Top Five Things to Do in Pigeon Forge for Families

With a wide range of attractions- including a theme park, dinner shows galore, and access to one of the best National Parks in the country, there’s truly something for everyone in Pigeon Forge! Since it’s only about four hours from our house, it’s one of our favorite places to get away for a long weekend– or even longer because there’s so much to do!

There's so much for families to do in Pigeon Forge and the opportunities to make memories are endless; pack up the kids and embark on a Pigeon Forge adventure!This post is sponsored by the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. For more information on Pigeon Forge, visit their official website. As always, all opinions are honest and my own.

Dollywood

Five smiling kids standing in front of the Dollywood sign.

You can’t go to Pigeon Forge and NOT go to Dollywood– well, you can, I just wouldn’t recommend it! It’s the first place that our kids wanted to go in Pigeon Forge and it did not disappoint. With thrilling rides (including rides for the younger crowd), amazing food, and great entertainment, Dollywood is the perfect place to spend a couple of days!

Giant wooden roller coaster in front of green trees. Lightnin' Rod at Dollywood.

Dollywood opens for the season in March and is open until just after the new year. One of our favorite rides, Lightning Rod, was the world’s first launch wooden coaster. Even though it doesn’t have any inversions, this one still packs a punch!

The Dollywood Express (big black train) running through Dollywood with billowing black smoke, amidst the green trees and flowers.

Dollywood manages to combine thrilling new rides and old-time charm into one BEAUTIFUL park. The grounds are vibrant and well-maintained and the theming is exceptional. Soaking up the atmosphere is part of the fun of visiting.

Amazing Dollywood cinnamon bread in front of the Grist Mill

You absolutely should not miss the world-famous cinnamon bread from the Grist Mill. You can order it to enjoy right away or get it packaged to go- and honestly, just do one of each- it’s that good!!

The Old Mill

Five smiling kids in front of the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge.

Our family loves to incorporate historical attractions whenever possible while traveling and at home. The Old Mill, a water-powered gristmill, is a Smoky Mountain treasure and is the only building in Pigeon Forge listed on the National Register of Historic Places! A gristmill is any mill that grinds grain and the one in Pigeon Forge is nearly 200 years old.

Young girl and miller tying bags of cornmeal in an old mill

Inside the mill, the millers fill the bags of stone-ground grain by hand, just like it’s been done for the last 190 years. Working 6 days a week, the millers bag about 1000 pounds of stone-ground grain a day- some of it is cornmeal, some are grits, some are mixes, and all are delicious!

Corn being ground into cornmeal

In addition to learning how the mill operates, we also learned about the history of the building. Would you ever have guessed that The Old Mill was the site of the first Post Office in Pigeon Forge?! The Old Mill is full of Pigeon Forge history from the front door that served as a notice post in the 1800s to the third floor that was a Civil War hospital. It’s definitely worth a stop on your Pigeon Forge trip!

Drive through Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Five smiling kids in front of Clingmans Dome- the highest point in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Part of the appeal of Pigeon Forge is the proximity to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There’s plenty to do in Pigeon Forge without ever venturing into the park, but IT IS the most visited National Park in the country for a reason.

Snow and ice covered walkway up to Clingmans Dome.

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in GSMNP and well worth the drive. Make sure to check the road conditions before heading out because it’s only open from spring through late fall (depending on the snowfall). We went in mid-April, and while it was totally green throughout GSMNP, as soon as we started climbing toward Clingmans Dome, the trees were covered in ice. The half-mile hike up to the observation tower is paved but oh my gosh, it is STEEP!! The climb gradient is nearly 13% and man, I could feel it, but the views are totally worth the hike!

Beautiful sunrise over fields in Cades Cove, part of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Another popular Great Smoky Mountain National Park stop is Cades Cove and it’s especially beautiful at sunrise! The Cades Cove Loop road officially opens at sunrise so make sure to check times if you’re planning to go early. We were the only people on the road for this mid-April sunrise and the stillness was amazing.

Deer hanging out on the side of the road in GSMNP.

Like many animals in a national park, the deer were accustomed to vehicles and did not frighten easily. However, they are still wild animals and should be treated accordingly so stay in your car and leave them alone. As we drove around Cades Cove, we saw more deer and turkeys than I can count…

2 bear cubs climbing a tree with mama bear watching from the ground.

And then we finally saw what we’d been searching for… BEARS!! Or rather, we saw a bunch of cars pulled over to the side of the road (so we did the same), and then we saw a group of photographers with BIIIIIG lenses- so we hopped out to check out what was going on. The group of photogs was kind enough to point out the cubs scampering up the tree and mama bear watching from the bottom and we watched in awe for about an hour as the cubs went up and down the tree.

Check Out a Dinner Show

Pirates Voyage dinner show- acrobatics

Dinner shows are big in Pigeon Forge and there are plenty of options including the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, Dolly Parton’s Stampede, and the Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show. I’m bummed that we didn’t have time to try them all- I guess we’ll have to go back again soon- but Pirates Voyage was fantastic!

Young girl watching the Pirates Voyage dinner show

Enjoy a four-course feast while watching all the swashbuckling action and amazing stunts. The kids were seriously enthralled with the show, like to the point that I had to remind them to eat their feast!

Pirate themed dinner show featuring acrobatics and stunts.

Our kids LOVED the aerial stunts- watching the pirates do these giant flips and acrobatics was amazing. We had so much fun cheering along with our team; the competition aspect really gets the audience involved!

See Snow!

Three smiling kids in front of giant icicles in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Since it’s located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge does get occasional snowfall in the winter, but did you know that you can play in the snow year-round?! Pigeon Forge Snow is the first indoor snow park in the United States and it is open all year. There’s tubing and a HUGE snow play area so that you can get your winter weather fix, even in July!

There’s honestly SO MUCH to do in Pigeon Forge and the opportunities to make memories are endless. It’s one of those places that you can have a fantastic visit on your first time in town or your fiftieth! Have you been to Pigeon Forge before?? Where do you want to go first??

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