds but in beans. Plus there is the cutest on-site restaurant which serves many Appalachian comfort foods. You must sample the baked bean pie…delicious. The gift shop features the most elegant array of items with a country theme. This is a great place to discover flour sack dishtowels, vintage porcelain kitchen objects and products that would have once occupied the shelves of a community general store.
Dolly Parton Homecoming Parade
Everyone loves Dolly Parton! Every year, Dolly has been holding her annual Dolly Parade here in Pigeon Forge. This event kicks off Springfest in the Smokies and usually draws about 50,000 Dolly lovers and spectators from all over the country. It’s fun, it’s free, and you get to see Dolly herself. I have gone to this parade every year, and I love to see what fun float and outfit that she will come up with next.
—reported by Laura | Springfest runs March thru June. It kicks off during springtime in the beautiful city of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It is a celebration packed full of nearly three months of home-spun fun. Springfest is also host to the very popular Dolly Parade. The one and only Dolly Parton rides atop a spectacular float as the Grand Marshal of her annual namesake parade.
The Wild Plum Tea Room—reported by Jessica | If you are looking for a charming and quiet lunch, you must try The Wild Plum Room located on Buckhorn Road in the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community. This sweet tea room is tucked into the wood next to a mountain stream. Grab a table on the patio or porch and enjoy the Wild Plum tea and homemade muffins and wild plum preserves. A spot not to be missed!
English Mountain Trout Farm and Grill—reported by Jessica | Hidden off the back roads of Sevierville, English Mountain Trout Farm & Grill is a fun experience for the whole family! My girls loved catching their own rainbow trout in the pond! The staff cooked it up and served it with all the fixings! Try the hushpuppies – outstanding!
—reported by Laura | There’s more to Pigeon Forge than the neon lights on the main Parkway. Rocky Top Wine Trail is a wine tasting tour where you sample local wines made from grapes and fruit grown locally. Those interested in completing the tour can begin at any of the following wineries: Hillside Winery, Apple Barn Winery, Mountain Valley Winery, Sugarland Cellars, Eagle Springs Winery. You receive a passport at your first stop, and then you collect stamps at each place visited. After collecting three stamps, you receive a commemorative wine glass; those who visit all five wineries earn another special surprise.
—reported by Devon | Zip lining! A definite must if you come to Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. You can zip over a river, through the woods, or down a mountain… just take your pick. The area provides many different options when it comes to zip lining. At Foxfire Mountain you can do a 7-line treetop canopy zip line tour or you can shoot over to Adventure Park at Five Oaks and do their 1.5 mile zip line tour. Both are too much fun!
Patriot Festival reported by Laura | Celebrate Independence Day in Pigeon Forge at the Patriot Festival in Patriot Park! The admission is free, and the salute to the military performance is unlike one that you have ever seen. The highlight of the evening will, of course, be the grand finale fireworks over the Smoky Mountains at dusk! Trust me, you don’t want to miss this.
Get your engines started! – reported by Jessica | Pigeon Forge is a popular host to many Pigeon Forge rod runs and car shows each year.Thousands of classic car, truck and motorcycle enthusiasts make the annual pilgrimage to Pigeon Forge and Sevierville yearly.Whether it’s rare autos, classic trucks and hot rods or Gold Wings, visit our calendar of Pigeon Forge Car Shows, and come out and join me out on the sidewalk. I’ll be in my lawn chair.
With so many stores, Pigeon Forge is a shopper’s haven – at least for me! I love to hit up the outlet malls to see what goodies they have on sale. There are so many name brand stores, it just makes sense to come to Pigeon Forge to shop. I also love to hit up the smaller, unique stores in town. You can find one-of-a-kind arts and crafts that are handmade by local craftsman or original paintings by local artists. I also have to pop in to one of the local candy shops. No trip is complete without some turtles and a caramel apple. Not sure where to begin? Follow PigeonForge.com suggested shopping itineraries as your guide. Read through ideas such as Girls Shopping Getaway and Pigeon Forge Romantic Getaway.
—reported by Dennis Myers | My family is native to East Tennessee. Specifically, we live in the valley below the Smoky Mountains in the community known by locals as “Blaine.” But my ancestry actually goes back to a time when my family became one of the first settlers in the Pittman Center region of Great Smoky Mountains, which is just north of Hwy 321. A few times a year, my family piles into the car and enjoys this short scenic drive to visit my grandfather’s old home place, which is sits next to the beautiful Emerts Cove Covered Bridge. This area is directly across the road from the Greenbriar entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This covered bridge is a rare sight because it is one of only two covered bridges in Sevier County. (The other one is Harrisburg Covered Bridge.) I am so proud this bridge remains intact, because it is a big part of my family history. We also enjoy eating and shopping in Pigeon Forge on our drive back home.
What’s in the pancake batter that causes Pigeon Forge visitors to return again and again? Pigeon Forge is loaded with REAL pancake house restaurants. Visitors enjoy exquisite pancakes with fruit compotes, nuts or chocolate chips. Mouth-watering country ham, biscuits, gravy and a variety of waffles and omelets.
Rockefeller Monument reported by Katie | “For the permanent enjoyment of the people.” Those were the official words in 1940, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He spoke from the Rockefeller Monument at Newfound Gap.There are so many opportunities to experience the rich history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by visiting historic sites.
Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community…Whether you are looking for a unique gift to take back home or just want to stand back and watch the unique work of the many artisans, then the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community is a great place to spend some of your free time. Just the drive of this 8 mile loop is a delight all in itself. Get the opportunity to meet these artisans and crafters who, inspired by the beauty of the Smokies, made their homes here. Watch them whittle, paint, sew, cast, weave and carve to create original collectibles.
—reported by Laura | Every year we make it a point to visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, and we love it! Kids love the penguin exhibit, and I love to see the huge sea turtles. The staff is always very informative and takes the extra time to answer questions. The first year we went, we arrived later in the evening; and because the place was less crowded, we got a special dive show with a staff member that was able to answer a lot of questions and tell us a lot more information. Young and old love going to Ripley’s Aquarium. Did you know? More people have been injured worldwide by falling coconuts than by sharks!
Smoky Mountain camping adventure—reported by Laura | There is nothing like a great camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! There are 10 campgrounds within the park that are considered “frontcountry camping” which have restrooms with cold running water and flush toilets. There are also 7 area for group camping within the park which require reservations. Lastly, there is “backcountry camping.” This is only for the avid backpackers and those who are prepared to carry in all necessities! For backcountry camping, you will need to obtain a backcountry permit available at visitor centers and ranger stations.
Anniversary Trip—reported by Debbie & Gene Pollock of Valdosta, GA | My husband and I just returned from our “annual” December trip to the Smokies. We always go the week of our anniversary and look forward to this every year. We just celebrated 37 years. We were really thrilled this year because it snowed for 4 of the 7 days we were there! BEAUTIFUL… This was a very special trip this year, as I had just completed chemo treatments for my second time with breast cancer. I think I looked more forward to this than ever. We hope to make it for Christmas one year if we can get our family to go along. This is our favorite vacation spot, and we have gone every year since 1974 except in 1977 when our son was born. We can’t wait until we can go back next year!
Hiking is Breathtaking!—reported by Katie | No matter the time of year or where you are in the Smoky Mountains, you are guaranteed to see some beautiful sights. Out of 850 miles of trails you are sure to find one that perfectly fits your needs! There are numerous hiking trails to choose from, anywhere from beginner to advanced to waterfall trails, wildlife trails, historic site trails and trails with scenic vistas that will leave you speechless. Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is definitely one of my favorite things to do!
—reported by Laura | The chair lift in downtown Gatlinburg is a wonderful, relaxing, and smooth ride. For those of you scared of heights, you are really never that far off the ground but it is exhilarating, and the view from the top is breathtaking! It is fun watching other people pass by you on the lift and seeing some of their expressions. There is a fella that tells you near the end of the ride to smile; you are going to get your picture taken, and you can view and/or purchase your photo at the gift shop at the top of the lift. What a nostalgic souvenir and a great memory.
Best Picnic Spot—reported by Laura | Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the Smokies. This 11 mile loop is a peaceful driving tour and is also used for bicycling (rentals available) and hiking. Throughout the Cove you will see historic buildings, including rustic log homes of original residents of the Cove, several churches, an old mill and cemeteries. The loop follows many of the grades and turns of the old wagon roads, fording many scenic streams along the way. It is almost certain that you will see lots of wildlife including deer and wild turkey year-round, bears and cubs and lots of groundhogs in the summer. What are you waiting for…pack a picnic, and be sure to grab your camera.
“Ethereal!” That is the word my mom used to describe the synchronous firefly showing. Although relatively unknown until 1994, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to the rare Synchronous fireflies. These spectacular little creatures emit their flash synchronously or at the same time. It is truly a sight to behold. Learn more about the Synchronous Fireflies in Elkmont and plan your trip to the Smokies.
Summer is a wonderful time of year to hike to Gregory Bald in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is my favorite hike in the Smokies, particularly in mid-June to early-July when the flame azaleas are in bloom. View Scenes from my latest adventure to Gregory Bald. Though quite a strenuous hike, it is well worth your effort to view the most spectacular mountain splendor in the world. For many folks, this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime hikes. I am so fortunate to live in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.
Park Your Cares! —reported by Laura | We used to drive everywhere around Pigeon Forge & Sevierville, but we have discovered that we can get everywhere by trolley. I have found it to be really easy to use and convenient. We absolutely love using the trolley system to go to and from the amusement parks. It is much cheaper than paying to park & it drops us off right in front of the ticket booths! It is usually running on time and makes getting around town much simpler. I recommend it to everyone!
This charming 5-mile-long scenic drive takes you through the historic Roaring Fork area of the Smokies. Once inhabited by the Ogle family, this area is a favorite for visitors. Highlights include well-preserved grist mills and log cabins, cool rushing streams, wildflower viewing and areas of old-growth forest. The Historic Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is also home to the trailhead for Rainbow Falls, a popular hiking trail among visitors to the Smoky Mountains that features a magnificent waterfall. The Rainbow Falls Trail continues for approximately 4 miles beyond the falls to the summit of Mt. LeConte.To access Roaring Fork, turn off the main parkway in Gatlinburg, TN at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard entrance to the national park. Just beyond the Rainbow Falls trailhead you have the option of taking the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (closed in winter). This narrow, paved road winds for six miles beside rich forests, waterfalls, and streams. Buses, trailers, and motor homes are not permitted on the motor nature trail.
Reported by Carolyn Deline of Ontario, Canada | My husband and I visit Pigeon Forge every fall, and sometimes add a spring trip as well. We love to take scenic drives in the National Park, especially Roaring Fork…we do this drive every time we come to Pigeon Forge. We love it best in the fall when all the leaves are changing color. I love that there is a variety of things to see along this drive..we’ve seen wild turkeys and deer…all the waterfalls and hikes are great stops along the way as well. I love to stop at the Ogle homeplace historic site, it always amazes me how all those people lived in those small cabins in the heart of the mountains. My favorite stop along this drive is Thousand Drips Falls…we always climb up the rocks and get a picture taken. It is so beautiful, and I never tire of the scenery, or the fresh smell. If you’ve never done this drive in the park, I would highly recommend it as it gives you an overall sense of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, without taking up your whole day…unless of course, you want it too. 🙂
—reported by Laura | You are SURE to find the kind of knife that you want at the Smoky Mountain Knife Works! O.K. ladies, I know what you are thinking, this may sound like a store for the guys, but I was surprised to see that the lower level was full of great kitchen gadgets, gifts, jewelry and tons of unique items. There was something for the entire family, what a great stop! Not to mention the delicious fudge that I bought on my way out the door…
Why are fall colors are so remarkable in the Smokies?—reported by Laura | One reason is the park’s amazing diversity of trees. This time of year is always perfect for hiking, especially along the lower elevation trails, the view is truly breathtaking. Bears, chipmunks, squirrels, and other wildlife are busily gathering acorns, walnuts, and other natural foods and streams and waterfalls are sparkling. Of all the beautiful seasons in the Smokies, the fall foliage and perfect temperatures of fall time has to be the very best to me. Fall colors and displays are part of the autumn celebration throughout the Smoky Mountain region is known as Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival.
—reported by Bonnie Wolke | The very first time I came to the Smokies was 1975, and we took a picture of my 1-year-old son Nate and me sitting in front of the sign heading into the Smokies from Gatlinburg. 35 years later when he was visiting from Colorado, I surprised him by taking him to the “modern” sign at the same location and recreating our 1975 pose. He had never seen the picture of him as a baby in front of the sign. I framed both photos in a double frame and gave them to him for his 36th birthday on Jan. 5. He loves it! We were just back to the Smokies this past Christmas and New Years for the big ball drop and fireworks, and a girlfriend and I are attending Wilderness Wildlife Week next week for about the fifth time! We never get enough of Pigeon Forge.
Ultimate Valentine Weekend—reported by Tommy Gros | It was a surprise for her. We were supposed to go out to dinner that night,–she thought locally in the New Orleans area– except I pulled into the airport parking lot, and we flew into Knoxville just with the clothes on our back, and a short drive to the Peddler restaurant before they closed. We were like teenagers sneaking off without notice. Cobbly Nob knew my plans and had wine and chocolates with roses on the table made for a most romantic evening and 3 days of bliss.We often remember the memories we made that Valentine night.
Winterfest in Pigeon Forge—reported by Jessica | “There’s just SO much about Winterfest!” That was Trista’s response when I asked her about Winterfest. Over five million lights shimmer in the crisp night air as Winterfest takes place in the Smoky Mountains. Join us for Smoky Mountain Winterfest anytime from November through February and share in the special events and seasonal fun that makes Winterfest one of the top 100 Events in North America.
—reported by Devon | The Island in Pigeon Forge is great for a family fun night! We went on the 200 foot tall Great Smoky Mountain Wheel which featured a 360 view of Pigeon Forge with the mountain in the background, which is also a must a night! The Island has something for everyone from shopping to singing karaoke. Your family will have a great time experiencing all that The Island has to offer.
Reported by Katie | What’s cool about Mt. LeConte is there is LeConte Lodge at the top, but the only way to get to the lodge is by foot. All guests wishing to stay must hike. There are no road ways or transportation up the mountain. Choose from 5 trails to hike to LeConte Lodge. Also, all supplies that are delivered to the lodge are either dropped off via helicopter or by llama train. How cool is that? I’ll have to admit, hiking Mt. LeConte and staying at LeConte Lodge is definitely on my bucket list!
America’s first Independence Day celebration parade kicks off right here in Gatlinburg every year. The parade begins at 12:01 a.m. in front of 100,000 plus patriotic spectators in the early morning hours of July 4th. Stretching more than a mile in length, over 100 units will make their way through Gatlinburg. To me, this parade is one of the most patriotic and colorful parades I have ever seen, and the beautiful mountain backdrop is just a bonus.
Townsend, TN—reported by Jessica | Referred to the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” the small town of Townsend, TN is great for biking, tubing down the river, visiting local craft shops or festivals. Townsend is quaint and charming, making Townsend a special gateway town to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. My favorite kind of Saturday is a relaxing bike ride by the river followed by an old country breakfast at one of the local mom and pop restaurants.
Do you enjoy a good old fashioned hay ride? I bet you would if you were enjoying it in the fresh mountain air from the 11 mile scenic loop in beautiful Cades Cove. This is a great activity within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Whether you enjoy it with the whole family or just snuggled up to your special someone, this ride remains popular so space is limited. Call the Cades Cove Riding Stables at 865-448-9009 if you would like to make advance reservations. If you happen to be spending your fall in the Smoky Mountains then don’t miss the Old Fashioned Hayrides in Gatlinburg. Enjoy the breathtaking views of Gatlinburg’s fall foliage. No reservations are required and rides leave approximately every 45 minutes.
Horseback Riding—reported by Katie | Horseback riding in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an exciting way to enjoy the outdoors. There are about 550 miles of the park’s trails that are open to horses. If you own horses, take advantage of the park’s horse camps. If you wish to rent a horse, horseback riding by the hour is available at five different commercial stables located in the park from mid-March through late November. Horseback Riding is just one of many activities in the national park
—reported by Jessica | Walk, Run, or Bike the Cades Cove Loop – Nothing like getting close to nature by being right with them. Leave your car at the entrance of the loop and walk, run, or bike the Cades Cove Loop. Only bicycle and foot traffic are allowed on the loop road until 10:00 a.m. every Saturday and Wednesday morning from early May until late September, so take advantage of that and get out there early. Wildlife viewing is excellent then too! I think those critters are just enjoying the cool, peaceful morning.
Want a fantastic view of the Great Smoky Mountains? The Space Needle in downtown Gatlinburg is an all steel observation tower served by 2 elevators with a capacity of 20 persons each. The deck can hold 250 people and offers views of the Great Smoky Mountains and the resort city of Gatlinburg. The tower is 407 foot high with a total weight of 4,000,000 pounds. The ride is comfortable and safe and the view is a panorama of beauty year round. Don’t forget your camera!
Clingmans Dome—reported by Jessica | At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s highest point. It is the highest point in Tennessee, it is half in North Carolina and half in Tennessee. The peak is accessible after driving Clingmans Dome Road from Newfound Gap and then walking a steep half-mile trail. A paved trail leads to a 54-foot observation tower, but unlike the rest of Gatlinburg, unfortunately there is no gift shop at the top…I was a little disappointed as a child to find this out.