Foraging for ideas on where to stay, eat, and play in Pigeon Forge? You’ve come to the right place! Our family spent a magnificent 3 nights in this mountain city, and boy, did we have some fun. From indoor skydiving to soaring on a gondola ferris wheel, the sky’s the limit in Pigeon Forge. Check out our thrill-seeking itinerary before traveling to this charming city.
Known as the hometown away from home, Pigeon Forge derived its name from 2 olden characteristics: PIGEON for the once prolific pigeons that called the area home, and FORGE from the old iron forge located along (you guessed it) the Little Pigeon River. So it’s fitting to the name Pigeon Forge that our vacation involved lots of flying and soaring activities and enjoying the skills and talents of artisans and entertainers.
From the uplifting activities like indoor skydiving and ropes course to the thrilling experience of zorbing, we had a rip-roaring great time. As it is with cities that have so much to offer, I find I have trouble deciding WHAT to do and WHERE to stay and eat. Too many choices can be information overload! So here’s the skinny on where we stayed, ate, and played during our whirlwind 4 days in Pigeon Forge.
We were guests of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism for three nights/four days of family fun.
Where to Stay, Eat, and Play in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Where to Stay in Pigeon Forge
RiverStone Resort and Spa was our home base for 3 nights, and what a home away from home it was! This resort boasts luxury condos and cabins along the Little Pigeon River and in a prime location to get to all the local hotspots. It literally only took us 10 minutes to drive anywhere.
No matter the size of your family, RiverStone has 1 to 4 bedroom condos that offer all the amenities of home while vacationing. We loved having a full kitchen at our disposal as part of our two bedroom condo.
With a lazy river, pool and hot tub, spa, activities center, playground, and patio area with charcoal grills and picnic tables, RiverStone has spaces to chill and relax from the hustle and bustle of Pigeon Forge. Check out our condo tour and lazy river antics:
Where to Eat in Pigeon Forge
Whoa-there are some killer restaurants in Pigeon Forge! Good thing we did plenty of walking to burn some calories for all the fabulous food. Here’s the food lineup we enjoyed:
Local Favorite: The Old Mill for a classic Southern meal. Think meatloaf, chicken and dumplings, and pot roast and gravy type dishes. My fried mountain rainbow trout caught locally was delicious. Even better: dessert is included! Who doesn’t love chocolate cake or blackberry cobbler with ice cream?
BBQ Award Winner: Locally owned and operated for 26 years, Bennett’s BBQ is going strong and winning awards for outstanding baby back ribs, barbeque, and sides.
Breakfast of Champions: Mama’s Farmhouse. Bring your appetite for this all-you-can-eat country style breakfast that’s slap your mama good! What a hearty breakfast for the most important meal of the day. Try the pinwheels-they’re awesome!
Dinner and a Show: We didn’t expect half of what happened during our Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud! Pyrotechnics, water elements with diving dogs and hillbillies, singing and dancing, and even acrobatics combined with humor to keep us laughing. Not to mention the ample supply of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and cole slaw. As they like to say at this dinner feud, “we put the fun in dysfunctional!”
Where to Play in Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge is a mountain gem of a city that packs a punch with its entertainment. My granddad who I called Opa used to say, “Anyone who doesn’t like this life is crazy.” Well, he surely could have been speaking of Pigeon Forge.
The first word that probably comes to mind for Pigeon Forge is Dollywood. Dolly Parton’s amusement park has heritage, high-flying attractions, and homespun heart. Dollywood’s Southern roots run deep, from the pottery making to the folksy/country entertainment to the local arts and crafts on display. Even though we only live a few hours away, this was our first Dollywood trip, and it blew us away.
Tip: Download the Dollywood app to find out wait times, map, and show schedules. Subject to availability, Dollywood also offers a Time Saver Pass for $35 (plus tax) per person, per day. FYI: Dollywood Resort guests receive a complimentary version of Time Saver for expedited entrances ten times throughout the day at their choice of TimeSaver attractions. We found the lines to move fast and never waited in a line longer than 20 minutes, but that was in early June.
And our favorite food from the entire trip goes to…the Cinnamon Bread from the Grist Mill. Ooey gooey goodness that can be shared but may disappear fast. We solved that problem by ordering a second one later in the day!
Water rides in the summer are the BEST! Smoky Mountain River Rampage wins for the most twisty turny rapids that WILL get you wet, and Daredevil Falls for a plunge that soaked us and kept us comfortably cool in the heat.
Dollywood has an event for every season. Our visit coincided with the Barbeque and Bluegrass Festival where bluegrass music filled the air and BBQ smells wafted through the park.
This theme park is also home to some of the most stomach-dropping, hair flipping roller coasters we’ve ever experienced. Hands down, Wild Eagle was our absolute favorite. Sadly, Lightning Rod closed for maintenance before we could ride it. Just means we have to return!
Highlights: Wild Eagle and Mystery Mine roller coasters, cinnamon bread, additional festival offerings, and friendly staff. Check out all the highlights from our one day tour here:
Explore a Crime Museum
Changing gears, we next explored the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, one of Pigeon Forge’s newer attractions.
Being an attorney, I found the museum totally fascinating in its educational components, especially a room dedicated to the criminal justice system. I tripped out over the actual Ford Bronco that OJ Simpson rode in during his infamous police chase.
Learning about outlaws from the Wild West to mob bosses to notorious crimes throughout the centuries was fascinating. The museum is heavily reading intensive, so kids who can’t read may get antsy. But my teens dove in and absorbed everything.
Kids will like the Crack-a-Safe experience, mock police lineup, CSI gallery, and “the Heist” laser maze challenge. Our family goofed around most in the last few areas with the goggles that simulate impaired driving, police motorcycle, and the driving video games.
Zorbing in an OGO
For adventure enthusiasts and thrill seekers, this is the park for you! We had an amazing time at the Outdoor Gravity Park. In fact, I think it was our family’s favorite experience.
So does the idea of rollicking down an 1,000 foot hill in a clear sphere sound thrilling? Then try zorbing. That’s the actual name of this sport that originated in New Zealand. Zorbing is defined as the recreation or sport of rolling downhill inside an orb, generally made of transparent plastic.
Outdoor Gravity’s spheres, called OGOs (for outdoor gravity orb) are like self-contained weeble wobbles! And Outdoor Gravity Park is the only place in the US that offers these extraORBital experiences.
With wet zorbing, the OGO has a small amount of water to keep riders cool. Bring a swimsuit and a towel to be most comfortable.
There are 3 choices in courses at Outdoor Gravity Park: FUNnel, Speed Demon, and Extreme Zig Zag:
- FUNnel – a combined FUNnel and zig zag course. Up to 3 people can roll in this one of a kind experience like no other zorbing track in the world.
- Speed Demon – if you feel the need for speed, this is the zorbing track for you. A total of 3 people can roll and you will definitely have experience being a little out of control as you speed down a 1,000 foot hill.
- Extreme Zig Zag – this zig zag course is so extreme you must ride solo. For those craving extreme adventure.
The biggest question: do you tumble? No. You don’t tumble around or get flipped upside down; riders instead slip and slide along the bottom of the OGO.
Riding with my daughter on the FUNnel course meant we went faster and had much more laughs as we jostled around safely in our OGO. My 13 year old rode solo on the Extreme Zig Zag. It is tons of fun and a totally unique experience. Watch this to see exactly what it’s like:
Outdoor Gravity Center has big plans for even more gravity-inspired activities like zip-lining, but zorbing is an adventure worthy of checking out now!
My son and I tried skydiving for the first time at Flyaway Indoor Skydiving. What a cool sensation! Bucket list item checked off.
After an instructional video about safety and the various rules, we donned our special skydiving suits and went in the chamber. Taking turns, each of the participants got their chance to fly high with an attendant monitoring our flying.
While a fun experience, I have to say the amount of time we actually got to spend skydiving was really short. Each skydiver in our group of 4 got to try it for maybe 5 minutes total. Couple that with the fact that the room was warm and we didn’t get much lift, we walked away having a small bit of a letdown. Hey, we were flying, so we had to come back down to reality, right? I’d say that indoor skydiving is a must do experience, but I’d find one that allows more flight time for the money.
Fun Playground for the Whole Family
Question: Where can you watch dancing fountains, sample moonshine, fly high in a ferris wheel, and explore 60 retail and specialty shops? It’s the Island in Pigeon Forge.
This complex is a one stop for affordable family fun. Feast at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, Margaritaville, and Mellow Mushroom. Shop at Ole Smoky Moonshine, the Pepper Palace, and the Sneaky Squirrel. As for the activities, a two day unlimited rides pass is available, and the ropes course can be added to that for $ 10. My son took it as a personal challenge to take on the ropes course and the simulated free fall of the quick jump, and he rocked it!
Tip: Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at sunset for amazing views and to capture glimpses of the mountains.
Our favorite spots at the Island include the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, Island Ropes Course, and the Show Fountains. Coordinated to 14 different songs, the Show Fountains combine music, movement, and color to create varied shows that are at the top of the hour each hour.
Choose your own adventure in Pigeon Forge! Learn more at My Pigeon Forge, an excellent resource for planning and deciding on a family-forward itinerary.
My family and I were guests of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism for our stay and our activities. As always, you can count on my honest feedback and recommendations.