Dolly Parton, the area’s most famous resident, put Pigeon Forge on the map when she helped transform Silver Dollar City into Dollywood in 1986. It’s now the most visited commercial attraction in Tennessee, bringing in more than two million visitors each year.
Although, technically, Pigeon Forge is a small town – it’s home to only 6,000 people – it attracts more than 10 million guests annually. Part of the reason is that two-thirds of the nation’s population east of the Mississippi River live within a day’s drive, and it’s only 35 miles from the Knoxville airport.
The other part is that there’s so much to do and so many sights to see, including nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park – the most visited national park in the country – and the following top attractions:
Drop Line at Dollywood — Photo courtesy of Dollywood
The centerpiece of Pigeon Forge, Dollywood is the perfect representation of everything the city has to offer. With more than 40 rides, 15 family-friendly shows and some of the best Southern-style cooking around, it continues to win amusement park industry awards year after year.
In 2016, Lightning Rod was named one of the best new amusement park attractions, and Drop Line – a 200-foot-tall free-fall experience that lifts guests nearly 20 stories above Timber Canyon before plummeting them back down – is poised to earn the same distinction.
The Spa at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort
Relax at DreamMore Spa — Photo courtesy of DreamMore Spa
Dolly Parton has always been proud of her high-maintenance beauty routine, so it’s no wonder she’s created a haven offering everything from Sweet Tea Surrender mani/pedis to Mountain Restoration facials.
In this inviting space – think Steel Magnolias with glitz – families are encouraged to relax and rejuvenate together. There’s a Pampered Pair “Shared Time” Massage for parent and child, teens can enjoy a Cotton Candy Creation facial and guests 12 and under can get their nails bedazzled with signature Dolly butterflies.
Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud
Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud! — Photo courtesy of Fee/Hedrick Entertainment Group
Dinner shows are a Pigeon Forge staple, and this one features the fighting families trying to settle their differences through comedy, stunts and lots of singing and dancing.
The menu is good ol’ country cooking – fried chicken, pulled pork, corn on the cob, smashed taters, coleslaw, homemade bread, Southern-style vegetable soup and Granny’s famous specialty dessert. Thanks to an all-you-can-eat policy, there’ll be no feuding over who gets what.
Chondola at Anakeesta — Photo courtesy of Anakeesta
This outdoor experience center in next-door Gatlinburg celebrates the mountains with a variety of activities that let you literally play in the trees.
Take a scenic treetop canopy walk, race across dueling 1000-foot-long ziplines and navigate through the treehouse village playground. You enter Anakeesta via the Chondola, a twelve-minute ride that takes you up 600 feet to the summit of the mountain in either an open air chair or an enclosed gondola cabin. It’s the first of its kind in the U.S. and the views are stunning.
Alex and Ani Outlet
Alex and Ani Charity by Design Cupcake Charm Bangle benefiting Race to Erase MS — Photo courtesy of Alex and Ani
There are only three Alex and Ani outlets in the country, and the fact that one of them is right next door in Sevierville is reason enough to pay a visit to Pigeon Forge to stock up on armfuls of their signature bracelets at amazing discounts.
The American company, which creates meaningful, eco-conscious jewelry using powerful symbolism – and recycled materials – has become recognized as much for its substance as its style.
Its Charity by Design division has donated more than $45 million to a variety of non-profit organizations and, last year, Alex and Ani partnered with Dollywood Foundation to raise almost $115,000 for victims of the Gatlinburg wildfires. Talk about being a good neighbor.
10 Reasons to Visit East Tennessee Right Now
10 Reasons to Visit East Tennessee Right Now
Alcatraz East Crime Museum
Explore the dark side at Alcatraz East Crime Museum — Photo courtesy of Alcatraz East Crime Museum
Be prepared to take an insightful journey into the history of American crime, crime-solving, and the justice system through arresting interactive exhibits and original artifacts.
There’s something shocking and sobering about seeing items like O.J. Simpson’s Bronco, John Dillinger’s death mask, Al Capone’s rosary and Ted Bundy’s VW Beetle in person. They may make you uncomfortable, but you'll find you just can’t look away.
Goats on the Roof
Admire the view at the Coaster at Goats on the Roof — Photo courtesy of Goats on the Roof
Yes, there are actually goats on the roof here, and they add a whole other layer of fun to the alpine coaster, which is a blast in itself.
The track is a mile long, and you get to control your speed, up to 27 mph. You can slowly coast along and take in the scenery or zip through it and do it again. Either way, take time to smile at the goats’ antics. Afterwards, you can feed them, mine for gems and sit back in a rocking chair with some ice cream or homemade fudge.
Grand Staircase at Titanic Pigeon Forge — Photo courtesy of Titanic Pigeon Forge
The world’s largest museum attraction is also one of its most fascinating. A tribute to the ship that tragically sank more than a century ago, this museum gives you a rare opportunity to go behind the scenes and get a sense of what actually happened.
You’ll get to walk the Grand Staircase, an exact replica of the one on the Titanic, and imagine life – and death – aboard the luxury ship.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Penguin Encounter at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies — Photo courtesy of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokes
Voted Best U.S. Aquarium in our 2017 Reader’s Choice Awards, this top-notch attraction lets you immerse yourself in marine life. You can reach out and touch a ray or glide through the underwater tunnel where you’ll come face to face with sharks.
Want an even more personal experience? Opt for the Penguin Encounter, where you can pet and get a photo taken with one of the waddling creatures.
Turn your world upside down at WonderWorks Pigeon Forge — Photo courtesy of WonderWorks Pigeon Forge
You can’t miss this irresistible upside down house, which bills itself as an indoor interactive amusement park for the mind.
Spend an afternoon experiencing the 100+ exhibits and testing your skill on the world’s largest indoor ropes challenge course. You can feel the power behind a category 1 hurricane and the 5.3 San Francisco earthquake of 1989, become a human lightning rod and try to move at the speed of light. You’ll be so enthralled, you won’t even realize how much science you’re learning.
These are the 10 best roadside attractions in the U.S.