Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a popular family vacation destination. But I have to admit that when we first drove through Pigeon Forge, I was shocked. The main strip looks a bit like a touristy carnival from years gone by. I had heard so much about the natural beauty of the area that I was surprised to see all of the billboards and buildings which were assaulting my senses. I wondered if we would actually be able to spend a week enjoying this area or if we had made a poor choice when deciding to stay here.
Let me assure you that not only did we have a wonderful time in Pigeon Forge that first time, but two years later we returned and had another fantastic family vacation visiting even more attractions. There is so much to see and do in this area that it can sometimes be overwhelming to get your bearings at first. But with a little bit of research, you will find fun stuff for the whole family to enjoy!
Here are Our 8 Favorite Pigeon Forge Area Family Vacation Ideas:
Family Attractions in the Pigeon Forge Area
We went to Dollywood thinking we were headed to an amusement park but in reality, it is so much more. Dollywood is fun for all ages!
- There are plenty of rides with varying levels of fear. Tame rides for the young kids as well as crazy rollercoasters for the teens.
- A variety of shows which feature music the entire family can enjoy. You will find plenty of country music with popular Top 40 tunes from the 50s and 60s as well. My favorite show was the Dreamland Drive-In which I enjoyed watching more than once.
- Lots of dining options inside the park. Be sure to grab some of the cinnamon bread at The Grist Mill. Yum!
- Watch the craftsmen as they create beautiful hand-crafted items which are traditional to the Pigeon Forge area. You can see everything from blacksmiths to glass blowers to wood carvers to mountain-style pottery. Some of them even offer opportunities for you to try out these skills for yourself!
Plan to spend at least one full day in the park. My one disappointment with this venue was that visitors are charged for parking, which seems a bit excessive since you’re already paying a premium for tickets. But we loved everything else about the place so we put up with that.
2 – Dixie Stampede
The Dixie Stampede is a fun adventure for the whole family. Be sure to arrive early so that you have time to tour the horse barns before even entering the building.
Your evening continues by being ushered into a large room where you can order drinks and appetizers if you would like. The audience is then entertained by extremely talented performers who have everyone laughing at their antics. It’s a show in itself! Then, you enter the main arena where visitors are treated to a lively horse show where the North competes against the South.
Visitors are seated on either the North Side or the South Side and they find themselves in the midst of the battle while eating their huge four-course meal. It was quite an experience which was fun for our whole family!
When purchasing your tickets, be sure to let them know if you have any dietary restrictions. The normal meal features a rotisserie chicken and pork tenderloin but they were extremely accommodating when I asked for a vegetarian meal. Also, I found it difficult to watch all of the action and eat at the same time. Be aware that you can request a doggy bag for any food you can’t finish. So, if you run into the same issue, watch the action and take your food home with you.
3 – Wonderworks
It’s pretty hard to miss Wonderworks when driving through Pigeon Forge. It’s an upside-down building! When I first saw the place, I figured it was going to be cheesy. But my sons were intrigued by their brochure so we decided to give it a try. I’m so glad we did!
Wonderworks is a hands-on science museum on steroids. With over 100 hands-on exhibits, there is plenty to do for the whole family. They cover the following categories:
- Natural Disasters – where you can experience a 5.3 magnitude earthquake and the 71 mph winds of a hurricane
- Physical Challenges – which includes a rock roll, a ropes course, and laser tag
- Light & Sound – where you’re reflexes will be challenged to try to beat the speed of light
- Space Discovery – experience astronaut training in a 4-person gyroscope and enjoy the flight simulator
- Imagination Lab – hands-on exhibits for younger children
Plan to spend at least half a day here. But it’s entirely possible to spend an entire day at Wonderworks!
4 – Titanic Museum
The Titanic Museum allows families to travel back in time to experience what it would have been like to be an actual passenger on the mighty ship. Each visitor receives a boarding pass when they first arrive with the name and information about one of Titanic’s passengers or crew members. The memorial wall near the end of the museum lists the names of all 2,208 people who either perished or survived the sinking of the ship. Searching for the name on your boarding pass will let you learn his or her fate.
This museum is filled with hands-on interactive displays that allow you to do things such as touching an iceberg, timing how long you can keep your hand submerged in 28-degree water, and walking down a grand staircase which has been constructed using the original plans used to create the original.
Plan to spend a few hours exploring all of the displays on the ship.
Nature Sites to Explore in the Pigeon Forge Area
If you’ve never ridden in a boat inside a cave before then you should definitely check out the Lost Sea Adventure in Sweetwater, Tennessee. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Pigeon Forge, but the thought of taking a boat tour on a cave lake fascinated me, so we decided to give it a try.
Touring caves is always fun, but the boat aspect took this tour to a whole new level. The rest of the cave was fairly standard but being able to ride in that boat was a unique adventure we will always remember. The tour guides even feed the fish in the lake to be sure you get a good view of them as well.
Tennessee has so much natural beauty above ground. But did you know that they also have more caves than any other state in the United States? Forbidden Caverns is a guided cave tour you should definitely consider. This cave has all sorts of formations to check out. They’ve even lit up parts of the cave to make it easier for visitors to take pictures. And it’s only a 30-minute drive from Pigeon Forge!
Family-Friendly Entertainment in the Pigeon Forge Area
This variety show is filled with fun, family-friendly entertainment. The show is a mixture of music, comedy, dancing, and more. It’s approximately 2-hours in length and parking is free. This show is a fun way to spend the evening with your family.
Be aware that the main road in Pigeon Forge is often congested during peak hours so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.
This dinner theater is so much fun. The food is family friendly and they are accommodating to people with special dietary needs. There are three shows to choose from:
- America’s Hit Parade
- Soul of Motown
- Hazzard Hoedown
As a family, we hadn’t attended many shows like this before our trip to this area, so I wasn’t sure what my teenage sons would think. But they thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
See also our 9 Favorite Gatlinburg Area Family Vacation Ideas for even more great ideas you’ll want to consider incorporating into your next vacation.
If you’ve been to the Pigeon Forge area, we’d love to know YOUR favorite vacation ideas? What destinations would you add to this list?