Pigeon Forge, TN is one of the most highly-traveled vacation locales in the country, yet it is a place that wasn’t even on my long-list of places to see before I die.
When I got the opportunity to join 30-something other women at an enormous cabin in Sevierville, TN for Brandcation, I jumped on it for the sheer fact that I’d be without my children for 4 days. Little did I know I would find myself waking up to rolling mountains draped in fog, riding roller coasters that just appear out of the forest, and zip lining through some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen.
I grew up in Juneau, Alaska at the base of majestic rocky-topped mountains dusted with snow all year long. When people talked about the Smoky Mountains I thought of rolling hills and I scoffed at ever visiting there. I had, after all, grown up at the base of the most beautiful mountains in the world.
Holy goodness was I COMPLETELY wrong. As I made the drive from Raleigh to Pigeon Forge, the hills kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger until I was gasping with every curve of the road. It was absolutely stunning scenery and I drove, mouth agape, for hours. I couldn’t get enough of the scenery and the crisp, cool air. I felt every bit of my shame as I realized I had cut myself off from this beautiful part of the country in my Alaskan stubbornness.
I will be doing individual posts for each place that we visited but I wanted to give you all a glimpse at the 5 things that surprised me most about my trip to Pigeon Forge, TN.
5. Dollywood – Go For the Coasters, Stay for the Shows
Dolly Parton is all about entertainment, but when you think “Dollywood”, what is your first thought? Mine was “Why the heck would she choose to put an amusement park in Pigeon Forge, TN?” My second thought was, “I’ve heard there’s a great wooden roller coaster there.” I never once entertained the thought that there would be some amazingly choreographed and perfectly executed shows there.
My favorite was “Dreamland Drive-In”. It followed some High Schoolers from the 1950s through their lives into the present day, all the while showcasing the history of music. The plot was fantastic, the acting superb, and the singing phenomenal. I was truly blown away. I knew I would enjoy the roller coasters at Dollywood but the shows really blew me away. I wasn’t expecting them, and they are what I will most remember about my visit to Dollywood.
4. Lumberjack Feud
We all know about Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, but who has heard of The Lumberjack Feud? It is owned by Lumberjack Sports International and boasts a $10 million facility. Walking into the gift shop was like walking into a shop in Southeast Alaska during peak tourism season. Boston plaid and fun lumberjack gifts were everywhere. The true surprise was walking into the arena to be greeted by a timber-covered mountain with 55-foot climbing poles with a lake in the middle.
I rarely have high expectations for food at dinner shows but the food was finger-lickin’ good. We were served perfectly seasoned chicken and BBQ ribs, beans, strawberry shortcake, and some other vittles. It was truly delicious and I couldn’t eat it all.
Then there’s the show. I haven’t laughed so hard in my life, but it was so, so much more than a comedic act. The lumberjacks are actual athletes, many of whom are highly decorated in the sport of lumberjacking. They were burly and ripped, and their skills with sharp objects were amazing. It reminded me of The Gold Rush Days competition back home in Alaska, only it was indoors and they were serving delicious southern BBQ. The show is set in the 1930s and follows two families, the Dawsons (Yo-HO!!!!) and the McGraws (BOOOOOOOO) during their feud for the last remaining timber tract before the Smoky Mountain National Park shuts the timber industry in Tennessee down for good.
Ladies will love it for the hunky lumberjacks. Gents will love it because of their sheer athleticism. Kids will love it for the action and the likelihood that they will be picked to be part of the show. I give Lumberjack Feud 5 stars for crowd involvement and most hilarious, exhilarating dinner show.
3. Cabin Fever Vacations
The Workaholic is in the hospitality industry and because he works in hotels, it is a requirement that we stay in hotels everywhere we go. I’ve stayed in some of the most luxurious hotels in the nation, but they become all the same after a while. I’ve always wanted to rent a cabin in the woods so that we could experience nature during a vacation, wake up to breathtaking mountain views, and have a little peace and quiet at night as opposed to the rowdy hotel crowd.
Cabin Fever Vacations delivered that for SURE. I was extremely nervous that I would be stuck on a blanket on the wooden floor of a cabin since I was the last person to sign up for Brandcation, but that wasn’t the case at all. Our cabin slept 34 people in 8 bedrooms, two futons, a pull-out couch, and a room full of queen-sized bunk beds. I wanted a top bunk, I got a top bunk, and a bed to myself. There was a hot tub on the bottom deck, a pool table, and seven FULL bathrooms! The views were stunning and I savored the 25 minutes I got to spend alone with my coffee on the 3rd floor deck while I was there.
If you’re planning on taking a vacation to the Pigeon Forge area, I highly recommend looking into the many cabins and condos that Cabin Fever Vacations has to offer.
2. Climb Works Zip Lining
Zip lining is taking the world by storm, and with a plethora of zip lining companies to choose from, you might be confused as to which company to call first. It’s true, you can see similar views anywhere, and one company might have a longer zip than another company, but I PROMISE you, not a single company in Pigeon Forge or its surrounding areas has guides that come close to the ones at Climb Works. Our guides, Matt and Thomas really put up with a lot of giggling and heckling from our group of 8. Not only did they take it in stride, they participated in our silliness and made us feel so comfortable up on the lines.
I have a pretty intense fear of heights and Matt was very calming for my first zip. He also had pretty extensive knowledge of the area and I learned a lot from him. Did you know that the Smoky Mountain area is the second most bio-diverse area in the world? It’s true! I also got to eat a leaf that tasted a lot like apple skin, that hikers use to induce salivation when they are trying to conserve water. Our guides gracefully bridged the gap between professionalism and fun effortlessly. I haven’t laughed that hard, or had so much fun in a really, really long time.
If you want a zip lining adventure with rockin’ guides who really enhance your experience, it’s a no brainer: Choose Climb Works.
1. The Titanic Museum
The number one surprise for me was the Titanic Museum Attraction. It is owned by John and Mary Joslyn and is one of two locations in the United States. John Joslyn was the first person to bring views of the Titanic to the screen as it lie under the ocean in 1986. The Joslyns are extremely invested emotionally in the Titanic and have thousands of artifacts inside the museum.
Mary Joslyn’s tenure with Disney provides a superior set-up inside the museum, and the staff all accept their roles as workers aboard the vessel flawlessly. I spent nearly 3 hours inside the museum and I wish that I had, had more time to explore. I read nearly everything there was to read, and felt so emotionally connected to the people aboard the ship by the time I left.
I REALLY don’t want to give too much away because I have a full-sized post coming on it this week, but I desperately wanted to stress to you all how amazing this museum is, and how truly blown away I was. It is the one attraction that I wasn’t sure I would enjoy, and by far the one attraction that absolutely blew me completely away. DO NOT miss this museum on your next trip to Pigeon Forge, TN.
DO NOT miss these five attractions on your next trip to Pigeon Forge. You won’t regret it, I promise.