Many of you visit the Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg areas primarily for Dollywood. I’ve written about my recent trip to that great theme park here: Part 1 & Part 2. I thought it’d be helpful to highlight some of the best things to do in the area, outside of Dollywood.
WonderWorks Pigeon Forge
WonderWorks is an interactive science museum and entertainment center. You may have seen one of their upside-down mansions in Orlando or Myrtle Beach. They have 6 locations around the U.S. My kids always marvel at how these eye-catching buildings were built.
Inside, there are interactive exhibits and activities in six different zones. Some exhibits are educational in nature like Pulley Power where you see how hard it is to lift your own weight depending on the number of pulleys. Others are just fun like motion-sensing air hockey and the ride simulators.
Practice Your Telekinesis
I’m very interested in how our brains work, so playing Mind Ball was definitely a highlight of the trip. I felt like a super hero. It’s not every day that you can move things with your mind! In Mind Ball, two players are seated at a table across from each other. They have an instrument on their heads that measures brain waves.
In order to win, the player needs to remain calmer than their opponent. The calmer you are, the further you move the ball to your opponent’s side of the table. On-lookers can watch the mental showdown on screens that show the players’ brainwave activity. I won over my oldest daughter, but it was a bit of a battle. Who knew an 8 year old could be so calm?
WonderWorks also has a large indoor ropes course, laser tag, and a magic show that has a separate admission price.
Tip: WonderWorks Starts With an Assault on Your Senses
Be ready for an abrupt transition as soon as you enter. Especially if you have smaller kids, you’re going to want to look for the door that allows you to skip the Inversion Tunnel (pictured right).
You’ll feel like everything’s spinning due to the lights around the walkway. It freaked out my daughter. Also, the exhibits in the first room (The Natural Disasters Zone) are extremely loud. As you move on, the other rooms weren’t nearly as loud.
RainForest Adventures is an indoor zoo located in Sevierville; just a few minutes from Pigeon Forge. As the name suggests, it’s home to over 600 live animals from the World’s rain forests. There are mammals like African servals, which don’t look much larger than housecats but have spots like a cheetahs, porcupines, ferrets, sugar gliders, and kinkajous. There were large bugs like tarantulas, scorpions, and hissing cockroaches and a variety of snakes and other reptiles like a cayman (pictured below).
My daughters’ favorites were the very talkative parrots and the ring-tailed lemurs that reminded them of King Julien from the Madagascar movies. The monkeys, like the capuchin and squirrel monkeys, were my favorite. I hadn’t really seen monkeys up-close too often and it was neat seeing how much they move and act like humans. The are also a few animals outside including emus, tortoises, and also goats that you can feed.
Tip: An Indoor Attraction
RainForest Adventures has a few animals outdoor, but is mostly indoor. It’s a good choice for a rainy day attraction in the Pigeon Forge area.
While not an actual island, Island in Pigeon Forge is a retail and entertainment area on the main road through town. There are over 30 shops and restaurants like Mellow Mushroom, Margaritaville and a Paula Deen’s. The biggest attraction at the Island is the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. Similar to other ferris wheels popping up around the country, the Wheel has glass-enclosed gondolas and neon lights that look amazing at night. From the top of the wheel we were given an impressive view of the Smokies and the surrounding area.
The Island Show Fountains are another attraction. After dusk, these fountains “perform” to 14 songs, while lights enhance the experience.
I definitely recommend stopping by Doc’s Magic Shop. The magician (with a British accent) running the shop not only performed a few tricks, he also taught my daughters a trick. He was very friendly, great with the kids, and entertained each group of visitors that came in the shop.
Tip: A Great Evening Attraction
With Island in Pigeon Forge’s restaurants and evening water and light show, it’s a great choice for an afternoon into the evening visit. You could peruse the shops, have dinner, ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, and then cap the night off with the fountain show.