Summer is an exciting time to be in Pigeon Forge. Experience thrills at Dollywood, history at The Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, The Old Mill, and endless music and family memories as the culture of these mountains are preserved and celebrated. Pigeon Forge even has some surprises up its sleeve like barrel racing, gangster memorabilia and loads of celebrities with whom you can take pictures.
Add these 15 hot stops in Pigeon Forge to your summer experience list.
Dolly the country music superstar, Dolly the entrepreneur, Dolly the philanthropist. Whatever Dolly Parton is to you, she’s undoubtedly the Queen of Sevier County, and Dollywood is the star on her crown. This 150-acre park is Tennessee’s No. 1 ticketed attraction, hosting 2.5 million visitors each year. With five annual festivals, craftsman vendors and demonstrations, dozens of rides including award-winning roller coasters and savor-worthy eats throughout the park, it’s time you revisit Dollywood. Dollywood has even worked with Autism Speaks to create signature calming rooms for any children - or adults, for that matter - who get a little sensory overload from the sights and sounds of the park and need to take a break.
2. Walk the Red Carpet at the Hollywood Wax Museum
Don’t be surprised if, while driving down the Parkway, you suddenly see King Kong scaling the Empire State Building high above the Parkway. Beneath this landmark is the Hollywood Wax Museum, and inside its halls are recreated movie sets and uncanny wax figures of actors from and for every generation of movie fan. View from the top: Don’t skip out on joining King Kong at the observation deck, from which you can see down the parkway and well beyond, all the way to the towering peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains.
3. Toe-Tappin’ at Country Tonite
Ever since they opened 20 years ago, Country Tonite has put on a multiple-award-winning show featuring country music throughout the decades - from the classics to modern radio - giving country music enthusiasts of all ages something to cheer about. Prepare yourself for singer Shelton Tison and singer/banjo player Willow Osborne, two child prodigies among a cast of talented performers that take the stage by storm.
4. Rev Your Engine at The Track
With a classic Go-Kart racetrack, to the three-story wooden corkscrew Wild Woody, at The Track you can test your motor skills against your friends, family, and total strangers. Tiny racers: And for those families with little ones in tow, there are double-seated karts so the youngsters can ride along in the shotgun seat, and Kiddie and Rookie Karts that you only have to be 3 feet tall to drive.
5. Get Marooned on an Island
At night, you can’t miss it. The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel stands bright and flashing above the Parkway. This is the Island in Pigeon Forge, and unlike many attractions in the area, the Island is free to park and free to enter. Surrounding The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel and their Bellagio-style water fountain show is an open air mall with more than 60 local or boutique shoppes, like Big Rock Candy Kitchen (try the moonshine chocolates), Emery’s 5 & 10 (the oldest family-owned 5 & 10 in America), Puzzled (where they have a giant jigsaw you can help put together) and Ole Smoky Moonshine, a 6,000-square-foot barn with a tasting room. Pickin’ & Grinnin’: While you’re at the Island, take a seat just outside Ole Smoky Distillery for afternoon and evening performances by local and national bluegrass bands.
6. Board the Titanic
When you arrive at the Titanic Museum, you receive the boarding pass of an actual Titanic passenger. By the end, visitors learn if their passenger lived through this historic ordeal. And for the kids, they’re on a less heart-wrenching, yet still engaging scavenger hunt for a lost dog. Either way, the entire family will be saying “Wow!” when you catch sigh of the Grand Staircase. Completely hand carved and meticulously replicated from the original, it is undoubtedly the prize centerpiece of the museum. Welcome Aboard: If you catch him, in the music room you’ll be greeted by Officer Bill, a musician who plays the very same violin tune that was being played by the ship’s band as the Titanic went down, as well as an Irish jig, which was a favorite of 3rd class passengers.
7. Sing Along at the Smoky Mountain Opry
A true variety show without rival in the Southeast, the Smoky Mountain Opry features a cast of performers from a national pool of talented singers, dancers, actors, comedians and other entertaining talents. The show circles through the full gambit of American styles, from Big Band swing and country music classics, to the Beatles to Frank Sinatra, and then on to smash hit Broadway musicals and throwback hair-band rock n’ roll. Spoiler Alert: Speaking of rock n’ roll, if you’ve never seen a man flying through the air while churning out what can only be described as an epic guitar solo, you’ll catch it here.
8. Go Inside an Upside-Down House at Wonderworks
Here’s a rainy-day special. Scratch that. Wonderworks is an every-day special. And I promise you can’t miss it: it’s the upside-down mansion on the side of the Parkway. This 35,000-square-foot indoor amusement park features more than 100 hands-on, interactive exhibits and games. Wonder Zones: From replicating the ground shock of earthquakes and the gale-force winds of a hurricane, to lying down on a bed of nails and going completely upside-down on the Xtreme 360 Bikes, Wonderworks is an immersive experience unlike anything else in Pigeon Forge.
9. Cruise Down the Mountain at the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster
On this mile long track, you board your sled and control your own speed, which can reach up to 27mph. Now, that may not sound like much - but just wait until you fly around that first corkscrew bank. Light in the dark: A mountainside roller coaster may sound like a daytime activity, but be sure to visit the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster at night and whiz through the track lit up with thousands of LED lights.
10. Lose Yourself in the History of the Old Mill
Ducks and geese land on the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River, the same river that powers the working gristmill - which is on the National Register of Historic Places - that gives the Old Mill its name. The mill runs the same way as it always has, and it is probably the most visited, and definitely the most photographed, mill in the United States. Around the mill grounds are restaurants, artisanal shoppes, ice cream, an incredible distillery, handcrafted pottery and more. Forged In Fire: While you’re strolling around the Old Mill, stop by the forge and visit with Robby Bowman, a talented metalsmith who will be featured in an upcoming episode of the History Channel show Forged In Fire. Good eats: Grab a table at the Pottery House Cafe & Grille for lunch, and when you do, take your cue from everyone around you and order the fried green tomato and pimento cheese BLT. There’s a reason everyone’s ordering it.
11. Feud and Feast at the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show
The Hatfields and the McCoys have become infamous, and this historic feuding family has found a new home in the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show. Something like a bluegrass comedy musical, this show is filled right up with lightning-fast cloggers, gut-busting comedic sketches and high-flying students that give the audience a whimsical take on this legendary Appalachian family feud. Y’all come hungry: You’ll be treated to an all-you-can-eat home style dinner feast, with heaping platters of fried chicken, pulled pork barbecue, mashed potatoes and just about everything else you’ll need to loosen your belt.
12. Get Locked Up at the Alcatraz East Crime Museum
The brand new Alcatraz East Crime Museum is one of Pigeon Forge’s most intriguing attractions. Dedicated to cultivating and displaying an incredible array of artifacts and exhibits on the history of crime and crime fighting in America, this museum was relocated to Pigeon Forge from Washington D.C. Getaway Car: Inside, tour galleries filled with everything from medieval punishment devices to the getaway car of famed Depression-era gangster John Dillinger.
13. Beat the heat at the Outdoor Gravity Park
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to climb inside a giant ball and zig-zag down a 1,000-foot hill - ‘cause, who hasn’t? - then you’ve got to head to the Outdoor Gravity Park. Beat the heat: The ball is called a “Zorb,” and climbing inside after they’ve added 10 gallons of water for you to slip and slosh around in as the Zorb rolls downhill, you’ve found one of the best ways in Pigeon Forge to beat the heat. They’ll even give you a handheld GoPro to document your ride.
14. Make Family Traditions at the Dixie Stampede
Dolly Parton’s very own Dixie Stampede is perhaps the most classic dinner show in Pigeon Forge. Filled with incredible rodeo-caliber horse-stunts, musical productions ranging from sentimental to hilarious and a plate full of chicken, pork chops, corn and roasted potatoes, come see why most folks who visit the Dixie Stampede once make it a family tradition to return every year. Meet the Stars: Show up to the Dixie Stampede a little early so you can stop by some of the dressing rooms of the show’s stars for a meet-and-greet. You can’t miss them, if you just walk around the outside of the building. They’re the ones with the hooves and manes who whinny.
15. Roam the Smokies
Last but not least, the lights and sounds and the attractions and entertainment of Pigeon Forge give way to a final, undeniable fact: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is right down the Parkway. American’s most visited National Park is a worldwide treasure, and no visit to Pigeon Forge is complete without walking among its old-growth forests, along its incredible hiking trails, atop its dazzling summits.