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Once you visit the Smoky Mountains, you’re going to want to keep coming back. It will be love at first sight when you arrive! If it’s your first time visiting the area, there are some incredible attractions you have to go to before you leave. To make sure you don’t miss out on anything during your first experience in the Smoky Mountains, we’ve come up with 10 things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for first-time visitors.
Dollywood is one of the top theme parks in the country, and you have to see why! From thrilling rides, to delicious food, to unique shops, Dollywood is a one-of-a-kind experience. The whole family will love exploring this Pigeon Forge attraction. Whether it’s seeing a show, riding a roller coaster or enjoying Southern-style dining, you’ll have a great time at the theme park. If you visit during the summer, make sure to stop by Dollywood’s Splash Country and beat the heat by riding water rides or swimming in the wave pool!
2. The Old Mill Square
The Old Mill Square is known for its dining, shopping and hospitality. Make sure to bring your appetite when you visit! The Old Mill Restaurant serves family-style Southern meals for you to enjoy, and The Old Mill Pottery House Cafe & Grill serves everything from steak to fried chicken. And don’t forget to save room for dessert! The Old Mill Creamery and The Old Mill Candy Kitchen are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. There is also a number of shops for you to explore, like The Old Mill General Store, where you can pick up cornmeal, grits and more, and The Old Mill Pigeon River Pottery, where you can shop for one-of-a-kind pieces! There is so much for you to see in The Old Mill Square. This is definitely one of the can’t-miss things to do in Pigeon Forge for first-time visitors!
3. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was named the top aquarium in the country! You’ll want to see why for yourself. The Gatlinburg aquarium is full of amazing experiences you won’t get anywhere else, like the chance to waddle with penguins, splash with stingrays and sleep with the sharks! You’ll be able to see a sea turtle, 12-foot sharks, jellyfish and more!
4. Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show
What could be better than a great meal to go along with a great show? When you visit the Smoky Mountains, you won’t want to miss going to see the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show! The show features singing, dancing, stunts and comedy that will have you laughing all night long. When you come to the show, you’ll be able to enjoy a full homestyle feast of fried chicken, corn on the cob, homemade bread and more!
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an obvious must-see when you visit the area. There is no better place to explore the gorgeous mountain scenery! The park has hundreds of hiking trails, opportunities for fishing and campsites so you can spend the night underneath the stars. You can have a picnic in the park, see wildlife and even go horseback riding!
6. The Island in Pigeon Forge
The Island in Pigeon Forge is one of the top things to do in Pigeon Forge for people of all ages! You’ll have tons of affordable fun when you visit The Island! There are plenty of shops, dining options, games and rides. One experience you won’t want to miss is the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, in which you’ll ride in a glass gondola as high as 200 feet in the air and see spectacular views of Pigeon Forge with the Smoky Mountains in the background. While you’re here, be sure to sample moonshine at Ole Smoky! Moonshine sampling is an activity you don’t want to pass up.
7. Titanic Museum
The Titanic Museum is a great way to spend an afternoon in Pigeon Forge. You’ll feel like you’re boarding the real ship when you step inside and are given a boarding pass of an actual passenger or crew member. As you explore the museum, you’ll get to touch a real iceberg, walk the Grand Staircase and try to stand on the sloping decks. When you reach the Memorial Room, you’ll be able to find out the fate of the name on your boarding pass. It’s one of the most popular museums in Pigeon Forge!
8. Ride Go Karts
One of the most popular things to do in Pigeon Forge is to ride go karts. If you’re craving adventure and have the need for speed, you’ll love visiting one of the many go-kart tracks in the Smoky Mountains. Some of the top places to ride go karts are The Track, SpeedZone Fun Park and Xtreme Racing Center. All of them have unique go-kart tracks that will make you feel like a race car driver!
9. Gatlinburg Space Needle
For some of the best views of the area, you’ll want to visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle. The Gatlinburg Space Needle is a 407-foot observation tower that offers panoramic views of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. Just ride the glass elevator to the top and enjoy the breathtaking scenery! Below the Space Needle is Arcadia, Gatlinburg’s largest family fun arcade. Play more than 100 games in the two-story amusement center after taking in the beautiful views!
10. Stay in a Cabin
An experience that is a must for everyone wanting to see the true beauty of the Smoky Mountains is staying in a cabin. There are so many gorgeous Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg cabin rentals that have mountain views, wireless internet, outdoor hot tubs, wood-burning fireplaces and more incredible amenities. You’ll feel right at home when you stay in a cabin. It’s the best way to enjoy all the Smoky Mountains have to offer and be close to all the best attractions in the area.
More Things to Do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg
We’ve told you about some of our favorite things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg when you visit the area for the first time, but there are so many other great activities you can try as well! While you probably can’t fit all the fun into one trip, you’ll have to come back more than once to enjoy all the action in the Smokies! Sample moonshine at a local distillery, dine at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, ride a mountain coaster, explore Anakeesta, walk across the Gatlinburg SkyBridge — the list goes on.
Check out all the amazing things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to help you decide what to do during your trip. We hope you enjoy your first time in the Smoky Mountains!