I have lived in East Tennessee my entire life (other than a short eight-month stint in Alabama), and I have come to know and love the Great Smoky Mountains. Whether you’re a local like me or you’re here on a getaway, finding the best excursions for Smoky Mountain vacations is a must before (or during) any visit. I have done my fair share of activities and visited most of the attractions in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville, and I think I am qualified to help you narrow down your trip itinerary. Plus, if stay in one of our Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins, all of these excursions are within minutes of your home-away-from-home.
At the top of my list for the best excursions for Smoky Mountain vacations is Dollywood, of course! Not only because I work here, but I have been coming to Dollywood since I was an infant. Dollywood is an incredible choice because it has something for everyone in the family. Roller coasters for the thrill seekers, mild thrill rides for our younger guests or those looking for something less daring, delicious culinary creations for the foodies, show-stopping entertainments, the list goes on and on. Plus, we almost always have a festival going on. From June 25 to July 31, 2021, you can enjoy our Summer Celebration, including an all-new drone light show.
Dollywood’s Splash Country
Next on the list is Dollywood’s Splash Country. Our beautiful water park is the perfect summertime excursion for Smoky Mountain vacations. With more than a dozen slides and attractions nestled into the beautiful Smokies, it feels like a mountain oasis. Enjoy a trip down the lazy river, take a thrilling ride on our water coaster and relax by the sparkling wave pool. Oh, and don’t forget to grab a BeaverTail or my favorite, Berries N Cream.
Pink Adventure Tours
If you’re looking for excursions for Smoky Mountain vacations that involve exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the area around it, Pink Adventure Tours is an incredible way to see the sites, learn the history of the area and have fun, too! I am not a hiker, so I love being able to enjoy the views without doing a ton of walking. These open-air jeeps are so much fun to ride in (especially if you do the off-roading portion!) and the guides are so knowledgeable about the area’s history and plant and animal life. You might even see a bear (from a safe distance), if you’re lucky! Plus, if you stay at Dollywood’s DreamMore and Spa, you can play like a kid and pay like a kid by enjoying Pink Jeep Tour at the kid’s price!
Titanic Museum Attraction
And speaking of history, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge is a MUST-DO excursion for your Smoky Mountain vacation if you love to learn about the past. Designed to look like the famous ocean liner, the Titanic Museum catches your eye as soon as you can see it from the parkway. Visitors are assigned a real-life passenger (sorry, not Jack or Rose) before venturing into the world of 1912. Guests will gaze upon artifacts, photos and learn the stories of those who boarded the fateful ship. There are interactive elements for kids, such as feeling the cold waters of that April night, and there are even nods to the blockbuster movie. At the end of your voyage, you will learn if your assigned passenger survived the ship’s sinking or was one of the 1,500 lives who were tragically lost.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
If you want to explore the depths of the oceans but from the heights of the mountains, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg puts you up close and personal with some of the most incredible creatures of the sea. Travel under the sea and explore the underwater world as you venture along a moving glidepath in Shark Lagoon. This underwater tunnel allows sharks, eels, sea turtles and other sea creatures to swim next to and above you! Visitors can touch a sting ray in Touch A Ray Bay or watch penguins waddle and swim in Penguin Playhouse. You might even see a mermaid! Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is the perfect excursion for Smoky Mountain vacations.
After exploring the depths of the ocean, what about traveling to the sky? Gatlingburg SkyBridge is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. Six-hundred and eighty feet across a deep valley, this bridge includes 30 feet of glass panels and is an adventure for everyone in the family. With breathtaking panoramic views of the mountains, this is an excursion you must add to your Smoky Mountain vacation.
With so many fun-filled options in the area to choose from, I hope I helped you narrow down what excursions you and your family will enjoy during your next Smoky Mountain vacation!