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Uncover the South’s charming Appalachian culture in Pigeon Forge

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Tucked within awe-inspiring peaks that overflow with lush greenery, rushing waterfalls and diverse forests, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, has become a hot destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

In addition to outdoor thrills, the mountain resort city is known for its bursting entertainment scene, Southern hospitality and its favorite daughter, country music star Dolly Parton.

“Pigeon Forge prides itself on family-friendly entertainment, from attractions and museums to restaurants and Broadway-style shows,” said Joy McNealy, senior sales manager with the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “With the backdrop of the spectacular Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is just 5 miles up the road, Pigeon Forge is truly one of the most unique destinations you’ll find. We take great pride in making it easy for groups to get here, but hard to leave.” 


Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Photo: Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Chase an adventure

Home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and robust Pigeon River, Pigeon Forge has earned some serious bragging rights.

Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts over 2,100 miles of streams and rivers, is America’s most-visited national park, and is world-renowned for its diversity of wildlife and Southern Appalachian culture.

There are over 800 miles of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including over 71 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Hiking season spans across all 12 months, with each season offering its own distinct views and experiences, from waterfalls and endless vistas to spruce-fir forests and mountain streams.

Popular hikes include the Rainbow Falls Trail, Chimney Tops Trail and Laurel Falls Trail.

WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Photo: Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism WonderWorks, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

The most popular attraction in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cades Cove, a broad, isolated valley that was once home to numerous settlers before the establishment of the park in 1934. Cades Cove shares the widest variety of historic buildings in the park.

An 11-mile loop circles the cove, and groups have the chance to view white-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, turkeys, raccoons and other wildlife while riding through.

Another wildly popular activity in the area is whitewater rafting. Groups can experience thrills and natural scenic beauty along the rushing Pigeon River with Rafting in the Smokies, an outfitter located nearby in Hartford.

With rapids on the Pigeon River ranging from Class I–IV, groups can choose between a leisurely float or a heart-pounding adventure. The river is dam-controlled, allowing for a guaranteed rafting season May through September.

The Pigeon River borders the Cherokee National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Appalachian Trail and the Martha Sundquist State Forest, sharing some of the most jaw-dropping views in the entire state.


Endless entertainment

Wild Eagle roller coaster at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Photo: Dollywood Publicity Wild Eagle roller coaster, Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Over 40 attractions and dozens of restaurants line the Parkway in Pigeon Forge — there’s no running out of things to do in this East Tennessee town. Spreading over 23 acres, The Island in Pigeon Forge is a vibrant entertainment complex housing attractions, dancing fountains, retail shops, restaurants and rides — just to name a few.

There, groups can get a taste of Southern comfort at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, soar to new heights on The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, and shop ’til they drop with over 60 specialty and retail stores. Customized dining and entertainment packages are also offered for groups.

Other notable stops along the Parkway include: The Comedy Barn Theater, Titanic Museum, Alcatraz East Crime Museum, Hollywood Wax Museum and WonderWorks.

Honoring her hometown of Sevier County, Dolly Parton opened Dollywood, one of the world’s premier theme parks, in 1986. Dollywood shares the rich heritage and artistry of the Smokies with live artists performing country, Southern gospel and Appalachian music, and craftsmen who present glassblowing and blacksmithing.

At Dollywood, groups can ride the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster, “Lightning Rod,” try the world-famous cinnamon bread at The Grist Mill, and experience over 40 rides and attractions.


Hooch history

Moonshine tasting at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Photo: Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery Moonshine tasting, Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Legend has it, the word “moonshine” derived from the illegal, secretive operations of Appalachian distillers who created and distributed whiskey during the night to avoid discovery. Due to tough economic times, producing and selling moonshine supported many East Tennessee families in the early 20th century.

Moonshine is now legal in Sevier County, with Ole Smoky Distillery being the first federally licensed distillery in East Tennessee. Just down the Parkway, Old Forge Distillery in Pigeon Forge gives groups a behind-the-scenes look at the distilling process on guided tours. There’s a chance to sample its award-winning spirits.

Packed with rich history, Old Forge Distillery is housed in a century-old building that was once a farm supply store. The distillery sits next to and uses freshly ground grain from The Old Mill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and still grinds corn, rye, wheat and buckwheat. 

ASK
Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism
865-453-8574
mypigeonforge.com/group-tours

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About Author

Kelsey Smith, Associate Editor

The more wine columnist Kelsey Smith travels, the more tales she can’t wait to tell. She especially likes to discover how destinations and attractions can accommodate groups. To earn a star on her travel checklist, there better be parking for a motorcoach and dining, at least nearby. Watch for the debut of her blog, “Wine Wednesday.”

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