I have had the opportunity to travel to Tennessee twice in the last year. I went once for a family trip and then again for a well deserved couples getaway.
Tennessee is a state where I fully embrace being a tourist. With so many things to do and see, it’s really hard not to.
First, it’s important to note that I stay in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge when I visit Tennessee. Most people get the two of these confused. So let me explain a few of the differences.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are only about 15 minutes (depending completely on traffic) from each other and run along the same road.
Gatlinburg is more of a place where you park and walk around to visit their shops and attractions. You won’t find AS many rides, go carts, etc here. Gatlinburg does have two sky lifts and the Ripley’s aquarium. Gatlinburg has a variety of stores, old timey photo, restaurants, and walk through attractions that are all accessible by walking their “strip”. Gatlinburg has more of a young/party vibe than Pigeon Forge especially the closer you get to nighttime but is still completely family friendly. Gatlinburg would be the perfect location to bar hop.
Pigeon Forge is better traveled by car. While there are some places you can get to on foot like the Island and the outlet mall. Most of their activities are spaced out and include it’s own parking lot. In Pigeon Forge you will find the dinner shows, thrill rides, ferries wheel, more go carts than you can count, and the bigger chain restaurants.
So what I did I do on my trips?
1. Well, Dollywood, of course!
Most people don’t visit Tennessee without spending at least one day at Dollywood. Tickets are extremely over priced ($75) so try to find some discounted before you go!
2. Old Timey Photo
Did you even go to Tennessee if you didn’t have your Old Timey Photo taken? Personally, I think not. Don’t get suckered into the bigger photo businesses in Tennessee that want to charge $100 for a picture. Go to the strip at Gatlinburg and have the same quality picture taken for $20!
3. Mountain Coasters
There are a few mountain coasters to choose from in Tennessee. We went with the Rowdy Bear because they offer two different types of coasters. Honestly, my boyfriend and I were a little disappointed because neither of the coasters lasted very long. They do offer to let you ride again for another $8 per person.
I would spend hours blogging about all the food options in Tennessee. There are literally miles of restaurants in Pigeon Forge. This is not a place for the indecisive (me). I stick with one place during every visit because you can never go wrong here: PAULA DEAN’S FAMILY KITCHEN!
5. Dinner shows
My family and I are not the best at change. Therefore, I ended up at the Dixie stampede again. It’s always a great show and food is amazing. But, next trip I am going to visit one of the other dinner shows like Hatfield and McCoy or a murder mystery! Spend the extra $20 to have your kid dressed up as a cowboy or cowgirl! It’s super cute!
Once again, putt putts are a dime a dozen in Tennessee. Most options are in Pigeon Forge. We went with a Ripley owned putt putt just due to the proximity to our cabin! My son even got a hole in one on the last hole and one a free game!
8. Road trip!
On our couples getaway we took the scenic route and stopped to take in the view on the parkway. It was the warmest and sunniest day in April and the views did not disappoint.
8. The strip
On the strip in Gatlinburg there are walk through attractions like mirror mazes, escape rooms, virtual reality seated rides, and a haunted house. Sweet treats and ice cream are everywhere. And you are never more than 10 steps from a variety shop. On our couples trip we choose to go on the skylift also! I was surprised to see that you cannot get off on the top of the mountain yet, but they have started construction to make that possible.
If I ever venture out of the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area while in Tennessee then these are the places I believe would be worth the drive:
- Ruby Falls
- Graceland (duh!)
- Cades Cove
- Everything in Nashville
- Country Music Hall of Fame
And, as always, if you have any suggestions for my next trip please leave a comment below!