Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is tiny—just 6,000 residents—but it has enough attractions and activities to draw 10 million visitors a year. More than two million stay overnight in its 14,000 hotel rooms, condos, cabins and campground sites.
It is home to Tennessee’s most visited ticketed attraction, the Dollywood theme park, where you get a big dose of the music, food and crafts of the Appalachian Mountains, plus some totally thrilling rides.
Superstar Dolly Parton, of course, is Dollywood’s namesake. Other businesses with Dolly’s influence are Splash Country, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede and Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure Dinner and Show.
There’s more entertainment at the Island in Pigeon Forge, an 18-acre development with dining, colorful fountains, shopping and the 200-foot-tall Great Smoky Mountain Wheel.
The Parkway, the thoroughfare that goes through Pigeon Forge, is lined with restaurants, shops and amusements including miniature golf, go-carts and even a bungee jump. But perhaps the most unexpected sight is a building shaped like the Titanic. It’s the Titanic Museum Attraction that tells the story of the famous ship and its only voyage.
This vast tract of 500,000 acres was bought with private funds and money from the legislatures of Tennessee and North Carolina and then given to the rest of America through the National Park Service. Experiencing these mountains is a huge reason so many people visit East Tennessee and Western North Carolina each year as tourists.
Visitors enjoy sightseeing along U.S. 441, a scenic mountain road that climbs and winds through Newfound Gap, with a spur out to Clingmans Dome and its observation tower at the highest spot in the state (6,643 feet). The views along the road are superb, and the panoramic scenes from the tower are breathtaking. However, driving tours offer only a mere introduction to the Smokies.
More than 800 miles of trails wind through the mountains, where hikers can discover magnificent waterfalls, hidden coves and sparkling streams. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a sanctuary for a variety of animals. Protected in the park are 66 species of mammals, more than 200 varieties of birds, 50 native fish species and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians. The symbol of the Smokies, the American black bear, is perhaps the most famous resident.
There are 10 developed campgrounds. Many park streams provide year-round fishing for rainbow, brown and brook trout. A Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required.
The closest airport is an hour away at Knoxville, TN.