Your guide to family friendly fun in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee! Where to stay, where to play and where to eat in this part of the Smokey Mountains.
Our first family vacation to Pigeon Forge is checked off our bucket list, and it was a blast and a half.
It started with a surprising call from family in Michigan about my husband’s father passing away late one Friday. Amid the heartbreak, travel plans, funeral arrangements and shock of it all, we needed some family time of our own after it all… and away from it all. Although each moment spent back in our home state of Michigan was precious and we relished the opportunity for my children to mingle and see all the rest of the family and our friends, my husband and I were ready for a time away; just us and our littles. When making the long trek of highway back to Florida, we usually make an overnight pit-stop somewhere about half way. If you have a child under the age of 10, let alone three of them, then you know what I am talking about when it comes to a 20 hour family car ride with children; you need the break. The Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area have long been on our radar and it falls just in the right place for a midway stop, although we’d never yet made it happen. Instead of the usual quick sleep and go, we stopped over for a few nights just to unhook, relax and refresh from all the emotional drain… and it was JUST what we needed.
Where to Stay in Pigeon Forge
While there are so many choices of where to stay in Pigeon Forge, you’re in the Smokey Mountains… so I say stay in a cabin! We happen to love a bit of cabin life in our family. It’s gives us the getaway feel, the ability to spread out and feel at home while still experiencing something new in a setting that we all enjoy. That’s why we were so happy to work with Cabin Fever Vacations, who basically have every option of Pigeon Forge cabin rentals available, to get all set up for a few days away! (Hello cabin with an indoor pool!! Maybe next time, haha.) Really though, staying somewhere that has more than one bedroom for us all to spread out in, a kitchen and a hot tub are the basic things that we look for, everything else is cake. And being tucked into the side of a mountain… that’s always a big slice of delicious vacation getaway cake.
The really great thing about the cabins rentals in Pigeon Forge is that so many of them are located just off of the downtown strip… meaning you’re far enough away to get that mountain cabin getaway feel and yet you’re only a quite few minute drive from just about everything and anything you need to keep you and the family entertained and fed!
Where to Play in Pigeon Forge
When it comes down to family fun, there are a plethora of options and SO much to explore, see and do in Pigeon Forge. The great thing is that the entire town has such a huge focus on family that it’s not hard to find a place to let loose! We started at a pretty fast pace on the racetrack at the NASCAR Speed Park, and if you can’t tell by these photos, my family loved every minute of it. Between the go-cart tracks, bumper cars, other rides and finally an evening wrap up with a funnel cake and a load of tickets from the arcade, I couldn’t think of a better start to our time of family fun in Pigeon Forge. There is something fun for every age.
After a good night’s rest, and of course some hot tub time and movies to unwind in the cabin we were ready for another day of adventure. Who am I kidding… my kids are always ready for adventure!
The next morning we made our way to check out WonderWorks. It’s a fun interactive learning experience for kids and as you enter, everything is upside down. As the story goes, this building was picked up in a tornado years ago and dropped in Pigeon Forge, fully intact. In order to enter the play area there is an invert tunnel that “flips us” so we can enjoy all there is to offer inside which is basically a flood of science mixed with entertainment. The entire place was a very interactive fun zone. From the get go the kids got to enjoy an indoor climbing wall, rides and ropes course. The oversized bubble floor was awesome, and a favorite of my littlest. And a giant light bright wall caused us adults to travel back in time remembering our childhood faves. There is a lot to experience here, so plan for a good portion of time to fully enjoy it. It also seems like quite a great location for school field trips, so depending on the time of year you’re visiting, you can expect there to be kids-a-plenty.
Upon waking from our naps in our relaxing cabin we ventured out to The Island to discover a more recent addition to Pigeon Forge. We had never been here but everyone was excited to see the Giant Ferris Wheel before we even go out of the car, I think this was one of my favorite places to explore! We parked and walked into this great collection of activities, restaurants and shops. The kids spotted the The Island Ropes Course right away. This 3 story zip line obstacle course was second to none fun for the whole family.
He didn’t want to at first, or rather, he really wanted to, he just didn’t think he had the courage. On the first try, and a lower zip line, he took a few steps forward, toes cradling the edge, and then turned back around. A few minutes later (okay more like 25 minutes later), he was higher, more confident. Even with wind-blown hair in the gusty dusk of the evening, each step he took on nothing but rope was one step closer to something he’d been talking about for days. The time, the practice, the art of doing built up his confidence until finally he was ready to step out into nothing but air. You see sometimes we’re not ready with those first steps or first tries, but it doesn’t mean that the dream or hope has to wither with a step backwards. Don’t lose sight of that vision, lovies. Hold on to the grandest vision for your life, keep taking steps, one foot in front of the other. The time, the practice, the art of doing will prepare you and someday you’ll realize you’ve become what you believed. (A little lesson from our experience at The Island Ropes Course)
This mama also got in a little me-time and took the short and scenic drive to Gatlinburg for a full morning at About You Salon & Day Spa. Oh my goodness, the pampering was amazing!! It doesn’t happen often that I get away like that and then even when I do, sometimes I spend it fighting the “mom guilt.” This time though, the family was happily enjoying our cabin, splashing in the hot tub, playing with the arcade games that graced our space, relaxing and getting in some downtime for themselves, and I didn’t mind one bit! You know they say that a mama needs to take care of herself in order to take care of her family, and it’s so true. So mamas, take the time when you can! While this spa offers ALL kinds of services, I indulged in a massage and pedicure… and I pretty much just slept as I rested through half of it. SO good. Plus, they brought in an organic lunch!
After their cabin morning, everyone was ready to go out for our next adventure when I returned. So we ventured just off the main strip to experience something really outside the box for entertainment at Outdoor Gravity Park… it was inside the ball actually. 😉 This proved to be a one-of-a-kind activity unlike anything my family had ever done. Watching in surprise as my two oldest with their dad climb into a giant inflated ball equipped with a go-pro camera and a bit of water to make them slide. The ball is loosed from the gate and they rolled down a 100ft hill spinning inside like a slip and slide for about 20 seconds, laughing and smiling all the way. I couldn’t help but laugh as they all plunged out of the ball at the end, which looked as if the ball was giving birth to triplets (too much baby on the brain I’m sure!. They were so excited they had to go for round two immediately. By the way, this comes highly recommended from my 9 year old daughter.
Ready for a little more adventure we headed over to The Track for bumper cars, bumper boats and putt-putt. This was a nice end-cap to a great day. Between the putt-putt, more go-karts, squirt gun armed bumper boats and arcade there was more than enough to keep the entire family occupied.
Where to Eat in Pigeon Forge
Full days of fun makes us all hungry and with a little one really ready for lunch and a nap, we headed over to Mel’s Classic Diner for lunch one day to fill up on good ole’ fashioned diner burgers, fries and shakes! And then of course in good ole’ fashion diner friendliness, we couldn’t leave without a great tasting banana split for the entire family to enjoy. On vacation, right?! This was definitely a family-friendly place and one of those classic diners where I don’t feel like I have to “shhhh” my kids the entire time. A BIG plus for me!
When at The Island, there are so many great eateries to choose from! So after a couple of turns around the Ferris Wheel, we decided to check out Dick’s Last Resort for a much needed dose of sarcasm and food. This place took us a little by surprise, we knew there would be sarcasm, but built into the experience is a family style eating arrangement, where you’re seated at long tables with other diners, it’s totally acceptable to leave a mess and let napkins fall to the floor and of course, don’t be afraid of the lip… you’re actually expected to come up with some pithy comments of your own. The kids loved the funny hats and while they were a little confused, couldn’t get enough of our waitress with a bit of attitude. Actually, we all felt that way, it was just a really fun dining experience.
A few more delicious eateries to check out while in Pigeon Forge:
Our trip was too much fun. We really did have the best time, and I’m sure this will not be our last trip to Pigeon Forge.
I’m SO grateful to the Smokies experts at Mobile Brochure who planned out our trip for us and picked just the right places for our family! Especially if you’ve never been (just like we hadn’t before) it’s nice to have someone to rely on to know where to go (and even where not to go). Check them out and let them be your travel planning guide to the Smokies!
Have you been to this area of the Smokies before? This was our first time to the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area and I hope to get back there to visit these fun stops again and to explore more! If you’ve been, I’d love to hear what areas were your favorites! Next time, I definitely want to hike and explore Cades Cove in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, which is something I’d prefer to do when not pregnant. 🙂
AND FOR MORE THINGS YOU MUST DO IN THE SMOKIES, CHECK OUT THIS POST FROM OUR TRIP TO CHATTANOOGA, THIS POST ABOUT ALL THE AMAZING SMOKEY MOUNTAIN WATERFALLS TO VISIT, AND MORE FROM OTHER NEARBY REGIONS.
Again, we’re so thankful for all of the great businesses that sponsored this trip as lodging, food and entertainment were provided at this fun family destination. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support this blog.