I get on the forums for several websites pertaining to the Smoky Mountains fairly often, and there are many questions regarding where to stay and do activities in the area. I’d like to delve into this matter by expressing my opinions on the locations most visitors end up staying when traveling to the Smoky Mountains; Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. I obviously am biased, since this is a Gatlinburg site, but I am going to be as fair as possible.
The Place to Stay
I can’t speak for the quality of hotels, cabins, and such around Pigeon Forge, but I can say that they offer a wide range of options for your needs. By far the most publicized and most highly rated hotel in Pigeon Forge has to be the Inn at Christmas Place. It is a picturesque Bavarian-style structure with 145 rooms, and their theme is Christmas all year-round. We would love to stay here sometime in the future, and it is consistently ranked as the best in Pigeon Forge.
Gatlinburg really doesn’t have an answer to that except for maybe the Park Vista hotel, which has amazing views of the mountains. There are plenty of hotels in Gatlinburg with great views, being that the Smoky Mountains are at the doorstep, but there are many that are average or sub-par at best. Our favorite place in town is Summit Manor Condos, but we also like Zoder’s Inn and Old Creek Lodge. Many of the cabins in the area offer the same kinds of amenities as the ones near Pigeon Forge, so this is kind of a push, in my opinion, but I would give the slight edge to Gatlinburg just for the mountain views alone.
Places to Eat
We’ve eaten at many of the Gatlinburg restaurants; some of which we wish we could have at home in Ohio. Some of the best pizza we have ever eaten has been here at Smoky Mountain Brewery and Best Italian. I would put Big Daddy’s and Mellow Mushroom in the very good category. Steak brings us to Cherokee Grill along with their awesome side dishes. Also, you can’t ignore the many treats on the Parkway, which are too numerous to mention individually. Breakfast is hands down a winner here with amazing options which include: Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, Pancake Pantry, and Log Cabin Pancake House in that order.
Pigeon Forge provides a slightly more unique feel with the best example of this being the The Pottery House Cafe and Grill in the Old Mill District. The plates you eat on are hand made next door, and the food that is placed there is delectable at worst. It has been our first stop on our vacation since 2012. Pigeon Forge has Smoky Mountain Brewery, Mellow Mushroom, and Big Daddy’s as well, but their second best option might be located at the Island. Poynor’s Pommes Frites offers authentic German food fast, and it is highly received from visitors and locals alike. Speaking of local, one might also try Mel’s Diner, and there are, of course, pancake houses here as well.
Things to Do
Ok, Gatlinburg is known for the Arts and Crafts Community and the artisans that make these items by hand, but the Parkway has shopping that people love to hate, or hate to love. The $5 T-shirts shops in town are an example, and they are numerous and scream tourist trap, but they exist because we love a great deal, even on vacation where money isn’t as coveted. There is also the new Mountain Coaster, which PF also has, and plenty of putt-putting and arcades to keep the kids at bay. The Smoky Mountains are next door which is a huge advantage, but for the sake of argument, I must not factor them in the argument, since I am talking about the town itself. I mustn’t forget about the Moonshine Distilleries, which began with Ole Smoky Moonshine. Always a good time there with free samples if you know what I mean.
Pigeon Forge is the mecca when it comes to theaters and live entertainment. We have enjoyed the Titanic exhibit and Country Tonight theater, but the Dixie Stampede is the top attraction among them all, with an unbelievable dinner show that we will attend in the near future. There are plenty of souvenir shops in PF too, with the only exception being getting in the car instead of walking everywhere in Gatlinburg. The kids will love Pigeon Forge more, in my opinion, because not only is their putt-putt golf, but there are more go-kart places that you can shake a stick at here.
Veridict: Pigeon Forge for the kids; Gatlinburg for adults
Overall, we love Gatlinburg more, because there are more adult-oriented activities here, but a strong case can be made for a stay in Pigeon Forge. Whatever place you decide to stay when on vacation here, you should have no problem finding enough things to do, whether you’re here two days or two weeks. Enjoy your stay, and your comments are always welcome.