Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg – What’s the Difference?

It’s no secret that more and more families are flocking to the Smoky Mountains each year for the vacation of a lifetime. But they all wonder which is better: Gatlinburg vs. Pigeon Forge?

Planning a trip to the Great Smoky Mountain can be overwhelming. This vast and beautiful park is like no other and there is an endless list of things to do all season. What makes the trip planning even more difficult is that it is surrounded by the most beautiful towns, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge being two of the most popular for visitors.

But not to worry! Your search for answers to Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg is over. Follow along as we share more about each town’s layout, attractions, shows, shopping, and dining to help you decide.

Gatlinburg vs Pigeon Forge: Things to Consider


The distance between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is only about 7 miles, but these two beautiful Smoky Mountain towns couldn’t be any more different.

The major difference between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is their layout. Pigeon Forge is a much larger city, while Gatlinburg is more like a small town.

While Pigeon Forge is mountain adjacent, Gatlinburg is right in front of the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So in terms of space, there is a lot more room for Pigeon Forge to spread its attractions apart.

Many of Gatlinburg’s attractions are located on The Strip, a Parkway that is pedestrian-friendly and makes walking from place to place much more convenient than driving. Popular Gatlinburg attractions like Ober Gatlinburg and Anakeesta are even accessible from downtown. If you enjoy exploring a city on foot, you will feel right at home in Gatlinburg.

Related Post: Ober Gatlinburg vs Anakeesta – Which is Better?

Pigeon Forge also has its own version of The Strip, but given the loads of space that the city occupies, the attractions are more spread out. There are sidewalks everywhere, but you will see visitors and locals driving around from one destination to another compared to people in Gatlinburg. So folks, if you’re planning a trip to Pigeon Forge, you better bring a car, as the distance between attractions makes walking a wee bit difficult.

Of course, an alternative to driving is taking the trolley! Both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have a great trolley system, and for just a few dollars or with an unlimited pass, you can travel around town as much as you like.

aerial view of Anakeesta surrounded by trees with mountains in distance during day in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA
photo credit: Anakeesta via Facebook


Another major difference between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is the type of accommodations offered.

Planning to stay in Gatlinburg means having plenty of choices if you’re looking for a cabin rental. Gatlinburg is home to some of the best Gatlinburg cabin rentals and many of them feature impressive amenities like an in-cabin theatre room, hot tub, game room, and much more.

Cabin in the woods-themed inns and lodges can also be found in Gatlinburg, such as:

Even if there are dozens of beautifully-designed lodges, inns, and cabins in Gatlinburg, a majority of Great Smoky Mountain visitors still flock to Pigeon Forge.

There are more affordable accommodations available, whether you prefer a family-friendly hotel or an inn in a quiet setting.

Here are some of the Pigeon Forge hotels and lodging that offer great value and comfort:

Looking for more accommodation choices in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge? Take a pick between budget-friendly hotels and luxury resorts on Tripster.

exterior of Christmas Inn with pond with sprouting fountain in foreground surrounded by plants during day with blue sky in Pigeon Forge, Tennesee, USA
photo credit: The Inn at Christmas Place via Facebook

Activities and Attractions

A discussion about Gatlinburg TN vs Pigeon Forge will not be complete without comparing each other’s activities and attractions.

Without a doubt, there are more popular attractions in Pigeon Forge for families. The biggest draw in Pigeon Forge is Dollywood, a world-class theme park partly owned by Sevierville-born Hollywood celebrity Dolly Parton. Whether you want to ride a thrilling roller coaster or see the sparkling light arrangements at Christmas, Dollywood is a famous attraction year-round.

During the summer, visitors are also attracted to Dollywood s Splash Country, a massive water park for families right beside Dollywood. Have fun under the sun and splash to your heart’s content.

Pigeon Forge keeps the fun times going with tons of attractions located along the Pigeon Forge Parkway. The Titanic Museum, Beyond the Lens Family Fun, and Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show & Adventure Park are just three of the best family-friendly Pigeon Forge attractions to explore. Along the Parkway, you will find plenty of interesting museums, indoor kart tracks, and mini golfing.

Related Post: Things to Do in Pigeon Forge with Kids: 15 Fun Activities

For Gatlinburg, the city’s biggest draw is its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The most visited national park in the United States, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is right outside downtown Gatlinburg. Outdoor lovers love staying at Gatlinburg because it’s so near to experiences that they want to do such as horseback riding, hiking, whitewater rafting, and fishing. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers endless outdoor activities.

Of course, Gatlinburg is also home to popular man-made iconic attractions. The Gatlinburg Space Needle and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies are major hits. But if you want to make the most out of the picturesque Gatlinburg town, outdoor attractions that will take your breath away include:

These Gatlinburg outdoor attractions feature scenery and jampacked family fun you can’t find anywhere else.

Exterior view of the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge
Titanic Museum Attraction


If you enjoy theater and can say that you absolutely enjoy Thespian pursuits, you will love a visit to Pigeon Forge.

Pigeon Forge is home to hundreds of variety shows and musicals. The most popular for families is undoubtedly Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction. This thrilling show features jaw-dropping horse-riding stunts, aerial acts, spectacular special effects, lively musical productions, and much more to keep guests of all ages entertained over a delicious meal made for champions.

Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show is another unique performance that you can only find in Pigeon Forge. This show features thrilling, fast-paced competitions between real-life professional lumberjacks. tree climbing, chopping and sawing, axe throwing, and log rolling among other crazy antics of the Dawson and McGraw family feud.

Looking for great musicals and musical performances? Tap to the rhythm and sing along with these top-rated Pigeon Forge shows:

performers posing on stage at the Country Tonite show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USAShopping

When you go shopping in both towns, you’ll notice that the products offered are a little bit different in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

If you’re looking for designer bags at great prices, you’ll find the outlet shopping and deep discounts in Pigeon Forge more to your liking. It’s exciting to go on a bargain hunt in Pigeon Forge as you’ll never know what luxury brands you’ll take home! Tanger Outlets and the Pigeon Forge Factory Outlet are just two of the popular outlet shops in Pigeon Forge.

When it comes to specialty shops, Gatlinburg is hands down the winner. The Great Smoky Arts Crafts Community is located just outside of downtown and is a great place to find all sorts of things you never knew you needed.

A magic shop, a shop that sells hand-forged knives, and a specialty all-things-Christmas store are just some of the interesting finds you’ll enjoy when shopping in Gatlinburg. This small town is also a great place to shop for one-of-a-kind souvenirs, from handcrafted jewelry to airbrushed t-shirts.

Shopping stores in Gatlinburg TennesseDining

One thing visitors can count on whether in Gatlinburg or in Pigeon Forge is the abundance of food choices. Both towns offer great dining options, from family-style restaurants to steakhouses.

However, if you’re looking for a fine dining setup, you’ll find it in Downtown Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg tends to offer more higher-end restaurants that are perfect for a date night or special occasion.

In Pigeon Forge, kids and picky eaters will have more options. Not to mention that dinner attractions like Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Pirates Voyage Dinner, and Hatfield & McCoy have all called Pigeon Forge their homes for years.

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Vacation Packages

Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge? Which Smoky Mountain town will it be?

Gather your favorite attractions and experiences and bundle them all up with a Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Vacation Package!

You can build a Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge vacation by selecting attraction tickets and hotel choices in one transaction. Come to Pigeon Forge for world-class entertainment like Dollywood, then head over to Gatlinburg for one with nature activities, such as Rafting with Big Creek Expeditions!

Have the best Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge adventures!

Which Will You Choose?

Leave us a comment below!

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Written by Nicole King

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely...

2 comments about “Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg – What’s the Difference?”

Christine Crimm

October 18, 2021 at 4:48 am

Was w p during if there is a tourist guide brochure, coupon booklet and or a locations maps for Pidgon Forge and Gatlinburg. Also info for handicap accessibility. I use a mobility cart. We have never been to the area at all.


October 20, 2021 at 6:06 am

Christine, there are plenty of online resources for travel information for the Smokies, but if you are looking for physical brochures and coupon booklets, there is a visitor center located in both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Be sure to go to the official visitor center, however, or you’ll be on a timeshare tour before you know it.

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