Located in the shadows of Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge is a thriving community welcoming more than ten million visitors annually. When I arrived, brilliant fall colors were beginning to fade and at higher elevations the wonders of winter were dusting the tree tops with snow. As millions of brilliant lights cast their colors, Pigeon Forge puts on a show that dazzles, entertains, and electrifies everyone lucky enough to be there to share a perfect vacation getaway.
The alphabetical suggestions that follow are my choices for experiencing Pigeon Forge up-close. This overview merely scratches the surface. However, they'll get you traveling in the right direction. Note: telephone area code is 423 unless otherwise noted.
ALABAMA GRILL showcases music and memorabilia of the legendary singing group, Alabama, plus other tributes to country entertainers and legends. You can dine on some hearty fixin's under one of the world's largest guitars and surrounded by many of your favorite singing and performing stars. If you're an Alabama fan, you'll no doubt want to visit the official Alabama souvenir headquarters, 908-8777.
BUNNY LAND MINI GOLF welcomes visitors to golf with live rabbits on two 18-hole courses. It's an ideal family vacation favorite featuring hours of fun, 453-0306. Another golf location for kids features golfing with bears and other wild animals. It's called Smoky Bear Golf, 428-0216.
CADES COVE highlights include historic buildings and plenty of up-close wildlife viewing. An 11-mile one-way loop road take you past 19th- and 20th-century buildings. Hikers can walk a five-mile trail to Abrams Falls and walkers will find the short Cades Cove Nature Trail informative and worthwhile, 436-1200.
DOLLYWOOD ranks up there with my other favorite magical entertainment attractions. This very special place features a variety of good time activities including high-stepping music, dynamic dancing, delicious food, spectacular stage shows, rousing rides, fun for kids of all ages, and more. It's a family-friendly kind of place. No visit to the area is complete without a visit to this top-notch entertainment theme center. It's a place the entire family can enjoy together. I can hardly wait to pay a return visit, 428-9488. Another wonderful experience is attending a performance at the DIXIE STAMPEDE DINNER & SHOW. It offers breathtaking horsemanship, rousing entertainment, and a four-course feast. The show's finale is a patriotic spectacle, themed in sparkling red, white, and blue splendor. I bet you'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll stand and cheer, 453- 9473 or 800-356-1676 for reservations.
ELVIS lives at the Elvis Museum. With more than $3,000,000 of memorabilia, the museum includes the singer's cars, costumes, jewelry, and other possessions. Naturally, there's a souvenir shop awaiting you, too. There's no denying it--the King does live on in Pigeon Forge, 428-2001. EDDIE'S HEART AND SOUL CAFE features fried green tomatoes, hot okra, and cooked pickles. These and other culinary treats are topped off with plenty of tasty food and musical entertainment, 453-0833.
FLYAWAY gives you a chance to fulfill your dream of one day skydiving. Or if you'd rather keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, you can observe others as they seemingly float effortlessly in an indoor simulator. Go ahead....break the bonds of gravity. There's a short familiarization class to help get you airborne, 453-7777.
GREAT SMOKY NATIONAL PARK provides enough memories and experiences to last a lifetime. I began my journey at the Sugarland Visitor Center located a short drive from Pigeon Forge. (There's another center at Oconaluftee, North Carolina.) While there I picked up a free copy of "Great Smoky Mountains National Park: a Complete Guide to Planning Your Stay" and "Smokies Guide," the official newspaper of the park. With both in hand it's possible to easily orchestrate your park itinerary. Plan plenty of time to experience a park that's "renowned for the diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, the quality of its remnants of American pioneer culture, and the depth and integrity of the wilderness sanctuary within its boundaries," 436-1200.
HOTELS, BED & BREAKFAST INNS, & CAMPGROUNDS abound in Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains area. From simple rooms to luxurious suites, or one- person tents to elegant RVs, there's a resting spot to fit every budget and need, 453- 8574 or 800-251-9100.
INDIANA CREEK FALLS TRAIL proves that the Smokies are make for walking. One of dozens of hiking trails, this two-mile, round-trip trail is an easy and picturesque walk that takes you to a 60-foot cascading waterfall. The trailhead is located at the end of Deep Creek Road, a short distance from Deep Creek Campground, 436-1200.
JULY brings with it plenty of excitement as Pigeon Forge celebrates America's Independence Day during their annual July 4th Celebration held at Patriot Park. The annual event is an old-fashioned, family, kind of day with entertainment, food vendors, arts and crafts, and good old home-style activities from about noon until the fireworks glow about 9 p.m. Bring a blanket to sit on, flags to wave, and a mood to celebrate our country's heritage, 423-453-8574 or 800-251-9100.
KOA KAMPGROUND IN PIGEON FORGE is ideally situated for convenience adjacent to Patriot Park. Dick and Ann Keich have owned and operated the campground for over 30 years and agree the "best part of operating the campground is all the interesting people that they get to meet." From the campground, it's a pleasant stroll along the Little Pigeon River into town. Open seasonally, the campground offers full hook-ups, an attractive store, snack bar, laundry, and recreation center. There's a swimming pool and cable television available as well. The facility is close to Dollywood and features a Jacuzzi, large playground, and Kamping Kabins, 453-7903; for reservations call 800- KOA-7703.
LOUISE MANDRELL sings and dances her heart out at her music theater located in the center of town. Performances throughout the week fill the 1400-seat live theater with high energy entertainment. The night I attended, the show was filled with nostalgia (including a lively jab at the '50s); patriotism (with an American flag that fills the stage and touches the heart); and a variety of singing and dancing performances. Throughout the show, Mandrell visits casually with her audience throughout the making it an informal evening of family-style musical entertainment, 453-6263.
MUSIC, MOVIES, & MEMORIES fill the Tennessee air and entertain at MUSIC MANSION THEATER starring the award-winning songwriter, performer, and comedian James Rogers from April through December, 428-SHOW; MEMORIES THEATRE with its salute to Elvis and the fabulous Memories Showband, 428-7852; and MOVIE RIDER offering motion seating, surround sound, and an action-filled, high-tech film ride, 428- 8511 or 800-998-4418.
NATURE TRAILS in the Great Smoky Mountains present the opportunity to get some exercise, savor the outdoors, and relish the beauty of nature. Walking is a grand way to rejuvenate ones mind and soul. A list of trails and pamphlets that describe the walks are available at park visitor centers and at trailhead locations,
OUTLET SHOPPING MALLS surround the city of Pigeon Forge. Serious shoppers have nary a bit of trouble finding an incredible number of bargains and shops to tickle their fancy. At last count, there were five major malls with more than 200 outlets. I won't hazard a guess at how many there'll be when you pay your visit to this bargain seeker's Mecca. "Southern Living Magazine" readers have named Pigeon Forge as a favorite shopping spot in the South. O.K., I admit it, even I (sometimes known as the Scrooge of Outlets) succumbed to the temptation and bought a piece of carry-on luggage for my trip home, 453-8574 or 800-251-9100.
PIGEON FORGE POTTERY handcrafted the small bear that sits atop my computer and serves as a daily reminder of my journey to Pigeon Forge. It's a charming rascal and brings back pleasant memories of fine southern hospitality. The store is the place to see fine and original gifts and collectors items made by master craftspeople. The place is open daily but the hours vary so give 'em a call to avoid disappointment, 453-3883.
QUILTED KEEPSAKES is a decorator's dream. The store is filled with handmade wearables, quilted clothing, quilts, and colorful home furnishings. Many items are crafted locally and exude country charm, 428-4403.
RADIO SQUARE, located inside Dollywood, is your place to occasionally spot visiting celebrities being interviewed live on Dolly Pardon's hometown radio station. The station broadcasts live during Dollywood's operating hours and may be heard at 105.5 on the FM dial, 428-9488.
SMOKY MOUNTAIN STORYTELLING FESTIVAL occurs every February and features a bonfire, hayrides, food, and tall tales told by some of the region's best storytellers. Gathered around the bonfire, master storytellers share some favorite folklore and legends of the Appalachian region, 423-7350.
TASTEBUDS CAFE isn't your regular kinda restaurant. No fooling, it's housed in a double wide mobile home and features noted Chef Jock's cooked from scratch, imaginative creations of Italian, French, and American cuisine. Folks who love fine food flock to this one-of-a-kind eatery. I ordered beef stroganoff and house salad. It was one of the best meals I've had the pleasure to consume. To learn more about Chef Jock and his tempting cuisine, check out his website: www.tastebudscafe.com. Reservations for lunch or dinner are strongly suggested for this popular place, 428-9781 or 800-439- 9781.
ULTRAZONE is fierce family fun. If you've never experienced laser adventure, the entire family will have a terrific time attempting to score points during games of chance and awesome special effects, 428-2444.
VISITOR CENTER signs lead you to what should be any visitor's first stop. The friendly folks answer questions and provide valuable, first-hand advice regarding everything you want to know about Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains. I came out loaded down with information to sort through, savor, and enjoy. You will too. You'll find the official Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism Visitor Center at traffic light #2, 2450 Parkway. Or, if you prefer, visit them at their website: www.pigeon-forge.tn.us.
WINTERIEST is a huge and magical celebration that runs annually from mid-November through February. One of the main attractions at Winteriest are the lights. The city displays more than 3 million holiday lights up and down the Pigeon Forge Parkway and local business and home owners get into the act with displays of their own. In addition to the lights in the city, Dollywood displays more than 2 million of their own. The effect is dramatic, and it's just the thing to get everyone in a holiday mood. But, there's more to Winteriest than just lights. The city hosts more than a dozen special events during the festival to appeal to everyone's interests. For more information and a complete listing of Smoky Mountain Winteriest events, call 800-WINTERIEST.
X-COUNTRY HIKING & SNOW SHOE TRAILS in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are open in winter, but their access roads may not be. For safety purposes all winter back country campers are required to have a permit available free of charge. They are available at most park ranger stations, campgrounds, and at the Sugar lands and Oconaluftee visitor centers. To obtain an official back country map, stop at the visitor centers or call 436-0120.
YOUTH ACTIVITIES flourish in Pigeon Forge. Youngsters my swim at Ogle's Water Park, 453-8741; ride go-parts and bumper boats at The Track family recreation center, 453-4777; experience an alien landing at Laserport, 453-0400, or go round-and-round aboard the historic carousel at Dollywood, 428-9486.
"Z" BUDA'S SMOKIES CAMPGROUND season runs from April through November. The park has 300 sites, many with full hook-ups. Included on the property is a swimming pools, washing facilities, playground, bathhouses, and an arcade. The facilities are located off the main highway and on the trolley route with convenient stops along Pigeon Forge Parkway. Tenters and RVers are welcome, 453-4129.
For additional travel information about Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, contact individual attractions and the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, P.O. Box 1390-G, Pigeon Forge, TN 37868-1390; 423-453-8574 or 800-251-9100; TDD: 423-429-7444 (service for the hearing impaired) or visit the website at The Pigeon Forge Home Page .
ęCOPYRIGHT 1998 by Bob Carter. All rights reserved. May be copied for personal use only.