This article was provided courtesy of RV Destinations Magazine

Most people east of the Mississippi have heard of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, a popular tourist destination. Living within several hours of the Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge has been a favorite long weekend getaway for years. 

The main strip in Pigeon Forge is a tourist’s haven of attractions. Many visitors never leave the strip, and it’s easy to see why. But with the distraction of all the neon lights and signs, it’s easy to miss the rich history of this area. The fun is in creating your own experience. I hope this post provides insight into a Smoky Mountain adventure.

Family-friendly Fun at its Finest

For all the times we’ve visited Pigeon Forge, we’d never visited Dollywood until this trip. Nestled in the Smoky Mountains, Dollywood is home to a theme park, water park, hotel and cabins. And with their Great Pumpkin LumiNights being in full swing, it was the perfect time to visit.

I’ve been to my share of theme parks over the years. Stepping into Dollywood provided me with a large dose of nostalgia. The premises are impeccably maintained. Many theme parks can feel overwhelming, but Dollywood has a feeling of quaint serenity. The rides are unobtrusive, as they were designed to set amongst the hills and trees. A faint hissing of the steam locomotive can be heard while chugging patrons throughout the park. 

Dollywood wouldn’t be Dollywood without music, and there is plenty to be heard. Live music acts appear on various stages throughout the park. We joined others to sit, relax and take time to enjoy the moment. After sunset, the park lights turned on for their Great Pumpkin LumiNights display, which features beautifully decorated themed pumpkins, displays and lights. 

Dollywood is the perfect mix of rides, food, music, shopping and fun. Whenever you decide to visit, you’ll walk away with fond memories of wholesome family fun.

Scenic Helicopter Tours

Searching for something different to do? Taking a helicopter ride over Smoky Mountain National Park might fit the bill. We decided on Scenic Helicopter Tours.  

With great anticipation of the season’s spectacular colors, we opted for the 50-mile National Park Tour. Because we’d planned to photograph Great Smoky National Park’s fall colors, we paid a little extra to have the helicopter doors removed for unobstructed views. 

After checking in, we climbed into the helicopter, quickly connected our headphones and fastened our seatbelts. We found the pilot accommodating throughout the tour, often making suggestions of places we didn’t think to visit.

From the ground, the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas seem to take up a large amount of real estate. From the air, though, you can appreciate the vastness of Smoky Mountain National Park and how small Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg seem. The mountains are beautiful from thousands of feet above the ground, with just the tiny, shadowed dot of the helicopter dancing across the treetops as you soar above them. 

We visited several locations on the way out to Smoky Mountain National Park, spending about 10 minutes in the park itself. We captured great bird’s-eye-view shots of Pigeon Forge’s Parkway, Dollywood, Gatlinburg, Smoky Mountain National Park and the Foothills Parkway. The flight took just 36 minutes. 

The overall experience was terrific. The staff made the process efficient, and Mother Nature provided a beautiful backdrop of the park’s fall hues. It was worth the money to feel like a bird, soaring through the landscape of the gorgeous Smoky Mountain National Park.  

Shiver me Timbers: What a Spectacular Show!

For anyone who’s ever visited a tourist-driven area, you know there are typically dinner shows. In Pigeon Forge, there’s no shortage of them. In early June 2019, a new kid arrived on the main strip in Pigeon Forge: Pirates Voyage Dinner and Show.

All Dolly Parton Company dinner shows do a terrific job of keeping patrons entertained. Upon walking into the Pirates Voyage lobby, the famous green screen awaits you for picture time. The lobby is large and welcoming, with an expansive bar across the back wall offering snacks and drinks. Tucked in the corner is a large gift store offering every goody imaginable. 

The auditorium is incredible. Stadium-style seating means there’s not a bad seat in the house. The seats surround the stage, which is constructed on water, making it feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to when the likes of Blackbeard, Charles Vane and Anne Bonny ruled the seas. 

This is the most incredible dinner show I’ve ever seen. The performers are spectacular, and the acrobatics and high-diving skills are on a level you don’t typically see in a tourist town. This is Vegas-level talent found on this side of the Mississippi, mixed with the Southern hospitality you can’t find anywhere else. You can tell that the staff love working here and enjoy every second of what they do. The food is served hot and delicious, perfectly timed during the show to ensure your viewing pleasure is not disturbed.  

If you do nothing else in Pigeon Forge, see this dinner show. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself cheering for your crew, hooting and hollering, with a child-like grin plastered on your face the entire evening and asking yourself, “When can I see this again?” 

Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s Abrams Fall Trail

With more than 150 different trails that stretch 800 miles, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP) is a hiker’s utopia. With more than 1,600 species of plants, 100 species of trees, 65 different mammals and more than 200 birds, the park is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in all national parks. With such diversity, there are many fantastic hikes within the park. And Abrams Fall Trail is one of our favorites. 

Abrams Falls is one of the most famous falls and hikes in the park. The rushing Abrams Creek dumps hundreds of thousands of gallons of water over the 20-foot drop to the pool below, providing spectacular views. It sends more water over the fall than any other waterfall in the park. The trail is a moderate 5-mile out-and back-hike that follows Abrams Creek, taking you up and over three ridges before finally descending to Abrams Falls. The hike usually takes three to four hours, depending on how much time you spend at the falls. Wear good hiking shoes and watch your step as you’ll navigate over narrow log bridges.  

While there are many great hikes in the park with varying difficulty, Abrams Fall is a staple of GSMNP. We recommended that hikers add this one to the list if visiting the area.  

Camping in the Smoky Mountains

There are many great camping options in and around the Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge. Campgrounds range from basic to amenities galore and campgrounds can be found right off the main strip or off the beaten path. There are options inside the national park as well. Having visited this area many times over the years, we’ve stayed at quite a few different campgrounds. Here are a few of those:

Up the Creek RV Camp is located about four miles off the main strip in Pigeon Forge but feels worlds away. This quiet park is nestled between two creeks and offers large private sites. This is a great campground to escape after a busy day of sightseeing on the strip and national park. Amenities here are basic and there’s no pool, but the creeks are clean, cool and refreshing and a welcome reprieve on a hot summer day.

Riveredge RV Park is conveniently located at the south end of Pigeon Forge. It’s on the Fun Time Trolley Line, which allows easy access to attractions, shopping and restaurants. Sites are much closer together, and streets can get crowded on busy holiday weekends. The park offers a store, swimming pool, playground and fishing in the nearby Little Pigeon River. 

Pigeon Forge RV Resort is a recent addition to the area. The owners purchased a well-worn campground that had previously operated on the same spot and improved water, electric, driveways and sites. They added a gorgeous front office and well-stocked store that opens onto a large, heated, zero-entry salt-water pool with a two-story, triple-twist water slide. Comfortable seating surrounds a few gas firepits at the edge of the pool. Pigeon Forge RV Resort is located less than two miles off the main parkway on 321. 

Camping options abound in this area but be sure to do your homework. Not all campgrounds are open year-round. Some may shut off the water during colder months. Cellular service is tricky in this area, so ask about it before you book. Check campground websites for directions on how to get to their parks, as larger rigs may need to take different routes to accommodate their size. 

With all the options available, you’ll be sure to find a perfect campground match for your next Smoky Mountain adventure.

Whatever your adventure, the Smoky Mountains has it. Adding this part of the county to your list of places to visit is a must for everyone.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s words ring true today about these ecologically diverse and magical lands:

“The beauty and charm of the wilderness are his for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of the present travel.” 

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