When looking to visit the Smoky Mountains most people make their base Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg as they are a quick drive into the National Park. However, in addition to being close to the Smokies there are many fun family activities to do in these cities. You really can’t go wrong with either but I personally felt there were a little more things to do in Pigeon Forge with kids. Even if you do decide to book housing in Gatlinburg, like we did, I mean, check out these cabin views, you’ll want to spend time in Pigeon Forge.
Outdoor Things to Do in Pigeon Forge with Kids
The best part about being in Pigeon Forge with kids is getting outdoors. We visited in the Fall (October 25-30th) and had beautiful weather which wasn’t too hot but also not freezing yet so we loved being outside.
Anakeesta is a newer attraction and very touristy but there are a lot of things to do here. Plan to spend at least half a day if you want to do all the activities. As a heads up there is a general entry fee and then most of the activities still have an additional fee once you’re in the park. Vista Gardens and the Treetop Skywalk are included in the price however if you want to zip-line here, go on their mountain coaster or go gem mining these are extra costs. The Smoky Mountains Sightseeing Flex Pass gives you up to 30% off admission costs to various on tours throughout the Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Smokies, including Anakeesta.
My girls absolutely loved the gem mining activity and they were able to share a large bag to sift through and get two trays. This is one of the extra activities I really think is worth paying for here. Some of the others you can do outside of Anakeesta for cheaper, which we did do and will discuss later on.
Anakeesta does offer great views of the mountains and we even saw a Black Bear climbing up. There is a great playground for kids as well where they can burn off all their energy. The park also has a few restaurants, both casual and sit down, and deserts!
Dollywood is a must when visiting Pigeon Forge with kids. It’s a much smaller park than Disney World but still lots of fun and way cheaper. A one day ticket starts at $69 with 3 day passes starting at $99. There are rides for every age group including some big thrills for those that have no fear! If you are there in October their Halloween decorations are amazing and best viewed in the evening when it’s dark so plan accordingly.
If you’re more of a water ride person Dollywood has it’s on waterpark, Splash Country. Since we visited in late October it was closed for the season. Splash Country is only open mid-May through Labor Day weekend and starting in August they are only open on select days.
Rocky Top Mountain Coaster
If roller coasters are too thrilling but you’ve also graduated from the baby rides, Rocky Top Mountain Coaster is for you. It’s great because you can control the speed of your ride, so if you want all the thrills you can go full speed and if you don’t you can go as slow as you want. The ride lasts at least 9 minutes, longer if you go slower. You just need to be 38 inches to ride with an adult or 56 inches to ride alone. Get Your Guide offers mobile tickets to the Rocky Top Mountain Coaster.
Adventure Park at Five Oaks
If you want to keep the adventure going definitely check out Adventure Park at Five Oaks. We chose to do their zip-lining adventure here but they also offer horseback riding. The zip-lining here is great for families as kids 3 years and older can participate. The lines here are around 400ft high and you’ll enjoy 7 lines. It takes about two hours to complete the tour and it was lots of fun.
You cannot come to Pigeon Forge and skip the Smoky Mountains National Park. When visiting with kids I know some of the hikes can be challenging but there are some like Laurel Falls Hike which is great for kids.
If you really can’t hike with them I highly recommend the Cades Cove scenic loop, this way if you don’t want to get out the car you don’t have to but you can still see a lot. From the road we saw this bear and Cades Cove is supposed to be one of the best places to see them.
There’s lots to do in the Smoky Mountains, you can check out my blog post on the park here for more!
Indoor Things to Do in Pigeon Forge with Kids
If you’re looking for things to do indoors because of the weather these are some great options.
A great activity for raining days, we’ve visited the one in Orlando and it’s always a hit with my kids. They especially always love the magic show the museum puts on in the evening. This location even offers laser tag!
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
If you’re familiar with Ripley’s Believe it or Not, this is their aquarium. Much different than their typical establishment, it’s still filled with adventure. They have cool programs like sleepovers where you can sleep in front of the shark tank and have a scavenger hunt when the aquarium is free of daytime guests.
The Cherokee Museum is technically not in Pigeon Forge, it’s actually not even in Tennessee, it’s in Cherokee, NC but it is so worth a visit. Historically the entire area was inhabited by Native Americans until settlers came in and stole their land. The museum highlights the tribes who originated from here and their history. It’s a small yet powerful museum that is completely worth the hour drive!
Other Things to do in Pigeon Forge with Kids We Didn’t Have Time For
There are so many things to do in Pigeon Forge with kids that we just didn’t have time to do them all. We would love to revisit the area so these are a few things we’re looking forward to doing next time!
- Go Karts Pigeon Forge Speedzone Fun Park- go karts for the whole family
- Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Adventure- You can watch lumberjacks competing and then try out those same adventures yourself
- Pigeon Forge Snow– where you can go snow tubing year round
- Pink Jeep Tour (we did one in Sedona on our Southwest road trip, it was excellent)
- White Water Rafting- the lower Pigeon rafting allows kids 3 and up to join
Where to Stay in Pigeon Forge with Kids
When you come to a destination like Pigeon Forge it is all about the cabins. Since we were traveling with kids and on a flexcation, doing work/virtual school, we needed a place where we would have a lot of space and have things to do without leaving the cabin. We found this amazing cabin on Vrbo and it was so hard choosing just one since they offered so many great options.
With five bedrooms, five bathrooms, a pull out couch and bunk bed the cabin could sleep up to 16. Four of the rooms had a fireplace and a balcony making them extra cozy. The balconies all overlooked the Smoky Mountains and the views were absolutely stunning, especially in the fall with all the leaves changing colors.
If we didn’t want to leave the cabin, which some days we couldn’t, we had more than enough to do right inside. As soon as it was lunch time at school for my daughters all you heard was them running downstairs. They weren’t interested in eating at all, they wanted to enjoy the cabin’s game room. Honestly, I couldn’t blame them at all, the room had Mario Kart, a jukebox, pinball, a machine with 100 games including my favorite Mrs. Pac Man and more.
In the evening when we wanted to relax the theater was the perfect place. We could watch TV, Sunday night football or a movie in comfort and on the big screen. The only thing missing was a popcorn machine!
How to Get to Pigeon Forge with Kids
There is no airport in Pigeon Forge but 25 miles away is Knoxville Airport (TYS). While it’s only 25 miles it does take about an hour to get there due to driving through the mountains. We personally drove in from Chattanooga, TN which is a two and a half hour drive and then went on to Franklin, TN to continue our Tennessee road trip. Other nearby airports include Greenville/Spartanburg (GSP) (98.2 miles), Charlotte (CLT) (152.8 miles), Atlanta (ATL) (157.7 miles) and Nashville (BNA) (176.8 miles).
There are so many things to do in Pigeon Forge with kids. We spent five nights and could have easily spent another two weeks but we were on a Tennessee road trip and it was time to check out our next destination. Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share it!
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