6 Smokin’ Things to Do in the Tennessee Smokies This Fall

Must-Do Activities in the Tennessee Smokies This Fall

By Kelsey Thomas

The beginning of fall is such an exciting time in the Tennessee Smokies. The beauty of the leaves changing and the perfect weather makes for a perfect photo-opportunistic, nature-driven vacation. Whether you’re looking for exciting festivals to attend or would rather lay low and enjoy a relaxing hike in one of the nation’s most gorgeous national parks, you’ll never run out of things to do in the magnificent Tennessee Smoky Mountains. Here are our top 6 picks of events and activities to experience from now until the end of fall.

View Wildlife at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the best places to view wildlife in the Tennessee Smokies. Some animals you may be able to see include white-tailed deer, black bear, elk, turkeys, woodchucks and many other animals. They have two open areas, Cataloochee and Cades Cove, that are perfect for wildlife viewing.

great smoky mountains during fall season
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sept. 24 – Oct. 30, 2021: Dollywood’s Harvest Festival

Dollywood, a popular theme park joint owned by Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment, is located in the Knoxville-Smoky Mountains metroplex in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Every fall, the park transforms into a magical experience filled with playful days and illuminated nights. The festival features various live performances, as well as artisans and craftsmen that can demonstrate and sell their crafts.

Sept 24. – Oct. 31, 2021: Ober’s 12th Annual OktOBERrfest

This annual October event, held at Ober Ski Mountain in Gatlinburg, celebrates the traditions of the original OktOBERfest in Munich, Germany. Featured will be daily shows, updated food menus and even an outdoor bier garden! Try different brews with a $20 beer card or enjoy a delicious salted pretzel while listening to live music.

keg at Oktoberfest
Ober’s OktOBERfest

Go Leaf Peeping in Gatlinburg

The Smoky Mountains are known for their breathtaking array of colors that are painted throughout the mountains during the fall season. Any time between late September to late October is the best time to see this colorful phenomenon. Refer to the Gatlinburg Fall Foliage Report to know exactly what type of fall colors to expect and when.

Oct. 10, 2021: 5th Annual Chalkfest at the Island of Pigeon Forge

Calling all artists, professional or aspiring! This themed chalk drawing competition is a fun way to tune into your artistic side in the Smokies. Artists may bring their own chalk or use the chalk provided at the event. Awards will be presented for multiple prize categories at the Ole Smoky Moonshine Stage.

girl drawing with chalk
Chalkfest at the Island of Pigeon Forge

Find the Photogenic Spots

You are going to want to take a picture of everything you see in the Smokies. From the various waterfalls, like Abrams Falls or Rainbow Falls, to lookout spots like Chimney Tops or Newfound Gap, you are destined to capture some stunning images. You could even make a trip itinerary of all the places you wish to photograph.

Visit Pigeon Forge

While staying in Pigeon Forge, you are truly in the middle of all the excitement.

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The Island Ropes Course

When you need a break from shopping, reach new heights as you experience The Island Ropes Course

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Things to Do in Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge: The Center of Fun in the Smokies

Editorial supplied by the Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism

Welcome to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee! In our special corner of the Great Smoky Mountains, you’re never far from a huge variety of unique vacation experiences. Pigeon Forge is your perfect base camp for your Smoky Mountain vacation. We’re minutes away from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg and lots of amazing outdoor adventures. Here in Pigeon Forge, you have hundreds of places to shop ‘till you drop, attractions for the entire family, live shows for every taste and top-tier dining options.

Shows in Pigeon Forge

Whatever type of entertainment you’re looking for, you can find it in Pigeon Forge. Our little corner of the Smokies is nationally known for its world-class live entertainment. Featuring lumberjacks, cloggers, aerialists, vocalists, bluegrass bands, amazing choreography and so much more—there is a show for every genre.

Each show is filled with laughter, excitement and some good old southern hospitality, from the singing, dancing, comedy or drama. Entertainment in Pigeon Forge goes on year-round. During the holidays, shows have a special seasonal flair to them. No matter which you choose, you’re sure to have memories of these shows to share with friends and family back home.

Outdoor Adventure in Pigeon Forge

Thrill seekers will love the daring adventures that await in Pigeon Forge. From upside down rollercoasters to tubing, there are so many adrenaline-pumping activities to choose from. Looking for an unforgettable outdoor adventure? In Pigeon Forge you can find an adventure perfect for you, like whitewater rafting, horseback riding, ziplining, aerial tours, indoor skydiving, off-road tours and more—the only limit is your imagination!

More Things to Do in Pigeon Forge

Want to slow things down for a bit? In Pigeon Forge, you’ll also find a diverse variety of relaxing and fun activities, including putt-putt courses, go-carts, laser tag, arcades, aquariums and indoor ice skating. Take a break from the fast-paced entertainment by visiting one of the many museums in Pigeon Forge. Visit celebrities at the wax museum or discover something unusual at Ripley’s Believe It or Not. There’s something for everyone in the base camp of the Smokies!

Shopping in Pigeon Forge

Shopping continues at one of the 300-plus stores, boutiques and outlets. Pigeon River Crossings is an outlet mall with over 80 stores. Find great deals on clothing, accessories, shows and so much more. Don’t forget to pick up a handcrafted souvenir. A one-of-a-kind gift like blown glass, handmade pottery or another beautiful piece of arts and crafts makes the perfect gift for someone you know or yourself.

Speaking of handcrafted products, the Smokies is also the home of the first legal winery and moonshine distillery in the state of Tennessee. You can find a wide variety of wineries, distilleries and breweries throughout our area, most offering free samples to those wanting to give their products a try.

Restaurants in Pigeon Forge

Enjoy a handcrafted spirit at a locally owned restaurant. There are dozens of restaurants on or near the Parkway to satisfy every craving and budget. Enjoy dinner at a local barbecue joint or feast on seafood, steaks and Southern cuisine. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In Pigeon Forge, you will find over 50 kinds of pancakes. End your day with ice cream, a homemade pie or another dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Explore Cades Cove

Be sure to check out Cades Cove. You’ll find lots of things to do there like biking, hiking, camping, horseback riding, animal viewing and picnicking. Cades Cove features a one-way, 11-mile loop where you can see buildings dating back to the first European settlers, some of the most popular trails in the park and breathtaking views. The loop is open from sunrise to sunset. As you cruise along, going 20 miles per hour, take in the gorgeous views of the Smoky Mountains, as well as the wildlife, historic churches and more.

Take a Scenic Drive through Pigeon Forge

As you drive around these beautiful Smoky Mountains, take some time to really enjoy the view. Stop along one of the many scenic pullouts throughout the park. You’ll have panoramic views of the mountain streams, waterfalls and valleys. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail allows visitors to take in the remarkable views of the forest, rushing streams and historic buildings. Roaring Fork gets its name from one of the largest flowing mountain streams in the park. Be sure to have your camera ready because you never know when you’ll come across some of the park’s wildlife.

So, come spend some time with us this year in Pigeon Forge! We know you’ll just love our hometown hospitality and all the adventures you’ll have as you take our scenic byways to other delights in our surrounding mountain region. You could spend weeks here and still not see it all. So, what are you waiting for? Come on, and let’s get the show on the road! We’ll see you soon in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee—the vacation capital of the Smokies!

History of Pigeon Forge

In its earliest start, Pigeon Forge was a hunting ground for the Cherokee. The Cherokee followed what is now known as the “Indian Gap Trail,” which allowed them to cross the Smoky Mountains from North Carolina. Europeans later used the Indian Gap Trail to get to Pigeon Forge.

In 1783, Colonel Samuel Wear, a soldier of the Revolutionary War became one of the first permanent Euro-American settlers in the area. Wear built his fort in the Walden Creek and Little Pigeon River area. The area is now known as Wear’s Valley.

Mordecai Lewis, a pioneer, received a 151-acre land grant along the Little Pigeon River, following the Revolutionary War. Lewis used the land to build the now historic Old Mill. In 1817, Isaac Love, Lewis’ son-in-law, established an iron forge on the banks of the Little Pigeon River. The forge, along with the large amount of passenger pigeons flocking to the river, gave the town its name. These passenger pigeons were so numerous that the sky darkened when they flew through the valley. Although passenger pigeons are now extinct, the town of Pigeon Forge preserves the memory of that bygone era that recalls the rich diversity of life in this wilderness frontier.

The 1950s saw a tourism boom in Pigeon Forge. The green fields along the parkway were quickly being purchased for business development. Residents began seeing a new Parkway, different from what they had always known. Family-style restaurants, drive in theaters and motels opened to entice travelers. As years went on, more sophisticated attractions opened on the Parkway—much like what we see today.

While the mountain ranges of Pigeon Forge appear to be the same as when the Cherokee traversed the river path, the town itself has introduced modern attractions to complement the rustic, friendly resort atmosphere.


Top 15 Adventures in the Tennessee Smokies

From mountain tops to rushing rivers, there’s tons of adventures to get your adrenaline pumping and provide fun for the whole family.

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