Pigeon Forge welcomes visitors with Appalachian beauty and Southern hospitality
by Amy Lynch
On the banks of Little Pigeon River, Pigeon Forge, Tenn., rolls out a warm welcome to bus groups and motorcoach tours with spectacular Appalachian scenery, lots of live entertainment options and engaging attractions to discover.
More than 11 million recreational visitors pass through the Great Smoky Mountains each year, making it the most visited national park in the United States, according to the National Park Service. Thanks to Pigeon Forge’s close proximity, it’s easy to access this picturesque terrain for leisurely drives, hikes, bird watching, biking and other fresh air explorations.
Notable Smoky Mountain points of interest include the Cades Cove loop, an 11-mile scenic drive that skirts past historic buildings and through a lush valley surrounded by mountains; and Clingman’s Dome, sitting at 6,643 feet elevation, making it the highest point in Tennessee. Bus and motorcoach groups are well advised to hire a step-on guide who can provide educational background and entertaining context for the most meaningful tour experience.
In the fall, these hills come alive with color as the seasonal foliage emerges, and Pigeon Forge sparkles and shines with five million holiday lights during the annual Smoky Mountain Winterfest from mid-November into February.
Things to do
Anchored by splashy fountains and the soaring neon-lit Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, the expansive 23-acre complex proposes one-stop shopping, entertainment and accommodations at the Margaritaville Island Hotel with a designated drop-off point and a selection of group-friendly restaurants to consider. Visitors can browse the quirky wares at Emery’s 5 & 10, the oldest family-run variety store in the U.S.; ride the Spinning Parrots family coaster; and sip cold pints of craft beer at the newly opened Yee-Haw Brewing Company.
It’s not every day you see a luxury ocean liner docked on dry land. The expertly curated Titanic Museum illuminates the human stories of the ship’s fated voyage through costumed interpreters, interactive displays, authentically recreated vignettes and actual artifacts recovered from the shipwreck.
Stock up on souvenirs with regional flavor at more than 300 Pigeon Forge boutiques and outlet shops. The 40,000-square-foot Three Bears General Store carries everything from Amish-made jams and Simply Southern t-shirts to moonshine water and ice cream. There’s also a make-your-own-teddy-bear workshop, an Old Time photo studio, a spa, an arcade and a live bear habitat on site.
Who cares what the calendar says? The Incredible Christmas Place stays in the holiday spirit all year long with a candy kitchen, custom floral designs and tons of ornaments to personalize.
Dinner and a show
You can’t come to Pigeon Forge without taking in some entertainment, and with more than a dozen live performance theaters, there’s plenty of variety to choose from. Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction and the new Dolly Parton’s Pirate Voyage Dinner and Show host distinctively different experiences that have both earned the Smoky Mountain songstress’s stamp of approval.
In the new Lumberjack Square, Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show draws crowds from spring through December for thrilling feats of axe throwing, wood chopping, log rolling and other competitive lumberjack events. Song-and-dance options include flashy stage productions at the Smoky Mountain Opry, familiar tunes at Country Tonite and feisty family fun at the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud.
All Pigeon Forge theaters and dinner shows warmly welcome motorcoach tours, providing group greetings upon arrival, designated bus parking and personal assistance as needed.
Where to stay
Pigeon Forge’s gracious hotels and resorts work hard to gratify groups with exemplary service and appealing amenities. The Black Fox Lodge and Clarion Inn both offer full breakfast service, while the Music Road Resort and the Ramsey Hotel roll out the red carpet with special welcome receptions for groups on arrival.
For more information and trip ideas, visit mypigeonforge.com.