If you’ve settled on Pigeon Forge, Tennessee as your next travel destination, it’s important that you plot out your visit at least a few days before you arrive. There are plenty of exciting activities in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area, so careful planning is key.
Whether you’re preparing for a business trip, a solo getaway, or a family vacation, here are nine tips that can help you make the most of the experience.
1. Choose the right season
As is the case with most trips, the time of year at which you travel can have a significant impact on the trip, the attractions you’re able to visit, and the overall cost of your trip.
From a weather standpoint, Tennessee has a fairly moderate climate. Summers are fairly warm but not unbearably hot, and winters are very cool but not terribly frigid. For this reason, there’s no wrong time to visit Pigeon Forge.
However, some seasons are more ideal than others. If you want to check out Dollywood’s Splash County Waterpark and other warm-weather attractions, avoid visiting during the winter months. If you’re interested in hiking and other rigorous outdoor activities, the spring or fall months might be more comfortable for you.
Cost is another issue. If you’re working with a limited budget, consider booking your trip for spring or fall. Because Pigeon Forge is a popular vacation spot for families, the summer months tend to be the busiest—largely as children are not in school. As a result, flights and accommodation tend to be more expensive during this time.
2. Determine how you’ll travel
Depending on where you live in the United States, consider whether it’s better for you to fly or drive to Pigeon Forge.
If you live less than seven or eight hours from Pigeon Forge, you might want to consider making the drive, as you may get to enjoy the many scenic views that the Great Smoky Mountains provide.
However, if you live far from Tennessee or if you want to avoid driving at all costs, flying into Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) is likely to be your best bet. With this said, there is no avoiding the drive entirely, as you’ll still need to account for a 47-mile drive from McGhee Tyson Airport to Pigeon Forge and vice versa.
3. Consider all lodging options
Pigeon Forge is equipped to accommodate tourists year-round, so you should have no issue finding accommodation of all kinds. Of course, Pigeon Forge is home to dozens of hotels; but there are also resorts, log cabins, RV parks, and other types of lodging to consider.
If you wish to capitalize on the full Pigeon Forge experience, consider renting out a log cabin tucked away in the Great Smoky Mountains—making it your “home away from home” during your visit.
This will allow you to not only enjoy all of the activities and amenities that Pigeon Forge’s downtown area offers but also allow you to marvel at the surrounding views from the comfort of your log cabin.
4. Schedule your attractions
Because there are so many exciting activities to enjoy in Pigeon Forge, it’s important that you create a schedule or at least have a general understanding of what each day will include.
After all, there certain attractions—such as the Smoky Mountain Ghost Tour—that are only open during certain days of the week or during specific times.
There are other attractions—such as Steven Best’s Unbelievable Magic Show—that require you to schedule your visit in advance, either because they sell out quickly or because they are still operating on limited capacity due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
5. Book a show
The state of Tennessee is largely known for its love of music, and country music, more specifically. But Tennessee is also known for its many musicals, shows, and concerts.
In fact, dinner shows are wildly popular throughout Pigeon Forge. Whether it’s Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Hatfield and McCoy, or Pirates Voyage, consider booking dinner and a show for a particular evening. Just be sure to buy your tickets in advance!
6. Leave room for pancakes
To the surprise of many, the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area is often called “the pancake capital of the south.” To capitalize on an authentic Pigeon Forge experience, make sure that at least one of your mornings features a stack of fluffy flapjacks!
If you’re the type of traveler who likes to identify all of the top restaurants before traveling, be sure to check out some of the area’s most highly-rated breakfast and pancake joints in advance.
7. Leave time for the outdoors
Very few U.S. towns offer the blend of indoor and outdoor activities that Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg residents sometimes take for granted.
While you might be tempted to stuff your entire week with as many amusement parks, museums, and restaurants as possible, consider leaving at least a modest block of time to spend with nature.
Particularly in Gatlinburg and as you approach the Great Smoky Mountains, there are 43 moderate hiking trails and plenty of scenic views.
8. Check out nearby cities, towns, and attractions
Especially if you happen to live on the other side of the country and suspect that this will be your first and last time visiting Tennessee for the foreseeable future, make the most of your trip by also visiting nearby cities, towns, and attractions.
Consider dedicating a day or two in your schedule to exploring one of Tennessee’s major cities nearby—whether it’s Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville, or Franklin. You can reach Knoxville in as little as 45 minutes, and in most cases, you can reach each of these cities in 4 hours or less.
9. Prepare to miss out on certain spots
While you should certainly plan to make the most of your Pigeon Forge visit by enjoying as many activities as you can, you may also need to prepare for disappointment.
The Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area includes more activities, amenities, and entertainment options than you could possibly enjoy in a single trip. Shortlist your preferred destinations as you’re planning out your trip and keep a realistic schedule.