Things to Do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Less than an hour from Knoxville airport, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville in Tennessee provide the perfect family vacation destination. 

Families will have plenty to do from scenic views of the Smoky Mountains to the many outdoorsy activities and popular tourist attractions. Not to mention amazing Southern food and moonshine. We've been back twice and still have so much more to explore and try.

What to do in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

This is the most visited national park in the country for a reason. There are forest trails and waterfalls and it's all free to visitors, no entrance fee required. Just please be respectful with litter so this can stay a natural treasure. Do check out the Grist Mill and Visitor Center. 

Hiking Trails 

There are too many to mention, but Laurel Falls Trail, Grotto Falls and Roaring Fork are very scenic and include waterfalls. 


Soar up to Gatlinburg’s highest point at Anakeesta, a unique treetop theme park and observation tower with 360 views of the Smokies and Downtown, plus zip-lines, canopy walks, yummy BBQ, a play area for kids and mountain coasters. 

If you have young ones too small to stay on the open-air ski lift safely or if you are afraid of heights, they also have closed-in gondolas available or a Ridge Rambler truck ride to the top option. If the lines for the lift and gondolas are long, which they were for us, you can save yourself a lot of waiting around by going on the Rambler, which had a very short wait and then take the ski lift back down after. 

Also, you may want to consider going in the morning before it gets too hot and then come back again in the evening for a drink as your ticket is good for the entire day with unlimited rides up. 

TIP: Prepay for your ticket online and you can skip the ticket booth line at the bottom. You can also purchase Express Lane tickets and bypass the lines up. 

The Titanic Museum 

I know, what does Pigeon Forge, Tennesse have to do with the tragic ocean liner? Nothing, except the world's largest Titanic Museum with hundreds of collected items, photographs, audio recordings and facts on display. The building itself is shaped like the bow of the ship. Upon entering, you're given a passenger name, which class they were in, and a little background on them, and at the end of the self-guided audio tour, you can check the listings of survivors to see if your person lived. 

My boys are really interested in the Titanic so they loved being able to discover more and put their hands in a touch-tank to experience the 23-degree water that the poor passengers had to plunge in. We learned new things like that the Captain's dog was named Ben (my son's name), that they had a kosher menu available, and that there was only one Black man on board. We also saw pictures and documents never seen elsewhere. 

TIP: In order to board, make your reservation ahead of time online. 

The Island at Pigeon Forge

This is the perfect spot to spend your evening! Simply look for the large Ferris Wheel in the distance and you'll find this touristy "island," which is very much like its own theme park, but with no entrance fee. Parking is free too and they have trolley stops to bring you to the main center where you'll find restaurants, bars, rides for the kids and much more. 

Try and snag one of the many wooden rocking chairs around the Island Fountain and catch the water shows programmed to light and music, which happens every 30 minutes beginning at the top of each hour and on the half-hour. 

We always go to Old Smoky Moonshine store here for a $5 moonshine tasting and eat at Paula Deen's Family Kitchen. While we waited for our table to be called the kids played on The Island Ropes Course. Last time, they went on The Great Smokey Mountain Wheel. 

Dolly Parton's Stampede 

Your trip to the Smokies just isn’t complete without the savory feast and lively entertainment of Dolly Parton’s Stampede dinner show attraction

Your ticket includes a southern four-course meal delivered to your seat, unlimited sodas, a spectacular live show with cowboys, horses, live buffalo and steer, aerobatics, stunts, music, and a fun, wholesome time. My 9-year-old boys loved the experience and are still raving about the famous creamy vegetable soup and seeing a cowgirl performer stand on the backs of two horses and go through a ring of fire! 

Your trip to the Smokies just isn’t complete without the savory feast and lively entertainment of Dolly Parton’s Stampede dinner show attraction.    Your ticket includes a southern four-course meal delivered to your seat, unlimited sodas, a spectacular live show with cowboys, horses, live buffalo and steer, aerobatics, stunts, music, and a fun, wholesome time.

Book your reservation in advance as it often sells out, especially the earlier evening shows. 

Also, arrive early to view the stables and live horses before the show as well as enjoy pre-show drinks in the saloon area outside of the theater. The Spiked Tea with moonshine was soooo good, especially in the commemorative cup. 

Moonshine Distilleries and Tastings

Tennessee has long been a leader in producing distilled spirits like moonshine, which is corn whiskey and it comes in many flavors. Throughout the county, there are moonshine distilleries and storefronts that offer free tastings or for a nominal fee. Although this is for the grown-ups, my kids came along each time and played with their iPads or looked around the gift shops while we partook in this adult-time tradition. It's usually only around a half-hour or so and perfect before dinner.  

In downtown Gatlinburg near Anakeesta, you'll find the Tennessee Shine Company, by the Old Mill there is Old Forge Distillery and the very popular Old Smoky Moonshine at The Island in Pigeon Forge. We tried them all during our 5-day trip and still have others to visit next time. 


You can't come to this area and not go to what put the place on the map, Dollywood! Nestled into the Smokies, this theme park is so unique and not to be missed. I absolutely adore it and my boys had a blast too. 

This time, we also spent a day at Dollywood Splash Country Waterpark too. 

Oh, for fellow Dolly fans a statue of country singer Dolly Parton, a Sevierville native, can be found in downtown Sevierville by the 1896 beaux-arts–style courthouse.

Where to Eat in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Local Goat- farm to table fresh.

Paula Deen's Family Kitchen - The food here is sooo good. Everything is served Family Style and my kids always eat so well here. 

Junction 35 Distillery in Pigeon Forge. Great food and on certain nights entertainment. 

Smoky Mountain Brewery - Good eats and local brews! 

Alamo Steak - Always a great steak and a great lunch menu. 

The Old Mill - Established in 1830 this is a historic spot with delicious southern food. However, wait times can be up to two hours. Do not let this deter you though, just arrive before you're hungry, get on the list and then explore the quaint village, which has stores, moonshine tastings at Old Forge Distillery, an ice cream parlor and a candy shop. Plus, you can get up and close to the mill for some wonderful photos. They offer tours regularly too, which you can sign-up for in the gift shop. 

Bennett's BBQ - Where the locals get their BBQ!  You can also purchase to go and take back to your cabin or lodging to eat on the porch, etc. 

Cielito Lindo - Genuine Mexican food, don't let the outside fool you. 

Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg.  Great breakfast, but arrive early or go at 11 a.m. to avoid crowds.  Their orange/walnut pancakes are amazing.

More Blog Posts for Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg

Things to Do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge - where to eat and see


  1. I haven't been to this area since I was a teenager and now I want to go back! Thanks for sharing.

  2. You had me at Dollywood. I have always wanted to go there.Great travel guide tips. I love having a fun list to go by, rather than just wander about on vacation.

  3. I would love that Titanic museum!! Thanks for all the great ideas,

  4. I have always wanted to go to Dollywood! Thanks for sharing!