A girl posted a question in a Facebook forum I'm part of about traveling to Pigeon Forge with her husband and their 3 year old. Although the family-friendly options in the area really are seemingly endless, I put together a list of things we have enjoyed doing with our daughter when she was in the 3-5 age range and I thought I would share it with our guests & friends as well. I know there are many other amazing options not included on this list, but here are a few to get you started.
1) Dollywood is bar none the cleanest theme park I’ve ever been to and while it has big roller coasters and thrill rides, it also has excellent options for tiny ones. There are two different kids areas (one in Wildwood Grove & one in Peppermint Valley) and rides are color coded by thrill level so you can see at a glance what your family or might not enjoy. There are also lots of shows and places to sit when you need a break.
2) Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is really fun if you want to venture over to Gatlinburg (about 15 minutes away IF the traffic isn’t bad - I’d recommend checking the Waze traffic app before you go). Be sure to check out the penguin walk - they literally walk the penguins around the aquarium like a parade and my daughter thinks it’s absolutely the best thing ever.
3) An affordable thing we enjoy is mini golf - there are TONS of courses to choose from. Our favorites are the Ripley’s Old Mc Donald’s course by the outlet mall (three farm-themed courses to choose from) and Crave mini golf which has an indoor and an outdoor option (the indoor has saved us on many rainy days!)
4) We haven’t gotten to do a dinner theater show yet but they are really popular. All sources say that the “Pirates Voyage” option is one of the best to do with kids although I haven't had the opportunity to take my little one yet. I hope to go soon and will update once I've seen it first hand. You can also apparently go by and see the sea lions for free anytime there isn’t a show.
5) If you need some free options, there are some animal-themed gift shops/tourist stores (The "Jaws" shark store, 3 Bears General Store, Gatorland Alligator Store and “Goats on the Roof”) that have animals you can go see for free. The exhibits are a little underwhelming for adults as these are primarily t-shirt shops like you'd find at the beach, but my daughter loves them all and it’s a great free option you can do on the way to or from something else - it just takes 5 or 10 minutes to pop in the store and enjoy the wildlife! (*the bear viewing does have a nominal admission fee.)
6) Great Smoky Mountain National Park is also absolutely gorgeous and free although they just instituted a minimal parking fee ($5 for a day, $15 for the week) if you choose to park and hike. Parking at the visitors centers is still free. Wear’s Valley and Townsend areas are also really beautiful to drive out to and enjoy a more scenic version of the area.
7) Food wise, heads up that portions are MASSIVE everywhere you go so you might want to consider sharing or you can often get lunch and have enough to take back for dinner! Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse Cafe is a MUST with little kids. We also love Big Daddy’s Pizza which has an arcade in the back, perfect for killing time while you wait for your meal to come (or a seat on crowded days.)
8. Mountain coasters are a big attraction too and really fun and unique. I’ve heard that the Goat Coaster at Goats on the Roof one is a great option OR do the one at Skyland Ranch which just opened this winter! They also have lots of animals for kids to enjoy and food on site. A great place to spend the day. **Note that kids must be 3 years old and 38 inches tall to ride either of these mountain coasters - be sure to check if you choose a different one.
Hi, I'm Bethany the host of The Sweet Retreat At Pigeon Forge. Besides being a host I love spending time with my family, traveling, music, coffee and learning. I hope you'll enjoy reading about The Sweet Retreat and local things to do in the Pigeon Forge area!