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Food, Fun, and Family in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

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 I was able to explore Pigeon Forge and bring this post to you thanks to MyPigeonForge.com.  Opinions and grammatical errors throughout the post are my own.

The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel
Pigeon Forge Attractions and More!

Pigeon Forge is a southern wonderland near the Smoky Mountains that is loaded with places to play, shop, eat, and explore.   I recently spent four days and three nights in the Tennessee vacation hub and didn’t even begin to scratch the surface for all that there is to do.  I am going to share with you what my family and I did to give you an idea of what you can do in Pigeon Forge.

When looking at the pictures, please keep in mind that we were there in Spring at the same time that New England was experiencing its fourth nor’easter.  There was a lot of overcast at the time and we even got to experience snow the day we were at Dollywood.  Those who live in the South know that our weather is unpredictable!

Margaritaville Island Hotel in Pigeon ForgeMargaritaville Island Hotel

Day 1 in Pigeon Forge

We arrived late in the afternoon and checked into our hotel, the Margaritaville Island Hotel.  It’s located at The Island, a shopping and entertainment complex in the heart of Pigeon Forge.  The Jimmy Buffett-inspired hotel has a laid-back tropical vibe with modern amenities and is only steps away from good food and fun.

After getting settled, we walked over to the Margaritaville Restaurant which combines the Jimmy Buffett theme with food.  Upon entering, there’s a HUGE margarita pitcher that fills up, an airplane hanging from the ceiling which has a map of the Carribean, and upbeat, lively music fills the air.

Volcano Nachos at Margaritaville Restaurant in Pigeon ForgeVolcano Nachos

In addition to dishes such as Lava Lava Shrimp and Louisiana Cajun Shrimp and Grits on the menu, landlubber favs such as BBQ Ribs, Sirloin Steak, and Double Cheeseburger in Paradise are available.

Fish Tacos with rice and black beans at Margritaville Restaurant in Pigeon Forge, TennesseeFish Tacos

My teen ordered the Volcano Nachos, my husband had the coconut shrimp (the dipping sauce was dreamy!), and I opted for the Fish Tacos.

Coconut Shrimp at Margaritaville Restaurant in Pigeon ForgeCoconut Shrimp

After filling up, we headed over to the Alcatraz East Crime Museum.  My first thoughts were that it was a replica of the namesake prison, but I was wrong.

Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge
Actually, Alcatraz East is a tasteful museum that educates and informs guests while also paying respect to victims of crime.

Rustler's shoes on exhibit at Alcatraz EastRustler’s Shoes

We arrived about an hour before the museum closed and was advised that it would be best to allow at least 2 hours.  Knowing that our itinerary was pretty full, we decided to chance it and go through the museum in an hour.  (Take my advice – since I have been there and done that – allow yourself at least 2 hours.)

Pancho Villa's death maskPancho Villa Death Mask?

There are five galleries at Alactraz East which are spread out among its 25000 square feet and two floors.  The galleries include:

  1. A Notorious History of American Crime,
  2. Punishment:  The Consequence of Crime,
  3. Crime Scene Investigation,
  4. Crime Fighting, and
  5. Counterfeit Crimes and Pop Culture.

picture taking caught on infrared cameraInfrared Camera

Guests are allowed to take pictures in the museum, as long as there is no flash.

Ted Bundy's VWTed Bundy’s VW

Personally, I found it a pretty sobering experience.  My teen really liked it and would like to go back.

Alcatraz East is open 10 am – 9 pm Sunday through Thursday and from 10 am – 10 pm Friday and Saturday.


Day 2 in Pigeon Forge

On our second day, we got a bite of breakfast at Hardee’s.  (In addition to unique local dining, there are plenty of familiar fast-food and sit-down restaurants in Pigeon Forge.)

My husband got his very first professional massage at St. Somewhere Spa.  His verdict?  “It was worth every penny.”  (BTW, his masseuse was named Mark.  If you get a massage by him, tell him Jeff sent you.)

While my husband was getting the kinks worked out of his back, my son and I went on our first escape room challenge at The Escape Game.  (Cool fact – it was located right below the room we stayed in at Margaritaville Island Hotel.)

The Escape Game in Pigeon ForgeThe Escape Game

For those who have never been to an escape room, then let me tell you briefly how they work.  You select the type of “escape room.”  Once there, you are briefed about what to do.  Much of what needs to be done will have to be figured out by YOU along the way.  You have only 1 hour to complete your mission.  At The Escape Game in Pigeon Forge, guests are given 3 clues.  You are allowed to request more clues, but each clue adds 3 minutes to your time.  The possibility exists that you may have to play with others during your time slot, unless you book the entire room (see their website for more information).  You are not allowed to take pictures inside.

I suspect that the attendant felt sorry for my son and me, because we were given a few extra clues.  Even with the extra freebies, we weren’t able to escape on our own.  Throughout the experience, we started figuring out how to work together.  It was a lot of fun and I would love to go back.

Completion of The Escape Game picture
After the massage was over and we were set free, we met back up and headed to The Island Ropes Course.

My son and I took on the three-story tall Sky Trail Explorer.  The staff securely fastened us in our gear and then let us go.  There are beams, ropes, and ziplines that take people from one point to another on the course.  Initially, I was afraid to cross over using the zipline, then thought about my son there and wanted to show him that even older peeps can do fun things, so I did it!  Not only that, I was the first of us to jump off via the Quick Jump.

The Ropes Course at The Island in Pigeon ForgeThe Ropes Course

Afterwards, the three of us explored the shops and sights around the Island.   It may or may not have been a bad idea to go into The Fudgery.  (I won’t tell how much fudge I bought, but let’s just say I made some people very happy.)

Pictures from The Island in Pigeon Forge
One thing that we had to do before we left for lunch was to ride The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel.  The view of The Island at 200 feet up in the air is pretty amazing.

View from inside the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel

View from the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel

For lunch, we opted to dine at Local Goat, where food is made from locally sourced ingredients when possible and everything is made from scratch, including the ketchup.

Local Goat

My son ordered the Teriyaki Kebab – marinated tenderloin steak, fried rice, and steamed broccoli.

Teriyaki KebabTeriyaki Kebab

I was in the mood for some greens and had The Southern – hand-breaded chicken tenders, fresh greens, diced bacon, dried cranberries, cheddar cheese, carrots, grape tomatoes, egg, croutons, with honey mustard dressing served on the side.

The Southern (salad)The Southern

My husband went with The Patriot – made with a secret blend of locally sourced beef and served with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, pickles and hand-cut French fries.

The Patriot HamburgerThe Patriot

After lunch, we made our way to Mountain Valley Winery.  Though Mountain Valley focuses on French and German wines, they have won awards for their Rhubarb wine (yes, it’s a thing). The winery offers wine tastings and tours.

Mountain View Winery

After a quick freshening up, we headed to the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud.  (Tip:  Get there early.  This is a popular attraction and the parking lot fills up quickly.)

The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud in Pigeon ForgeHatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud

The dinner show is a light-hearted spin on the folkloric feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.   On the way to the entrance, there are few tombstones describing how a few of the family members died.

Buttermilk Hatfield tombstone
The dinner show includes all-you-can-eat soup, rolls, fried chicken, BBQ pork, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, and corn on the cobb.  Tea, water, and sodas are included, as is delicious dessert (chocolate or banana pudding).

The show is complete with live music, singing, dancing, diving, and so much more.  Pre-show, I advise you to watch the screens around the stage.  Pictures of audience members are posted along with comedic descriptions.  When we were there, there was also a “kiss cam.”

The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud was a great experience for the entire family.

Fried Chicken pail


Day 3 in Pigeon Forge

All good Southerners know that a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains would not be complete without a stop at a pancake house.  We started day three by fueling up at the breakfast bar at which was located across from The Island.

Breakfast Buffet in Pigeon Forge
After breakfast, we headed to Dollywood, winner of Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Award for Best Theme Park Entertainment for 9 years.

World Globe
For me, we could not have been there at a better time (weather withholding), because the Festival of Nations was taking place.

While I was noshing away on Pad Thai, my husband dove into good old-fashioned country fried steak, complete with mashed potatoes and white gravy and served with corn and a biscuit.

Country Fried Steak Dinner with mashed potatoes, corn, and a biscuitCountry Fried Steak

Unfortunately for us, it started to snow while we were there.  On the bright side, we were able to stay warm while watching some incredible performances by the National Dance Company of Siberia and the Los Vivancos, the Flamenco Kings.

National Dance Company of SiberiaNational Dance Company of Siberia

Before leaving, my husband and I got a couple of crepes and my son ordered a funnel cake loaded with sweet goodness.

Loaded funnel cakeFunnel Cake loaded with Reese’s Cups, Reese’s Pieces, and topped with Ice Cream

Because of the potential hazards of the snow, the park closed a little early the day we were there.  However, our family fun continued on thanks to a few indoor amusement complexes.

The first that we visited was The Tomb Escape Game.  It was a little cheesy and a lot less intense than The Escape Game, but we all had a good time trying to figure out the necessary clues.  It’s a great option for people with younger kids and for those times when you want to escape the heat, rain, or snow and still do something fun as a family.  (The Tomb has seasonal hours, so be sure to visit the website for updated info.)

The Tomb in Pigeon ForgeThe Tomb

Next, we made our way to MagiQuest, where there are four different attractions under one roof.  We began our adventures by playing pirate golf.  Set in a Caribbean pirate village, the blacklight course has colorful pirate paraphernalia and a few obstacles which will challenge your putting skills.  I want to take this brief moment to say that the first nine holes were my favorite, simply because I was beating my husband and son quite badly.  (The two had their revenge and I finished last.)

Pirate Golf skullPirate Golf

After that, we tried our hands at sneaking our way through The Vault.  Think security lasers coming from a hundred different angles protecting something valuable.  Though I wanted to do my best Catherine Zeta-Jones impression (from the movie Entrapment), I couldn’t hack it and ended up running through all of the lasers.  My husband finished the course with the best time.

The Vault at MagiQuest
The Odyssey – A Mirror Maze Adventure, was super fun for the three of us.  My son entered the maze first and got us all through it quickly, like a boss!

The Odyssey

Before entering the maze, you have to put on some thin plastic gloves to protect the mirrors from fingerprints.  Changing bright lights and music add to the excitement.  Here is a little video clip that was taken on my phone towards the beginning of our journey.  Note the smile on my son’s face.

For our final dinner, we made our way to Smoky Mountain Adventures.

Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, vegetable soup, and a biscuit

Dinner was included with the show and consisted of a full, four-course meal, beginning with a creamy vegetable soup and biscuit.  It was followed by fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato delight, ham, and served with water, tea, or soda.  At the end of the meal, we each received a light and flaky pastry.

Smoky Mountain Adventure dinner theater

Prior to the show, there are a few comedic acts, some which included some audience members.  The show, itself, focuses on food, faith, and family.

acrobatics and pole dancing

The amount of talent that the performers have is amazing – aerial fabric dancing, pole dancing, flips on a balance beam – those are just a few of the things that did in their live performance while we enjoyed our meal.

juggling with fire

****Update March 2019 – Smoky Mountain Adventures is being replaced with a new show – Pirates Voyage.  It’s slated to open Spring 2019.


Day 4 in Pigeon Forge

For our final meal in Pigeon Forge, we made our way to The Old Mill.

The Old Mill Restaurant

The Old Mill’s history dates back to the 1830s when a water-powered gristmill was built on the banks of the what-was-to-be-called the Pigeon River.  Meals and flours were ground at the mill and it became a popular gathering spot.  Fast forward almost 200 years, and it is now a popular place for people to grab a bite to eat, buy some freshly milled meal, flour, and mixes, and also buy some locally made unique pottery pieces.

We made our way to The Old Mill Restaurant which has great views of the Pigeon River.  Our waitress brought us a basket with freshly made mini banana muffins.

Banana Muffins at The Old Mill RestaurantBanana Muffins

My husband ordered an Old Mill Pancake Breakfast complete with breakfast sausage, my ordered biscuits and sausage, and I had a veggie omelet.

Vegetable Omelette at the Old Mill RestaurantVegetable Omelette

Before leaving, I had to stop at The Old Mill General Store.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s a favorite shopping destination for a million + visitors every year.

Pancake Mix for sale at The Old MillLocally Produced Pancake Mixes


There’s More In Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge is a great Southern destination because there is also something fun to do.  As MyPigeonForge.com puts it, it’s “The Center of Fun in the Smokies.”  To plan your Pigeon Forge getaway, be sure to visit MyPigeonForge.com where you can search:

  • Things to Do
  • Where to Eat
  • Where to Stay
  • and find out what’s happening.

You can also order a free copy of the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Travel Guide.

Have you been to Pigeon Forge lately?
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The Festival of Nations at Dollywood
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Margaritaville Island Hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

jenn

Monday 2nd of April 2018

Wow- this looks like a great trip! I had no idea there were so many things to do in Pigeon Forge! Will have to check out in planning our summer family vacation- thank you for the wonderful tips!

Jenn

Monday 2nd of April 2018

What fun y'all had! I can't wait to go back to the Hatfield and McCoy show. It's so perfect for families.