If you think all the good music, barbecue and celeb nostalgia of Tenessee are only in Nashville and Memphis, think again. There’s one city that takes an Elvis and raises it a Dolly Parton — and that place is Pigeon Forge. Located in the stunning Smoky Mountains, this charming spot is worth a visit for a whole host of reasons. The mountain town and vacation area is filled with hiking, eating, theme parks and sights, which means there’s something for everyone. Here’s our guide:
What To Do
Take an amusement park and make Dolly Parton the theme and you’ve got yourself one amazing attraction. Sure, Memphis has Graceland, but Pigeon Forge has Dollywood. Here you can ride on the famous Tennessee Tornado and the Barnstormer – a swing ride that travels at 45 miles per hour and reaches 81 feet in the air. There’s also Dollywood’s Splash Country water park all set against the backdrop of an old-time country village. It’s impossible not to talk out of there with more respect for Dolly’s life and work.
Remember that part where we mentioned committing a crime is an attraction in this area? Let us clarify. Alcatraz East in a new crime museum in town that lets you explore American History from a different perspective. Set up over 25,000 square feet of space, the two-floor museum includes over 100 interactive activities. Some of the galleries include Crime Scene Investigation, where you’ll learn how to solve crime through the use of forensic science technology or enter the world of Counterfeit Crimes & Pop Culture – where you can learn the dangers of counterfeit goods and its impact on society. The highlights have to be the many artifacts on display like John Dillinger’s death mask, Al Capone’s rosary, Al Pacino’s submachine gun from the movie Scarface, and O.J. Simpson’s white Bronco.
The Smoky Mountain Opry Theater
If you come to Tennessee, we’re pretty sure catching a country show is required. Nashville might have The Grand Ole Opry, but Piegon Forge has The Smoky Mountain Opry. It’s the area’s largest musical variety show featuring music from big bang swing through today’s country. No matter when you visit, you’ll be able to see the most talented singers, dancers, comedians, and musicians the Smokies has to offer. Check out which show would be right for you; all of them are fabulous!
Parrot Mountain & Gardens
Who would have thought to come to Tennessee to get a bit tropical? Parrot Mountain and Gardens is nestled on four acres of beautiful landscaped gardens where hundreds of tropical birds and flowers, plants, and trees reside. It’s a great place to interact with a variety of beautiful and exotic birds without ever leaving the continental United States. Bonus: you’re allowed to feed the birds!
Titanic Museum Attraction
This fantastic collection of Titanic information and relics is not to be missed. When you walk in, you are given a boarding pass and it has the name of someone (along with a description) of who was on the ship. At the end of your visit, there is wall and you can search for the name and see if you made it or not (let’s hope you were in first class). There are a few interactive experiences as well, one including being able to feel what the water felt like when the ship went down. It’s a great way to see what it was like on board while checking out actual artifacts from the ship.
Mountain Valley Winery
Tennessee and whiskey are synonymous, but Pigeon Forge is testing the boundaries with wine making. Mountain Valley Vineyards is located in the heart of the Smoky Mountain vacation area and is one of the best wineries in the area. The building is beautiful and similar to an old castle, so you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into another time. The wines here are great and you can taste up to four wines for free (count us in!). Don’t forget to take some wine to go before you leave on the way out. Their sweet Blackberry wine is perfect for dessert.
Hiking in the Smoky Mountains
If booze, crimes, disasters and theme parks aren’t really your things, there’s always the great outdoors! You can come to Pigeon Forge simply to hike one of the 850 miles of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best time to hike is during the spring or fall where temperatures are mild and the wildflowers popping. (The winter months are great for snow-covered mountain lovers.)
Where To Eat and Drink
The Farm at Blackberry Farm
You can come to Tennessee for some classic roadside ribs or one of the best, classiest meals you’ve ever had in your entire life. Blackberry Farm has been recognized as the number one hotel for food lovers from Bon Appetit Magazine. The visually stunning Barn allows guests to sample regionally inspired dishes on a nightly basis. The chef uses the freshest ingredients from Blackberry Farm’s on-site garden and its house made cheese, eggs, and honey. Diners can choose from three menus; a chef’s tasting menu, an a la carte menu, or a garden tasting. No wonder Kelly Clarkson chose to get married here.
The Old Mill Restaurant
This restaurant is known for its old-fashioned, classic Southern food. The wood paneled dining room overlooks the Pigeon River where diners get a great view of the water wheel that powers the mill. Here you’ll get those Southern comforts that you’ve been craving like grits, breads, biscuits, muffins. Better yet, they’re all made from ingredients ground right next door. Make sure to try the corn chowder and pecan pie for dessert.
Margaritaville Pigeon Forge Restaurant
You know a city is worth a trip when there’s a Margaritaville restaurant there! You’ll be treated to exposed wood and warm tropical colors creating a welcoming atmosphere. Then there’s everything you need to get the party going like unique dining spaces, a concert stage, and multiple bars. The a large exterior deck overlooks the Little Pigeon River and offers guests a beautiful view while enjoying an outdoor dining experience The 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar even has an oversized fire pit.
Iron Boar Saloon
If you want to pretend to be a local, this is the place to be. The biker bar is designed for motorcycle enthusiasts, but there’s great food as well. Try their signature sandwiches like the You’re Killin’ Me! Burger, which is a savory sandwich stacked with cheese and all the fixins’. Even if you aren’t a bike enthusiast, we promise they are friendly to everyone.