By Caroline Eubanks
Whether you’re planning a family reunion, a bonding weekend with your favorite coworkers or a gals’ getaway with long-time BFFs, the first step to a successful group vacation is selecting a destination everyone can get excited about.
The Great Smoky Mountains are an ideal place for such group gatherings — and the bustling town of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee makes a great home base for a memorable trip complete with hiking, shopping and Southern-style dining.
When planning your Pigeon Forge vacation, consider basing yourself at one of Diamond Resorts’ Tennessee properties for a taste of home away from home. Sunrise Ridge Resort, for instance, boasts an array of amenities and nearby activities sure to appeal to every member of your party.
Here are five ways to explore once you’ve settled in.
1. Sample Southern Flavors
One of the main reasons people plan a Pigeon Forge vacation is for the delicious food, and downtown is the perfect place to start your culinary journey.
The Old Mill Restaurant, set in an 1800s gristmill, serves up family-style dishes like chicken and dumplings, country ham and fried catfish. This part of town is also popular for its breakfast restaurants, including Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant and Grill with its beloved apple fritters. The Local Goat is another fun spot for a group meal complete with farm-to-table dishes.
2. Shop Until You Drop
Pigeon Forge and its surrounding communities have endless opportunities for bargain hunting from both well-known brands and local boutiques.
Start your shopping trip perusing Pigeon River Pottery — also located at the Old Mill — which offers a variety of interesting gifts. The Arrowmont School in nearby Gatlinburg is another way to tap into your creative side and bring home a truly unique souvenir that’s been crafted by hand. For a more traditional shopping experience, the Pigeon Forge Factory Outlet Mall has deals from world-renowned brands as well as stores featuring locally crafted furniture and more.
3. Embrace Your Inner Thrill-Seeker
Bring your adventurous spirit with you to the mountains during your Pigeon Forge family vacation. Start at Dollywood, a theme park owned by music legend Dolly Parton — it’s a must-visit attraction that appeals to both kids and grown-ups. The park features thrilling coasters, live music and a museum showcasing unique elements of Parton’s colorful life.
The Island in Pigeon Forge, a local entertainment complex, is another spot for family-friendly fun. It features a Ferris wheel with air-conditioned pods that soars above the shopping district and even lights up at night. For something a bit different, try one of the center’s ropes courses.
4. Enjoy Some Old-Fashioned Entertainment
A Pigeon Forge vacation offers plenty of shows every evening, which are a great way to explore the best of the region’s music scene and storied history.
Catch a viewing of Dolly Parton’s Stampede, for instance, an exciting dinner show with live animals, or get in a few guffaws at the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, a comedy event that comes with scrumptious sides of smashed taters, creamy coleslaw and Southern-style vegetable soup.
Downtown at the Memories Theatre, it’s possible to catch tribute artists performing the tunes of Elvis, Michael Jackson, Buddy Holly, Cher and other legends. Pigeon Forge also plays host to a few unique museums like The Titanic Museum, which contains artifacts from the famous sunken ship.
5. Bask in The Great Outdoors
Of course, you can’t visit Pigeon Forge without exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most popular such park in the nation. The massive expanse of land, which stretches into two states and across more than 500,000 acres, is ideal for your crew to explore via a hike to popular regions like Cades Cove and Clingman’s Dome. There are also a number of adventure activities within the park, such as fly-fishing and horseback riding.
Nashville and Knoxville may get all the glory as must-visit tourist destinations in Tennessee — but gems like Pigeon Forge have plenty of vacation perks to offer, too. Begin planning your Pigeon Forge vacation today by checking out Diamond Resorts’ Tennessee properties.