The BEST Way to get to Pigeon Forge

Check out the BEST way to get to Pigeon Forge and a few other ways you might not know.

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So you’ve packed the car, got the kids loaded up, dropped the dog off with a friend, and planned out your next seven days to a tee in order to make your trip to the Smoky Mountains as fun as possible, or so you think. There might be just one small detail you’re leaving out – how do you get there?

Well, we’re here to make it easy for you so we’ll tell you the best way to get right to the heart of the Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tn. And while there may be a few ways to get to Pigeon Forge, we’ll list them as well, there’s really only one way that has been built to handle all the traffic flowing into the area throughout the year. And that way is from Interstate 40 to Sevierville, TN on to Pigeon Forge.

More often than not, people are coming to the Smokies by way of Nashville, Knoxville or Asheville, with some choosing Chattanooga, Cherokee, or the Tri-Cities of Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport, TN. One way or the other, you’ll all end up hitting Interstate 40 at some point with the exception of those who come by way of Cherokee, NC. The exit you should be looking for is Exit 407 – Winfield Dunn Parkway (Hwy 66) to Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll follow that route as it turns into U.S. 441 Scenic Parkway in Sevierville and keep following it into Pigeon Forge.

Coming south from Chattanooga there is a “back roads” way that takes you through Maryville and a few other Smoky Mountain towns if you’d rather make a few stops along the way and reach Pigeon Forge in a kind of “off the beaten path” way. Traveling north on Interstate 75, look for Exit 81 to Lenoir City. From there you’ll travel east on Hwy. 95 until it becomes West Lamar Alexander Pkwy takes you straight through Maryville, TN becoming East Lamar Alexander Pkwy/U.S. 321/Hwy. 73. This route will take you through the Smoky Mountain towns of Walland, Townsend, and Wears Valley as it becomes Wears Valley Road/US 321/Hwy 73, eventually spitting you out right in the middle of Pigeon Forge.

The final route to Pigeon Forge takes you right through the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by way of Newfound Gap Road/US 441/Hwy 71. Coming from Cherokee, NC by way of Waynesville and Asheville, NC, you’ll take this route north through the national park and into Gatlinburg, Tn. You’ll continue north on the Parkway in Gatlinburg until you reach Pigeon Forge.

Pigeon Forge Wildflower Update

“In bloom” is the current status of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its numerous wildflower species. As May creeps along, expect the magnificent blooming season to continue.

Rainfall in Pigeon Forge this spring has been fairly prevalent, especially in the higher elevations of the park. For wildflower enthusiasts, this is a great sign.

Here are just a few of the areas in the park reporting good wildflower coverage lately:

The Greenbrier area of the park, especially around Porter’s Creek Trail. This area is fairly well known for its wildflowers like the Fringed Phacelia. This wildflower forms a virtual blanket when it’s in full bloom. Other wildflower species like the Purple Dwarf Irises were visible as they grow in large groups. White Trilliums were in full bloom though there was still time for some to reach peak bloom. Others like the little white Squirrel Corn and Dutchman’s Breeches still had a little time before they peaked.

Large umbrella like plants called Mayapples were coming into bloom. They’re also plentiful in this area. As were the Bishop’s Cap.

A few of the earlier-than-expected “in bloom” wildflowers included Showy Orchis and the Fringed Phacelia. Though both are still double digit days from reaching their peak, their appearance indicates that this spring wildflower season could be one to remember. So, for all you wildflower enthusiasts out there, get to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this spring if you want to view a spectacular spring nature show.

Porters Creek is just one of the many wildflower hotspots in the Smokies. Places like Ace Gap, the Bradley Fork Trail, Deep Creek, Oconaluftee, Rich Mountain Loop, and Spence Field are great spots in the park to view spring wildflowers. Check them out, as well as these wildflower walks suggested by the national park service. Also, makes plans to attend the next Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage that occurs annually throughout the park.

Long-Awaited “Island” District Set to Open in Pigeon Forge

For those of you who have waited patiently for the re-opening of the The Island in Pigeon Forge, you won’t have to wait much longer. The once bankrupt Pigeon Forge attraction looks to be on track for a May or June grand re-opening.

In all, The Island at Pigeon Forge’s first phase is slated to consist of a dozen restaurants and retail shops, according to Tom Horne, operations manager. Plans include another Mellow Mushroom for Pigeon Forge, though on a much smaller scale, as well as Island Yogurt and The Timberwood Grill.

According to Horne, workers have been on site since October trying to ready the property for a May-June opening. Infrastructure work has been a main priority lately, especially as it pertains to the bridges connecting The Island with the Parkway.

For those still wondering about The Island moniker, this was the Belle Island project. It began in 2003, but financial difficulties eventually led to bankruptcy in 2009. Touted as a family entertainment venue, The Island was pushed as a destination at the time with highlights from screen star Debbie Reynolds and NASCAR’s Darrell Waltrip.

There is a major attraction in the final planning stages for The Island, though details have yet to be released. The property has already seen a 200-foot sky wheel, called “The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel,” added on to The Island property.

To Horne, nothing about a project so large in scale has been easy. “It takes a lot of effort from a lot of different people,” he said. “So it’s been a big undertaking.”

The project’s second phase will include a hotel, a water-themed attraction, and 50 more retailers/restaurants, which is currently slated for spring 2014 opening.

The Island in Pigeon Forge
130 & 131 Island Drive
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Wear City Park Opens!!!

Pigeon Forge is now officially home to a brand new municipal park. Wear City Park opened this past Friday to a number of onlookers as well as kids looking to take advantage of the new playground and athletic fields.

This was the first phase of the Wear Family City Park which is located a half-mile off the parkway on Wears Valley Road in Pigeon Forge.

In all, the park will take up 118 acres. The first 40 acres will feature five lighted baseball and softball fields, a lighted football field, a playground, two shelters, a basketball court, concession stands, restrooms and walking trails.

Everyone in attendance on opening-day enjoyed their share of popcorn, hot dogs as well as a fireworks display, and a number of old-time games.

As mentioned, everything that is now open represents just the first phase of the park, which will eventually include Waldens Creek and the possibility for additional walking or biking trails.

The Forever Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to raise funds to help build and maintain the new Wear City Park, was credited for their role in getting the new facilities up and running.

City Manager Earlene Teaster said a park was needed in Pigeon Forge that generations could enjoy, as well as another mark on the city’s resume everyone could be proud of.

“This is a tremendous asset for Pigeon Forge,” she said. ‘We’re excited about what it’s going to do for our kids in the community.”

They also credited the Wear family, who sold the old farm used for the park.

“It means so much for us that so many generations of this community will be able to come here and enjoy this property and make memories for their families the same way our family did or so many years,” Charlotte Wear said.

Love Running 5K’s? Come to Pigeon Forge!

If you’re into running 5K’s, you might want to check into all that Pigeon Forge has to offer. Not only are they gearing up for the annual February Freeze on Feb. 9, a few other 5K’s are currently in the works. And not to leave anyone out, Pigeon Forge’s next door neighbor Sevierville completes their calendar year with the annual Santa Hustle 5K run at the Wilderness resort each December.

Recently, the Pigeon Forge Planning Commission took up just that exact subject. The Smoky Mountain area has shown a renewed interest planning for a number of yearly 5K’s that you really just didn’t a handful of years ago.

The first 5K event on the list is actually a race that has been run before, and many would like to keep it that way. Titled the Preserving the Mountain in Me 5K, which is put on by the environmental group Keep Sevier Beautiful, it’s an annual Pigeon Forge 5K that is scheduled this year for April 27. For anyone interested, the race will begin in the city parking lot and end on the Pigeon Forge Greenway.

“Showcasing the greenway is a big part of our mission,” said Laura Howard, executive director of Keep Sevier Beautiful. “It’s an underutilized part of our community. It’s a great area that shows off our natural beauty.”

Races like Preserving the Mountain in Me are “a great way to raise awareness and generate funds,” Howard said. “It’s also about getting our citizens outside and into some physical activity.”

Also on the planning commission’s agenda is the 5K in May, a May 4 race that will benefit Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries.

So as you can see, Pigeon Forge is gearing up for a year that could feature as many as three 5K’s within the first half of the year. Couple those with Sevierville’s Santa Hustle 5K in December and you’ve pretty much got a runner’s paradise in the Smoky Mountains. Next time you feel like runnin’, lace up your sneakers come on over to Pigeon Forge. You’re bound to run into a 5K on the way.

Liquor By The Drink Approved, Again.

The people have spoken, and they’ve reiterated what they said the first time. Liquor by the drink is wanted by the citizens of Pigeon Forge. The measure was approved during a special election for the second time after passing in the November election.

Pigeon Forge voters returned to the polls recently voting in favor of allowing liquor by the drink sales inside city limits. November referendum results were thrown out by a court following a public spat over who was actually allowed to vote on the November referendum, which also featured a presidential vote as well as an extremely crowded general election ballot.

In all, 952 voters passed ballots in favor of liquor by the drink, while 798 voted against. According to the Sevier County Election Commission people were out early and often to voice their opinion as 1,035 ballots were cast during early voting.

For a quick recap of goings on leading up to the November re-vote, citizens approved a measure that would make it legal to serve liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge. However, that vote was thrown out after a host of locals as well as the Churches of Pigeon Forge opted to file suit against the county election commission.

Though the church group claimed that there were an additional 289 more people who voted in the election than there were registered Pigeon Forge voters, Chancellor Tellford Fogerty ruled that citizens living outside city limits had been allowed to vote in November on the same issue.

In the end, Fogerty ruled there was no intentional fraud created through this election, though the results were “incurably uncertain.”

Record Year For Tourism in Pigeon Forge

Following a year that saw visits to the Smoky Mountain area climb, Pigeon Forge recently announced that it had reached record numbers for revenue in 2012.

According to Pigeon Forge Mayor David Wear, the city took in more than $905 million in 2012. If you’re counting at home, that’s a $75 million jump over the previous year. The city posted double digit growth in its two largest business sectors: amusements and lodging.

The mayor points to the city’s residents, its businesses and the city government, all working together in order to achieve such numbers.

“We’ve been reporting this kind of growth for a number of years, but it seems to have hit a peak this year as the best year ever in the history of Pigeon Forge,” said Wear, looking ahead to another big year in 2013.

The city’s new LeConte Center is set to open this fall, which will provide another large venue for shows, events and assemblies.

Another big reason for such great numbers in 2012 was an increase in visitor spending. With more than 9 million people coming to town, sales tax revenues saw tremendous growth.

The numbers also mean no layoffs in city government, new equipment for the police and fire departments, and reassurance for other attractions to come forward. That includes the former Belle Island development, which is advertising a spring 2013 launch as “The Island.”

Wear also noted that the upcoming “liquor by the drink” vote would add even more tax revenue for the city.

“There are developments that we know about that are waiting to see how this vote goes. We are committed to business development, whether it passes or fails,” he added.

Dollywood’s River Rush Almost Complete!

River Rush, the new $6 million water coaster slated to open in May at Dollywood’s Splash Country, is nearing the completion stages despite quite a burst of winter weather the past few months.

Officials said recently that it’s 95 percent complete and a Mother’s Day weekend grand opening is right on target. RiverRush will be the state’s first water coaster and will be visible from Veterans Boulevard at the western end of the park

If you’re familiar with Dollywood, and especially Dollywood’s Splash Country, River Rush will lay on over an acre of land in a newly-developed area between Splash Country’s Big Bear Plunge and Bear Mountain Fire Tower.

When it opens, RiverRush will transport riders up a conveyor belt before being propelled up hills and around curves. In all, it’s a four-story ride where riders climb 237 feet before making a 25-foot, 45-degree drop through tunnels, rapids and three more drops. It’s one minute and 20 seconds of thrilling splashes and drops.

Construction on River Rush officially started in August and was initially estimated to run to $5 million before a few unforeseen rocks got in the way causing project costs to increase.

In other park news, details of Dollywood’s 2014 expansion are expected to be announced this summer. It will be located on the site of Adventure Mountain, which closed at the end of last season. The project has been billed as as “a significant family attraction” in scope between the park’s $17.5 million Mystery Mine steel coaster and $20 million Wild Eagle, the first wing coaster in the U.S.

With Splash Country’s new water attraction and Dollywood’s Wild Eagle addition last year, Splash Country hopes to increase its attendance by about 10 percent to more than 400,000 visitors, according to park officials.

The water park will open a couple of weeks early this year to have Dolly Parton, who will be in town to kick off Pigeon Forge Springfest, present at its launch.

Dollywood opens to the public on March 22. Splash Country opens May 11, with a special opening on May 10 for season pass holders.

Pigeon Forge Map

With all the new technology that is out there today – GPS, navigation, smart phones, etc., you’d think that the need for actual maps, or road atlases for that matter, would just die out. And while a good portion of people don’t even consider using much less purchasing maps anymore, there are still thousands who come to Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains every year and ask for a map of the area.

Maybe it’s just an old habit, who knows. Whatever the reason is, with so many streets and traffic lights to remember, as well as shops, directions to and from places, a map can still be a pretty handy thing around these parts. Wants to know what road you’ll find at the intersection with traffic light No. 2 in Pigeon Forge? Better find yourself a map, or just glance at the one in this post.

Most places in town offer up their own map with their business, as well as other major attractions highlighted on the map or brochure. It’s still a great way to market whatever you may be offering. Ask any of the major attractions or restaurants around here, they’ve been carrying out this practice for decades. People still remember places that way, especially those vacationing in the area who end up packing their brochure away then discovering it once they return home. It’s almost like you’ve put your own personal stamp on them. The map is just a reminder of the great time they had while vacationing in Pigeon Forge.

So, besides the map to the right, where can you find a Pigeon Forge map around town? Well, if you’re at a place like the Tanger Five Oaks Outlet Mall, you’re bound to see a large brochure, or area attractions stand at some point while you’re walking between shops. There is also a large stand in the hallway that leads to the public restrooms at Tanger near Gap. You’re also sure to find one if you’re at any of the major attractions along the Parkway like the Titanic Museum attraction, Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud, or Lumberjack Feud.

Maps are just another way to connect all your favorite shows, attractions, restaurants, and shops in Pigeon Forge. It’s a way of discovering the Smokies that isn’t totally extinct just yet. And there’s just something about them that makes you think that they’ll continue to help guide visitors for years to come.

Dollywood Extends Summer Hours

Just in order to give their guests as much time as humanly possible this summer to ride all their favorite rides, see all the park’s great shows, and generally leave no stone unturned, Dollywood is extending the park’s operating hours for 2013.

On June 22, Dollywood inaugurates the “Great American Summer,” six weeks of extended operation. A live performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” starts each day at 10 a.m., and a music-synchronized fireworks display called “Dolly’s Nights of Many Colors” caps the day off at 10 p.m.

Not only will Dollywood be operating on extended hours this summer, the park will also be breaking in a brand new ride next door at Dolly’s Splash Country. A year after opening the Wild Eagle winged coaster – the first wing-design roller coaster in the country, RiverRush is set to open in May at Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark. RiverRush will be the state’s first water coaster and ads yet another big draw to the adventure park and its 23-slide roster.

RiverRush adds water to the climbs, drops, twists and turns of traditional terrestrial coasters. Four-person toboggan-style boats climb 237 feet up a conveyor as the 1,175-foot-long ride begins. RiverRush is four stories tall, with hairpin turns and dark tunnels that create an unexpected waterpark experience.

From the twisting turns of the Mountain Scream body slide ride, to the daring drops of Big Bear Plunge – a white water rafting ride, Dollywood’s Splash Country is everything you and your family could want in a Smoky Mountain water park here, or anywhere for that matter. In addition, there are two interactive children’s playground areas, the Cascades and Little Creek Falls, where kids can be themselves and create lasting summer memories in the heart of the Smokies.

Dollywood won five Golden Ticket Awards in 2012, the industry’s top awards. Among them were awards for the best live entertainment and for being the friendliest park anywhere.