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.

It’s really tricky to find a comprehensive guide to things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

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

This guide to visiting the Smoky Mountains, not only covers all the main landmarks and must-see places in Gatlinburg but also 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!

To help you better plan your time to Gatlinburg, at the bottom of this article I also included a map indicating all the things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg mentioned in this article and a suggested itinerary for one day in Pigeon Forge.

You can find them all the way at the bottom, together with our recommendations on when to visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, how to get there, and how long and where to stay.

These two cities are situated at the foot of the Smoky Mountains and are only seven miles away from each other.

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Between the two, you’ll find so much to see and do, 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 and every summer like my daughter Madison does me.  It will be love at first sight when you arrive!

If it’s your first time visiting the area, there are some incredible attractions you have to visit before you leave.

To make sure you don’t miss out on anything during your first experience in the Smoky Mountains, I’ve come up with the best things to do 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’re going to 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

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

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 personal 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 an added 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 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

You’ll definitely want to plan your agenda in advance if you’re heading to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.

Between the attractions these cities offer and the recreational opportunities available in Smoky Mountain National Park, you’ll have a hard time 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 definitely 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 a little too exciting for you and your crew, don’t worry – there are rides, shows, and restaurants to please guests of all ages here!

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 interesting 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 MuseumFilled with cars made famous by museums and vehicles owned by celebrities, this 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 for you to enjoy, 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 get to 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, you can have a picnic in the park, see wildlife and even go 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 have the need for speed, you’ll love visiting one of the many go-kart tracks in the Smoky Mountains.

Some of the top places to ride go-karts are The TrackSpeedZone Fun Park, and Xtreme Racing Center. All of them have unique go-kart tracks that will make you feel like a professional race car driver!

Gatlinburg Space Needle

For some of the best views of the area, 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 largest family fun arcade.

Play more than 100 games in the two-story amusement center after taking in 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 make the cut?  I would love to hear your thoughts so leave me a comment on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.


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