Exciting Family Itinerary For Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

A man and his young son stand together at the Old Mill Pottery Cafe in Gatlinburg, one of the best things in a family itinerary for Gatlinburg Pigeon-Forge.
Photo Courtesy: Megan Tucker

Plan your next family vacation with this perfect itinerary for Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge, Tennessee! A trip to this beautiful destination has enough to keep families busy for months. Enjoy nature, attractions, great food, and unique experiences in Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge. In fact, you’ll find everything from scenic hikes to thrilling rides, and more. Given the array of things to do in Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge for families, you might wonder how to make the most of a stay with kids. Here, we suggest seven fun-filled family days in the area. You can also pick your favorite activities if your stay is shorter. Whether you want to spend time outdoors, inside, or grabbing some of the best food around, there are options for all ages too. Grab your hiking shoes and lace-up for a fun adventure ahead. Keep reading for your family trip to Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge

Travel Inspiration: 16 Fantastic East Coast Summer Destinations Families Will Love

Day 1: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

A stunning sunrise over the Smoky Mountains at Clingman's Dome, featuring hues of orange, pink, and blue, one of the best things in a family itinerary for Gatlinburg Pigeon-Forge.
Photo Courtesy: Kelli Levesque Wein

Use all that excitement at the start of your trip and go for a hike! The beautiful Great Smoky Mountain National Park awaits your family. With an entrance just a few miles outside of Gatlinburg, it’s easy to reach. Certainly, it should be one of the first stops on your family itinerary. There are so many trails to choose from; some of the more kid-friendly trails include Grotto Falls and Laurel Falls. Both trails are about 2.5 miles roundtrip with a waterfall at the end! Clingman’s Dome is a brief, ½-mile hike for your littlest travelers. Meanwhile, Cove Mountain Trail to Cataract Falls is ¾ of a mile with flat ground. Be sure to get to the trailhead early to find a parking spot, especially at these popular spots.

After a morning of hiking and exploring, you may be inclined to take it easy the rest of the day in your cabin or hotel. To replenish all those calories left on the trail, visit Old Mill Pottery House Café or The Old Mill Restaurant for some country cooking. Everyone is sure to leave satisfied when you add one of these stops to your family itinerary for Gatlinburg Pigeon-Forge.

READ NEXT: A 16-Day US National Park Itinerary For Families 

Day 2: Anakeesta and SkyBridge

Get a bird’s-eye view of Gatlinburg at Anakeesta Theme Park, a unique way to immerse yourself in the outdoors. The adventure starts before you even get to the main gate, as you ride up the mountain via the Chondola, a chair-gondola with either open-air or closed sides (there’s also a bus if preferred). Once atop the park, climb the observation tower for even more stunning views of the town and Great Smoky Mountain National Park, walk the ropes course to burn that energy, and play with new friends in the Treehouse Village. If you’re after more adrenaline, zoom down the ropes course or mountain coaster!

For more new heights, check out SkyBridge – the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America – at Gatlinburg Skylift Park. The bridge is nearly 700-feet long and more than 500 feet in the air, with glass flooring at the very middle to put it all into perspective. Ride up the ski lift to walk the bridge at your own pace. As with Anakeetsa, families can grab food and drink at this soaring site. However, if you prefer your food on ground level, there are options on every corner, such as Tom and Earl’s, Loco Burro, and Pancake Pantry. If you’re after a snack, you won’t regret checking out the treats at Donut Friar or Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen.

Use VRBO to search for accommodations around Gatlinburg!

Day 3: Cades Cove and a Show

Want to experience nature without all the walking? Take the slow drive around Cades Cove to check out the greenery and wildlife in the mountains. The 11-mile, one-way loop meanders through beautiful parkland, allowing families to spot birds, black bears, deer, coyotes, and turkeys. Not to mention, pass between several churches, a working grist mill, barns, and other structures open for exploration. Families can go through the ride in a few hours. Alternatively, you can pack a picnic and make a day of it by walking the trails along the way.

After your exploration outside, head to a dinner show inside. The Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area knows how to put on a good time, and there’s a lot of dinner shows to choose from. For example, Pirates Voyage Dinner and Show offers a “swashbuckling” experience for all ages. Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction offers horse riding stunts and musical productions that wow the crowd. You can miss checking out one of these shows in your own family itinerary for Gatlinburg Pigeon-Forge!

Book your stay in Gatlinburg with Homes & Villas by Marriott International!

Day 4: Dollywood

A family of four sits outside, in front of the sign for Dollywood Flower & Food, one of the best things in a family itinerary for Gatlinburg Pigeon-Forge.
Photo Courtesy: Kelli Levesque Wein

Dollywood is a major destination all onto itself. Visit for a day and you can truly get a taste of the fun! Located just outside of Pigeon Forge, the theme park offers more than 40 rides. Most are appropriate for even the smallest of riders, along with unique musical acts that will get you singing and dancing (if even in your seat). Plus, the water park, open seasonally, offers families a choice of slides, pools, and rapids to escape the heat. And, there are more than 25 dining locations onsite and plenty of seasonal festivals and activities to help families make the most of their visit. If you’re traveling during peak times, TimeSaver allows ticket holders expedited access at some of the most popular rides; this amenity is complimentary if your lodging is through Dollywood, either onsite or in the mountains.

Reserve one of the top 50 Pigeon Forge Vacation rentals here through VRBO!

Day 5: Pancakes and The Island

After a day running around Dollywood, sleep in and then enjoy one of the many area pancake houses. Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse Café is a lot of fun with its namesake birds singing alongside your meal. Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, inspired by a frontiersman, fuels you up in downtown Gatlinburg. And Smoky’s Pancake Cabin focuses on getting the basics right, as it has for the past three generations in the business. Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll definitely eat well on day five of our family itinerary for Gatlinburg Pigeon-Forge.

Next, check out The Island in Pigeon Forge to shop, eat and play the day away. Get an unlimited-rides pass for 11 spinning, bouncing, and twirling rides; it’s good for 48 hours, and for a small fee, you can also add on the ropes course and jumping pad. Are museums more your family’s style? Visit the Alcatraz East Museum for 20 exhibit areas showcasing the history of American crime. Also, be sure to check out the fountain show, playing twice per hour with music and lights. Grab a bite at 20 eateries onsite, including Mellow Mushroom for pizza and The Island Creamery for ice cream. Of course, there’s a toy shop onsite, though parents may be more drawn to regional décor, and local health and beauty goods. You won’t want to miss the area’s signature moonshine either. 

Look for your accommodations at Pigeon Forge through Homes & Villas by Marriott International!

Day 6: Ober Gatlinburg and Ripley’s Aquarium

Head back to the mountaintops and visit Ober Gatlinburg Amusement and Activity Park. Accessible by aerial tram ride, this year-round destination includes a wide variety of family-friendly fun. Here, families can enjoy a rock wall, chair swings, mountain coaster, a carousel, wildlife encounter, and more, depending on the season. Ice bumper cars and ice skating are popular come winter. The alpine slide and mini-golf are perfect for milder weather in spring and fall. And there are three water raft rides open in summer!

Once you head back down to town, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies provides an unforgettable experience for families interested in exploring life underwater. Walk past colorful fish, rays, sea turtles, and more. Check out the live dive shows first. Then, get up close with penguins, and set sail on a glass-bottom boat over a shark lagoon! 

Viator has many tours around Pigeon Forge! Reserve your tickets here!

Day 7: More Hiking and a Mountain Coaster

Tire yourself out before your travel day with another hike in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There are plenty of options right in Gatlinburg. However, if you’re up for venturing a bit further east to Townsend, the Spruce Falls hike is less than 1.5 miles. Plus, it features another waterfall that kids will adore!

Afterward, experience a different type of rush in the mountains by zooming down a mountain coaster. Families can control the brake speed, making the adventure customizable per child. And while there is no shortage of options in the area, the longest is the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster and open to those 38” and taller. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant or Farmhouse Grill. Here, munch on apple fritters and homestyle southern cooking. There’s a country shop, creamery, cidery, and more onsite, making it a one-stop-shop, especially for apple lovers. 

Look for top tours around Gatlinburg here through Viator!

Have a Rainy Day?

If rain dampens your original plans, there are tons of indoor attractions to enjoy. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are home to plenty of shops, video game arcades, and movie theaters. But for something a little more unique to the area, check out the Titanic Museum to learn all about the ill-fated ship. Wonderworks combines educational exhibits with the thrill of an amusement park. Or, visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not to get up close with some of the world’s greatest oddities. If you encounter a rainy day, be sure to add one of these activities to your family itinerary for Gatlinburg Pigeon-Forge!

Use Viator to reserve your tickets to the Titanic Museum here!

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge with Kids

A young boy sits on a couch inside a cozy cabin at Elk Springs during the Christmas holiday, a tree and stockings can be seen across the wood-paneled room.
Photo Courtesy: Megan Tucker

Need somewhere to stay in Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge with kids? This area is known for some unique properties! Renting a mountain cabin is extremely popular – many even have indoor pools, hot tubs, and other family-friendly amenities to go along with breathtaking views. There are multiple property management companies offering stays in the mountains. Check out the ones managed by Dollywood and Elk Springs Resort for a sample of what’s on offer. Excellent resorts provide so much more than just a room where families can call home base. For example, water parks resorts like Country Cascades and Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort offer built-in entertainment after (or instead of!) a day of exploring the area. 

Happy Travels!

A family of four poses together, while hiking along the Alum Cave Trail, one of the best things in a family itinerary for Gatlinburg Pigeon-Forge.
Photo Courtesy: Kelli Levesque Wein

We hope you liked this Perfect Family Itinerary For Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge, Tennessee by our top contributor Megan Tucker! From hiking the Smokys to experiencing the thrilling attractions in downtown Gatlinburg and getting a taste of the country in Pigeon Forge, families are sure to have the trip of a lifetime! Enjoy Tennessee with your kids! 

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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Megan Tucker

Megan Tucker is a public relations professional, wife, mom and lover of all things travel and travel planning, based in Arlington, Virginia. While she grew up in New England, she's lived in the Washington, DC area, London and Abu Dhabi, and has traveled across the United States, the Caribbean, Western Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania with and without her husband and two sons.