We love Tennessee! We have been several times and I wanted to put together a list of my favorite activities in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge the whole family is sure to love.
“Are we at Dollywood, Mom?!”
“No, babe. We’re at Aldi.”
This is what happens when you take your kids to Pigeon Forge for a week! Poor Soph got Dollywood confused with Aldi, somehow. My sweet in-laws went on vacation to Tennessee in September and graciously had us along. It was such a blessing to spend time as a family and let the girls have some quality Grandma and Grandpa time!
Having three kids under five can be a lot of… Well, a lot.
Having little ones can make some things more of a challenge. Not impossible, but they just can’t keep up with an adult pace. Sometimes having them forces us to slow down, which was what we tried to do, all while having fun and getting in lots of memory making experiences in the eight short days we had.
Naturally things like zip lining, mountain coasters, and horseback riding were out. For some reason they frown on you zip lining while wearing a baby… Go figure.
So we sought out to make it a more family friendly experience at their little pace, and we found some super cool activities in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Best Activities in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Picnic at the park with the mountains in the background.
I know you can have a picnic anywhere, but can you have a picnic anywhere with the mountains in the background? It’s absolutely breathtaking!
We were up before the chickens and on the road in hopes the kids would sleep on the way, so we got there with about 4 hours to kill before check in. We ended up getting Chik-Fil-A and finding a nearby park for the kids to play at after we ate.
This is such a cool aquarium! I’ve only been to two including this one, so I’m far from the authority on aquariums, but this one has so many species and so many fun things including a huge play place in the middle! You can touch stingrays, see sharks and seahorses, and watch underwater shows. All 3 of the kids loved seeing the fish!
Alright, this one depends on the age of your kids. I saw a lot of kids there, mostly being pushed, pulled, worn, or carried; and word to the wise… They have the worst excuse for bathrooms in the world. Ella took one look at it and ran away screaming. The potty seat in the back of the SUV saved us on this one.
Also if your kids are walking, you’ll need a wagon and you’ll have to bring your cheerleader pants.
We really pushed them and kept reminding them how strong they are. It was actually really cool to see them keep on keeping on when they were tired, encourage them, and see the accomplishment of them making it to the top! They rode down in the wagon though, which was almost harder on Joey than walking up without them!
I also recommend wearing little ones more than I recommend eating breakfast. You won’t regret it.
Of course, we picked the day to do this that 3 full tour buses showed up and we couldn’t go in because they were full, but we did go when we went several years ago, and it was so much fun! We ended up going to the Alcatraz Museum instead this time, and I didn’t think it was family friendly at all.
The kids were bored to tears. In fact, in my opinion, guests under 17 shouldn’t even be allowed due to the graphic content in criminal history that’s discussed. I think the Titanic Museum is much more family- oriented.
Dolly Parton’s Stampede (previously Dixie Stampede).
We took Sophia to this when she had just turned one, and went again recently, and all three girls loved it (4, 3, and 6 months at the time)! They loved the horses and buffalo. I love dinner shows, and this one is one of my favorites, hands down!
Make sure to go visit the horses in the stable before the show!
The Incredible Christmas Place.
Okay so I’m a little biased because there’s nothing I love more than Christmas, but this place is probably my favorite place to shop in the area! It’s literally like walking into the North Pole. The displays are unmatched! I love looking around for ideas for my own decorating.
The personalized ornaments are probably my favorite thing here. This year we got a personalized stocking holder, and I nearly hung it up when we got home. September or not. This guy seriously wrote like Buddy the Elf.
We were popping Dramamine like tic-tacs all week because those back roads are pretty much like a bunch of S’s strung together. If you’re not used to them, they can be rough.
But there are some beautiful views and wildlife to be seen if you can soldier through the drive. We even brought a picnic lunch which was a lot of fun! Remember a bag for trash and a potty seat here too, if you have little ones.
The Berenstein Bears said it best: Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints.
This was one of our favorites! It wasn’t even on our list, we just happened to drive by and see it and wanted to take the girls.
It’s basically a bunch of miniature amusement rides. It’s pretty cheap, comparatively, and the workers were so kind! We got there right when it opened and had the park to ourselves for most of our visit.
The Island at Pigeon Forge.
This place has some rides and cool stores. The Savannah Bee Company was fun! They even had coloring for the kids and the lady was so interesting to talk to.
Dollywood is so much fun, no matter your age! It was one of the more expensive things we did, but worth it, in my opinion.
Wildwood Grove is their newest addition, geared towards younger kids, and it was so cool! It even had a large indoor play place which was great to beat the heat and take a break to give sissy a bottle.
Yes, I’m counting Krispy Kreme as an activity. Joey was deeply hurt that we missed the hot donuts. You’ll regret skipping this one!
No matter how you slice it, Gatlinburg is an absolute blast and such a beautiful place to build lasting memories with your family!