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Things to Do Around Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Are you planning a Great Smoky Mountain Vacation? I’ve got a list of the top 20 attractions and things to do in the Smoky Mountains – do NOT miss them on your next visit!

I’d like to call myself a Smoky Mountains local tourist. Maybe a Pigeon Forge Weekend Transplant? I’d go so far as to say Gatlinburg is my home away from home. Ok, so I think you get the point!

My Mom says that I used to tell friends that we had a second home in Pigeon Forge, TN – this was in grade school, and we did [kind of]. We had a small camper that was left in a Pigeon Forge campground for the summer and we visited every weekend!

So to say the area is special to me is… an extreme understatement.

I take pride in east Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains, and I can’t wait to share with you… what I think are the Top 20 things to do in the Smoky Mountains that you do NOT want to miss on your next visit to our area… from a local tourists’ perspective!

These are in no particular order, but are all attractions that the area is known for and places that my family frequents.

1.  Dollywood

Quite possibly the most famous of all Pigeon Forge, TN attractions, Dollywood really put the area on the mainstream map. If you’ve never been, I highly, highly recommend visiting. It truly is a theme park for all ages and you’ll never meet nicer hosts and hostesses!

I have written so much about Dollywood and my love for the “Friendliest Theme Park in America”, but to get you started, check out my favorite Dollywood Rides and the schedule and Dollywood hours for the current year.

2.  Dolly Parton’s Stampede

You can’t talk about the Smoky Mountains or Dolly without mentioning Dolly Parton’s Stampede. Formerly known as the Dixie Stampede, this Dinner Attraction type show will keep you entertained from the moment you sit down until it’s over.

It definitely tops my list of Pigeon Forge Dinner shows. Not only are you served one of the finest meals in the South [a Rotisserie Chicken for each person!], you get to enjoy it utensil-less, and drink from a boot!

That’s right, you dig in with only your hands and believe me, it’s finger-licking good!

The Dinner Show is just as much fun as the food too. From stunt riders, to audience participation, it’s a show that changes each time you see it, making you want to go back again and again!

You can read even more about Dolly Parton’s Stampede in my Ultimate List of Things to Do in Pigeon Forge.

3. Ober Gatlinburg

In the Winter, Ober Gatlinburg transforms into a skier’s paradise. Getting to the attractions is half the fun when you take the Aerial Tramway to the top of the mountain!

4. Parrot Mountain

images courtesy of Parrot Mountain and Gardens.

Speaking of mountains, there’s a special one located in Pigeon Forge, TN that houses some of the most beautiful parrots and birds you’ve ever seen!


You literally drive up a very, curvy mountain but are rewarded at the top with an attraction that truly is for the entire family!

5.  Cades Cove

Speaking of animals, another place to see a ton of wildlife is Cades Cove, a section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s an 11 mile loop {that is killer on a bicycle, let me tell you} around the Smoky Mountains that is full of wildlife.

Don’t be surprised if a black bear, deer, or turkey run right into the road path!

6.  Shows, Shows, & More Dinner Shows

Dinner Shows are a huge attraction for the area. Although Dolly Parton’s Stampede happens to be my favorite, there are a ton of others that are worth checking out. There are comedy shows like The Comedy Barn and Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud, and Pirate Adventure.

7.  Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

You may think once you’ve seen one aquarium, you’ve seen them all. This is not the case with the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg.

There is so much to share about this Aquarium that I wrote an entire post about our visit to the Aquarium!

8.  Shopping – Outlets, Souvenir Shops & More

Now, I suppose that the ladies may enjoy this attraction the most, but it’s something that just simply can’t be missed. The Tanger Oak Outlets, located in Sevierville, along with other shops are a great way to spend a rainy day in the mountains [or a sunny one too].

9.  Wildness at the Smokies Resort

We have had the opportunity to stay at the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort a few times as a family.

I shared an in-depth look at the resort on one of our visits. It’s changed a bit over the years, but still has the Indoor Water Park and on-site Adventure Forest, complete with a Family Ropes Course, Blacklight Mini Golf, and Full Size Arcade!

10.  Art Galleries

Believe it or not, there are quite a few Art Galleries of all different types in the Smoky Mountains, especially nestled in the quaint shops in Gatlinburg. The Smokies are full of artisans that proudly display their canvas art, pottery, wood-working crafts, and more for visitors to enjoy!

11.  Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Moving right along down the list, I suppose we should actually cover an area that a lot of readers chimed in on the last post and said “the mountains!”  The Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country and definitely one of the best national parks in Tennessee.

The mountains are a favorite place of mine too and although Cades Cove made it’s own number, there are a ton of other areas, trails, and sights to see in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some of my favorite that come to mind are ElkMont, Chimney Tops, and Clingmans Dome – those are just a very few of the MANY sights to see in the Park.

12.  Titanic Museum

If you think the outside of the Titanic Museum is impressive, wait until you see the inside!  


It truly is like stepping right aboard the ship itself – with actual items recovered from the Titanic, replicas from the era, and so many hands-on activities for visitors, well, I couldn’t possibly share them all here, which is why I wrote an entire post on our visit to the Museum here!

13.  A Visit to a Mountain Winery

You might be surprised to find out that there are actually quite a few wineries located in the Smoky Mountains.  

If you’re looking for a bit more of a romantic experience or just like to take in the sights, scents, and tastes of a local winery, you can visit one or all! My favorite is probably the Apple Barn Winery, simply because I just love visiting the Apple Barn – it’s definitely one of the places we go most often on our visits!

14. WonderWorks

Pigeon Forge is a city that has a lot of attractions and buildings that are each trying to grab your attention… a lot. But there’s one that definitely grabs everyone’s attention…


A building that is literally upside down is bound to get everyone’s attention and while I’ve never actually been inside, I have only heard great things about WonderWorks!  

Wonderworks is definitely one of our favorite places to when we’re looking for Rainy Day Activities in Pigeon Forge!

15.  Outdoor Activities

Since we just spoke about Rock Climbing, the Smokies are often known for their Outdoor Activities like Hiking and Whitewater Rafting.  

There are also numerous places, especially in Townsend, TN [where Cades Cove is located] that offer Tube Rentals. These are SO fun to do, tubing down the Pigeon River.

The Smoky Mountains are also beginning to be known for the Zip Line Trails that are popping up all over the mountain. Zip Lines are on our To-Do List one of these days!

16.  Winterfest

While the Fall is a very popular time to visit the Smoky Mountains because of the trees changing color, one of the most beautiful times to visit is Winter! Preferably between early November and January. Why?  

Photo courtesy of

Pigeon Forge’s Winterfest! While Dollywood in December [in my opinion] totally takes the cake on the Christmas Lights Decor, Pigeon Forge does just as well!

The entire city is a-glow with large snowflakes on every street pole and my favorite is the 12 Days of Christmas represented in lights in the median down the Pigeon Forge Strip!

17.  The Island

The Island is a very new attraction that is in the process of being built, right off the downtown Pigeon Forge Area. Right now there are a couple of shops and small amusement rides and a very large, 200ft tall Ferris Wheel.

There are large additions being made as we speak, including a Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Resort and Restaurant. I have a feeling it’s going to be a very popular place in the Smokies next year!

18.  Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center

We had a fabulous time at the Hollywood Wax Museum and Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors – so much fun, in fact, I wrote an entire post about our visit!  

It was one of our favorite places that we visited and is definitely a must-see!

 19.  The Old Mill

One of the most serene places right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Pigeon Forge is the little village centered around the The Old Mill. There’s a couple of restaurants, snack shops, old style toy shops, and lots of fun to be had walking around enjoying the scenery and the waterfall!

20.  Family Fun Attractions

Totally generic, I know, but I couldn’t possibly leave out the numerous Mini Golf Courses, Race Cart Tracks, Bungee Jumping Areas, and Arcades! One of the newest Smoky Mountain attractions that my family can’t wait to visit is The Escape Game in Gatlinburg.

We’ll be visiting soon and will definitely add more on what we think about this indoor adventure game.

When you go up and down the strip of Pigeon Forge, TN and the rest of the Smoky Mountains it’s impossible to not get excited by the flashing lights and all the fun to be had.

I hope you had fun letting me share my favorite attractions in the Smoky Mountains with you and hopefully you’ll plan a Great Smoky Mountain Vacation soon so you can enjoy them too! Be sure to visit at least a few of my top 20 Smoky Mountain things to do when you head to the mountains.

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