Family-Friendly Pigeon Forge
Bright lights, big city. You probably think I’m referring to New York, but in fact, I am talking about Pigeon Forge, TN. Nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, there it is, in all its glory — a 6-lane, 5-mile-long strip filled with anything and everything a child could ever want. Arcades, amusement park rides, attractions, NASCAR-inspired go-kart tracks, waterslides, restaurants, ice cream parlors … and the list goes on and on.
Recently, my 2 children, including my daughter with special needs, and I traveled to Pigeon Forge and had a blast discovering its many personalities. Here are some of the highlights from our trip, including some great tips for those who have a special-needs traveler.
Special Needs Tip: Dollywood is open for business for those with cognitive or physical disabilities. Be sure to visit the ride accessibility center when you arrive to get a park accessibility guide, which highlights all the rides, shows, services and amenities for those with specific needs. You will get a front-of-the-line pass so you can bypass the long lines, and there’s also a brochure that highlights all the rides and indicates which ones are safe for those in wheelchairs.
Special Needs Tips: WonderWorks has lots to offer for people with cognitive or physical disabilities and welcomes all families. Some of my daughter's favorite exhibits were Hurricane Hole, where we experienced a Category 1 hurricane with 71 mph winds; the Bubble Lab; and Google Earth, a virtual globe and map that allows you to travel anywhere you want in seconds. There is plenty of room to move around if you’re traveling with a wheelchair.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Special Needs Tip: For those with a child in a wheelchair, Sugarlands Visitor Center has an accessible trail, which is located on Newfound Gap Road, just south of the center. Accessible interpretive exhibits along the half-mile, paved trail describe the unique historic and natural features as you weave along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. An audiotape tour is also available from Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Special Needs Tips: When we visited, there were quite a few people in wheelchairs. The staff did a nice job accommodating them with a seating area specifically for those in wheelchairs. Be sure to mention any special needs you or a family member has when reserving your tickets so they will be prepared and can serve your family better.
RiverStone Resort and Spa
Special Needs Tips: For those of you who have a water lover in your family, the Jacuzzi tubs are large and very nice. You will need to lift your child in and make sure he is secure. Also, the indoor pool has a lift. If your child is in a wheelchair, ask for a room with a full-body massage shower, and don’t forget to request a shower chair.