The Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee is the perfect spot for a family holiday for all ages, offering the great outdoors alongside a wealth of kid-friendly activities.


11 Amazing things to do for families near Dollywood in the Great Smoky Mountains

1. Say howdy to Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction

Cowboy hats at the ready, this Wild West supper show is a must-visit while in Pigeon Forge. In a 1000-persson seater stadium, diners are served a four-course meal while being entertained with a boot-stomping show, featuring cowgirls leaping through rings of fire and a miniature piglet race.

Kids are welcomed with tassel-fringed open arms, with a special children’s menu, mocktails served in cowboy boot shaped cups and a chance for youngsters to stroke the horses and meet the cowgirls and boys at the end of the show.

Dixie Stampede, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Cowboys with American Flags
Dixie Stampede, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

2. Make a mug at Fowler’s Clay Works

Get hands-on with the local Appalachian craft scene, with a pottery class at Fowler’s Clay Works, which is part of the distinguished Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community. Offering a peaceful contrast to the thrills and spills of nearby Dollywood, this downtime activity is perfect for kids aged six and upwards (owner Mike is incredibly patient with children learning the ropes).

A family session usually lasts between one and two hours, during which time each member will learn the process of wheel throwing, taught by one of the friendly potters at this studio. Once everyone has created their own bowl or mug masterpiece, the studio will then glaze and post them to your home, as a permanent reminder of your visit to the Smokies.

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2. Fowlers clay works

3. Live the highlife with a treehouse sleepover at Sanctuary Treehouse Resort

If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise, as a patch of wilderness in Sevierville is now home to a recently opened luxury treehouse resort. The beauty of these cabins in the sky is that they tick the boxes for both children and adults.

Why take the stairs, when kids can whizz down the inbuilt slide, instead? There are also swings on the porch and even a chute to send drinks from the kitchen down to the lower deck. Adults can relax around the crackle of the fire on the balcony, while taking in the panoramic landscape scenes. Perfect for families of all sizes, even the standard houses can comfortably accommodate six people, with bunk and roll out beds. Larger groups of up to 12 people can book into the double treehouse, connected with a fully operational drawbridge.

3. Treehouse

4. Have a mountaintop adventure at Anakeesta

Gatlinburg is an alpine-style holiday town that’s bursting with ways to entertain families. But the star of the show here is really Anakeesta, a sprawling adventure park situated on the top of a mountain. Those with a head for heights can take the chairlift up the mountainside, or there’s the option of an enclosed cabin ride. Keep an eye out for bears below.

Once at the top, there’s an observation tower to soak up the unending views of the misty forest, the longest treetop skywalk in North America, mountain coasters and plenty of play areas for the children to let off steam. As evening falls, the Astra Lumina show lights up the sky with projections and music to connect visitors with the cosmos.

4. Anakeesta

5. All onboard the Titanic Museum

This two-story museum is housed within a replica of RMS Titanic, making it easy to spot from the roadside in Pigeon Forge. Upon arrival, visitors are each given a passenger’s boarding card, to discover their fate at the end of the tour. Along the way, there’s over 400 artifacts, staff dressed in period costumes, an audio tour and interactive stations where children can dip their fingers into the icy water and pretend to throw coal into the engine’s fire. Although the subject matter is a harrowing one, the museum manages to present it in an educational and age-appropriate way for younger children, with the addition of displays such as the world’s largest Titanic ship built from Lego.

5. Titanic Museum

READ MORE >> Why Dolly Parton’s Dollywood should be on your family holiday bucket list

6. Carve out a great evening at Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show

It could be argued that a visit to this lumberjack-themed dinner show is of educational benefit for children. After all, the logging industry and lumberjacks did once rule this region, before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established to preserve the landscape.

But really, the living history lesson might get lost amongst the sheer fun of this supper show, where real-life lumberjacks in checked-shirts battle it out in competitions that include speed climbing up poles, sawing and log rolling over water. The entertainment is family-focussed, with youngsters picked from the audience to participate and a simple BBQ meal served, camp style, in boxes. Mealtimes have never been so fun!

6. Paula Deen Lumberjack

7. Eat in a Cadillac at the Sunliner Diner

For a slice of pure americana, head to this retro-inspired diner just off the strip of Pigeon Forge. Serving classic diner cuisine and hand spun milkshakes, a meal here feels like stepping back in time to the 1950s, with serving staff dressed like extras from Happy Days.

There’s a jukebox filled with nostalgic tunes and the menus are presented as vintage newspapers. The hot ticket seats here are two Cadillac cars which guests can dine in; perfect for indulging in a griddled burger or a cherry topped ice cream sundae.

7. Sunliner Diner

8. Connect with nature on the Gatlinburg Trail

One of the many beautiful things about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited in the US, is that there is no entrance fee. Just steps from the bustle of downtown, the Gatlinburg Trail offers an easy entry point for families.

This leafy trail offers a gentle stroll along a woodland path, perfect for little legs. Along the way, play Poohsticks on the rickety wooden bridge. The region is a hotspot for black bears, so add some excitement to your walk by going on a real-life bear hunt and keeping an eye out for animal prints.

8. Gatlingburg Trail

9. Take a selfie with Bigfoot at Beyond the Lens

This madcap attraction in Pigeon Forge features offers photo ops a plenty, alongside an alien egg ball pit, escape rooms and a Bigfoot research centre, for a deep-dive into the hairy mythical creature that’s said to roam the surrounding woodland.

Once you’re tried your hand at the 150 interactive displays, take a seat in the high-tech Flyride to soar virtually across America’s jaw-dropping landmarks via a vast four-floor curved screen.

9. Beyond the Lens

10. Have breakfast in a robot chicken restaurant at Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse Cafe

Proudly boasting the world’s largest collection of animatronic chickens, this joyful restaurant in Pigeon Forge is the place to keep the family entertained at breakfast and lunchtimes. As the kids tuck into pancakes shaped as bears, they’ll be serenated by a chorus of singing and dancing robot birds that line the walls of this quirky restaurant. For adults, there’s Southern style breakfasts, served in hearty portions with sides of country ham and bottomless drinks.

10. Robot chicken restaurant

11. Stay in a hotel where it’s Christmas every single day of the year

The Inn at Christmas Place is a Bavarian-themed hotel in Pigeon Forge that celebrates the magic of the festive season 365 days a year. There are elaborate decorations decking the halls, an enormous glockenspiel clock in the lobby, Christmas trees inside guest rooms and a daily meet-and-greet with the Big Guy himself, regardless of if it’s midsummer outside.

The holiday high roller room here is the Santa suite, which comes with a life-sized statue of Father Christmas. An indoor pool offers entertainment on rainy days and just opposite the hotel there is also a Christmas themed shopping complex, to stock up on sparkly trinkets.

11. The Inn at Christmas Place

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Inn at Christmas Place