It’s time to start planning summer vacation. While obvious choices include the beach or a theme park, we’re starting off summer vacation week with a trip to Tennessee. It’s hard to choose between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for a destination so since they’re both in the Smoky Mountains, both TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Winners for Family and only 15 minutes apart, we’ll make sure you know the best about both towns.
Your best choice in this area is to opt for renting a cabin instead of a hotel. Cabins usually offer room for 1-20 people, fireplaces, hot tubs, BBQ grills and other options to choose from. There are a large number of rental options in the area with many different options. Even pet lovers will find dog-friendly cabins. Some options:
- Majestic Mountain Vacations: Located in Pigeon Forge. Cabins here have 1-12 bedrooms holding 4-54 people. Starting at $155/nt. We like the 3-bedroom Dancin-N-The Starzzz that sleeps up to 14. There’s a game room with a pool table, air hockey, and foosball.
- Uncle Bud’s Log Cabin Rentals: Located in Gatlinburg. Cabins here have 2 bedrooms holding 4-6 people. Rooms are stocked with treats like coffee, hot cocoa, and popcorn and robes are provided for each guest. This is a smaller cabin company with more personal service.
- Old Mill Restaurant: In Pigeon Forge. This is the #1 restaurant in Pigeon Forge on both TripAdvisor and Yelp so I have high hopes that you’ll enjoy it. They offer 3 meals a day and whatever you choose, make sure to get the corn chowder with it.
- Smokin’ Ed’s BBQ: In Pigeon Forge. You can’t visit Tennessee without enjoying Memphis-style barbecue. The pork sandwich is a must and be sure to ask about the pretzel buns.
- Cherokee Grill: In Gatlinburg. This steakhouse is open only for dinner and also offers seafood and rotisserie. They also offer updated southern sides, like baked macaroni and blue cheese grits.
- Log Cabin Pancake House: In Gatlinburg. This hot breakfast spot has over 10 types of waffles and pancakes each. Think pecans, chocolate chip, blueberry, peach, and Caribbean style. There are also omelets and biscuits and gravy to fill you up.
- Dollywood: In Pigeon Forge. Dollywood has rides for those of all ages, family-friendly experiences, and even a waterpark.
- WonderWorks: In Pigeon Forge. This is a fun indoor attraction perfect for rainy days and creative minds. Inside is the world’s largest indoor ropes course, a space zone, an illusion gallery, and a challenge zone.
- CLIMB Works Canopy: In Gatlinburg. These are zipline tours go through the high treetops of the mountains with spectacular views.
- Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies: In Gatlinburg. The claim to fame of this aquarium is its Penguin Playhouse.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park: I’ve been to portions of this park before and its a great way to enjoy nature at its finest. This is one of the few free national parks and its large size can be overwhelming, so check out this TripAdvisor thread on best parts of the park to visit when in the area.
- Best for: It’s perfect for large families or trips with extended families. The cabins here hold lots of people (many over a dozen) so you might want to take advantage of it.
- Not For: People who hate the great outdoors or quiet trips.
- Notable: There aren’t many public transportation options here so either drive in or rent a car nearby.
- Budget: Low. Cabins aren’t much more than the price of a hotel and depending on the activities your family may choose, you might just enjoy some free fun. If you want more rides and fewer hiking expeditions you’ll also see increased costs.