The Ultimate Summer Guide To Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

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Are you planning to visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and wondering what are the best things to do in Pigeon Forge?

You came to the right place! Whether you are visiting Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg for just a day or planning a longer vacation to the Smoky Mountains, this guide should answer all your questions.

Finding a comprehensive guide to things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is tricky.

Everyone just tells you how amazing it is without telling you where to go and what to see, or just mentions a few of the most popular sights without showing what Gatlinburg is truly about…

This guide to visiting the Smoky Mountains covers all the prominent landmarks and must-see places in Gatlinburg and includes a couple of lesser-known gems in Pigeon Forge.

I also included a few fun things to do that make your trip to Pigeon Forge even more special and memorable, so keep reading to find out!

Nestled just minutes from the breathtaking Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge is packed with endless entertainment, from thrilling attractions to delicious local cuisine.

If you’re wondering what the best things to do in Pigeon Forge are, look no further. Here’s your ultimate Pigeon Forge bucket list:


No visit to Pigeon Forge is complete without spending a day (or two!) at Dollywood. This world-class theme park, founded by country music legend Dolly Parton, features pulse-pounding roller coasters, charming shows and entertainment, and mouthwatering Southern cuisine.

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Don’t miss the park’s seasonal festivals and events throughout the year.

The Island

The Island in Pigeon Forge For shopping, dining, and fun, head to The Island in Pigeon Forge. This bustling outdoor complex is home to unique boutiques, restaurants with live music, an observation wheel, and the iconic Margaritaville Island Hotel. Kids will love the area’s arcade and ropes course.

Alcatraz East Crime Museum

Alcatraz East Crime Museum Explore the dark underbelly of American crime history at the Alcatraz East Crime Museum.

Through interactive exhibits and artifacts, you’ll get an in-depth look at famous criminal cases, law enforcement, and forensic science. It’s an educational and captivating experience for all ages.

Outdoor Adventures

Outdoor Adventures While Pigeon Forge is known for its man-made attractions, don’t forget to soak in the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains.

Go ziplining or whitewater rafting, hike to stunning waterfalls, or rent a boat on nearby Douglas Lake.

Titanic Museum Attraction

Titanic Museum Attraction Step back in time at the Titanic Museum Attraction, which features a half-scale replica of the legendary ocean liner. Walk the grand staircase, touch a real iceberg, and learn the stories of the unfortunate passengers through poignant exhibits.

Whether you have a few hours or days in Pigeon Forge, you can create lasting memories in this one-of-a-kind Smoky Mountain town. Start planning your trip today!

These two cities are situated at the foot of the Smoky Mountains and are only seven miles apart.

Between the two, there is so much to see and do that you won’t be able to fit it all into a week’s itinerary!

Things to do in Gatlinburg

Once you visit the Smoky Mountains, your kids will be dragging you back each summer, like my daughter Madison does me. It will be love at first sight when you arrive!

If this is your first time visiting the area, you must visit some incredible attractions before you leave.

To ensure you don’t miss out on anything during your first experience in the Smoky Mountains, I’ve compiled the best things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN, for first-time visitors, along with the best places to stay in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Where To Stay in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

If you want to spend your summer in the Smoky Mountains, you’ll first need to figure out where you will stay.

There are tons of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals available in the area, so I’ve taken the guesswork out of where to stay, and here are my top downtown Gatlinburg hotels and Pigeon Forge hotels:

Best Hotels In Pigeon Forge

1. Margaritaville Hotel in Pigeon Forge

For years, Margaritaville Hotel in Pigeon Forge has been drawing visitors to the unspoiled and protected majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Whether you immerse yourself fully in active outdoor adventures or just sit back and soak up the awe-inspiring scenery, when you travel back home from your getaway, you will take the mountains with you.

A perfect blend of mountain latitude and island attitude, the Margaritaville Island Hotel brings a new perspective to the Smoky Mountains experience with its contemporary, mountain-luxe surroundings, high level of service, and attention to detail.

Inspired by the lyrics and lifestyle of singer, songwriter, and author Jimmy Buffett, Margaritaville Island Hotel is the perfect setting to escape every day, discover a new outlook, and just chill.

Click here if Margaritaville Hotel Resort is right for you.


2. Margaritaville Island Inn 

Everything you need in a home base for relaxing or exploring and making lasting memories is right here. The Margaritaville Island Inn is the perfect hub for a Great Smoky Mountains adventure.

Located on the Parkway, right at the entrance to The Island, the Inn is in the middle of everything fun! Come for a visit with your active friends to hike and stay fit, or your family to gather and stay close.

Whether you hit the hiking trails, leaf peep, shop till you drop, learn how to fly fish, challenge yourself with extreme thrill rides, go white-water rafting or kick back and enjoy The Island entertainment complex.

The Margaritaville Island Inn is a great place to stay for your Pigeon Forge vacation.

Click here if Margaritaville Island Inn is right for you.


3. Dollywood DreamMore Resort

Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort opened in 2015 and is an excellent option for families visiting Dollywood or Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The resort is beautifully decorated and includes many of Dolly Parton’s artifacts, plus extra amenities.

Kids love the outdoor pool area with a splash pad in the summer and can soak up the indoor heated pool in the winter.

Nightly bedtime stories read by staff are a bonus, as is live musical entertainment in the lobby.

For those headed to either Splash Country or Dollywood, families can enjoy the ease of using the shuttle and being dropped off right in front of the theme parks, and even purchasing tickets at the hotel to save time.

Click here if Dollywood DreamMore Resort is right for you.


4. The Inn at Christmas Place

Experience a unique Christmas-themed hotel in Pigeon Forge, TN, right in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. You’ll find picturesque Bavarian architecture, lushly landscaped gardens, and beautifully appointed accommodations.

Located directly across the parkway from The Incredible Christmas Place, we invite you to come and join us in Celebrating the Spirit of Christmas Every Day of the Year™, and to experience Old World charm and elegance – and hospitality second to none!

Click here if the Inn at Christmas Place is right for you.


Best Hotels in Gatlinburg

1. Margaritaville Resort in Gatlinburg

Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg is everything a mountain resort should be.

The casual-luxe atmosphere and gracious service transport you to an island state of mind, nature’s backdrop renews your mind and spirit, and breath-taking adventures call you to try something new and push your boundaries.

A great home base for outdoor adventures, the resort is minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, across from Anakeesta, an outdoor theme park, and within walking distance to the attractions, shops and, restaurants in the village.

Stay at the resort for a spa day, go tree-top trekking and hiking in the mountains, or kick back at the pool with your friends and family.

With so many relaxing and fun things to do, you can choose a different way to chill every day.

Click here if Margaritaville Resort in Gatlinburg is right for you.


2. Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg

Explore the ‘Gatlinburg Strip’ along US-441, boasting the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park and Ripley’s Aquarium, a short walk away.

The Hilton Garden Inn is a half-mile from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance and the Gatlinburg Trailhead, with the Gatlinburg Convention Center five minutes from our door.

They have free parking, an indoor saltwater pool, and a fire pit area.

Click here if Hilton Garden Inn is right for you.


Horse back riding in the smoky mountains

What To Do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

If you’re heading to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, you’ll want to plan your agenda.

Between the attractions these cities offer and the recreational opportunities available in Smoky Mountain National Park, you’ll have difficulty deciding what to include and what to leave off your schedule.

Not sure what to do in the Smoky Mountains? There’s plenty of adventure and excitement to be found!

Summer is typically the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains, but you’ll still find lots of ways to stay busy and have fun.

If you are visiting during spring break, you probably won’t be able to find a whitewater rafting tour company open, but you can hike, fish, mountain bike, or find a ropes course to challenge yourself and test your fear of heights.

Outside of the Smoky Mountains, you’ll find plenty of exciting attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. 

Dollywood theme park is a must-do.

The park is home to over 40 rides, like the Tennessee Tornado, a triple spiral-looping roller coaster.

If roller coasters are too exciting for you and your crew, don’t worry – there are rides, shows, and restaurants to please guests of all ages!

Dollywood in Pigeon Forge

Additional Smoky Mountains Attractions

For a different experience, check out Anakeesta. This outdoor adventure park is across the street from the Margaritaville Resort in Gatlinburg.

From roller coasters to ziplines and towering treehouses to explore, guests of all ages will have lots of fun exploring this nature-inspired park.

And you won’t want to miss out on The Island in Pigeon Forge, either!

This free outdoor walking complex is filled with lots of shopping and entertainment options, and if you’re staying at the Margaritaville Island Hotel, you’re already here! 

Ride the Ferris wheel, admire the Show Fountain, or check out one of the many attractions you can find here!

The Island at Pigeon Forge

Museums In Pigeon Forge

In case of inclement weather, you’ll want to have a few rainy-day plans in your back pocket to keep you and your crew entertained.

There are lots of things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, including museums that can keep you all busy in case of the occasional spring or summer shower:

  • The Titanic Museum AttractionIf you love the story of the Titanic, you’ll want to visit this museum. You’ll find lots of exciting artifacts tied to the ship’s sinking, and you may even learn a thing or two from the museum’s staff.
  • The Alcatraz East Crime MuseumThis museum in Pigeon Forge focuses on the history of American crime but isn’t entirely focused on Alcatraz, the famous San Francisco prison. This is a must-see for true crime lovers!
  • The Hollywood Star Cars Museum is filled with cars made famous by museums and vehicles owned by celebrities. It is a great spot for car buffs and movie lovers to explore.
Alcatraz Museum

The Old Mill Square

The Old Mill Square is known for its dining and shopping. Make sure to bring your appetite when you visit The Old Mill!

The Old Mill Restaurant serves family-style Southern meals, and The Old Mill Pottery House Cafe & Grill serves everything from steak to fried chicken.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was named the top aquarium in the country! 

The Gatlinburg aquarium is full of amazing experiences where the kiddo will waddle with penguins, splash with stingrays, and sleep with the sharks!

You’ll be able to see a sea turtle, 12-foot sharks, jellyfish, and more!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an obvious must-see when you visit the area. There is no better place to explore the gorgeous mountain scenery!

The park has hundreds of hiking trails, opportunities for fishing, a picnic area, wildlife viewing, and even horseback riding!

 Ride Go-Karts

One of the most popular things to do in Pigeon Forge is to ride go-karts.

If you’re craving adventure and need speed, you’ll love visiting one of the many go-kart tracks in the Smoky Mountains.

Top places to ride go-karts are The TrackSpeedZone Fun Park, and Xtreme Racing Center. They all have unique go-kart tracks to make you feel like a professional race car driver!

Gatlinburg Space Needle

For some of the area’s best views, you’ll want to visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle. 

The Gatlinburg Space Needle is a 407-foot observation tower that offers panoramic views of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains.

Just ride the glass elevator to the top and enjoy the breathtaking scenery! Below the Space Needle is Arcadia, Gatlinburg’s most prominent family fun arcade.

Play over 100 games in the two-story amusement center after enjoying the beautiful views!

Conclusion of Things to Do in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

As you can see, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are the perfect places to spend spring break and summer vacation.

You can choose from a wide variety of hotels and vacation rentals to suit any budget, and you’ll find plenty of attractions, adventure parks, museums, and other activities to keep you and your companions busy.

With the Smoky Mountains at your doorstep, you’ll have the chance to appreciate some of the most beautiful scenery in America.

Ready to plan your trip? Grab my FREE  Vacation Planner to help you plan your trip in the time it takes to watch your favorite TV show!

Travel Guide

Additional Articles For Exploring Tennessee

Christmas In The Smoky Mountains

Tennessee Travel Guide For Adventure Lovers

4 Ultimate Water Parks in Tennessee

5 Best Places For Fall Vacation

Did your favorite Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge attraction cut?  I would love to hear your thoughts so leave me a comment on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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