Pigeon Forge Delivers Action-Packed Vacation

From country music to steam engines to outlet shopping, the Smoky Mountains resort offers a range of entertainment.

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From Middlecreek Valley Chalets, you can hear the loud whistle of the Dollywood Express, as it transports visitors around Dollywood, the Smoky Mountain Adventure.

The historic steam train is just one of many activities visitors pursue in the theme park that has helped put Pigeon Forge on the map, thanks to country music star Dolly Parton, who grew up in the area. Visitors also like to explore the Dreamland Forest, ride Thunderhead (a wooden roller coast), take in a variety of stage productions, shop for handmade mountain crafts and relax amid the beautifully landscaped grounds. The theme park is open daily, April through December.

Dolly’s Dixie Stampede offers great year-round entertainment, including hearty four-course meals of rotisserie chicken and pork tenderloin, plus all the trimmings, that you eat with your hands. Themed around friendly North/South rivalry, the show is spectacular, with costumed performers on 32 horses, plus a parade of ostriches, steers, buffalos, pigs and chickens. Before and after the show, you can see the fancy stalls where the show horses live. (You can have the same experience at Dolly’s sister theaters in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Orlando, Fla.; and Branson, Mo.) In addition to the feast served at Dolly’s, Pigeon Forge offers a variety of dining options -- from fried chicken to barbecue to steaks -- not to mention funnel cakes, homemade fudge and Smoky Mountain taffy.

A popular option for summertime visitors is another Dolly attraction -- Dollywood’s Splash Country. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, the 25-acre water park features a huge wage pool, mountain raft tide, lazy river and more.

Pigeon Forge is home to 15 theaters, where Nashville’s country music stars often appear as special guests. All-time favorites are the Comedy Barn (similar to “Hee-Haw”), Memories Theatre (which includes an Elvis tribute) and the Black Bear Jamboree featuring mythical bears of the Great Smoky Mountains. If you want something besides pure entertainment, check out the Veterans Memorial Museum and the adjacent Dinosaur Walk Museum.

With more than 200 shops, including many outlets, shopping opportunities abound in Pigeon Forge. The Old Mill area is known for its handmade crafts. The Bell Tower features a year-round Christmas village.

Pigeon Forge receives the largest number of visitors during the summer, but special events bring in more people throughout the year. Visitors should be prepared for traffic congestion at times, and it's advisable to take the Fun Time Trolley when you can. It runs March through December, with over 100 stops in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.

The Wilderness Wildlife Week happens every January, and the Smoky Mountain Storytelling Festival follows in February. Springfest in March coincides with Mountain QuiltFest, followed by the annual Dolly Parade in April. The Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival happens in the fall, and WinterFest, one of the most popular events, takes place November through December.

There are many places to stay in Pigeon Forge, from bed-and-breakfast inns to condos to traditional motels and hotels. If you’re going to be in town for two or more days and want to be convenient to Dolly’s attractions, check out Middlecreek Valley Chalets, off Middle Creek Road. The resort offers attractively furnished chalets that sleep two to 36 people and include full kitchens and washer-dryers. Some units have fireplaces and Jacuzzis. A large outdoor pool, hiking trails, decks and porches and grills are an added plus.