Pigeon Forge, TN, is a vibrant hub where Southern charm, exciting attractions, delicious local cuisine, and unique shopping experiences collide. While the appeal of the Smoky Mountains and Dollywood are undeniable, let’s take the road less traveled and discover the charming, unique, laid-back things to do in Pigeon Forge that often fly under the radar.
A Foodie’s Paradise: Tasting the Local Cuisine
Like much of the South, Pigeon Forge is a foodie’s delight. Here, you’ll find a medley of traditional and innovative flavors. Let’s start with breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Local favorite Mama’s Farmhouse proudly continues a family tradition that dates back to 1946 when the Johnson family began serving their first customers at a small dairy bar. The restaurant’s charming farmhouse setting makes it an inviting place to gather with family and friends for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Their fried chicken is seasoned to perfection, but the stars of the show are the buttermilk biscuits and banana pudding.
As the day progresses, you must try the mouth-watering barbecued meats at Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que, where hickory-smoked ribs, tender brisket, and pulled pork reign supreme. The secret to Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que’s success is its time-tested meal preparation process. Each dish from their kitchen results from painstaking effort, attention to detail, and a deep love for barbecue. Their ribs and pork shoulder are marinated in their signature dry rub and smoked over hickory wood for 14 hours. In addition, their tangy sauces and Southern sides like the spicy mac ‘n cheese and coleslaw can’t be missed!
For those with a sweet tooth, visit The Old Mill Creamery. Their homemade ice cream, made with the freshest local ingredients, is truly the cherry on top of a gastronomic adventure. At the heart of the Creamery’s operation is The Old Mill, a historic grist mill dating back to 1830. The Old Mill grinds grains daily using stones and water from the Little Pigeon River. Innovative flavors like Oat Mill Cream Pie and Bearclaw are standouts that you must try. They also whip up delicious milkshakes, malts, and sundaes.
Shopping the Local Way: Finding Treasures
Moving on from food, Pigeon Forge is also a hub for shoppers looking for unique finds. The Old Mill Square is an excellent starting point. With its historic gristmill, quaint shops, and studios, spending hours here is easy. Browse homemade pottery, local art, and traditional mountain crafts at the Pigeon River Pottery. Pick up some freshly ground grains from the mill, a working piece of history, or sample some delightful homemade candies at the Old Mill Candy Kitchen.
Not far from The Old Mill is the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine. This unique spot offers a fun and educational experience that will captivate anyone with a love for gemstones, fossils, and geology. The concept behind Pigeon Forge Gem Mine is brilliantly simple yet incredibly exciting: mining your own gems. When you arrive at the mine, purchase a bucket of gemstone mix, then use the flume – a trough of running water – to wash away the dirt, revealing the sparkling treasures within. But the fun doesn’t stop at the mining experience. The Gem Mine also offers an educational aspect where trained staff identify the gemstones you’ve found. After mining, take your finds to their professional gem cutters, transforming your rough stones into beautifully polished gems.
Discovering Lesser-Known Attractions
Beyond the food and shopping, Pigeon Forge is also home to hidden attractions that offer a unique charm. For a touch of history, the Titanic Museum Attraction is a two-story museum shaped like the doomed Titanic ship. Inside, you’ll find over 400 artifacts directly from the boat and its passengers, making for an enriching and moving experience.
Looking for some quiet amidst nature? Try the Greenbrier entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s less crowded than the main entrances and offers serene picnic spots, scenic hiking trails, and beautiful waterfalls.
For a bit of whimsy, head to Parrot Mountain and Gardens. This bird-lover’s paradise is a hidden gem that creates an exotic and breathtaking escape from the everyday hustle and bustle. Spanning four acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, Parrot Mountain is home to some of the most vibrant and fascinating birds worldwide. One of the most popular attractions at Parrot Mountain is the Bird Garden, a large enclosed area where you can feed and interact with the birds. Parrots and other friendly birds perch on your arms and shoulders for fantastic photo opportunities and close encounters.
Lastly, take advantage of the Pigeon Forge Community Center’s walking track, pool, and bowling center. It’s a lesser-known attraction perfect for a low-key day when you want to take a break. Drop the kids off at the child care center for a stress-free afternoon of shooting hoops and a visit to the wellness center.
Navigating Pigeon Forge is like walking through an eclectic neighborhood filled with local cuisine, shopping opportunities, and hidden treasures. Savor the mouth-watering family-style dishes at Mama’s Farmhouse, each prepared with an affectionate touch that brings out the authentic taste of Southern hospitality. Or, immerse yourself in the delectable flavors of Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que. Their award-winning hickory-smoked meats, cooked slow and low over 14 hours, will have you drooling. For the sweet-toothed traveler, visit The Old Mill Creamery. Their premium hand-cranked ice cream will cool you off on a sunny Tennessee afternoon.
The Pigeon Forge Gem Mine presents a thrilling experience as you mine for gems and discover a variety of precious and semi-precious stones. For a refreshing encounter with nature and wildlife, step into the realm of Parrot Mountain and Gardens. This enchanting paradise houses exotic birds, vibrant flowers, and serene landscapes. It offers an escape from the usual hustle and bustle of the city.
Pigeon Forge is a city that encapsulates exciting adventures and serene escapes. It’s a place that invites you to delve deeper into its local history and discover a world of hidden gems and treasured experiences. So, pack your bags, bring your curiosity, and prepare to embark on a journey through Pigeon Forge!