First time visiting the Great Smoky Mountains? Let us be YOUR guide — with insider tips and tricks, savings on the best attractions, national park advice, the best local shopping and dining options, and cabin rentals for days! Our goal is to make your first visit to the Smokies hassle-free, fun, and memorable, so we’ve jotted down everything you’ll need to know as a newbie to the area. Check out our guide for first-time visitors and make your first trip to the Smokies the start of an annual tradition.
Tips + Tricks
Perhaps the best way to start a trip to a new area is heeding tips and tricks from locals…that’s us! We’ve got the inside scoop on how to make the most of your first stay in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN.
- Plan for events. Events are always around, and planning your trip with an event in mind could make or break your plans. Look ahead to see if there’s an event you’ll love and book your stay for it! Or…make sure the Parkway (our main road) isn’t jam packed from a popular event that doesn’t interest you and steer away from those dates.
- Avoid crowds. Not a fan of tourist crowds? Come during the week when others are working (and kids are in school) for a more relaxed experience. Or opt to visit just after the holidays in January and February or after kids go back to school in September.
- Take the trolleys. If you’re planning to peruse the Parkway for shops, eateries, and attractions, then we suggest saving gas and mileage and taking the trolleys in town. One line even connects Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for twice the benefit!
- Consider mountain roads. Do keep in mind our mountain roads are dynamic and can get a little windy, steep, and adventurous the further you go from town. So, we highly recommend bringing an all- or 4-wheel drive vehicle to conquer them like a pro.
- Book in advance. Our attractions are pretty popular with tourists and locals alike. Secure your seat at a dinner show, spot snow tubing, time at the indoor trampoline park, and more by booking ahead of time.
Must-see Attractions + Discounts
With tons of attraction options that range from fascinating museums and haunted houses to amusement parks and miniature golf, the Smokies may feel a tad overwhelming if you’re the new kid on the block. So, we’ve narrowed down a handful of must-see attractions to ease you in.
- Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show
- Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction
- Crave Golf Club
- Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show & Adventure Park
- Smoky Mountain Opry
- The Escape Game
- TopJump Trampoline & Extreme Arena
- Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud
- The Comedy Barn Theater
- Magic Beyond Belief
- Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies (+ 7 other Ripley’s attractions!)
Oh! And don’t forget to check out the most-visited national park in the country — the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! You can hike, fish, horseback ride, picnic, and more. And if you just want to drive through, we highly recommend Cades Cove, which is a lush valley area with a loop road you can cruise to take in all the scenery, including historic structures and roaming wildlife (best seen in the early morning or late evening). Top tip: remember to give all animals their space…if their behavior changes, you’re too close and need to back away calmly.
Local Shops + Eateries
Food and shopping basically go hand in hand with any vacation, and your first visit to the Smokies is no exception. Forget fast food chains and typical outlets you could find anywhere. Instead, experience the Smokies with local favs unique to the area. And while we’ll get you started with a few great options, we also recommend perusing the Parkway and giving any place that catches your eye a shot!
- Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community — handcrafted goods from 100+ artists and craftsmen
- The Village — collection of 27 unique boutiques in a European-style setting
- The Incredible Christmas Place — enough said…
- Riverside Dining — The Peddler Steakhouse + No Way Jose’s Cantina
- Pancake Houses — SO many options! (open through lunchtime)
- Family-style Service — Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen + Mama’s Farmhouse
Cabins VS Hotels
Make your first stay in the Smokies extra special — swap a bland and cramped hotel room for a fun and spacious cabin home to really live like a local and get the fully Smoky Mountain experience. With Cabins for YOU, you’ll get a personal vacation planner (a complimentary service) to assist you from browsing and booking to arrival and departure.
Sure, hotels can offer communal amenities…but what would you say to a private hot tub, indoor pool, theater, and rec space? Along with loads of cabin amenities, we even offer bonus add-ons, like an in-cabin massage, gift baskets, flower bouquets, and a personal chef. Want discounts on all the attractions listed above? We’ve got you covered with our partner attraction discounts!
Ace Cabin Amenities
- Private Indoor Pool
- Outdoor Hot Tub
- Home Theater
- Game Tables + Arcade Units
- Big Screen TVs
- Wood/Gas/Electric Fireplaces
- Fully Equipped Kitchen
- Gas/Charcoal Grills
- King + Queen + Bunk Beds
- FREE Wi-Fi
Have more questions on the area and how to make the most of your first Smoky Mountain vacation? Give us a call at 1.800.684.7865 — we’re here to help!