Why Vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee?
Passenger pigeons were once the major inhabitants of this old civil war city located in eastern Tennessee. The passenger pigeons are no more, but Pigeon Forge is thriving and is now one of the hottest tourist destinations in the southern United States.
You might know Pigeon Forge best as the home of one of the United States largest amusement parks, Dollywood. Designed by the popular buxom blonde-haired country singer, Dolly Parton, Dollywood draws thousands of tourists year round. But there is more to Pigeon Forge than just an amusement park.
With a population of just over 5,000, Pigeon Forge now plays host to over 10 million tourists a year who pass through this quaint city on their way to the Great Smoky National Park. Pigeon Forge is just a short 23-mile drive from Knoxville, Tennessee and 148-miles from Atlanta, Georgia. Located in the county of Sevier, Pigeon Forge has a rich civil war history. In fact, Sevier County was named for war hero, John Sevier, one of the “Overmountain Men” who fought in the Battle of King’s Mountain in 1780.
Pigeon Forge was settled back in the late 18th century; the city got its name from the flocks of passenger pigeons that once made the area their home, and the iron forge that Isaac Love set up on the banks of the river in the early 19th century. Love’s son, William, followed the forge with his own construction of a water-powered gristmill in 1830. This nearly 180-year old mill, with its poplar log and huge granite river rock construction, is now one of the major tourist attractions in the area.
Pigeon Forge once belonged to the neighboring state of North Carolina, and was once part of the State of Franklin (named after Ben Franklin), later known as Tennessee. Located on the Little Pigeon River, Pigeon Forge is home to a wide range of peoples and cultures including those of American Indian, Italian, British, German, Norwegian, Swiss, and Canadian descent.
Pigeon Forge experiences a full range of weather types because of its mountain setting. May is the wettest month; July is the hottest month with temperatures averaging between 65 and 87 degrees F. Winters can get quite cold with temperatures falling to the low 20s, but snowfall is minimal with less than 6 inches accumulating through the winter months.
Pigeon Forge is the perfect spot for families. The area’s crime rate is almost non-existent when compared to other American cities and cities in the rest of the state.
The Parkway is the major route through Pigeon Forge; tourists will be charmed to find that many attractions are just off the Parkway. In fact, a local will tell you how to find an attraction by the number of the traffic light in its vicinity.
Must Sees in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee!
Family-oriented entertainment abounds in the Pigeon Forge area from the Dollywood amusement park and the new Dollywood Splash Country to Terry Evanswood Magic Beyond Belief magic show, and the Black Bear Jamboree dinner theatre.
The Black Bear Jamboree is a hugely popular attraction located along the Parkway in Pigeon Forge. You enter in through a toy store where you are surrounded by stuffed bears. Once inside the theatre, diners are treated to true southern fare with generous servings of Southern fried chicken, BBQ ribs, roasted potatoes and corn on the cob. A souvenir video tape is offered for purchase at the end of the evening. There is an early seating at 5:30 which is perfect for the younger kids, and a late seating at 8:00 PM.
For those who prefer more of an historical adventure, the Old Mill is not to be missed. This very photogenic historic site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Grains are still ground under the weight of 4600-pound river rocks (French Buhrs), and then baked into a variety of breads (like Chocolate Chip Cherry Sourdough) offered for sale to the public. Tourists of all ages will love the small village filled with shops like the Candy Kitchen and the Toy Bin, in the Old Mill Square. If you want a preview of the Old Mill, try this Motion Cam Video link.
Or perhaps lush gardens are more your style of vacation? Then you simply must visit one of Pigeon Forge’s newest attractions,
Parrot Mountain and Gardens. Visit the Prayer Garden or the Secret Garden. Or pay a visit to a replica of Jesus’ tomb. Spend time with baby birds in the attraction’s unique petting zoo. Or feed exotic tropical birds nectar from your hand. The Parrot Mountain and Gardens are open 7 days a week, with extended hours June through August.
Are you a Baby Boomer, yearning for the good times of the 50s? Look no farther than Pigeon Forge and its American Jukebox Theater. You’ll find this popular nostalgic treat on Teaster Lane just off the Parkway. Choose from a 50s Rock ‘n Roll or a Country’s Greatest Hits show. If you visit in November and December, you’ll be treated to the theater’s “Back to the 50s Christmas Show.” No matter which show you choose, or when you visit, those nostalgic cravings in you are sure to be pleased.
No matter what your age or interest, a visit to Pigeon Forge simply wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Smoky Mountains, located in the Blue Ride Mountain range. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is touted as “the most visited national park in America.” Visit this stunning geographical area in any season for exquisite views of flora and fauna. You shouldn’t find the park too crowded since it covers about 520-thousand acres. Stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Centre to evaluate the numerous ways to spend time in this gorgeous Tennessee park.
And you simply must take a ride on the Pigeon Forge Fun Time Trolley line. Choose to ride the Main Street trolley which runs every 20-25 minutes, the Valley Trolley which runs every 40-45 minutes, the Dollywood and Dolly’s Splash Country trolleys which run every 15-20 minutes, or the Gatlinburg trolley which runs every 30 minutes.
Sights and Attractions in Pigeon Forge!
Dollywood – This popular amusement park is open from the end of March through the end of December. The park includes a huge variety of activities and musical events. Thrill ride lovers won’t be disappointed with the park’s 40 rides, like the wooden Thunderhead ride. Step back in time and take a ride aboard the Dollywood Express, an authentic coal-powered steam train. There’s no better way to see the Smoky Mountain scenery while listening to Dolly Parton tunes. The train ride takes about 20 minutes and totals 5 miles in length.
Have trouble getting around or do you travel with someone with special needs? You will find this 2007 Dollywood Disability Guide helpful.
Be sure to set aside a couple of days for this remarkable park.
Dollywood Splash Country – Just try to get the kids out of this wild water park once they see all it has to offer. Boasting 23 highly imaginative slides and rides like the Bear Mountain Fire Tower and the Mountain Scream body slide, families will find this water park one of the best they’ve ever visited. From the slides and pools designed for the little tykes to the hair-raising deep water offerings for the wild and crazy, Dollywood Splash Country is an attraction not to be missed when visiting Pigeon Forge.
Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum – Fans of gospel music will not want to miss an opportunity to visit this tribute to a uniquely American music genre. Located in Dollywood, the museum has been operating since 1999.
The Old Mill – As Pigeon Forge’s oldest and best known attraction, one should not miss this 24-foot tall old-timer. Set aside a couple of hours to enjoy the mill and the surrounding Old Mill Square with its quaint shops. Be sure to taste a local favorite: Pecan Logs.
Maybe you aren’t into amusement parks and gospel concerts. How about a little outdoors adventure? Pigeon Forge has it all from whitewater rafting to backpacking.
Whitewater Rafting – Mountains and whitewater rafting go together like BBQ beef and baked beans. Choose from a number of adventure companies and outfitters who will take you and your family for a safe and thrilling unforgettable adventure on the Pigeon River.
Hiking and Backpacking – Nobody can visit the Smoky Mountains and not do at least a little hiking, even if that’s just a short walk up a trail in this beautiful area.
For those more vigorous and adventurous hikers, there are plenty of options including the Smoky Mountain Llama Treks. Enjoy your hike while pack llamas carry your gear. A number of excursions are offered from day trips to 2-day treks.
Water Sports – Jet skiing, canoeing, and boating? The Smoky Mountain area has water experiences for all levels of experience.
Swimming in the Smoky Mountain Park waters, however, is not recommended as the icy cold temperatures of the mountain streams can lead to hypothermia, year-round. And there are NO life-guarded areas anywhere in the Park.
Fishing – Fishing in the Smoky Mountains? Of course; year-round, too. With over 2-thousand miles of streams and an abundance of lakes, you are almost sure to hook yourself a fine rainbow or brown trout. But stay out of trouble and be sure to read up on the area’s fishing regulations first.
Camping – With 10 major campsites and an abundance of hook-ups, a camping vacation may be the perfect way to save on accommodations when visiting the Pigeon Forge area. Campsites can be reserved up to five months in advance.
Some group camping areas like those within the Smoky Mountain National Park are reserved for tents only, and must be reserved in advance. No vehicles are allowed.
Golf – Duffers haven’t been forgotten. Pigeon Forge offers an 18-hole course, originally designed by William Langford, and later renovated by Bob Cupp and Associates. The course is open year-round and features all the usual amenities, including a Pro shop.
Other outdoor recreational activities include go-karts, miniature golfing, laser tag, bungee jumping, bumper boats, and helicopter tours.
Festivals, Fairs, and Concerts in Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge has an abundance of festivals and concerts year round. But perhaps one of the best known is the Dollywood’s KidsFest which runs from mid-June to the beginning of August.
In addition, Dollywood plays host to numerous other popular Southern festivals including these:
Pigeon Forge, in keeping with its cultural roots, hosts many craft festivals throughout the year, especially in the spring and the fall. Local wares, pottery, and local foods are available to the eager tourists hoping to take a bit of Southern comfort home with them.
But don’t wait for a festival; take a trip around the 8-mile Smoky Mountain area crafts loop.
Check out a full year of featured events for the Pigeon Forge area.
Dining and Nightlife in Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge has many dining options from gourmet meals to more economical family fare. For a nostalgic treat, take a step back in time to Red’s Diner for an old-fashioned inexpensive meal of burgers and shakes. The restaurant is located at Jukebox Junction in Dollywood.
Here are some top-rated eateries in the Pigeon Forge area and all are conveniently located along the Parkway:
- Log Cabin Pancake House
- Apple Tree Family Inn
- Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
- Country Kitchen Restaurant
- Smokies Breakfast House
- Geno’s Pizza
- Alabama Grill
- Corky’s Ribs & BBQ
- TGI Friday’s
- Cracker Barrel
Getting to Pigeon Forge
A trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee? The only question remaining is not IF you will go, but HOW SOON you can go. And how are you going to get there. Here are some transportation links that should help with the travel planning.
Airports – Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg share a small airport (GKT). It’s located about 4 miles from Pigeon Forge in Sevierville. A major airport is located in Knoxville, Tennessee (TYS), a 24-mile drive from Pigeon Forge.
Another airport is located in Morristown, Tennessee (MOR) while a fourth airport is located in Greeneville, Tennessee (CGY), and a fifth airport in Asheville, Tennessee (AVL).
HOT Savings Links
Dollywood 2-Park Value Discounts
Dollywood Splash Country Discounts
American Jukebox Theatre Coupon
Smoky Mountain Coupons
Pigeon Forge Vacation Guide
Smoky Mountains Travel Planner