Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge: Which is Best?

If you’re planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains, chances are you’ll be choosing between two of the most popular Tennessee towns for your stay: Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Both towns are great vacation destinations, and they’re right next to each other, with just a few minutes drive between the two towns. While both towns are close to the mountains, offer breathtaking views, and are full of activities and attractions, each one has its own unique personality that may influence your ultimate decision of where to stay.

Image courtesy of Gatlinburg

Top Attractions in Gatlinburg

Visitors to Gatlinburg enjoy:

  • The Arts & Crafts Community Trail
  • Tunes and Tales
  • Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and Year-Round Mountain-Slope Getaway
  • Anakeesta Theme Park
  • Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
  • Gatlinburg Space Needle
  • Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery & Other Distillery Tours

Top Attractions in Pigeon Forge

Visitors to Pigeon Forge enjoy:

  • Dollywood
  • The Island in Pigeon Forge
  • WonderWorks
  • Titanic Museum Attraction
  • Dinner Shows: The Hatfield & McCoy Show, Dixie Stampede Show & Others
  • Arcades, Mini Golf & Go-Karts
  • Horseback Riding

You’ll love Gatlinburg if …

You love the outdoors, hiking, quaint shopping, arts and crafts, and fine dining.

Gatlinburg is considered a prime gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located right on its edge and with a brief drive (or hike) to a park entrance and visitor center.

In Gatlinburg, you’ll find a quaint downtown nestled below the beautiful backdrop of the mountains, with unique restaurants, steakhouses and fine dining, along with lots of hand-made arts and crafts, and outdoor-themed sports and hiking shops.

Gatlinburg’s downtown area is small and concentrated. It’s clustered, it’s quaint, and it’s a walking town. You can park your car and walk essentially everywhere you’ll want to go.

You’ll love Pigeon Forge if …

You’re looking for fun day of activities for you and the kids (mini golf, arcades, etc.), big dinner shows in the evenings, down home Southern family cooking, and designer and brand-name shopping.

Pigeon Forge is probably most well-known for Dollywood, an amusement and entertainment park. And another big attraction in Pigeon Forge is The Island, a shopping and entertainment complex, complete with rides, top-notch dining (Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville restaurant & Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen), and much more.

Both of these attractions are perfect for children. Pigeon Forge is more spread out, so you’ll need a car to get from place to place. Is this why all the go-kart attractions are in Pigeon Forge? We don’t know, but certainly most of the car shows are.

Finally, both towns share a wonderful trolley system that can take you along the Parkway strips of both towns, as well as out to Dollywood and even into the national park.

Where to Stay in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Area

Both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg offer numerous lodging options, including of course the countless rental vacation cabins that pervade the entire area. And while some cabins seem so close to town that you could walk, remember that it’s not recommended to walk the winding mountain roads. Therefore, you’re safer to book your cabin in the mountains and drive when you plan on coming into town.

Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer a myriad of activities, entertainment, and attractions to enjoy in the Smokies. It’s completely true that no one visit to the Smokies will give you the time to do everything you would like to do. So make the best choice for you in terms of which part of the area you stay in. Everything is close enough that you can always hop on over to another spot whenever you like.

Follow these links for more information about Gatlinburg Cabin rentals, Pigeon Forge cabins and Wears Valley cabins. Also learn about Smoky Mountain weddings and Gatlinburg honeymoon cabins. Many cabins are pet friendly by the way – be sure to ask. And also be sure to read about our Galtinburg coupons that we give away with every cabin booking, worth over $400, for some of the best local attractions!

About Tony Perez

I'm a people person, and I enjoy the atmosphere that working with Cabins Of The Smoky Mountains entails, interacting with different types of people and trying to relate to each one uniquely. From Michigan originally, I've been coming to the Smoky Mountains since I was a child, with family in Wears Valley. Summer fun for me is exploring the Cades Cove area, swimming in the creeks, and hiking Mount LeConte and many other trails. I love the Smoky Mountains.