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6 Can’t-Miss Things to Do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for First-Time Visitors

The Old Mill on the Little Pigeon River.
May 23, 2018

From world-class theme parks, to breathtaking views, the Smoky Mountains have everything you need for a dream vacation. There are so many incredible things to do in the area that it can be hard fitting it all into one trip. If it’s your first time visiting the Smoky Mountains, there are a few things you have to try. To guarantee you have an amazing first trip, check out these 6 can’t-miss things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for first-time visitors.

1. Dollywood

Of course No. 1 on the list is the famous, world-class theme park, Dollywood . Your experience in the Smoky Mountains won’t be complete without visiting the park. Dollywood has something for everyone — from thrilling rides, to family-friendly coasters, to shows, to shopping, to delicious eateries! If you visit the Smoky Mountains during the summer, make sure to check out Dollywood’s Splash Country as well. This water park has a variety of water attractions to help you cool off from the summer heat.

2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The breathtaking Laurel Falls near Gatlinburg.

Out of all the things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, one of the top things you don’t want to miss is a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park . With numerous hiking trails, wildlife, fishing, picnicking and so much more, there is no better way to experience the natural beauty of the mountains than a visit to the park. You can hike to Laurel Falls and see a gorgeous, 80-foot waterfall, or share a picnic with your family in the fresh mountain air.

3. The Old Mill

The Old Mill is one of the most well-known places in Pigeon Forge. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most photographed mills in the country! The giant water wheel harnesses the flow of the Little Pigeon River to power the mill. It’s more than just the gristmill itself though. The Old Mill is a popular place to go for dining, shopping, family events and more! You can dine at The Old Mill Restaurant, watch candy being made at The Old Mill Candy Kitchen, or grab a souvenir from The Old Mill General Store.

4. The Island

Photo of the Ferris wheel and the Ole Smoky Barn at The Island in Pigeon Forge TN.

The Island in Pigeon Forge is your one stop for dining, shopping and entertainment. When you visit, you don’t want to miss the chance to ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, a 200-foot observation wheel where you can see stunning views of Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains. You can also go on rides, enjoy a family meal at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, or browse the many unique shops! Before you leave, take some time to admire The Island Show Fountain, which is a mesmerizing performance of water dance and light, choreographed to 14 pieces of music.

5. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is not your average aquarium. You’ll not only be able to see all your favorite aquatic animals, but you’ll be able to interact with some of them! The Gatlinburg aquarium has special experiences that allow visitors to splash with stingrays, waddle with penguins, touch jellyfish and feed a sea turtle. You’ll even have the chance to spend the night in the aquarium and sleep with the sharks! This aquarium was voted one of the best in the country, so a visit is a must during your Smoky Mountain vacation.

6. Gatlinburg Space Needle

arcadia space needle

For the best views of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, you’ll want to plan a visit to the Gatlinburg Space Needle . The Gatlinburg Space Needle is a 407-foot-tall observation tower that offers unparalleled views. Not only that, but it’s a great family attraction! Once you’re finished taking in the scenery, head back down the elevator to play in Arcadia, Gatlinburg’s largest family fun arcade attraction. It has over 100 of the hottest games and the largest redemption center!

You’re guaranteed to have a memorable time in the Smoky Mountains when you try these can’t-miss things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Browse our Smoky Mountain cabin rentals and start planning your trip!

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