Four years ago, our family took a trip to Dollywood & Pigeon Forge, TN. At the time, we had three kids, one of whom was 4 months old making it hard for me to discover everything the area had to offer. Fortunately, I was treated to a trip that was packed full of ideas and fun for what to do in Dollywood & Pigeon Forge, TN and so much more. It is a great place to visit with just the adults for a getaway or a fun family vacation with many options for your entertainment or relaxation depending on what you are looking to do. There are so many things to do at Dollywood and at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
What to do in Dollywood & Pigeon Forge Tennessee
Since Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge, Dollywood will be one part and the larger Pigeon Forge will be a second part.
Where is Dollywood?
Dollywood is actually located in Pigeon Forge, but is in an area all it’s own. You can stay in Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, but never actually leave the Dollywood area. Between the DreamMore Resort and Dollywood Park (both the Theme Park and Splash Country), you might not even have to get in your car until you are ready to leave. Or, you can venture outside of Dollywood, Tennessee and into the actual city of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for more entertainment options and country fair.
Where to stay to access Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN
When visiting Dollywood in Pigeon Forge Tennessee, we stayed at the DreamMore Resort and Spa. The resort is amazing and offers plenty of amenities for a group of friends, a couple or a family. Check out the 10 reasons you should stay at DollyWood’s DreamMore Resort including an amazing spa, play area, and the free shuttle buses directly into the parks.
Another option is to stay at Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins. They are also minutes from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Dollywood Theme Park and Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark. These cabins range in size from one to eight bedrooms and can accommodate up to 30 guests. They also feature fully equipped kitchens, indoor spa tubs, fireplaces, game rooms and more. And the cabins have an amazing view overlooking Dollywood (seen below). In fact, we could actually hear people on the rides while they were running.
The cabin guests receive free reserved parking at both Dollywood and Splash Country and can purchase a Length of Stay Pass which costs the same as a one-day Dollywood admission ticket but provides unlimited access to Dollywood theme part for the duration of the guest’s cabin stay (up to seven days).
While not on property, Spring Hill Suites by Marriott is another great option for a family. We stayed in a room with 2 queen beds and pull out couch that comfortably accommodated our family of six. As a bonus, they have a great hot breakfast buffet, free wifi and free parking. It’s only a 8 minute dry to Dollywood and not too far from many other attractions in the area.
Things to do at Dollywood Theme Park
This was my first time visiting Dollywood Theme Park. Before going, you can visit the Dollywood website to plan your vacation and purchase tickets. Check out Lesli’s Dollywood post for more information, too.
I had no idea there were more than 40 rides and attractions in the Dollywood Theme Park with many of them being super fast and thrill inducing roller coasters like the Thunderhead wood coaster, the steel thriller Mystery Mine, the forward (and backward) launch FireChaser Express, Wild Eagle, the country’s first wing coaster and the newest addition, 2016’s Lightning Rod, both the world’s first wood launch coaster and the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster… talk about thrill rides.
With the park geared at family entertainment, each of the big roller coasters has a play area for kids that might not want to ride the bigger rides or aren’t quite tall enough. Even if a family can’t ride the ride together, they can stay in the same area. The parents can also swap out on the ride so that all adults get a turn if they’d like.
Dollywood is also known for it’s award-winning entertainment with Dolly Parton behind so much of them. While we were there, Mother Africa was on one of the main stages. The live entertainment also showcases country, bluegrass, Southern Gospel, classic rock ’n’ roll and Appalachian music. They are always exploring new shows and acts to bring into the park to keep things fresh, fun and enjoyable.
Eagle Mountain Sanctuary
Dollywood is home to more than a dozen non-releasable bald eagles where they are provided a safe and natural environment that allows Dollywood guests the opportunity to see America’s most enduring symbol live, up close and personal. The complex is made up of five different parts which also includes an eagle breeding, rehabilitation facility, eagle medical clinic and nursery that is not open to the public. It is amazing to see one, let alone many bald eagles flying and walking around there. And good to know that they have released more than 100 eagles since the 1980s to their natural habitats in the wild.
There are five festivals held annually at Dollywood in Tennessee. There is the Festival of Nations featuring foods and entertainment from all over the world, Barbecue and Bluegrass, Great American Summer, National Southern Gospel (featuring gospel music) and Harvest Celebration and Smoky Mountain Christmas (I would love to see this!). All of these festivals include special performing groups and concerts. For example, from June 11- Aug. 7, Dollywood’s park hours are 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily, allowing guests more time to create memories and share experiences together. In addition to extended hours during this time, visitors can enjoy Dolly’s Nights of Many Colors, a spectacular synchronized fireworks show which paints a colorful canvas across the Smoky Mountain sky. Guests also can join in the excitement of Lite the Nite, a high-spirited dance party which occurs each evening prior to the fireworks extravaganza.
You will not go hungry while visiting Dollywood. From the Southern cooked sit down meals, to the all you can eat buffets to the working Grist Mill and their delicious cinnamon bread, you will find something to eat. If you have allergies, you can let them know and they will accommodate the best they can. I even noticed signs up at various places. If you ask around, word is that Backstage Restaurant is a good one to check out for allergies and intolerances. Festive food adds to the Dollywood experience during the summer with unique new items including macaroni & cheese with various toppings, pretzel dogs, banana split funnel cakes and frozen chocolate-dipped bananas. Or, you could just buy this pie and pretty much be set for food for a week!
Shops and Crafts
There are daily demonstrations by more than a dozen master craftsmen that offer a glimpse into the authentic artistry of the area’s rich heritage. You can buy pretty much anything in the shops (and if you are staying at DreamMore, they will deliver them to your room), including gifts and decor created by skilled artisans, like glassblowers and blacksmiths, that are created right at Dollywood. They show off their skills at live demonstrations that are amazing. Make sure to visit the working Grist Mill and pick up some freshly made coarse grits.
There are shows and entertainment for children and adults alike. In the Summer it’s story time at The Little Engine Playhouse, as some of The Imagination Library’s best titles are brought to life! Old Bear and His Cub and Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It are featured as 25-minute musicals with special sing-along songs written by Dolly. With each of the festivals comes more entertainment and shows as well consistent smaller “shows” in the park like the live garden gnomes. If they catch you, they will boss you around and take your picture while using no words at all!
Dollywood’s Splash Country
Right next door to Dollywood theme park is Dollywood’s Splash Country. During my most recent visit, it was still too early in the year for the waterpark to be open. It operates from Mid-May to Labor Day. My previous experience was 4 years previous and I enjoyed one of the retreats with our infant daughter, but the rest of the family had a great time on all of the slides and attractions as well as the dining options.
Slides and attractions
In addition to RiverRush, Tennessee’s first and only water coaster, Splash Country also features The Cascades, a lagoon-style leisure pool, Fire Tower Falls, twin speed slides, Bear Mountain Fire Tower, a multi-level interactive adventure, Mountain Waves, a wave pool, Slick Rock Racer, a multi-mat slide, Downbound Float Trip, a lazy river and interactive children’s play areas. Our family stayed the entire day and was never bored with everything the water park offered.
There are so many rides and attractions for kids of all ages. Everybody can have fun!
There are many dining options within the park from frozen lemonade and ICEEs to Dogs and Taters and the Campsite Grill, you won’t be hungry.
Retreats and canopy
If you want to spend a little more, you can relax in the privacy and comfort of your own Riverside or Waterside Retreat which offers privacy and luxury for an additional charge. The shade is a welcome retreat as is not having to worry about reserving a table and or chairs for your family.
So, you’ve spent the day at the theme park or the water park and you’d like to do something else another day, Pigeon Forge offers a ton of other types of entertainment, adventure and education.
What to do in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
On my recent trip and the trip several years ago, we adventured outside of Dollywood and went into Pigeon Forge to discover what the city had to offer. What we found were so many things, we didn’t even get a chance to visit everything.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is actually a free National Park located in both North Carolina and Tennessee. You can drive into it and park completely for free and enjoy all it has to offer. Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in this world renowned National Park for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park. Stop off at the visitors center to get a map, talk with a Park Ranger or gather more information.
The National Park offers many hiking trails from kid-friendly hikes to overnight backpacking trips depending on what you’d like to see. On a short and easy half-mile hike, we saw this beautiful waterfall that would be a very kid-friendly hike. You can also see historic cemeteries, waterfalls and the synchronous fireflies that only come out for about a month every year at night.
Additionally, there is a Cade’s Cove where kids and adults alike can splash around in a very shallow water area with picnic tables nearby. There was also a drive along path that we could have done. We were advised that it could take up to an hour to make the loop. With several little kids in the car, we decided to just stay at the start of the drive and play in the water. The kids were happy and the grown-ups were happy.
Definitely make time for the National Park if you visit Pigeon Forge, TN / Dollywood because there is something for everybody.
Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure Dinner and Show
Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure Dinner and Show just opened in May 2016. This is a family-focused entertainment venue just down the road from Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. It celebrates the spirit of the Appalachian people who lived off the land in logging and milling towns. Show attendees will enjoy an exciting and imaginative adventure full of dancing, singing, incredible acts of acrobatic agility and breathtaking aerial performances. And, don’t forget it’s dinner and a show, so the adventure won’t be complete without a healthy lumberjack chow.
Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction
Enjoy a four-course feast while watching a fantastic, stunt-filled show for the entire family at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction. Before the show even begins, guests start off in the Dixie Belle Saloon with comedy, bluegrass and country music from Mountain Ruckus, the house band. After our pre-entertainment, entertainment, we stepped inside a 35,000 square good main arena with expert riders and 32 horses, guided through barrel races, flaming hoops and trick riding. The new LED backdrop (shows here with mountains) transports the audience deep in the Smoky Mountains as it changes with the scenes. The show will keep you entertained the entire time and the dinner including a whole rotisserie chicken, hickory smoked barbecued pork loin, original creamy vegetable soup, a homemade biscuit, corn on the cob, herb-basted potato and specialty dessert will leave you more than full! (They also have vegetarian options available upon request).
The Titanic Museum
The Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge is amazing. It features real-life artifacts from the ship, many of which are rented or on loan from their owners. Currently on display is The Wallace Hartley Titanic Violin. In addition to seeing artifacts, visitors will feel like they are a part of the entire journey, even receiving a boarding pass from a person that was on the Titanic’s first and final voyage. You will see mention of the guests name throughout the museum and find out how their trip ended.
Endorsed by the world-famous Titanic Historical Society, TMA is an internationally recognized living museum that holds the largest display of Titanic artifacts anywhere. Our more than 2.5 million visitors can attest to its authenticity—from unparalleled attention to detail, design and installation to its exact recreations of some of the ship’s most-famous architectural features.
Photos are not typically allowed in the museum and none are allowed of the actual artifacts as they are copyrighted by their owners. Guests receive a auditory device and there are numbers that you tune into at various stages of the voyage.
The Museum is kid-friendly and allows all guest to touch a real iceberg as well as feel just how cold the captains deck was and the temperature of the water that fateful night. Additionally guests can steer the ship and have a very interactive experience. Definitely devote a couple hours to the exhibit to really get everything out of it.
Curious what all was brought aboard the Titanic? Have a look at this list. Having just recently gone on a cruise, I wonder how this list compares to a modern day voyage.
The mother of the family who’s name I received slept in a room similar to this.
The Titanic Museum was totally not what I expected it to be at all. It is all about the stories and the experiences. You really feel like a member of the ship and you get to know the other passengers as well. Definitely make time to see the Titanic Museum while you are in Pigeon Forge.
The Island at Pigeon Forge is also a one-stop shop featuring food, shopping, play and staying. I didn’t have much time here, but I could easily see coming here for an afternoon and evening with adults or the entire family, hanging out, grabbing some food at one of the many restaurants, shopping and playing.
Having just eaten, I focused on the fun and playing that were there including the Thunderdome Bungee Jump, The Wheel, and The Ropes Course. I didn’t even have a change to check out the Island Mirror Maze, Arcade City and The Escape Game amongst other things.
Oh, and there is the Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine. There wasn’t time for a tasting, but I will go back and do a full tasting session.
There were so many unique shops to check out and restaurants to enjoy that spending a day at The Islands wouldn’t be out of the question.
Cal Ripken Experience
It’s likely that if you are coming to Pigeon Forge, TN, Dollywood will be on your agenda after a tournament at The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge youth baseball camp. Many tournaments will be hosted here from all over the country. Participants will receive access to family-fun theme park destinations including Dollywood Theme Park and Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Park. This is place that will provide families with opportunities to create memories. Not only is a it a place for youth to have their tournaments, but their families will enjoy being here with play areas for younger siblings, baseball fields modeled after well-known professional ballparks and a two-level clubhouse.
Like to check out the scenery, but prefer to do it via horseback? Horseback riding in the Smoky Mountains is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. There are several commercial stables from which you can rent a horse at an hourly rate. You can also take a carriage ride or hayride if you decide that’s more your preference. In addition to renting horses, you can also bring your own and take advantage of the horse camps throughout the Pigeon Forge area.
White Water Rafting
Maybe you’ve already visited Dollywood. Pigeon Forge offers many options for more adventurous white water rafting seekers. White water rafting is a great way to check out the Smoky Mountains in a very non-traditional sense. It’s definitely good for the thrill-seeker to take a guided trip down a river.
Outdoor Gravity Park
Do you envision yourself rolling down a hill in a giant ball with or without water? The Outdoor Gravity Park is for you featuring zorbing, an attraction straight out of New Zealand. It is fun for all people ages 5 and up. There is a long hill, track options and the Fishpipe. Outdoor Gravity Park is the only place in America you can experience all of these outrageous attractions. If you are planning your vacation to Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, Outdoor Gravity Park is a fun and affordable way to slip, slide, and get wet! The whole family can cool off and let loose.
Ride Go Karts
Want to fulfill your need for speed without getting a ticket? Go Karts are for you. There are many places around Pigeon Forge were you can hop in a go kart and take it for a track-induced fun ride. You can find them outdoors and indoors and allowing various ages to drive.
Mini Golf is another fun one for the whole family. Even the little kids can get into putting their golf ball through a silly maze of hills and paths and ultimately into a hole. Don’t discount the vacation fun of miniature golfing.
Flyaway Indoor Skydiving
Skydiving without having to jump out of a plane sounds perfect to me! It’s a vertical wind tunnel that allows your body to fly. It is used for both single flight fun sessions as well as a training resources for sport skydivers and even military units. It can be a family activity or one for just the adults. Make sure you call and schedule your session and know what you can and can’t wear. Also, of note is that you can come and watch in an observation deck for free if maybe you need to work up your courage.
Ever wondered what that crazy building that looks like it was picked up and dropped upside down is? It’s WonderWorks which provides “edu-tainment” (learning and fun)in the form of an amusement park for the mind. It features hands on exhibits (over 100 of them) that challenge the mind and get the imagination going. Some of the Wonder Zone featured exhibits are natural disasters, physical challenge zone, light and sound zone, space discovery, imagination lab and the far out art galaxy. It’s important to note that you will need closed-toe shoes at WonderWorks. 365 Atlanta Family has a great 3 Days in Sevierville including an afternoon at WonderWorks that you can check out.
Parrot Mountain and Gardens
If parrots and gardens are your thing, you will want to check out Parrot Mountain and Gardens. Geared at all audiences, children and adults alike will appreciate the expansive gardens including tens of thousands of flowers and plants. The Secret Garden also features Toucans, Horn bills, Magpies and other birds freely flying around.
Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster
You can take a sled through the Smoky Mountain on the Alpine Coaster. It is the longest downhill ride in the US with over one mile of track. The riders (1-2 per sled) are in control of the velocity of the sled which allows them to go up to 30 mph and gives a unique hands-on experience.
Pigeon Forge offers many wineries (like Mountain Valley Winery, Apple Barn Winery, Hillside Winery, Smoky Mountain Winery and more) that will allow wine tastings. Of course, you must be at least 21 years of age to partake in the wine tastings that are offered. A regional favorite is a muscadine based wine that many people really enjoy.
Dollywood & Pigeon Forge, TN offer a unique backdrop for a variety of different types of entertainment for all ages of the family and all types of vacations. There is definitely plenty to do and see in the area that will keep everybody happy and intrigued.
Looking for other fun options in nearby Sevierville, read 3 days in Sevierville at 365 Atlanta Family to see all of the adventures they had and places they visited.
What have you done in Dollywood or Pigeon Forge that I should check out next time? What is something new for you to do while you are there?