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Gatlinburg Tennessee Review

Updated on February 3, 2016

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Tennessee

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are located in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Located about 15 minutes apart from each other, people usually visit both within the same trip. With both towns offering different types of things to do, you are sure to find fun stuff to keep you and your kids busy having fun.

In this Lens, we will go over my families experience in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We have vacationed in both places multiple times and have a good understanding of what they have to offer, what are "must does" and even the stuff to stay away from.

I firstly want to introduce my family and tell you a little about us. This way, you know what we look for in vacation.

My name is Vince and my wife and I have been married since June 1st, 2001. We have to boys, ages 5 and 9 and we all love doing stuff as a family. We enjoy camping, nature and going on vacation of course. Gatlinburg Tennessee is about 6 hours from our home in Indiana near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Please note that all photo's are either mine or used from Flikr.com Creative Commons-licensed by users: Valerie Everett and Jason Meredith.

This is to share photos that might be more on point. Thanks for sharing all :)!

Gatlinburg Cabin
Gatlinburg Cabin

Gatlinburg VS. Pigeon Forge

A quick overview of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

We have made our way back from our latest trip to Gatlinburg Tennessee and had a great time. Even though I love my in-laws, five nights was long enough (I'm sure you understand). For you that have never heard of Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge it is roughly 50 minutes southeast of Knoxville. Gatlinburg has a ton of shops a sky lift and all the Ripley's attractions among a lot more that we will go over. Pigeon Forge has all the Go Karts you can handle along with some great eats, mini golf and the daredevil rides to see if it is your time to meet our Lord.

Gatlinburg

The town of Gatlinburg is known for most of the shopping, sky lifts, smaller restaurants and indoor attractions. They do have some cool outdoor stuff that we will go over but I consider them part of the lifts. Gatlinburg is the original town that has been a staple in the Smokey Mountains for a long time. There is a lot of history here and even a lot of country sounds mentioning the town. In recent years it has turned into a tourist trap from hell, not a bad thing but more commercialized in the past 15 years.

Pigeon Forges

Is known for Dollywood, all the go-carts you can handle, more flea market type shopping, restaurants, thrill rides, etc.

Though the towns are not far from each other, traffic can be horrible at times, especially the days when people are leaving and coming to town at the same time. There is one main road in and one out.

Where to Stay

Gatlinburg cabins or hotels?

Though we did not camp we did stay in a cabin. Gatlinburg Tennessee has many of great camp grounds to choose from but to be truthful, the cabins are they way to go in my opinion.

Depending on what time of year you visit will depend one the price you pay. Gatlinburg has stuff to offer all year round, but the time of year will still have effect on what you play. We have seen rooms as low as $24 a night and around $39 for the nicer hotels during the off season when kids are in school. During the summer, you will pay much more.

If you like the outdoors, I suggest doing what we do and that is renting a cabin during your stay. There are many to choose from but most are unreachable in winter months. We usually stay in a cabin between the two towns but more toward Gatlinburg (8-10 minutes from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge). These are a little cheaper but still run around $150-$200 per night for a two bedroom. Between the pinball, arcade, Foosball, pool table and hot tub this is the way to go if you have the money. You can get from a one bedroom to a cabin that sleeps 20 people. One point to make here is to do your research, we have stayed at a dump before because we didn't research first. But we have also stayed at some huge places that overlooked the Smokies for the same price. A google search will give you many choices.

old mill restaurant gatlinburg
old mill restaurant gatlinburg

Places to Eat

Get your eat on!

The food can be good in both towns. The main place that I recommend is the Old Mill restaurant located in Pigeon Forge. You will not be disappointed, if you order the meatloaf you will get a pound or more, and then corn chowder, mash potatoes, green beans, salad, fritters and desert. I think the cost was $18.

I have heard The Alamo Steakhouse is great but I have never been, it is over my cheap budget.

Bennett's Bar-B-Que located in Gatlinburg is good but you don't get as much as I would expect from a BBQ place.

On the way in to Pigeon Forge from the main highways, you pass Flap Jack's and this place is a must stop for breakfast on the way back home. We stop by on our way out every time that we are in town.

By now I'm sure you know that I like to eat, but one more stop you have to make is on the strip in Gatlinburg, it is at the video arcade and they have huge foot long corn dogs and sausages with peppers and onions. You will find it a little pricey but it is a must stop for one of your lunches.

You will also find your common chain restaurants in Pigeon Forges, but why would you eat at a place like that when you have so many local places?

There are many more local restaurants but the above mentioned places is the places we go almost (if not) every trip. Since we get a cabin in Gatlinburg, we cook most of the time to save money. We usually eat breakfast out once on our way out of town, go out to dinner once per trip and eat lunch out more often because it can be a hassle to go back to the cabin just to eat.

Ober Gatlinburg
Ober Gatlinburg

Things to do

Attractions of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

There is many attractions you can visit but plan to bring some money. Like any other tourist trap, nothing is cheap. Go-Karts are huge in Pigeon Forge and the NASCAR Speedpark has a deal of I believe $30 all you can ride. Most other places charge between $5.00-$8.00 per ride of I think 8 minutes. You will find many track layouts from figure 8 to corkscrew to oval tracks. If you like to ride go-carts, you will be in heaven.

If you are looking for rides, Ober Gatlinburg is a good choice, you can either take the tram up the mountain for $10 adults, kids under 7 free or make the drive. Once you get to the top, it is $20 all you can ride. They have many rides, water slides but our favorite was the Alpine Slide. A large hill, a slide on wheels and you controlling it, what could go wrong lol...

If you enjoy putt-putt, then you will have a lot of choices. You will find many themed courses around both towns. Our favorite is the Hillbilly golf course in Gatlinburg. You play going down the side of a mountain and my son swears that some of the statues are of some of our family members :)

Pigion Forge has many of the thrill rides on the strip but we have never rode them. I have never trusted the whole death ride next to the road thing.

You also have Dollywood that we have never been to.

I could go on forever on the attractions but go-carts, Ober Gatlinburg and Dollywood are the main selections.

Over all

Over all, this is a great family vacation spot. Up in the mountains, go-karts, good food and plenty of kid friendly stuff to do. What else can you ask for in life? Oh yea, there is a large number of chapels in case you want to tie the knot in the mountains. We have been a large number of times and will continue to go back.

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