Top 20 Smoky Mountains Attractions that You Do NOT Want To Miss [part 1]

Planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains? Here’s part 1 of the top 20 Smoky Mountains Attractions that you do NOT want to miss!

A list of the top 20 Smoky Mountains Attractions that you definitely do NOT want to miss on your next visit.

I received complimentary tickets to some of the Smoky Mountains attractions mentioned, but was under no obligation to share them in this post.  All opinions are 100% my own… the Smoky Mountains really are my beloved second home!

I’d like to call myself a Smoky Mountains local tourist.  Maybe a Pigeon Forge Weekend Transplant?  I’d go so far as to say Gatlinburg is my home away from home.  Ok, so I think you get the point!

I’ve been a Dollywood Season Passholder for as long, well, as long as I can remember.  My Mom says that I used to tell friends that we had a second home in Pigeon Forge, TN – this was in grade school, and we did kind of.  We had a small camper that was left in the campground for the Summer and we visited every weekend!

So to say the area is special to me is… an extreme understatement.

I take pride in east Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains, and I can’t wait to share with you…

The Top 20 Attractions that you do NOT want to miss on your next visit to our area…

from a local tourists’ perspective!  These are in no particular order, but are all attractions that the area is known for and places that my family frequents!

1.  Dollywood

Quite possibly the most famous of all Pigeon Forge, TN attractions, Dollywood really put the area on the mainstream map.  If you’ve never been, I highly, highly recommend visiting.  It truly is a theme park for all ages and you’ll never meet nicer hosts and hostesses!

6 Reasons Why Dollywood Should be Your Next Family Vacation

2.  Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede

You can’t talk about the Smoky Mountains or Dolly without mentioning the Dixie Stampede. It’s a Dinner Attraction type show that will keep you entertained from the moment you sit down until it’s over. Not only are you served one of the finest meals in the South [a Rotisserie Chicken for each person!], you get to enjoy it utensil-less, and drink from a boot!  That’s right, you dig in with only your hands and believe me, it’s finger-licking good!


The Dinner Show is just as much fun as the food too.  From stunt riders, to audience participation, it’s a show that changes each time you see it, making you want to go back again and again!

3. Ober Gatlinburg

In the Winter, Ober Gatlinburg transforms into a skier’s paradise.  Getting to the attractions is half the fun when you take the Aerial Tramway to the top of the mountain!

4. Parrot Mountain



images courtesy of Parrot Mountain and Gardens.

Speaking of mountains, there’s a special one located in Pigeon Forge, TN that houses some of the most beautiful parrots and birds you’ve ever seen!


You literally drive up a very, curvy mountain but are rewarded at the top with an attraction that truly is for the entire family!

5.  Cades Cove

Speaking of animals, another place to see a ton of wildlife is Cades Cove, a section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It’s an 11 mile loop {that is killer on a bicycle, let me tell you} around the Smoky Mountains that is full of wildlife.  Don’t be surprised if a black bear, deer, or turkey run right into the road path!

6.  Shows, Shows, & More Shows!

Dinner Shows are a huge attraction for the area.  Although Dixie Stampede happens to be my favorite, there are a ton of others that are worth checking out.  There are comedy shows like The Comedy Barn and Hatfield and McCoys.  Music shows like the Smoky Mountain Opry, and even more Entertainment Shows like the Lumberjack Feud.

7.  Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

You may think once you’ve seen one aquarium, you’ve seen them all.  This is not the case with the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg.  There is so much to share about this Aquarium that I wrote an entire post about our visit to the Aquarium!


8.  Shopping – Outlets, Souvenir Shops & More

Now I suppose that the ladies may enjoy this attraction the most, but it’s something that just simply can’t be missed.  The Tanger Oak Outlets, along with other shops are a great way to spend a rainy day in the mountains {or a sunny one too}.  Think deals, sales, and items that you just simply can’t find anywhere else!

9.  Wildness at the Smokies Resort


We had the opportunity to stay at the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort just a couple of weeks ago and I shared an in-depth look at the resort and it’s Indoor Water Park and on-site Adventure Forest, complete with a Family Ropes Course, Blacklight Mini Golf, and Full Size Arcade!

10.  Art Galleries

Believe it or not, there are quite a few Art Galleries of all different types in the Smoky Mountains, especially nestled in the quaint shops in Gatlinburg.  The Smokies are full of artisans that proudly display their canvas art, pottery, wood-working crafts, and more for visitors to enjoy!


Are you ready to see the last 10 on the list? Don’t miss these attractions on your next Great Smoky Mountain Vacation.

What is YOUR favorite Smoky Mountains Attractions, if you’ve already visited the area?

  1. We love visiting the smokies! my favorite is just hiking in places like Cades cove but all of the other attractions you mentioned are lots of fun too! I haven't tried the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort yet. But I will next time!
  2. Unless you do ski or ice skate, I'd skip Ober Gatlinburg. There are a few shops and some rides, but it's pretty run down and I was really disappointed the last time I went.
  3. Wow, there are a lot of places to go at the Smoky Mountains. I would love to go to Dollywood, and go see the sharks. This would be a dream come true to take a vacation to the Smoky Mountains!
  4. Last year was our first full summer in TN since moving to Knoxville (-ish) and we got season passes to Dollywood. We went 3 times - once to the main park, once to the water park and once for the Christmas in the Smokies. I think the Christmas in the Smokies was our favorite. We've also been to Wilderness at the Smokes a few times and have enjoyed it every time. I've never personally stayed there but the ILs will ususally take DD1 when they come to visit and they stay. Hubby and I will stay a play for a day though. Hubby really wants to check out Ober Gatlinburg so hopefully we can do that soon.
  5. We LOVE the Smokies and I am actually planning a summer trip there now. But my number 1 attraction and I think it should be everyone's is def the Park! We spend 99% of our time there when we go. We also love driving over to Cherokee and stopping along the river on our way and letting the kids play. We usually spend a day in Cherokee when we go. They have this really cool little bear zoo where you can feed them, the kids really enjoy that. They also have this park in the middle of the river where we take tubes and spend hours just watching the kids play.
  6. My kids loved the WonderWorks museum, but honestly our favorite thing to do is spend time in the Smokies. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of trails to choose from and you will never get bored. Sometimes we pick an all day hike and sometimes we are gone for only an hour or two. Fresh air and exercise in God 's creation is all we need to be refreshed and rejuvenated.
  7. I LOVE LOVE LOOOOOVEEEE the Smokies!! lol My husband and I have been twice this year and I think we are planning on going again some time soon. I hope the wax museum makes it on your list! We go every time we are in the Smokies because we goof around and get silly pictures. It's the best time. We probably won't ever do the mirror maze again, though. It made us feel drunk when we left! OberGatlinburg is one of my favorite places to go too, even though I don't ski. I love riding the ski lift up and down the mountain. Gosh, this makes me want to pack up and go now!

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