I’ve written about Pigeon Forge several times, both for Travel Channel.com and here on Kidventurous, and finally I had a chance to take my kids over the weekend as part of our cross-country road trip. Driving down Parkway, the main drag in Pigeon Forge, was admittedly overwhelming. There are so many things to do, from musical shows to go-karts to amusement parks (visit MobileBrochure.com to really see what I mean).
While it would be easy to stick to Parkway, and even then you’d need a few weeks to cross off every attraction, what I really love is that Pigeon Forge is just a few miles from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in the entire country. So, take a look, here are my 10 must-do’s for a fun-filled summer weekend in Pigeon Forge.
1. Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. At The Island in Pigeon Forge, look for the 200-foot tall Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. The views from the top are fantastic, but it’s even more fun to watch it spin when it’s all lit up at night. A total must in Pigeon Forge.
2. Hike Up to Clingmans Dome. The entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is 5-6 miles from Pigeon Forge. Stop in the Sugarland Visitors Center, then drive 45 minutes to Clingmans Dome. It’s another .5 mile hike (I can’t lie, it’s steep) up to the observation tower, but the views from the highest point in all of Tennessee are fantastic.
3. Play Arcade Games & Cash in Tickets. I took the kids to Arcade City at The Island in Pigeon Forge. They immediately found the high payout games (in terms of tickets) and we left the arcade with loads of prizes, including two water balloon launchers, a giant inflatable crayon and loads of candy.
4. Snap a Selfie at the State Line. Inside the national park, head to Newfound Gap. It’s about 25 minutes from the Sugarland Visitors center. You’ll find plenty of parking, a scenic overlook and the “Tennessee-North Carolina State Line” sign that was made for taking selfies.
5. Stay at a Hotel with a Fun Hotel Pool. We stayed at Music Road Resort. It’s just off Parkway and has a huge water slide, a lazy river and a diving board. Even I went down the water slide a dozen times. It was the best iPad-free time we’ve had together as a family in some time.
6. Get Your Parks Passport Stamped. Finally, we got our National Parks Passport stamped (I bought the passport online several years ago). Head to the one of the park’s visitors centers and you’ll get three cancellations stamps (one for the national park, one for the Appalachian Trail, which goes through the park, and one for the Trail of Tears).
7. Play a Round of Mini Golf. We didn’t have time to get in a round (plus it was so hot, in the high 90s), so spending an hour playing mini golf was not going to happen. There are at least a half-dozen mini golf courses on Parkway and they’re all so over-the-top that it’s a must to do with your kids.
8. Hike the Appalachian Trail. Wait. What? Okay, fine, don’t hike the entire Appalachian Trail, but if you do decide to hike up to Clingmans Dome, look for the “Appalachian Trail” sign on the way down. Take a few steps on the trail and strike a pose in front of the sign to impress your friends.
9. Get Your Brain Moving at WonderWorks. With 90+ degree temps, a visit to the indoor games and exhibits at WonderWorks was a must-do. The kids played laser tag, shot basketballs, laid on a bed of nails, played with a giant Lite-Brite set and made huge bubbles in a Bubble Lab. They had so much fun.
10. Enjoy Free Concerts at The Island. Every night at The Island in Pigeon Forge, you’ll find free bluegrass music concerts from 5 to 11 pm. We listened in for awhile on Saturday night. The band was so entertaining, but my favorite part was all the comfy rocking chairs for the audience to enjoy.