We’ve partnered with Hotels.com to bring you these quick tips for having a great family vacation in the beautiful mountain area of Tennessee.
The Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area of Tennesse is known as a great mountain vacation spot with plenty of variety from hiking the Great Smoky Mountains to spending time at Dollywood. With kitschy tourist areas full of family activities, gorgeous views and fresh air, even to most “non-outdoorsy” people just might want to spend their entire trip outside.
Where to Stay
The thing about Tennessee that most first time visitors don’t realize, is its incredible views. Pigeon Forge is known as the gateway to the Smokies, and there are countless cozy cabins with sweeping mountain scenes to choose from. If you are staying in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, I highly recommend booking a room through my personal favorite site, Hotels.com. You will be able to find just about any kind of accommodation to suit your needs and your budget and I am a big fan of their rewards program. Choose from incredible cabins with personal hot tubs, activity rooms with pool tables, or grab a property with that perfect porch and rocking chair so you can take in all the picturesque views.
What to See
Pigeon Forge is home to the world’s largest permanent Titanic Museum with more than 400 pre-discovery artifacts in twenty galleries. The museum itself is a half-scale replica of the original ship. This massive museum has everything you need to know about the Titanic, as well as scavenger hunts, the world’s largest LEGOⓇ Titanic, and special events all year. Titanic is located at 2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, just 10 minutes from Gatlinburg.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
There are more than 500,000 acres of beautiful wilderness in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a variety of breathtaking family-friendly hikes and adventures. Even if you are not much for hiking, there is a lot to do and see at the park. Visitors can enjoy auto and bicycle tours, and in mid-March to November, there are horseback riding trips through the trails. Take a ranger-led excursion to see some of the popular sights such as the many waterfalls in the park, or enjoy a fall color tour in the Autumn months. Whether you want to drive, hike, camp, fish, or bike, it is a prime spot for memorable family outdoor adventures.
For history buffs, you can see more than 90 interesting historic buildings – from log cabins, grist mills, barns and more that have been preserved throughout the park. You can also check out cemeteries in the park that highlight its long history and the people that settled in the area.
Once you have had enough of the great outdoors (is that even possible?), why not head to Dollywood for the rides, waterpark, food, entertainment, and even a glimpse of Dolly Parton’s tour bus. The kids will love seeing sparks fly while the blacksmith crafts a blade, or watch mouths open while the glassblower turns a glowing hot amber glob of goo into your next Christmas ornament. This year, May 8th will kick off the brand new Flower and Food Festival with beautiful sculptures, mosaics, interactive displays and plenty of delicious foods.
You can see the absolute best views of the Smokies from the SkyLift Park in Gatlinburg. For the thrill seekers in your family, you can walk across the new SkyBridge, which is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. If walking across the bridge isn’t your idea of fun, there is also the SkyDeck where you can still see epic views of the Smokies minus the heart palpitations.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Voted the best US aquarium, there are two stories of amazing experiences to be had at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies – from the shark lagoon and tropical rainforest to a penguin playhouse. This attraction is one of the must-see family stops in Gatlinburg. Animal lovers can even plan a sleepover with the sharks or a have a PJ Party with the Penguins! Your exciting Sleep with the Sharks evening includes a live dive show, a midnight pizza snack, scavenger hunt, and more while your fun-filled Penguin night includes a dive show, scavenger hunt and late-night activity. In the morning you’ll even get a chance to meet them one-on-one!
Smoky Mountain Opry
Audiophiles and country music fans should try an evening out at the Smoky Mountain Opry to experience live shows and music. They have performances that highlight decades of music and greatest hits. You will hear music from a variety of genres and dance the night away.
If you are looking for some laughs, try a visit the Comedy Barn. All the acts are good clean fun so you can bring the kids along to enjoy some family-friendly evening entertainment.
Where to Eat
If you are looking for some classic, hearty comfort food, go to The Old Mill restaurant for their hot, scrumptious meals. Fill up on breakfast with their Cinnamon raisin pecan french toast or biscuits and gravy. For lunch see what all the fuss is about with southern fried chicken or dumplings. Don’t forget to hit up the creamery for a sweet treat or the distillery for an after-dinner drink.
If you are looking for something other than southern food, you can try the seafood at Chesapeake’s in Gatlinburg. Opt to sit out on the heated patio for the best views of Little Pigeon River while devouring fresh seafood like Maine lobster and Maryland Crab Cakes.
Specializing in delicious fondue, the Melting Pot is also a great choice for a variety of meals from filet mignon to vegetarian. If you’ve never visited one of their locations, the cozy atmosphere and epic menu will make you want to keep coming back for more.