Would love to hear about these destinations from anyone who has been
Haven’t been in 11 years but it was wonderful then.
I’d go back in a heartbeat.
We’ve been dozens of times. Anything specific you want to know?
It’s probably been that long for us too, but we enjoyed the day we spent in pigeon forge as part of a Smokey Mountains NP trip.
We didn’t go to Dollywood. WonderWorks was our highlight.
We bought a season pass the year we went. It was only slightly more than 3 days at the time. The park needed at least two days and we knew we wanted water park, too.
The nice part was we came and went. RD some days, stayed late others. Had a rental at Appleview Resort. It was a nice location.
Would love to hear about the place in general, crowds, traffic- highlights, must-do’s. Been on my bucket list for a long time. Kids are 13 and 15. Also weather depending on the time of year.
I’d love to know too.
Driving into town on a Saturday night in 2009 was memorable in the worst possible way.
Paging @alainafraser to this thread…
We live near here and get passes to Dollywood and Dolly’s Splash Country pretty much every year. We’re also in the area for work throughout the year as we do 3D tours and photography. Traffic is definitely worst in the summer and October (leaf season), and on weekends during the part of the year that Dollywood is open (mid-March through first weekend in Jan, usually).
Must-dos depend on your interests. On the strip in Pigeon Forge you’ll find tons of mini-golf, thrill attractions, dinner shows, and restaurants for every taste. The National Park is gorgeous in every season. Cades Cove is popular, and often over-crowded, so we usually avoid it during peak times. Check out the Elkmont area, take an early morning hike up to Clingman’s Dome, or visit Townsend for less crowds. Of course, you can also head over the mountain to Cherokee where there are lots of Native American shops and cultural experiences in addition to the casino.
If you want to be closer to Dollywood, Splash Country, ride-type attractions, and more dinner shows then you might want to stay in Pigeon Forge. Gatlinburg is more walkable, but has fewer ride-type attractions and more of a “quaint” feel (though it is often crowded). The Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg is fantastic. Ober Gatlinburg is fun, though it’s past due for an update. Anakeesta is supposed to be very cool. We’ve not had a chance to go yet, but our friends really enjoyed it.
Hmm, let me think what else… oh, The Island is a new-ish shopping and entertainment complex in Pigeon Forge that is definitely worth checking out.
As far as weather, well, East TN is notorious for our quick-changing weather. You can count on hot & humid summers and warm to hot fall days with chilly evenings. We get snow sometimes in the winter, but usually not a ton. It gets pretty cold, though. Spring is unpredictable, sometimes it snows in March or even early April and other times it’s over 80ºF.
Sorry this got so long, I just love our area. Let me know if you want to know more, haha.
The highlight for us is the National Park–we enjoy hiking, creek wading, picnicking. So if hiking is on your list, I can give you a list of our favorites. Dollywood and Splash Country are both worth visiting–actually Splash Country is a great water park (almost as good as the Disney water parks I think). Despite being touristy we like the new SkyBridge in Gatlinburg, the Titanic, WonderWorks and Magiquest in Pigeon Forge. My kids have always loved attending the Dixie Stampede. Tons of mini golf locations. The aquarium in Gatlinburg is fabulous. There’s outlet shopping in Sevierville and a good sized art and crafts community in Gatlinburg.
Driving the main strips in both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are horrendous in the summer (but there back roads and ways around some of the craziness).
The weather varies–there can be snow in the winter and summers can be 90+ degrees with humidity.
Many people rent cabins while staying there. There is a huge inventory to pick from. My kids always appreciate ones with hot tubs and home theaters.
I went for the first time last summer (July 2019) and had a very nice vacation with my mom and my brother. We stayed at Dreammore resort, primarily wanted to do Dollywood and the National Park, and were open to whatever else we stumbled across. For ease of drop off at the park, and convenience, I can definitely recommend Dreammore. Service was awesome, resort was sparkling clean and I loved the pool. In the park, we climbed up to Clingmans Dome and had a blast exploring on the drive down and back. We went very early on a week day and had light crowds. We also did a Pink Jeep tour of foothills parkway which we loved- great scenery and I loved not having to drive/watch the road, since I was the driver on this trip. Small negatives: traffic was atrocious- we skipped out on doing Ober/Anakeesta/whichever other mountaintop thingys in downtown Gatlinburg because parking was impossible on the day we were there. The Gatlinburg “strip” felt sketchy and overcrowded at night, I definitely preferred Pigeon Forge with a car to Gatlinburg on foot. Overall it was a wonderful vacation and I would go back in a heartbeat- way too much to see and do in one week.
For anyone (parents) who actually want to take their kids there - more power to you!! DH and I drove through there last summer, just passing through on our road trip. It reminded me of the Dells - the Wisconsin Dells. “Tourist traps” everywhere - assorted…interesting… attractions, T-shirt and souvenir shops, old motels. But, I suppose if you do a good job on your homework (research) and know what you’re in for, and are up for that sort of thing - have a great time! Looked like tons of things to choose from. I’m so very grateful that we are emptynesters. I think your kids might be a good age for this. With the Great Smoky Mountains NP right there, next to Gatlinburg, you’ve got easy access to green woods, mountains, and calm to counter the chaos, noise and traffic.
Re-reading what I wrote, it sounds a lot like going to WDW - what seems like overwhelming chaos can be a great time if you do your homework, set your expectations accordingly, take breaks, etc etc. Have fun!!
It’s been 10 years plus, but I remember taking my kids to the theater to watch a musical. We also went mini golfing. They were too little for the go-carts. Honestly, all they wanted to do was go to Dollywood and the waterpark.
OP, be advised that Dollywood is (or was) beautiful. It’s built into the hills. Emphasis on hills. You’re walking up and down them all day long.
You are genuinely making me want to return. A little too never got to go there and my then three-year-old doesn’t remember it. We looked up the pictures again on our blog. At the time, anyway, they had a lot of novel rides. Things we’ve never seen anywhere else. They also have a zip line tour.
Here in Missouri we call Gatlinburg "Branson East " and Wisconsin Dells is “Branson North”
Oh, I forgot to mention the Roaring Fork Motor Nature trail in Gatlinburg. It’s a one-way 8 mile drivable loop with lots of places to stop off and explore historical buildings and scenery. Plenty of great photo spots. There are also a lot of popular trailheads on the loop, including Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls, so if you like hiking and/or nature it’s definitely work checking out. I especially love when the rhododendrons bloom (usually early July), but it’s always beautiful.
We have been many times, usually in Oct. My parents have timeshare so we go when they go. Usually avoid the weekends but if there we just stay off the main road. We go in the Great Smokey Park almost every day and hike, picnic and DD’s love to climb around the streams with rocks. We go to the go carts and do mini golf. Love it!
I’m jumping in on this thread as we’ve been toying with doing a Labor Day trip with DS2 and DS5. The Great Smokey Mountains intrigue me as well as Dollywood obviously.
Would we be able to fly into Nashville? Any good resource sites? We aren’t necessarily campers but I wouldn’t mind some relatively rustic accomodations. How long of a trip (roughly) would people recommend?
You could fly into Nashville but it would be another three hour drive. Knoxville has a small airport and is much closer.
There is easily enough to do you could spend a week or more. But even 4 or 5 days would give you the chance to see a good bit.
Knoxville is the closest. Atlanta, Nashville and Charlotte are all 3-4 hour drives from Dollywood. However, depending on price sensitivity, car rentals, points and perks, all can be options.
You will still probably want a car, even if you fly into Knoxville, but, its a lot closer.
I absolutely agree. I mean, I guess you could take an Uber or something from the Knox airport and then use the FunTime Trolley system to get around, but it’s often crowded and takes a lot of extra time to get from one point to another since the trolleys make frequent stops. I wouldn’t want to rely on it myself.
As for length of visit, I’d suggest a week if it’s doable, or at least 3-4 days, unless you’re planning on repeat trips. Dollywood isn’t as huge as a lot of parks, but it’s definitely more enjoyable when you can take your time to really explore it all, especially if you also want to enjoy sights/attractions outside the theme parks, like the Nat’l Park (which I’d totally recommend ).