Tourists walking the strip in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Let’s Compare Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for Your Next Getaway

If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway in the scenic Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee, you may be wondering which destination to choose: Gatlinburg vs. Pigeon Forge? While both towns offer a variety of attractions and activities, each has its own unique charm and personality.

Whether you’re planning a family vacation, a romantic retreat, or a solo adventure, read on to discover the pros and cons of each town and choose the perfect spot for your next Smoky Mountains vacation.

Why Are the Smoky Mountains so Great?

The Great Smoky Mountains is a range located in the southeastern United States, straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s part of the Appalachian Mountains and is known for its stunning natural beauty, diverse flora and fauna, and rich cultural history.

This part of Tennessee is also home to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is one of the most visited national parks in the country, drawing about 12 million visitors annually. The park boasts over 800 miles of hiking trails, scenic drives, waterfalls, and historic structures, providing visitors with endless opportunities to explore and discover.

The Great Smoky Mountains are home to numerous small towns and communities, including both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, which are known far and wide as a great travel destination for outdoor enthusiasts and families alike.

Lay of the Gatlinburg Land

U.S. Route 441 (also known as “The Parkway”) connects Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg (which are less than 10 miles apart, both in Sevier County).

Gatlinburg is a smaller mountain town with a more condensed layout, with more restaurants and shops closer together. It exudes that rural U.S.A. feel with attractions carved into hills and mountains all around. Gatlinburg’s also known for an area known as “the strip,” which starts at the intersection of Parkway and Ski Mountain Road and ends at Cherokee Orchard Road.

Pigeon Forge, on the other hand, is larger and more spread out, located in a narrow valley. If you want a more urban feel on your trip, Pigeon Forge is the way to go.

Thrills & Attractions

Both towns have their own unique qualities. Gatlinburg, in particular, is known for its scenic beauty and outdoor activities like hiking, fishing and skiing.


Walk across the Treetop Skywalk at this mountain top park in downtown Gatlinburg. Anakeesta offers dining, shopping, botanical gardens, ziplining and much more.

Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park & Ski Area

It’s the only ski resort in Tennessee, and there’s fun all year round at Ober Gatlinburg. Bumper cars, ice skating, skiing, water tubing and miniature golf are sure to keep you busy throughout the year.

Ripley’s Aquarium

Experience three stories of aquatic life in this aquarium and take a ride in a glass bottom boat.

SkyLift Park

The longest-running attraction in Gatlinburg, SkyLift Park has some of the best views in Gatlinburg – from the top!

Cades Cove

Get an up-close look at nature from your vehicle, via walkable trails or while camping at Cades Cove.

Gatlinburg Space Needle

Standing at just over 400 feet, this observation tower looks into downtown Gatlinburg and over the Smoky Mountains.

Pigeon Forge has its own excitement, too. To get around the Pigeon Forge Parkway, where a lot of shops and attractions are located, take the trolley (it’s less than $5)!

Dollywood’s Dolly Parton’s World

If you’re going to Pigeon Forge, it’s worth immersing yourself in Dolly Parton’s Dollywood. Talk about a theme park! Plus, there’s also Dollywood’s Splash Country, a water park and resort.


Learn more about the Titanic’s passengers and history of the famed ship through artifacts and galleries.

Wears Valley

Just west of Pigeon Forge, Wears Valley has a park entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a small area that provides stunning views of the mountains, particularly in the fall.


Another amusement park, all of the kid-friendly entertainment is indoors (42,000 square feet!) and full of educational experiments and other fun things for the family.

The Old Mill

Take in some history while you visit this mill that’s more than 200 years old – and still in operation! Milled grains are sold and even used in the site’s distillery in the downtown area.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

Both towns offer plenty of shopping options, with Gatlinburg home to more local artisan shops and boutiques, while Pigeon Forge has more outlet malls and chain stores.

Arts & Crafts

Enjoy crafts and food on the 8-mile loop just east of Gatlinburg that makes up the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community, which is also known as the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community.


Tanger Outlets is a 10-minute drive from Pigeon Forge in nearby Sevierville.

Nightlife & Food

While both towns offer some incredible dining and nightlife options, Gatlinburg has a more laid-back atmosphere with cozy bars and live music venues.

Crystelle Creek

Enjoy a scenic view while eating American cuisine at this Gatlinburg restaurant.

Three Jimmy’s

More American plates and barbecue are served up at Three Jimmy’s, with regular live music.


Draft beer, spirits and live music along with karaoke every night at the Shamrock.

Ole Smoky Moonshine

Visit the most-visited distillery in the country at the Holler in Gatlinburg. Learn how moonshine is made, then head to the Barrelhouse and check out the whiskey.

In Pigeon Forge, there are places to cut a rug or just enjoy an adult beverage, whether you’re looking for a party scene or just a night out on the town.

Funky Buddha

If you’re in a group of adults, the Funky Buddha is a great spot. This sports bar and lounge offers music, open patio, drinks and Asian-American food.

Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction

Enjoy theatrics during your four-course dinner, like horse stunts and music.

Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show

The Hatfield and McCoy’s generations-long feud is reenacted at this dinner show with stunts and comedy mixed in, not to mention an all-you-can-eat homestyle dinner.

The Barn

Another Ole Smoky location but in Pigeon Forge, enjoy live music while trying out moonshine and whiskey.

There are also pancake houses like Log Cabin Pancake House and Pancake Pantry, both in Gatlinburg. In Pigeon Forge, there’s Smoky Mountain Pancake House, Red Rooster Pancake House and Reagan’s House of Pancakes.

Where to Stay

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer a wide variety of lodging options for visitors, including hotels, motels, cabins, lodges, resorts, and campgrounds.

Gatlinburg Cabins

You’re already planning a trip of a lifetime visiting Gatlinburg, so you might as well stay in a cabin! Get the authentic Smoky Mountain experience you’re looking for, whether it’s a romantic getaway with hot tubs and a mountain view or a sprawling cabin for a large group of friends or family.

Pigeon Forge Cabin Rentals

Cabins are still the way to go in Pigeon Forge, nestled in the hills and mountains.

Use Our Website to Plan Your Trip

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are two of the most famous tourist destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains. Both offer similar attractions and accommodations, but each has a distinct personality.

If you want to stay close to nature or enjoy some peace and quiet away from all the hustle and bustle of city life, then we suggest choosing Gatlinburg vs. Pigeon Forge as your destination. For even more great info, be sure to check out Relax Gatlinburg so you can make the most of your trip. We’ll see you soon!