Stuck inside all winter, busy schedules in spring…summertime is vacation time! Imagine cool breezes brushing past and warm summer rays shining down as you stay and play with family and friends in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Local attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are in full swing during the lively summer months, and most are family-friendly so you can bet there is something for everyone. Temperatures average in the mid-80s during the day and low 60s at night for June, July, and August, great weather for exploring the national park. And you can skip walking downtown and enjoy a nice summer breeze while exploring the area via a FREE open-air trolley for visitors and locals this summer in Gatlinburg!
To make planning YOUR family vacation, a getaway with friends, group retreat, or romantic trip easier, we’ve pooled 11 fun things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in summer. Feel free to jot down the summer activities that stick out and incorporate them into your Smoky Mountain summer vacation!
- Play at Popular Attractions
Boasting plenty of attractions to keep the whole family entertained, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg offer double the family fun to vacationers in the Smoky Mountains. From miniature golf courses and go-kart tracks galore to amusement parks and zoomy mountain coasters, get ready for a full day of play in the Smokies this summer! Our fav recommendations follow.
- Dollywood — enjoy the Summer Celebration with extended hours, fireworks, live country music, roller coasters, and water rides (including Daredevil Falls and Smoky Mountain River Rampage) at this classic Smoky Mountain theme park!
- Pigeon Forge Snow — build a snowman, snow tub down 15 lanes, and create snow angels at this year-round snow park, the first of its kind!
- Crave Golf Club — putt-putt indoors or on the rooftop of this candy-themed mini-golf place that also has miniature bowling and escape games.
- Fun Stop Family Action Park — race go-karts around indoor and outdoor tracks, zipline, ride thrill rides, and play in the arcade with friends.
- Pigeon Forge’s WonderWorks — blend education and fun at this interactive Pigeon Forge attraction devoted to science, space, and creativity.
- Anakeesta — visit Firefly Village, a treehouse playground, dueling zipline, Vista Gardens, and oh-so-much more atop a mountain!
- Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park — ride the mountain glider, alpine coaster, and other thrill rides between 2 locations in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
- The Escape Game — look for clues, solve puzzles, and crack codes to try and find your way out…in the nick of time.
- TopJump Trampoline & Extreme Arena — high-flying fun awaits with indoor trampolines, a ninja course, and a climbing center.
- Fannie Farkle’s — play classic and modern arcade games, win cool prizes and grab a footlong Ogle dog.
- Ober Gatlinburg — summer water raft rides, year-round ice skating, and ice bumper cars, a wildlife encounter, sweet shops, and mountain view restaurants are just the start!
- Cool Off at Water Parks
When you want a break from the summer heat, stay cool as a cucumber splashing at various water parks in the Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville area. Water slides? Check. Wave pools? Yep. Fountains and water play for kids? Mmhmm. Lazy rivers? Oh yeah. There are also seasonal water rides at some attractions, like Dollywood and Ober Gatlinburg.
- Soaky Mountain — water coasters, massive water slides, surfing, a 35,000-square-foot wave pool, an inflatable obstacle course, kids play zone, and an adventure river awaits!
- Dollywood’s Splash Country — get soaked on 23 water rides and slides and let the kids splash around at Little Creek Falls. Plus, there’s an 8,000-square-foot lagoon-style pool and private canopies where you can rest in the shade.
- Wild Bear Falls Water Park – there are a couple of tube rides, water playgrounds, a lazy river, a gigantic indoor/outdoor hot tub, a wave pool, and a surfing ride.
- Outdoor Gravity Park — zorbing is otherwise known as hopping in a giant inflatable ball with a splash of cool water and powering through adventure courses. And this park is the first to hit the States from New Zealand!
- Stroll Through Ripley’s Aquarium & Area Museums
On especially warm days, keep cool under the sea at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Home to 1,000s of underwater sea creatures, 12-foot sharks, and an impressive underwater tunnel, this award-winning aquarium is a great place to duck away from the summer sun for a bit. There are 2 levels, many exhibits showcasing a wide variety of animals, and neat experiences.
Watch as stingrays dance, piranhas stare, sharks cruise overhead, fish schools swarm, jellies float, octopi hide, and Nemo lives with many clowney cousins. Purchase a masterpiece by painting penguins, ride over Shark Lagoon in a glass-bottom boat, and watch mermaids perform (a summertime exclusive).
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge also offer an array of museums to visit (a few are just below), where you can pick up a few interesting facts, see oddities from around the world, and meet celebrities.
- Titanic Museum Attraction — step back in time, touch a real iceberg, and snap a pic on the Grand Staircase aboard the Titanic, where you’ll find the perfect blend of history and entertainment.
- Ripley’s Guinness World of Records Museum — see how you stack up against the many unusual record-holders at this unique museum that displays world records, has interactive features, and rolls out fun trivia.
- Hollywood Wax Museum — now’s your chance to meet and greet with Hollywood stars forever captured in wax figures that look uncannily like their live counterparts.
- Explore the Great Outdoors
Rolling lush hills, mountaintop views for miles, valleys teeming with wildlife, and dazzling rivers rushing through the forests…the Smoky Mountains are Great for many reasons. When summertime rolls around, some of our favorite outdoor activities are in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Home to a diversity of animals, trees, wildflowers, and flowering plants and shrubs, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a breath of fresh air — a break from the busy mountain towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and the technology that so often consumes our lives.
What is there to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? As the most visited national park in the U.S., the Smokies draws 11+ million visitors annually and has 800+ miles of hiking trails, along with easy walks to waterfalls, scenic drives through Cades Cove, horseback riding, fishing, swimming holes, picnicking, and plenty of scenic overlooks.
- Hike to a Waterfall — enjoy the cool mist of a waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you’ll find 16 waterfalls to check out! Laurel Falls is an easy climb and just over 2 miles round-trip. Remember to bring your camera — the 60-foot waterfall is beautiful, and you’ll want to take a scrapbook picture in front of it!
- Take a Scenic Drive — Cades Cove Loop Road is the best place for viewing wildlife and blooming trees and wildflowers from your vehicle in the national park. From May until September, the road is open only to bicyclists and pedestrians until 10 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. If you’d prefer to bike, head to the campground store near the Cades Cove Campground for rentals.
- Ride Horses — summer breezes keep you cool as you take a horseback ride through the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Four stables — Cades Cove, Smokemont, Smoky Mountain, and Sugarlands — offer guided tours from mid-March through November. There are also carriage and wagon rides available in Cades Cove and Smokemont starting at around $20 per person.
- Fly Fish — cast a line in one of the many streams (2,900 miles in fact) within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, permitted year-round from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Some fish you’ll come across include brook and rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, and brown trout.
- Picnic by a River — picnic by a river in the park with easy foods like fresh fruit, string cheese, veggies with hummus or ranch, or the Smoky Mountain Picnic basket from Cabins for YOU, loaded with goodies — including chips, cookies, taffy, sparkling cider, summer sausage, crackers, bread, condiments, macaroni salad, and fruit!
- Whitewater Raft — hook up with Smoky Mountain Outdoors for a whitewater rafting tour on a hot summer day along the Little Pigeon River! Or check out Rafting in the Smokies, a whitewater rafting expedition company that has been thrilling its customers since 1978. While not inside the national park, river rafting is another great way to explore the Great Smoky Mountain outdoors!
- Visit the Gatlinburg Farmers Market
Try fresh summer recipes with locally grown and cultivated ingredients from the Gatlinburg Farmers Market, typically open from late May through mid-October. Grab jars of honey and jam plus baked goods and natural wellness products. And don’t forget to take home in-season fruits, nuts, and berries! Visit the Gatlinburg Farmers Market, Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. until noon at the Covered Bridge in the Glades.
With the Gatlinburg Farmers Market in full swing — and plenty of fresh fruits and veggies at local stores — summer is the perfect time to try some cooking in your Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge cabin. At Cabins for YOU, you’ll have a fully equipped kitchen where you can keep leftovers, store snacks, or whip up delicious homemade meals when you don’t want to go out to eat. It’s a great way to save money on your summer vacation and try local foods, too!
- Book Family-Friendly Dinner Shows
A favorite Pigeon Forge activity, seeing a dinner show lets you try local dishes and enjoy entertainment with your whole family and friends. There are plenty of family-friendly options to choose from, and most offer a 4-course feast of Southern flavor with great music, special effects, knee-slapping jokes, and spellbinding stunts.
Already eaten? Opt for a memorable show at one of the local performance theaters. Or simply walk the streets of Gatlinburg and listen to Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales — a summertime street event (typically held July – August) with storytellers dressed in character, musicians playing bluegrass beats, and cloggers dancing along the Parkway.
- Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show — cheer on the swashbuckling Crimson or Sapphire pirates as they battle on deck, in the sky, and in the water for Davy Jones’ sunken treasure. Ye hearties will be amazed at the special effects, acrobatics, mermaids, and tropical birds.
- Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction — all ages are welcome to watch this old-timey show inspired by the West and filled with cool effects, musical numbers, horseback riding stunts, and funny jokesters. There’s even a live bison stampede!
- Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud — laugh out loud to the hilarious antics of the Hatfield and McCoys as they duke it out Smoky Mountain-style with music, dancing, singing, strength contests, and comedy. Be warned: their homestyle Southern dinner might make you slap your mama!
- Lumberjack Feud Show & Adventure Park — brought to you by Paula Deen, this burly show features world-class lumberjacks competing for glory before your very eyes. There’s even an accompanying adventure park where you can log roll, speed climb, and boom run like a lumberman.
- The Comedy Barn Theater — catch a family-friendly show at the most-attended clean comedy theater in the world! From magic tricks, juggling, and talking puppets to barnyard animals, gospel and country music, and goofy comedians, you’re sure to leave with a smile.
- Enjoy ICE CREAM!
What’s summer in the Smokies without ice cream?! After a full day in the sun, you’ll appreciate a flavorful and refreshing cone or a cup of ice cream. Even if you’re not a fan of icy treats or have someone in your group who wants something else, most of the ice cream shops have other options, like milkshakes, malts, or donuts.
- Mad Dog’s Creamery & Donuts — satisfy your sweet tooth and take a break from the summer heat with an ice cream cone and a cool treat for your dog.
- Old Mill Creamery — get a homemade scoop of Oat Mill Cream Pie, Whiskey Ribbon, or Black Lantern Chocolate and relax in The Old Mill Square.
- Curl de la Crème — you know that fancy curled ice cream you’ve been eager to try? Pick a favorite flavor or a few, and make your ice cream dream come true!
- Sample Wine & Moonshine
Spend a summery day touring the 5 local wineries on the Rocky Top Wine Trail — where you can try free samples of local wines and collect stamps at each location for prizes! Visit Mill Bridge Winery, Mountain Valley Winery, Apple Barn House, Apple Barn Winery, and Hillside Winery. Along the way, grab a few bottles to enjoy with mountain views back at your cabin rental.
Not a wine connoisseur? No worries, the Smokies were built on moonshine! In fact, Gatlinburg is home to the most-visited distillery in the country — Ole Smoky Moonshine, aka The Holler. Signature flavors include Apple Pie, Peach, Blackberry, Moonshine Cherries, and White Lightnin’. Tastings are only $5, and you can even see the distilling process and chat with the distillers.
- Shop for Smoky Mountain Souvenirs
It’s always better to leave the Smoky Mountains with a souvenir in hand, to remember the wonderful time spent enjoying Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg activities with loved ones. Our suggestion: forget run-of-the-mill shops and go for unique boutiques you won’t find anywhere else!
- The Island — shop until you drop at 40+ boutiques! Plus, as an entertainment complex, you can snap a photo with a parrot, ride The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, enjoy summer concerts, and play games.
- The Village — filled with European inspiration, The Village harbors 27 unique shops and eateries to explore. From fashion, art, and décor to spices, toys, and hiking gear, find it all (and more) here!
- Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community — home to the largest group of independent artisans in the country, this 8-mile loop offers impeccable craftsmanship in every brushstroke, basketweave, quilted stitch, wood carve, scarf dye, and pottery glaze.
- Ride the Gatlinburg Trolley for FREE
Instead of fighting busy summertime traffic in your car, hop on a FREE open-air trolley for transportation around town. As the summer breeze blows past you, check out the mountain scenery and local attractions aboard the Gatlinburg Trolley.
During the peak summer season, designated trolleys stop at many places along the busy Parkway, including The Village, Gatlinburg Space Needle, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, and the Gatlinburg Convention Center. You can shop, dine, and play all summer without having to worry about finding a parking spot!
Free trolleys typically run from 8 a.m. until midnight each day from mid-June through mid-August. Shuttles are handicap accessible, and a GPS allows guests to see trolley shelters and arrival times.
Gatlinburg Mass Transit
88 River Road, Suite 101
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
- Swim in YOUR Private Pool
Splash around with the kiddos, wade with the little ones, and relax on a floatie all day in your private indoor pool at your Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge cabin rental with Cabins for YOU. Some indoor pools even feature waterfalls, islands, bridges, swim-in grottos, kiddy pools, and color-changing lights!
Prefer to swim outdoors? Choose a cabin with resort pool access to splash around under the summer sun. Cabins for YOU also boasts cabins on the river and properties on Douglas Lake. You can fish and enjoy the sounds of the river or boat and swim in the lake on your summer vacation in the Smokies.
Plus, you can opt for lemonade on deck with stunning mountain views, feature films in the home theater, nighttime soaks in the hot tub, gameplay in the fully loaded rec room, spa baths in the indoor jetted tub, and sweet dreams in a plush king-size bed when you book your cabin stay through Cabins for YOU!
Cabin Amenities Great for Summer!
- Private indoor pool
- Community pool access
- Breathtaking mountain views
- Riverfront or lake views
- Outdoor dining area
- Charcoal & gas grills
- Multiple decks
- Stone firepit
- Indoor jetted tubs
- Home theater with theater-style seating
- Rec room with a wet bar
- Modern & classic arcade games
- Pool, foosball, shuffleboard & air hockey tables
Ready to plan your coolest summer vacation in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg? Reach out to Cabins for YOU today and use our complimentary Vacation Planning service. Simply enter your dream cabin details in the Options for YOU form or give us a call at 1.800.684.7865.