Pigeon Forge , TN, is a quirky little town. Framed by the Great Smoky Mountains, it seems like manmade glam and pristine nature are at a tug-of-war for your attention. From the main strip, signs beckon you to “Turn now!” and exclaim, “You just passed us!” while the sunset over the mountains vies for your attention. The obvious answer for the couple who can never agree on vacations -- natural seclusion or nonstop action? -- is Pigeon Forge, which has something for everyone.
Scared of heights? Take comfort in the fact that this helium balloon is anchored to the WonderWorks building as it whisks you 500 feet up in the air. Seventy-two feet in diameter, it gives passengers freedom of movement during the 10-minute ride. The Wonders of Flight balloon -- one of only two attractions of its kind in the Southeast -- was manufactured in France and designed to give guests the sensation of being on a flying balcony. If being so high up won’t take your breath away, the panoramic view will.
To visit Pigeon Forge and bypass Dollywood is tantamount to visiting Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. Hyperboles aside, this is a mecca for music, entertainment and of course Dolly Parton memorabilia in the South. While adults will love meandering through the beautiful 150-acre park, featuring the American Eagle Foundation’s sanctuary, younger visitors will enjoy more than 40 rides and attractions, including the Wild Eagle -- the first wing coaster in the United States. With such world-class attractions available, even those who aren’t Dolly fans (blasphemy) will love it, so don’t plan just to stay 9 to 5 (get it?!).
A truly lavish monument to one of history’s most infamous disasters, the Titanic Pigeon Forge allows guests to experience the Titanic in all its doomed opulence. With 400 artifacts worth more than $4.5 million, meticulously recreated galleries and a handcrafted replica of the Grand Staircase, it’s the world’s largest and most elaborate Titanic museum. Historians will find the immense vault of newspaper clippings and audio retellings of survivor stories riveting, while children will enjoy interactive exhibits like shoveling coal in the steam room and steering the ship from the captain’s bridge. Preserving the history and the stories of the Titanic, Titanic Pigeon Forge is the ultimate way to learn about the ill-fated voyage that still captivates.
In the early 1800s Great Smoky Mountain settlers would gather at the Old Mill on the banks of the Little Pigeon River to socialize and barter. Today it’s still a hub of activity as visitors and locals alike mill about (ba-dum ching!) the square’s many shops and restaurants. From exploring the old-time General Store, to buying confections at the Candy Kitchen, and roaming the expansive Pigeon Forge Pottery showroom, you’ll experience an old-fashioned escape from the hustle of the nearby strip. Worth the trip alone is an overindulgent meal at the Old Mill Restaurant, where huge portions of Southern staples such as country-fried steak and chicken and dumplings are served up with generous servings of corn chowder and homemade fritters, as well as a bevy of other accompaniments. All for prices so affordable, there’s no need to barter. Needless to say, come hungry.
Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction
Don your cowboy hat and boots and get here early to take a tour of the stables and say hello to the real stars of the show: the Quarter Horses and palominos. Afterward, head to the Saloon, where the opening entertainment includes bluegrass and country music. When you're all tuckered out from two-steppin', settle into the 35,000-square-foot arena for some friendly North vs. South competition and a thrilling show comprised of musical entertainment and amazing horse-riding stunts. While all that is worth the trip alone, a proper host doesn't let guests leave hungry. So, prepare yourself for a 4-course feast that would make your grandmother proud. Start practicing your “Yee haw!” now.
6. Smoky Mountain Ziplines
If taking in the scenery from up high isn't enough for you, perhaps literally whizzing through it will appease your sense of adventure. Start by packing into an army truck to make the steep drive up to the top of Smoky Mountain Ziplines' course, where your adventure begins. With more than 24 lines and 2 courses to choose from, both novices and pros are sure to experience a natural high (last time, I swear). Harness up to enjoy the progressive course before reaching heights that span well over the treetops. From there, Canopy Tour riders have the option of extending their course to include the Super Zip Lines, which boast the fastest lines in Sevier County and reach speeds well over 40 mph ... all while suspended more than 100 feet up in the air. Prepare for a new take on touring the Smoky Mountains.