Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, TN? – Things to do in Tennessee (2022)

Since Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN are located so close to one another, people often visit both while in the area.

There’s a nearly limitless number of things to do, including moonshine tastings, minigolf, scenic drives through the mountains, eating incredible food, and more.

But for those who want to focus their time in one area or another, or choose where to book a place to stay, it can be helpful to note the differences between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

As we review the different aspects of both popular tourist cities, we’ll tell you which city wins in each category and give you all the information you’d want to know before booking your trip.

More Activities: Pigeon Forge

New tourists who’ve never been to the area before may be surprised by how small Gatlinburg is. All the activities and restaurants are accessed from the same short strip in downtown.

Some businesses, like Anakeesta, will take you on a chondola or chairlift ride from downtown up into the mountainside for their activities.

There are only a few businesses that do that, though, and most of the attractions are all located on the same strip.

Pigeon Forge, however, is widely spread out. It has a main strip that goes for several miles, packed densely with restaurants, fun zones, distilleries, Dollywood, and more.

Your first drive into Pigeon Forge may be overwhelming when you see all the attractions available to you. Many first-time tourists quickly realize they don’t have enough time to see everything and start planning a trip back as soon as they get home.

It can be a good idea to choose a main focus for your trip, like restaurants, distilleries, or fun and interactive activities.

(Video) Gatlinburg - Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains Travel Guide

Ability to Walk Everywhere: Gatlinburg

Because Pigeon Forge has so much to do, it’s all spread out over several miles with a large, 6-lane street to take you around the main drag of town.

You could probably park and walk from one business to the one next door, but it wouldn’t be feasible to park your car and walk all around the city.

Gatlinburg has the advantage here. For being so small and localized, it opens up the possibility of exploring downtown simply by walking.

You can easily find parking in an all-day parking garage or shopping center lot, then walk up and down the main street of downtown exploring all it has to offer.

This is a huge advantage if you plan to do a lot of moonshine, beer, and wine tastings, or if you simply enjoy the activity of walking around a city and popping into whatever stores and businesses pique your interest.

Better for Kids: Pigeon Forge

One of the first things you may notice about Pigeon Forge is the large number of fun zone businesses. These attractions are great for kids, with all the games, minigolf, and rides you could imagine.

It seems like you can’t even go a quarter mile without another of these fun zones popping up on one side of the road or the other.

There are also other fun attractions for kids including Dollywood, dinner theatre, and places like The Island with rides, shops, and themed restaurants.

Gatlinburg does have some attractions that would be fun to do with kids, like the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Aquarium, but not nearly as many as Pigeon Forge.

(Video) 10 Best Things To Do In Gatlinburg Tennessee - Full Gatlinburg Travel video

With Gatlinburg being more of a walking area, most kids would get tired and need to be pushed in a stroller or carried after a short time in downtown.

Better for Couples: Gatlinburg

While Pigeon Forge may be better for children, Gatlinburg is better for couples.

Many of the shops and attractions around Gatlinburg are more adult-centered and great romantic activities for couples.

Not only are there distilleries and wineries, but there are several nice restaurants with gorgeous views of the mountains where couples can have a romantic dinner.

Because Gatlinburg is seated into the mountainside, there are also more activities that involve enjoying the romantic views of the Smoky Mountains, like taking a chairlift ride up to SkyLift Park and going across the SkyBridge.

Gatlinburg has a more intimate atmosphere because of how small it is, which really helps a couple feel like they’re on a remote getaway for just the two of them.

Pigeon Forge is so spread out with miles of activities and attractions that it feels more like a large tourist attraction and less of an intimate getaway.

Cheaper Activities: Pigeon Forge

A basic economics principle is that the more businesses there are, the more competition there is, and your prices have to reflect that and beat the imitator next door to draw more people in.

You can see this economic principle alive and well in Pigeon Forge. Because there are so many attractions offering the same activity, the prices are aimed to beat the competition.

This doesn’t mean things will be dirt cheap. Pigeon Forge is still a tourist destination, after all, and tourists always pay higher prices.

(Video) WHAT TO DO IN GATLINBURG & PIGEON FORGE: HALLOWEEN EDITION

But you’ll find that your dollar may go a little further in Pigeon Forge than Gatlinburg.

Gatlinburg is a smaller town, with a smaller number of businesses. There aren’t as many people all offering the same thing, so there isn’t as much competition.

This lack of competition is reflected in your prices, and you’ll likely pay what locals call “mountain prices.”

Less Traffic and Crowds: Gatlinburg

Since Gatlinburg is smaller, you’ll find that there are less traffic and crowds.

This isn’t to say that Gatlinburg is a desert town. You will certainly still notice many tourists around Gatlinburg. But the crowds are a lot more manageable and the traffic less of a hindrance.

Weekdays are the best, and you’ll likely be able to get around no problem with less people if you can take the time off to visit during the week. Weekends will draw much larger crowds, though still not as many as Pigeon Forge.

Pigeon Forge is crowded no matter what day of the week or what time of day it is. Those three lanes on each side of the road are filled with tourists who aren’t exactly sure where they’re going, and it shows in their driving.

Any restaurant in Pigeon Forge will likely run you around 45 minutes to an hour and a half in wait time. You’ll have to wait in line or fight through crowds at activity zones, too.

Since Pigeon Forge is larger with more attractions, it attracts more people. There’s no way around it. It’s a good idea to visit during the off season.

More Souvenir Shops: Pigeon Forge

When you’re driving down the main strip in Pigeon Forge, you’ll likely notice a huge number of souvenir shops.

(Video) Top Things To Do In Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg, TN (Discount Tickets)

Interestingly, there are many souvenir shops that advertise a live animal inside, including sharks, alligators, and goats.

There are also several Christmas-themed souvenir shops where you can stock up on Christmas décor all year round.

Gatlinburg is more about the experience than the take-home gifts, so you won’t find many souvenir shops around.

Most of the businesses in Gatlinburg have their own small gift shop area inside, but that’s about it. The souvenir shopping is limited, and best done in Pigeon Forge.

Mountain Views & Atmosphere: Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg sits on the mountainside deep within the forest. You wouldn’t know you were coming up on it without the signs, and the large buildings almost look out of place in all the trees.

For those looking for a romantic mountain getaway, this is perfect. Gatlinburg has many hotels, resorts, and rental homes on the mountainside with perfect views of the Smoky Mountains.

Pigeon Forge is further out, sprawled across a flat piece of land at the bottom of the mountain. The mountain views in Pigeon Forge are really best scene from the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel in The Island.

If your goal is to have a secluded, quiet mountain getaway, Gatlinburg is the place for you.

Overall Winner: Both

Each city has its own advantages and disadvantages. There’s a reason people visit both while in the area!

The city you spend more time in will depend on what your goal is for your vacation.

(Video) Visiting GATLINBURG and PIGEON FORGE Tennessee

If you’re looking for a quiet, romantic getaway, Gatlinburg is best. If you’re looking for a fun vacation for the whole family, we recommend planning the majority of your trip in Pigeon Forge.

FAQs

Is it better to go to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge? ›

All in all, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are both incredible spots to visit. If you're looking to experience the true tourist experience of the Smoky Mountains, you'll want to visit Gatlinburg. If you're looking for an equally thrilling experience, but a little away from the crowds, Pigeon Forge is your answer.

What is the number one thing to do in Gatlinburg? ›

Top Ten Gatlinburg Attractions
  • Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.
  • Ole Smoky Moonshine.
  • Gatlinburg Sky Lift.
  • Hillbilly Golf.
  • Ripley's Haunted Adventure.
  • Gatlinburg Space Needle.
  • Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway.
  • Hollywood Star Cars Museum.
17 May 2022

How many days do you need in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge? ›

If you're going to Gatlinburg, plan for at least three days. You can do it in two, but you'll feel a little rushed. Anything past three days and you're going to want to reach out to Pigeon Forge and explore what's happening over there.

How far apart is Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg? ›

The distance from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg is short, just five miles. For a different, but equally scenic route, drivers can take the Gatlinburg Bypass and, when it ends, take a left on 321/441. The Bypass is a beautiful road and offers even more views of the landscape.

Whats cheaper Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg? ›

So, when it comes down to it, Pigeon Forge is generally the cheaper option when comparing lodging, activities, and restaurants.

What is the best time of year to visit Gatlinburg? ›

The best time to visit Gatlinburg is during the fall – specifically in September and October. During these months, beautiful fall foliage takes the stage, and temperatures are mild(highs between 65 and 80) which attracts travelers from all over.

What should you not miss in the Smoky Mountains? ›

Look at these top 5 can't-miss hikes in the Smoky Mountains:
  • Laurel Falls. The most popular waterfall trail is Laurel Falls. ...
  • Alum Cave. Alum Cave Trail is a moderate hike in the Smoky Mountains because of all of the natural features you see along the way. ...
  • Grotto Falls. ...
  • Abrams Falls. ...
  • Gatlinburg Trail.
30 Jun 2020

What is Gatlinburg famous food? ›

Check out these famous local dishes and eateries.
  • OGLE DOG AT FANNIE FARKLES. ...
  • DONUTS AT THE DONUT FRIAR. ...
  • DEVILED EGGS AT PARTON'S DELI. ...
  • GARLIC KNOTS AT BEST ITALIAN. ...
  • PANCAKES AT THE PANCAKE PANTRY. ...
  • SALAD BAR AT THE PEDDLER STEAKHOUSE. ...
  • TAFFY LOGS AT OLE SMOKY CANDY KITCHEN.
26 Aug 2020

How much does it cost to ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad? ›

Tickets Adults 13+ are $56-$99 depending on seat class, children 2-12 start at $32. Also, check out rafting combo packages - ride the train up the river, then raft down!

How do people spend 3 days in Gatlinburg TN? ›

3 Days in Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains: Sample Itinerary
  1. Start Your Day at Crockett's Breakfast Camp. ...
  2. Visit Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. ...
  3. Get Lunch at Big Daddy's Pizzeria. ...
  4. Go Ziplining at Legacy Mountain. ...
  5. Enjoy the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show. ...
  6. Have Breakfast at Sawyer's Farmhouse. ...
  7. Make the Most of Dollywood.
29 Jul 2020

Is Gatlinburg worth visiting? ›

If you're looking for a fun and unique travel destination, Gatlinburg, Tennessee is definitely worth considering. This charming town is home to some of the best outdoor attractions in the country, and its vibrant downtown district is packed with restaurants, shops, and things to do.

What's Gatlinburg known for? ›

Tennessee's only ski resort resides in Gatlinburg: Ober Gatlinburg, which kicked off back in 1962 and is particularly famed for its aerial tramway. The pinnacle of the city, the Gatlinburg Space Needle, was built in 1969 and continues to offer one heck of a panoramic view of the town and its Smoky Mountain backdrop.

Is Dollywood the same as Pigeon Forge? ›

Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge, just 25 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and many of its attractions draw from the region's rich heritage.

What is the best time to visit Pigeon Forge? ›

The best time to visit Pigeon Forge is in the spring or fall, when the area experiences pleasant temperatures and the local attractions aren't too crowded.

What is the rainiest month in Gatlinburg Tennessee? ›

Rain falls throughout the year in Gatlinburg. The month with the most rain in Gatlinburg is December, with an average rainfall of 4.1 inches. The month with the least rain in Gatlinburg is October, with an average rainfall of 2.7 inches.

How many days is enough for Pigeon Forge? ›

3 days. If you're savvy, you can pack a whole lot of bang into just three days in Pigeon Forge. It won't take long to discover the beauty Tennessee has to offer. Begin by dedicating an entire day to the Smoky Mountains National Park.

Do you need a car in Pigeon Forge? ›

Today, visitors can hop on a trolley at over 100 stops throughout Pigeon Forge alone. You can get on and off the trolley as many times as you'd like throughout the day, so it's convenient to you.

Can you walk around Pigeon Forge? ›

The Pigeon Forge Greenway system includes more than 6 miles of trail that you can walk or bike through and around the city. The main drag is the Riverwalk Greenway, following the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River and connecting Patriot Park to The Island and a loop around the Pigeon Forge Community Center.

What month do the leaves change color in Tennessee? ›

As a general rule, leaves in East Tennessee begin to change color in early October and peak around the third week of the month. Deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves annually) are usually bare by Thanksgiving. In Middle and West Tennessee, color change begins in mid-October and peaks by Halloween.

What is the off season in Gatlinburg? ›

Though Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains are truly a year-round destination, the off-season in Gatlinburg is during January, February, and March. However, these months still see lots of visitors, this "off-season" is simply less busy than other times of the year.

What airport do you fly into for Gatlinburg? ›

The closest commercial airport is the McGhee-Tyson Airport (TYS) in Knoxville, Tennessee and is about 40 miles from Gatlinburg. The number for the McGhee- Tyson Airport is (865) 342-2900. Private charter planes can fly into the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport (KGKT), just call them at (865) 453-8393.

Is there a fee to get into Smoky mountain national park? ›

Answer: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smokies hosted over 14 million visitors last year, which is more than the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite combined. HERE'S SOMETHING EVEN MORE surprising:unlike nearly every other national park, the Smokies has no entrance fees. It is completely free to visit.

What is the best time to visit Smoky Mountains? ›

According to when most visitors come to the Smoky Mountains, the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains national park is during the months of June, July, and October. The months with the lowest visitation tend to be in the winter and spring.

How much does the Gatlinburg Sky Bridge cost? ›

The SkyPass
1+ Days in AdvancedDay of Visit
$34.95$36.95
Adult (12-64)
$27.95$29.95
Senior (65+)
4 more rows

Can you walk around Gatlinburg with alcohol? ›

There is no open container law in Gatlinburg. This means that you can drink alcohol in public areas, including the streets and sidewalks.

Do you have to ride the SkyLift to get to the SkyBridge? ›

Many people come to Gatlinburg every year and can't leave without riding the SkyLift Park first! To access the SkyBridge and SkyDeck, you must ride the Gatlinburg SkyLift 500 vertical feet up the side of Crockett Mountain. As you ride up the mountainside, you'll enjoy talking to the 2 other people riding up with you.

How long is the Smoky mountains train ride? ›

The regular Tuckasegee excursion to Dillsboro, NC and the Nantahala Gorge are 4-4.5 hours.

Can you bring your own food on the Smoky Mountain Railroad? ›

Yes you can bring own food if you book the ticket that doesn't serve food in that car. over a year ago. When we went on the train, we brought a small lunch box-sized cooler.

Is the Smoky Mountain Railroad worth it? ›

The Bottom Line: Although the Smoky Mountain Railroad tickets are expensive and Bryson City is a good drive for most visitors, the relaxation and views make it well worth it. The day trips from Bryson City on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad are a relaxing and romantic way to spend the day.

What is Smokey mountain famous for? ›

World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America's most visited national park.

What is the difference between Blue Ridge mountains and Smoky Mountains? ›

Answer and Explanation: The Great Smoky Mountains are a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountain System. Thus, the Great Smokies are the Blue Ridge Mountains, but not all of the Blue Ridge Mountains are Great Smoky Mountains.

How many days do I need for Great Smoky Mountains? ›

If you are a first time visitor to the park and want to experience the best of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we suggest 3 to 4 full days of sightseeing plus a day or two for doing some of the longer hikes, river tubing, or horseback riding and still have time to explore Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.

Is Pigeon Forge a tourist trap? ›

This past weekend I discovered that Gatlinburg and neighboring Pigeon Forge are meccas of southern tourist-trapdom.

What city is closest to the Smoky Mountains? ›

Towns & Cities Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Gatlinburg, TN. 7.6 mi / 19 mins.
  • Pigeon Forge, TN. 14.4 mi / 33 mins.
  • Sevierville, TN. 21.0 mi / 44 mins.
  • Townsend, TN. 24.5 mi / 46 mins.
  • Cherokee, NC. 27.9 mi / 48 mins.
  • Bryson City, NC. 38.1 mi / 1 hour 6 mins.

What is the most popular destination in the Smoky Mountains National Park? ›

Cades Cove Loop Road

Once a remote valley community, Cades Cove today is easily the most visited and photographed locations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Is it better to stay in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge? ›

Overall, Gatlinburg is more compact than Pigeon Forge, which creates a more pedestrian friendly area. There are some downsides to being in a smaller valley. Since there's not much open space or alternative routes, this mountain town tends to get more crowded than Pigeon Forge.

Why is Pigeon Forge so popular? ›

Pigeon Forge is known for family-friendly activities. Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country have rides and activities for all ages and are great places for the whole family to experience in the spring, summer and fall. WonderWorks is always a hit with the kids as well as the indoor trampoline park, TopJump.

How much does it cost to ride the Alpine Coaster in Pigeon Forge? ›

Located on Wears Valley Road, at traffic light #3 in Pigeon Forge, the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster sits right off the Pigeon Forge Parkway. The cost of the ride is $15 for adults, $12 for children ages 7-12 and $5 for children ages 3-6. The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster is open daily, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Are Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge the same? ›

While many people may think that Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN are basically the same, each town actually has very different things to offer. Although they are in close proximity to each other, and they both have some similar activities, they are also both very unique.

What is the best time to visit Pigeon Forge? ›

The best time to visit Pigeon Forge is in the spring or fall, when the area experiences pleasant temperatures and the local attractions aren't too crowded.

Is Gatlinburg TN worth visiting? ›

If you're looking for a fun and unique travel destination, Gatlinburg, Tennessee is definitely worth considering. This charming town is home to some of the best outdoor attractions in the country, and its vibrant downtown district is packed with restaurants, shops, and things to do.

Is Dollywood the same as Pigeon Forge? ›

Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge, just 25 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and many of its attractions draw from the region's rich heritage.

What is Pigeon Forge known for? ›

Pigeon Forge is known for family-friendly activities. Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country have rides and activities for all ages and are great places for the whole family to experience in the spring, summer and fall. WonderWorks is always a hit with the kids as well as the indoor trampoline park, TopJump.

Why do people go to Pigeon Forge? ›

This world-famous theme park, owned and operated by country music legend Dolly Parton herself, has been a Smokies staple for decades. The park, open ten months out of the year, offers childrens' rides, roller coasters, water attractions, entertainment, and crafts every day of the week.

Why do people like Gatlinburg? ›

Gatlinburg looks good in any season. Enjoy snowtubing and skiing in the winter, wildflowers in the spring, alpine slides and water rides in the summer, and bright foliage in the fall. You can visit one part of the year and have a completely different experience a few months later.

What is the off season in Gatlinburg? ›

Though Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains are truly a year-round destination, the off-season in Gatlinburg is during January, February, and March. However, these months still see lots of visitors, this "off-season" is simply less busy than other times of the year.

How much does it cost to stay at Pigeon Forge? ›

The average price of a 7-day trip to Pigeon Forge is $1,666 for a solo traveler, $2,992 for a couple, and $5,609 for a family of 4. Pigeon Forge hotels range from $45 to $258 per night with an average of $74, while most vacation rentals will cost $260 to $560 per night for the entire home.

Is Pigeon Forge a dry town? ›

So while there are some restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol in Pigeon Forge, it is far from being an entirely dry town, and you'll easily be able to find somewhere to have a drink if you so choose.

What's the best month to go to Gatlinburg Tennessee? ›

The best time to visit Gatlinburg is between September and October. The two peak seasons in Gatlinburg are summer (June, July and August) and the month of October, when the fall foliage is at its zenith. July is the busiest month of the summer season, while weekends in October draw the largest crowds in the fall.

How many days is enough for Pigeon Forge? ›

3 days. If you're savvy, you can pack a whole lot of bang into just three days in Pigeon Forge. It won't take long to discover the beauty Tennessee has to offer. Begin by dedicating an entire day to the Smoky Mountains National Park.

What is Gatlinburg famous food? ›

Check out these famous local dishes and eateries.
  • OGLE DOG AT FANNIE FARKLES. ...
  • DONUTS AT THE DONUT FRIAR. ...
  • DEVILED EGGS AT PARTON'S DELI. ...
  • GARLIC KNOTS AT BEST ITALIAN. ...
  • PANCAKES AT THE PANCAKE PANTRY. ...
  • SALAD BAR AT THE PEDDLER STEAKHOUSE. ...
  • TAFFY LOGS AT OLE SMOKY CANDY KITCHEN.
26 Aug 2020

How much is a one day ticket to Dollywood? ›

Regular Dollywood Prices

As of December 2021, Dollywood prices are $84 for a standard one day adult pass, $99 for two days, and $109 for three days. Dollywood discount tickets apply to seniors 62+ and children ages 4-9. Admission is free to children 3 and under.

Do you need to buy Dollywood tickets in advance? ›

To receive the prices above, tickets need to be purchased online in advance at Dollywood's official Web site. The parks use an advance reservation system for admission, and tickets are tied to specific dates. The tickets are valid within five operating days of the reserved date.

How far is Pigeon Forge from Graceland? ›

How far is it from Pigeon Forge to Graceland? It is 370 miles from Pigeon Forge to Graceland. It is approximately 430.6 miles to drive.

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