Pigeon Forge is a great destination for families looking for a fun, affordable vacation. Its great scenery and central location within a day’s drive of most of the Eastern United States makes it one of our favorite family vacation areas. We live just outside Pigeon Forge and spend a lot of time here each year.
NOTE: Our guides focus on unique local attractions. We want to explore things that can’t be found at home, and we only include places that we’ve been to.
If you search for “best things to do in (random city),” you’ll find many of the same things: wax statue museums and believe-it-or-not attractions. But if we’re flying around the world to visit somewhere, we want to see something new first.
So, let’s look at the top family-friendly entertainment ideas for Pigeon Forge.
Our Favorite Unique Things To Do
#1 Dollywood Theme Park
From thrilling rides to award-winning shows, Dollywood is one of the best fun things to do in Pigeon Forge for the whole family. It’s almost a requirement to spend at least a day here! We usually renew our season passes each year.
Dollywood is a mountain forest setting that’s home to roller coasters, thrill rides, a steam train, live music, and much more. There are also plenty of rides for younger kids, good southern food, and a bald eagle habitat.
You could spend several days (or a very long day) doing all the rides at Dollywood. To cool off, Dollywood also has a water park!
A recently opened a new expansion called Wildwood Grove includes several new rides. Dollywood’s Lightning Rod is the worlds fastest wooden roller coaster! After Christmas break, Dollywood does close until reopening for spring break.
#2 Smoky Mountain Alpine Coasters
Smoky Mountain Alpine Coasters are a great, unique attraction that provides an adrenaline-filled ride. And there’s plenty in the area to try!
The coasters are pulled up to the top of the hill like a roller coaster, and then you coast back down, controlling the speed. They’re equipped with an easy braking system that allows you to control the speed. Just let go and they’ll slow down.
What is the negative of these coasters? At $16 or $18 per person, the price can add up for a pretty short ride.
Our favorite is Rocky Top Mountain Coaster, just outside Dollywood. It’s a longer ride with several hills, compared to one hill at many of the others.
#3 SkyLand Ranch
One of our favorite new attractions in Pigeon Forge, SkyLand ranch combines a several rides with a zoo featuring llamas, aplacas, and mini cows, among others.
#4 Tubing (snow & non snow)
Rowdy Bear Adventure Park has year-round tubing. During the winter the slides turn into snow lanes. But during the rest of the year, you slide down a plastic slide sprayed with water. A conveyor belt pulls you and your tube back to the top.
They’ve made some changes since we first started going there, including a cover over the slides. This made a big difference, as it got HOT in the summer previously.
Rowdy Bear also has a laser coaster, which is a roller coaster with laser guns that you shoot at targets. The coaster isn’t super fast, so it’s suitable for younger kids.
#5 Dinner Theater Show
There are several excellent dinner shows in Pigeon Forge, and they can be an excellent rainy or cold day activity.
There are 3 main shows, that are all very good. We’d recommend looking at these videos and picking one based on which theme you like.
Warning: We did find the prices higher than we expected the first time we went to buy tickets.
#6 Go-Kart Tracks
There’s no shortage of Go-Kart tracks in Pigeon Forge, and one of the best is the NASCAR speedpark.
Our favorite part about the NASCAR speedpark is you pay for a day and have an unlimited amount of drives. It does get busy, though, especially on the highest-speed track, which has NASCAR-shaped go-karts.
Book online to save money and skip the long line when you arrive.
There are also tracks that let younger kids have a drive:
#7 Petting Zoos & Animals
Parrot Mountain and Gardens is a unique Pigeon Forge attraction, featuring hundreds of tropical, exotic birds in a park-like setting.
If you don’t want to make the trip to Parrott Mountain, they also have a retail shop at The Island shopping center. Our kids were able to get a picture taken there, each holding 2-3 birds at the same time.
Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Horseback Riding is about 15 minutes outside of town and has exotic animals, including camels, zebra, goats, reindeer, and more.
They also offer horseback riding, which our kids enjoyed. It’s even a good summer activity, as it’s a mostly shaded ride through a wooded area.
#8 Jeep Tour
While you’ll look like a tourist riding around in the back of a Jeep, the many guided Jeep tours in the area are a great way to see some of the best scenery around Pigeon Forge. Here’s some of the best:
Extreme jeep tour through Newfound Gap. An open-air jeep from Pigeon Forge uphill to the nearly mile-high Gap.
A half-day tour of the woodlands and water features that make up the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
#9 Titanic Museum
The Titanic Museum is a replica of the ill-fated ocean liner. Inside, explore the many exhibits and artifacts from the ship, such as the Grand Staircase, the Bridge, and the Captain’s Quarters.
#10 Alcatraz East Crime Museum
The Alcatraz East Crime Museum, located next to The Island shopping area, offers a unique look into the history of crime, justice, and punishment in America.
Explore five different galleries that feature different aspects of crime, from the history of law enforcement to the technology used in crime-solving.
#11 The Mountain Monster
One of the most thrilling rides around – The Mountain Monster. This ride is perfect for older kids (we haven’t braved this one yet). Ascend to the top of the 175 ft tall, 65 mph swing ride, before being dropped back down.
#12 Shop at The Island
The Island is an extensive newer shopping and attractions area in central Pigeon Forge. The main attraction is a 200 ft tall ferris wheel, the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel.
There are restaurants, including Timberwood Grill, Margaritaville, and Mellow Mushroom. The Island is a great place to spend a day looking for fun things to do in Pigeon Forge with kids.
There are lots of attractions for the kids at The Island. One of our kids’ favorites is the 7D Dark Adventure, a stationary ride with 3D glasses where you shoot laser guns in several different scenarios. Look for tickets on Groupon to save some money for this attraction.
You can also buy a pass to ride smaller rides, though we found the unlimited ride pass, at $30, expensive for what was offered. Dollywood is a better option if you’re looking for rides.
There are two hotels on-site, including the Margaritaville Resort, which has rooms above some of the shops.
#13 Tubing in nearby Townsend
Townsend is about 30 minutes from Pigeon Forge and home to a couple of river tubing operators. River Rat Tubing is a large family-friendly operation located in Townsend.
For more info, check out our review of the tubing and the top things to do in Townsend. While not in Pigeon Forge, tubing in Townsend still makes our list of fun things to do in Pigeon Forge with kids.
#14 Cades cove (South of Gatlinburg)
Morning or evening will allow you to spot wildlife, including deer, turkey, and black bears. Cades Cove is one of our top fun things to do in Pigeon Forge with kids.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park surrounds the valley and is full of lush forests, meadows, and streams. Cades Cove is also home to some historic sites, including a 19th century homestead, churches, and a gristmill.
#15 Hiking near Pigeon Forge
There are many great hiking trails around, and Laurel Falls is one of the most popular.
Over 800 miles of trails are in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Only 3 miles are paved, including the longest trail, Laurel Falls, originally paved for firefighting access. However, there is rough, broken pavement and some steep drop-offs, so it may not be the best choice for younger kids.
Laurel Falls is a 2.4-mile round trip. The parking area is small, and if you arrive late in the morning on a busy day, you might double the hike distance with the walk from the car!
Weather in Pigeon Forge
During Christmas break, you could find snow or temperatures in the 50s/60s. Pigeon Forge gets an average of 6 inches of snow per year.
The same goes for spring break; you could arrive to find 80-degree weather or snow. In fact, on our first trip to Pigeon Forge, during spring break, we saw 70 degrees and 3” of snow the same week!
If you are looking for snow, you can travel about 40 minutes from Pigeon Forge to Newfoundland Gap, which, at 5000ft elevation, gets almost 70″ of snow per year.
With an abundance of activities and attractions that are sure to suit the needs of children of all ages, it’s no wonder that Pigeon Forge is known as the “Family Fun Capital.”