Top 10 Things to Do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for First-Time Visitors

GSMNP Welcome Sign

Once you visit the Great Smoky Mountains, you’re going to want to keep coming back. It will be love at first sight when you arrive! With natural beauty surrounding you in every direction, to endless amusements for the naked eye.  If it’s your first time visiting the area, there are some incredible attractions you have to go to before you leave. To make sure you don’t miss out on anything during your first experience in the Great Smoky Mountains, we’ve come up with 10 things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for first-time visitors.

1. Dollywood

Dollywood in Pigeon Forge near Willow Brook Lodge Hotel


Dollywood is one of the top theme parks in the country, and you have to see why! From thrilling rides, to delicious food, to unique shops, Dollywood is a one-of-a-kind experience. The whole family will love exploring this Pigeon Forge attraction. Whether it’s seeing a show, riding a roller coaster or enjoying Southern-style dining, you’ll have a great time at the theme park. If you visit during the summer, make sure to stop by Dollywood’s Splash Country and beat the heat by riding water rides or swimming in the wave pool!

2. The Old Mill Square

The Old Mill Square is known for its dining, shopping and hospitality. Make sure to bring your appetite when you visit! The Old Mill Restaurant serves family-style Southern meals for you to enjoy, and The Old Mill Pottery House Cafe & Grill serves everything from steak to fried chicken. And don’t forget to save room for dessert! The Old Mill Creamery and The Old Mill Candy Kitchen are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. There is also a number of shops for you to explore, like The Old Mill General Store, where you can pick up cornmeal, grits and more, and The Old Mill Pigeon River Pottery, where you can shop for one-of-a-kind pieces! There is so much for you to see in The Old Mill Square. This is definitely one of the can’t-miss things to do in Pigeon Forge for first-time visitors!

3. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Aquarium near Willow Brook Lodge


Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was named the top aquarium in the country! You’ll want to see why for yourself. The Gatlinburg aquarium is full of amazing experiences you won’t get anywhere else, like the chance to waddle with penguins, splash with stingrays and sleep with the sharks! You’ll be able to see a sea turtle, 12-foot sharks, jellyfish and more!

4. Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show

Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge TN near Willow Brook Lodge

What could be better than a great meal to go along with a great show? When you visit the Smoky Mountains, you won’t want to miss going to see the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show! The show features singing, dancing, stunts and comedy that will have you laughing all night long. When you come to the show, you’ll be able to enjoy a full homestyle feast of fried chicken, corn on the cob, homemade bread and more!

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an obvious must-see when you visit the area. There is no better place to explore the gorgeous mountain scenery! The park has hundreds of hiking trails, opportunities for fishing and campsites so you can spend the night underneath the stars. You can have a picnic in the park, see wildlife and even go horseback riding!

6. The Island in Pigeon Forge

The Island in Pigeon Forge is one of the top things to do in Pigeon Forge for people of all ages! You’ll have tons of affordable fun when you visit The Island! There are plenty of shops, dining options, games and rides. One experience you won’t want to miss is the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, in which you’ll ride in a glass gondola as high as 200 feet in the air and see spectacular views of Pigeon Forge with the Smoky Mountains in the background. While you’re here, be sure to sample moonshine at Ole Smoky! Moonshine sampling is an activity you don’t want to pass up.

7. Titanic Museum

titanic museum in Pigeon Forge TN near Willow Brook Lodge


The Titanic Museum is a great way to spend an afternoon in Pigeon Forge. You’ll feel like you’re boarding the real ship when you step inside and are given a boarding pass of an actual passenger or crew member. As you explore the museum, you’ll get to touch a real iceberg, walk the Grand Staircase and try to stand on the sloping decks. When you reach the Memorial Room, you’ll be able to find out the fate of the name on your boarding pass. It’s one of the most popular museums in Pigeon Forge!

8. Ride Go Karts

Family Friendly Activities in Pigeon Forge near Willow Brook LodgeOne of the most popular things to do in Pigeon Forge is to ride go karts. If you’re craving adventure and have the need for speed, you’ll love visiting one of the many go-kart tracks in the Smoky Mountains. Some of the top places to ride go karts are The Track, SpeedZone Fun Park and Xtreme Racing Center. All of them have unique go-kart tracks that will make you feel like a race car driver!


9. Go Ziplining

excited girl on zipline attraction in Pigeon Forge TN


Become a zipper, and be immersed in a hardy forest canopy of beech and oak trees. There is no view left unobserved. Zipling offers a family friendly experience for all ages.  Concerns of slowing down and stopping are eliminated by the use of speed regulated lines and well trained certified guides. Freedom from stress allows each person to focus on the excitement of letting go, spinning 360, and even flipping upside down. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have a plethora of different zipline options.  Do you have what it takes?


10. Stay at Willow Brook Lodge

Accommodations By Willow Brook Lodge is located in downtown Pigeon Forge on the main parkway, just minutes away from all of these top attractions, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Dollywood Theme Park, Dolly’s Splash Country, Pirates Voyage Dinner Show, and nearby Gatlinburg.

Willow Brook Lodge is within very close walking distance to great restaurants, gift shops, outlet stores, kid’s attractions, and many other Pigeon Forge vacation destinations. Situated on the main parkway in Pigeon Forge with the Little Pigeon River flowing right behind us, our luxurious inn offers a relaxing feel.  Willow Brook Lodge offers private balconies with street views, pool views, river views, and mountain views.  You will see why it is the best place to stay in the Smokies!

More Things to Do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

We’ve told you about some of our favorite things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg when you visit the area for the first time, but there are so many other great activities you can try as well! While you probably can’t fit all the fun into one trip, you’ll have to come back more than once to enjoy all the action in the Smokies! Sample moonshine at a local distillery, dine at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant or one of the incredible restaurants in Pigeon Forge, ride a mountain coaster, explore Anakeesta, walk across the Gatlinburg SkyBridge — the list goes on.