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Named for a 19th-century iron forge that once operated on the banks of Tennessee’s Pigeon River, Pigeon Forge attracts families, honeymooners, and outdoor adventurers with its unparalleled natural beauty — and an astonishing number of pancake houses. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the star attraction here: There’s nothing quite like taking in the autumn leaves and mountain views from the comfort of a rocking chair on the porch of your pet-friendly cabin in the woods, set to a soundtrack of Tennessee bluegrass. Whether you want to chase waterfalls in the Smokies, take the kids to a theme park, sample the local moonshine, or window-shop the Bavarian-inspired boutiques of downtown Gatlinburg, this Appalachian retreat has you covered.
To take advantage of all the region has to offer, fly into Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS), then rent a car for the scenic one-hour drive to Pigeon Forge. Many major airlines serve Knoxville, and you’ll find several rental car counters on the lower level of the terminal. Having your own wheels will leave you free to explore Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville at your leisure, motoring through Cades Cove inside the national park one morning and visiting Dollywood the next. If you’d rather not drive, you can grab a lift from a rideshare service or make use of the Pigeon Forge Trolley, whose jaunty green-and-white buses shuttle riders among the trolley station in the Old Mill district and local destinations, including nearby Gatlinburg.
Pigeon Forge is at its best in the spring, when wildflowers carpet the meadows of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and fall, which brings vividly changing leaves and sweater weather. Summers can be hot, humid, and rainy: bring a swimsuit and cool off at a waterpark or swimming hole. Wintertime is magical, with the towns dressed up in twinkly lights and a dusting of snow, but nighttime temperatures can dip below freezing, so pack accordingly.
With more than 850 miles of hiking trails plus 400 miles of roadway, you could easily spend months exploring the Smokies by car, bike, or on foot. Visit the historic churches and cabins in the valley of Cades Cove, hike to a hidden waterfall, or fish for trout. Keep your eyes peeled for the local wildlife, including elk and wild turkeys.
This outdoor mall features shops, restaurants, family-friendly rides, and stellar Smoky Mountain views from the top of its 200-foot observation wheel.
As one of America’s oldest continually operating gristmills, The Old Mill has supplied the residents of Pigeon Forge with baking flour and distilling grains for nearly 200 years. Today it anchors a shopping complex that is home to several restaurants, an ice cream shop, candy store, distillery, pottery shop, and a general store selling stone-ground grits, pancake mix, and local berry jam.
This country music icon helped put Pigeon Forge on the map with her theme parks, where you can find roller coasters, water slides, theaters, and a replica of the cabin where she grew up.
Flowers adorn the sidewalks of this charming village, whose half-timber Bavarian-style structures house gift shops, candy stores, and galleries.