PIGEON FORGE / GATLINBURG
Tennessee / Smoky Mountains
A dedicated news page for all the Minor Attractions and
Resort Properties in the greater Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg /
Smoky Mountains area.
Note - For Dollywood news, see our dedicated park page here.
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(10/13/18) Rocky Top Mountain Coaster Timeline Update
(10/12/18) Second Rowdy Bear Location Coming To Pigeon Forge (MORE...)
(10/11/18) Celebration Christmas Show and Anakeesta Mountain Coaster Update
(10/9/18) Two New Pirates Dinner Theater Shows Invade In 2019 - Pirates Voyage and Pirates Revenge
Read Screamscape’s Detailed Attraction, Show and Resort Reviews Here!
General Area News - (10/11/18) While the Celebration dinner show will soon be replaced by Pirates Voyage in 2019, the theater will kick off their “Christmas Celebration” show on October 19 which will run through Jan. 5, 2019. The show is described as a Celebration version of The Nutcracker and the classic “12 Days of Christmas”.
(7/11/18) According to a reader who just visited The Island in Pigeon Forge, the new Spinning Parrot compact spinning coaster is now set up and according to employees it could have opened sometime on Tuesday if all went well. If you pass by, take a look and see if it is open.
UPDATE - Confirmed, it opened on July 13th.
(6/1/18) A new report over at CoasterNation confirms that a new Mini Spinning Coaster ride is coming to The Island at Pigeon Forge in the near future. Like most of the other attractions there, this will be from SBF VISA Group and is said to be 14 feet tall, and with 16 passenger trains. If I had to guess, this would be one of their Compact Spinning Coaster systems, a figure-eight shaped layout with a spinning 16-passenger train. They had one on display at IAAPA 2017 in Orlando when I visited and my son took a test spin on it and said it was a pretty fun ride for the size.
(1/12/18) I'm really surprised by this bit of news, but it seems as of today Dolly Parton's DIXIE STAMPEDE dinner theater attractions have officially changed their name and dropped "DIXIE". The new official name is now “Dolly Parton's Stampede”. The signs outside the theaters have already been changed apparently and the former dixiestampede.com website will now take you to pdstampede.com instead for a new website showing the new logo.
As for the show itself… it seems the whole “The North vs The South” theme is still alive and well… not no more "Dixie". According to official statements from Dolly and the company, they are changing the name not just as a sign of the times, but because they are also looking to open new venues for the show in markets outside of their current one, which has theaters in Pigeon Forge, TN and Branson, MO. There was once a Dixie Stampede in Orlando, FL and the Dixie Stampede in Myrtle Beach, SC was changed a few years ago to take on a Pirate theme and is now called Pirate’s Voyage.
My take? I'm not quite sure how I feel about this... I think I’m more confused than anything else. Is Dixie a bad term? Always thought it was just a nickname for the southern states, but never felt there was any racism attached to it myself, but growing up in California and not in The South, maybe I was simply misinformed. Thinking back though… many years back I remember when Walt Disney World also dropped the name “Dixie Landings” from one of their major resorts, and simply let it be absorbed into the nearby Port Orleans resort rather than try to give it a new name. These days the former Disney’s Dixie Landings Resort is now known simply as the “Riverside” half of Disney’s Port Orleans Resort.
So back to Dolly Parton’s Stampede… will the name change ruin the experience for me? Certainly not… it is an excellent show that still offers the best tasting food I’ve ever had at a dinner theater anywhere, and the new name still ties in very well with Dolly’s reputation in the Pigeon Forge area where they just rebranded the old Lumberjack show last season as “Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventures”.
2017 - Rowdy Bear Mountain - New Rowdy Bear Mountain alpine coaster now open, Mountain Glider coaster zip line coming Late 2017 / Early 2018 to Gatlinburg.
(3/23/18) The Rowdy Bear Mountain attraction in Gatlinburg has finally opened their new Mountain Glider attraction it seems. You can see a POV video of the action posted to YouTube embedded below.
(10/14/17) Back in late July I took a trip up to the Gatlinburg area and stopped by to shoot and ride the newest Alpine Coaster in the area at The Rowdy Bear Mountain which had just opened. The attraction will eventually be home to two attractions when they ad the side-by-side tracks for the Mountain Glider attraction, but during my visit construction had not yet started on this second attraction. The building was built to accommodate it with a separate loading platform on the level above where the Alpine Coaster loads, but as of my visit I was told they were still waiting for the parts to be shipped over from overseas. It's my understanding that they are now arriving and construction will begin soon, if it hasn't already, so expect this second attraction to open sometime between the end of 2017 to Spring 2018.
For now, check out the POV video I shot of the Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster below, which like the nearby Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, they are a lot shorter rides than the pair of Alpine Coasters in nearby Pigeon Forge, but they do pack some good thrills into that shorter ride layout. I just think they would benefit from price cutting the experience by about half in order to lure in bigger crowds and more riders rather than charging the same or more than the longer Pigeon Forge attractions.
While I don't have exact track length data, based on run-time, from the top of the lift to the main brake run at the bottom, I'd say Rowdy Bear layout is slightly shorter than the nearby Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, taking maybe 50 to 60 seconds to make the run with no brakes instead of just over a minute. (For rough reference, the Goat Coaster takes about 90 seconds and Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster takes almost 2 minutes.)
No matter which you ride, I do have a tip for you... download and check the GroupOn app on your mobile device. Many of the Alpine Coasters in the area seemed to offer extremely discounted ticket offers that you wont want to miss taking advantage of, which could sway your opinion on which ride to take. Now if only someone would come up with a single discounted ticket that would include a ride on EACH of them over a couple-day period of time... that would be fantastic!
(4/20/17) I mentioned awhile back that another new Alpine Coaster was coming to Gatlinburg not far from the Hillbilly Golf attraction and we've got a website now for it. The attraction is called "The Rowdy Bear Mountain" and not only will it feature the new Gravity Coaster (alpine coaster), but also a wild zip-coaster style attraction called The Mountain Glider allowing you to soar through the treetops of Rowdy Bear Mountain. According to the project's Facebook page, they are planning to open sometime in May 2017. I "borrowed" a couple of images off their Facebook page to share with everyone (hope they don’t mind), but to see more visit them yourself as well. Menawhile, if anyone passes by, send in a couple of photos yourself from the ground level.
Late 2017/2018 - Anakeetsa / Rail Runner Mountain Coaster - (10/11/18) According to this article the Rail Runner Mountain Coaster at Anakeesta opened briefly before shutting down due to some kind of issue. Whatever the issue what, Anakeesta says the problem has been resolved, the ride has passed new inspections and is ready to reopen in the very near future, so keep an eye out for it if you are visiting Gatlinburg.
(7/19/18) Good news for alpine coaster fans as Gatlinburg is nearly ready to open their latest addition. "The Rail Runner Mountain Coaster" is said to be in the final stages of testing at the Anakeesta attraction atop the Chondola sky lift. The Rail Runner is a different style alpine coaster from the rest in the area though... this one uses a single rail system that is said to be the first such design in the US.
Watch the video below to catch some footage of the ride being tested and of the station which is actually at the TOP of the ride, so instead of starting off with a large lift-hill, your experience will end with the lift back to the top. From the look of thing, the manufacture of this single rail system is named Brandauer, and you can find an online brochure for the ride system here.
Look for it to open sometime in August if all goes well.
(6/10/17) An interesting article about how things are progressing at the Anakeesta construction site in Gatlinburg was posted to the site this week, where they talk with some of the people building the attractions about the unique challenges of working on the site, including random weather troubles, and curious bears traveling through the site, once of which even chose to climb into the back of a worker's truck one day. They say they are now hiring staff and are still on track to open sometime in mid-summer 2017. (Update - As of a trip in late August, it still has not opened, though the aerial tram ride station on the main strip looks about finished.)
(4/20/17) I've been meaning to mention this for awhile, but there is an interesting new major development taking place in Gatlinburg right now called Anakeetsa. From the sound of things Anakeesta is a mixed use development project that will not only have a 2.1-acre street presence on the parkway, somewhere across the street from Ripley's Aquarium off traffic light #5, but also have a 70-acre development up the mountainside which guests can reach via a scenic gondola lift ride.
From what I've been led to understand the project broke ground earlier this year and will feature an interesting single-rail alpine coaster attraction, the previously mentioned 12-minute scenic lift ride that will be called the "Chondola" that will offer a mixture of open quad-chairlift style seating or enclosed 6-seat gondoals, plus other "tree top activities for guests of all ages".
At the top you will encounter the "shopping or dining at the tree house themed Firefly Village, walking the 20 bridge spans of the tree top canopy walk, exploring the birds of prey exhibit, riding a single rail mountain coaster, dual racing zip lines", or a treehouse themed adventure playground.
Look for Anakeesta to open Summer 2017 if all goes well and beyond that in Phase 2 they are planning to add tree-house themed rooms you can stay in as well as well as a wedding chapel.
2018?? - Mountain Monster - (1/15/18) An exciting new attraction and retail center is coming to Pigeon Forge, set to open as early as June 2018. The general site is being called Mountain Mile, a large 180,000 sqft retail and entertainment complex that will feature a new unique attraction in the center of it all called Mountain Monster. Built by world famous attraction designer, Stan Checkettes, the Mountain Monster tower will include three new thrill ride experiences coming off the 200 foot tall tower. I believe the three rides, all from Stan's Soaring Eagle Rides company, will be a Saddle Sling air-launch ride, a Daring Drop tower plunge and the first tower-based installation of their "Dive Ride" concept, which I believe was first built at the Cave of the Winds canyon in Colorado under the name Terror-Dactyl. That version was built to swing you out over a large canyon, but according to comments from Stan in an interview at IAAPA with Coaster Addict (see video below), you'll rise to the top of the tower, lean out until you are looking straight down at the ground, and then get released and fly across the parking lot over the Mountain Mile. (See the second video below to see what the Terror-Dactyl is like to get an idea of what's in store for you at the top of the Mountain Monster.
Construction on the attraction is set to begin late March to early April, so if all goes well this should be thrilling guests this summer. As for the Mountain Mile complex, the website says it will ride along Teaster Lane and Jake Tomas Blvd, which I believe is the road up to the new Cal Ripken Experience baseball park and will also take over the former Belz Mall site which is already being taken down.
2018 - Margaritaville Resort in the Smokies: Gatlinburg - Under Construction - (2/1/17) Would you believe yet ANOTHER Margaritaville Resort is coming to the area? I missed this announcement that was made back in December (probably due to all the fire news at the time) but it has been confirmed that a Margaritaville Resort and LandShark Restaurant will be coming to Gatlinburg in 2018.
Margaritaburg, LLC, a group of local investors associated with the owners of The Island in Pigeon Forge (and their Margaritaville Hotel) have purchased a five-acre island like piece of property surrounded by the Pigeon River, right in the heart of Gatlinburg next to the No Way Jose's restaurant and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, where they will build a 7-story 174-room hotel with a 4,000 sqft outdoor pool and play area, a St. Somewhere Spa, other Margaritaville themed shops and amenities and will be connected to a LandShark restaurant across the river right on the Parkway where the former Hard Rock Cafe Gatlinburg used to be.
The $35 million "Margaritaville Resort in the Smokies" project is already under construction and the previously existing Best Western hotel that was on the site has already been torn down. Look for LandShark to open sometime in mid 2017 and the new resort expect to open as early as July 2018. Much like rooms in the Pigeon Forge resort, they claim all the rooms will feature fireplaces, wet bars and each stocked with an official Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker for your own use.
2019 - Rocky Top Mountain Coaster - (10/13/18) According to this new video about the Rocky Top Mountain Coaster posted on Friday the 12th claims that the attraction will be ready to open within the next 30-45 days.
(10/10/18) Anyone been by the Rocky Top Mountain Coaster lately to see how far along they are? According to the latest Twitter posts, they claim that “there’s something spooky on the mountain”, which seems to imply that the attraction will be open by or before Halloween. Meanwhile another tweets reveals more details about the ride itself, claiming it will feature four tunnels, four 360º turns and 4 lift hills.
(10/5/18) A tweet posted by the new Rocky Top Mountain Coaster account shows off an animated preview of what their station will look like, but unfortunately no peek at that layout of the actual ride itself just yet. Curiously they say, “Get ready to ride this fall!”, but since it is already “Fall”, it makes me wonder if they are really that close to being finished or not. If you are in the area and can grab a pic of their progress so far, please do send it in.
(9/13/18) A quick update on that new Alpine Coaster spotted going up in Pigeon Forge. According to a source the attraction will be called the Rocky Top Mountain Coaster, and they even have a temporary teaser website at rockytopcoaster.com. The early word from their Facebook page it will be the longest mountain coaster "in Eastern Tennessee.and the South-Eastern United States." They say there will be themeing used along the route, including four tunnels for the coaster.
(9/12/18) Another new Alpine Coaster is currently under construction in Pigeon Forge, this one can be found on Veterans Blvd, as you pass from the main drag in Pigeon Forge just before you get to Dollywood. One of our readers was in the area not long ago and sent in some pictures.
Based on the photos, if this is the entire Alpine Coaster shown here, then this isn't a very big one at all, especially when compared to the area's other rides. But I'm hoping it goes much further back off the road than what we can see here. Anyone know more?
2019 - Pirates Voyage - (10/9/18) Dolly Parton is changing the former Smoky Mountain Adventures dinner theater attraction in Pigeon Forge once again. If you remember the venue itself, located next to The Island at Pigeon Forge, started off as the home to the Lumberjack Feud show under different ownership back in 2011. Dolly’s group bought it and transformed it into “Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure” for the 2016 season, only to change it again into the previously mentioned Smoky Mountain Adventures name in 2017. I didn’t catch what happened in 2018 myself, but it changed again to some strange new show called Celebrate that features a lot of Cirque style acts with a cast dressed up more as circus performers and clowns, but now that show has come to a close and the venue will undergo the biggest change yet.
In 2019 the site will become the second Pirates Voyage location. The first Pirates Voyage came into being almost a decade ago in the North Myrtle Beach area when they decided to transform the existing Dixie Stampede dinner theater into something entirely new and unique. Pirates Voyage has been wildly successful on the coast and now they have decided to bring the fun to the Pigeon Forge area next Spring.
“When complete, the 21,000 square foot arena, adjacent to The Island in Pigeon Forge, will be the stage for Crimson and Sapphire pirates to battle on deck, in the water and in the sky above their full-sized pirate ships in a 15-foot-deep indoor lagoon. Spectacular acrobatic competitions, live animals and an original music score by Parton and Mark Brymer creates an immersive adventure experience all while guests enjoy a spectacular four-course pirate feast.”
2019 - Pirates Revenge - (10/9/18) 2019 will be known as the year the Pirates invaded Pigeon Forge, as the same day that Dolly Parton announced that they will bring their Pirates Voyage dinner theater show to their venue located next to The Island at Pigeon Forge, the Fee/Hedrick Family Entertainment Group also announced their own pirate themed show is coming to Pigeon Forge in 2019.
Fee/Hedrick is the group behind the awesome Comedy Barn and Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show shows in the area, and will perform a $20 million transformation of the current Smoky Mountain Opry theater on the North side of town into the new “Pirates Revenge Dinner and Show” attraction, opening in Summer 2019. Once the permits are approved, construction is set to begin as early as this November, though the scheduled “Christmas at the Smoky Mountain Opry” show will proceed as usual.
When complete the new Pirates Revenge show will feature a retractable water stage said to be the largest in the Southeast, moving ships and other unique features being designed just for this show project. The show itself will feature actors, stunt divers, acrobats, singers, dancers as well as live animals.
If the plans are approved as shown, the outside of the theater will have a spectacular themed look to it, complete with unique features and special effects sure to make it stand out, much like Fee/Hedrick’s Hatfield & McCoy theater building down the road. The existing Magic Beyond Believe show will move from this theater to a stand-alone site located across the street from the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud. They also hope to relocate the Smoky Mountain Opry Show to a new location as well, but that has yet to be determined.
2019/2020 - Pigeon Forge Rowdy Bear Mountain - (10/12/18) It appears that another Rowdy Bear Mountain themed attraction is coming, this time to the Pigeon Forge area. A small sign has apparently been up for a couple of months on a large site that is currently only occupied by a single house, but has a bunch of open property behind it that isn’t far from the Titanic attraction. It seems across from the Howard Johnson hotel, located between the Memories Theater and Local Goat restaurant.
The sign on site reads, “FUTURE HOME of another Great Adventure Park by Rodby Bear Mountain, Home of the World’s First Mountain Glider”. The sign can be clearly read in Google Map’s Street View image taken back in May 2018, and a reader sent in an overhead view of the entire site to show how large it is.
The original Rowdy Bear Mountain site opened the the first phase (an Alpine Coaster) of their Gatlinburg location in mid-2017, followed by the opening of the Mountain Glider attraction in early 2018. Keep an eye on this new Pigeon Forge location going forward to spot any sign of new construction. In the meantime click here to see our POV video of the original Rowdy Bear Alpine Coaster.
New 2017 Attractions Now Open in Pigeon Forge Area -
Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventures Dinner & Show - Renamed and revamped version of last year’s Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure show.
Rowdy Bear Mountain - New alpine coaster in Gatlinburg opened late summer, Mountain Glider attraction coming soon.
New 2016 Attractions Now Open in Pigeon Forge Area -
Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure - Dolly bought the old Lumberjack Feud dinner theater attraction and has remade it into an all new dinner show, located down next to The Island, featuring good entertainment, good food and great fun. Read our official review here.
Top Jump - A new attraction in Pigeon Forge has opened a few weeks ago called Top Jump, featuring the largest "Clip 'n Climb" installation in the USA. They also feature a Trampoline Park (complete with Dodgeball game) a candy store and an arcade. Look for it on the main drag just before Dollywood Lane when driving in from Gatlinburg.
New 2015 Attractions Now Open in Pigeon Forge Area -
Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen / The Island at Pigeon Forge - The infamous Paula Deen has opened a Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen location in Pigeon Forge. Her new joint will be right in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, across from the new fountain display at The Island in Pigeon Forge. The food is good and the portion sizes are very large, but as you would expect the prices are a bit high as well. They do serve an interesting breakfast menu as well.
Ober Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster - Opened in August, the cost to ride will be $15 for one ride (age 3 and up) and $36 if you want to pre-purchase 3 rides (for the same rider only). However there is one more factor to consider if you want to ride this newest thriller. Walking into Ober Gatlinburg is a little difficult, as you first have to get yourself to the top of the mountain, with the primary way for most people being a $12 round-trip ride on the Aerial Tramway up from Gatlinburg proper. Note: If you can find your way, you can get directions to drive to the top of mountain and park directly at Ober Gatlinburg in the warmer months of the year, though you will have to pay $5 for parking. They claim a track length of aprox. 3750 feet (1000 feet up, 2750 feet down.
New 2014 Attractions Now Open in Pigeon Forge Area -
The Coaster at Goats On The Roof (aka: The Goat Coaster) - The Goat Coaster clocks in at 4,375 feet in length, so it's a little shorter than the nearby Smoky Mt Alpine Coaster down the road which is 5,400 feet, but it is also quite a bit longer than the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster which is just 3,280 feet. That said... I found the downhill portion of the new Goat Coaster to not only be much faster, but also a much more aggressive layout. The course weaves back and forth across the hillside, but frequently approaches the cliff-style edge of the mountain at high speed, which is a sure-fire clinch-up moment where you want to pull back on the throttle and ride the brake for a second or two... just in case.
Don't miss it! It's a blast!
Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster - The third new Alpine Coaster attraction to open in the area, but the first in Gatlinburg, located between the Davy Crocket Mini Golf and Hillbilly Mini Golf attractions.
New 2013 Attractions Now Open in Pigeon Forge Area -
Great Smoky Mountain Wheel / The Island at Pigeon Forge - It took a few years but the new retail / attraction development now known at The Island at Pigeon Forge has finally opened and looks fantastic. There are a few gift shops, the Timberwood Grill restaurant, a huge arcade and the highlight of course that you can see for miles is The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, a 200 foot tall observation wheel giving you a unique view of the Pigeon Forge / Smoky Mountain landscape. The wheel features 42 climate controlled gondolas which will make three full revolutions during your ride experience which will take between 8-10 minutes. The huge attraction is covered with a 24,000 square-foot network of LEDS that will put on a spectacular lightshow seen all around Pigeon Forge after dark.
Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster - Opened in early August, built into the mountain terrain, it is about half a mile or so off the main drag down Wears Valley Road. This is probably the most exciting attraction built in the Pigeon Forge area outside of Dollywood in years so don’t miss it.
New 2012 Attractions Now Open in Pigeon Forge Area -
Castle of Chaos & Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors - Now open next to the Hollywood Wax Museum, featuring a large mirror maze attraction and the Castle of Chaos 5D Interactive shot ‘em up haunt style attraction. Admission ticket specials are available in combinations with the Hollywood Wax Museum.
Hollywood Wax Museum - (3/1/11) According to this article the company behind the former Hollywood Wax Museum in Gatlinburg will open a new wax museum attraction in Pigeon Forge at the site of the former Dinosaur Walk Museum. The new 30,000 sqft attraction will be the largest of its kind when it opens in 2012.
Lumberjack Feud - (3/29/11) An interesting new dinner show will be opening on Pigeon Forge this June called the Lumberjack Feud, which will feature a 1000-seat arena. The show “will follow the fictional story of two families that worked together in felling the trees of the Smokies until tragedy strikes and a wedge is driven between them. The climax of the show will be a contest between the two sides to determine who gets to stay on in the mountains and who must leave.” The show also has their own Facebook page.
The Smokey Mountain Opry Theater - The Smokey Mountain Opry Theater opens in March, replacing the former Miracle Theater. This new production comes from the same group behind the Hatfield & McCoy, Comedy Barn and Country Jamboree Breakfast shows.
Titanic Museum Update - The Titanic Museum will upgrade a few things this year to mark the passing of the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15th, 2012. A new exhibit about the making of James Cameron’s Titanic film will be added.
The Tomb - A new themed interactive Egyptian tomb attraction at Walden’s Landing (home of Firehouse Golf). Getting in to the tomb is easy… getting out? Not so much… Looks to be a nice unique addition to the area that would be fun to experience with a group of friends.
Wonders of Flight - Wonders of Flight, a large tethered hot air balloon ride will be added to WonderWorks. The balloon will be from Aerophile, the same company Disney has used in Paris and Walt Disney World, and will be able to lift 30 passengers 400 feet into the air for a view of the Smokey Mountains. Details and ticket prices can be found here at the official site.
Screamscape Reviews - A collection of our most recent area attraction and resort reviews
Dixie Stampede (2016)
Margaritaville Island Hotel (2015)
The Comedy Barn (2015)
Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show (2015)
The Tomb (2014)
Wilderness at the Smokies (2014)
Dixie Stampede - Review by Lance Hart
(9/25/16) While visiting Dollywood over the summer I had the chance to stop in a enjoy the latest version of Pigeon Forge's premier dinner show, Dixie Stampede. Over the years I've seen the show a couple of times... once or twice before in Pigeon Forge and I even got to see the Orlando version while it was open. The nice thing about the Dixie Stampede show is that it keeps evolving over the years, not only adding new acts to the show, but also great new technical additions to improve the overall show experience.
Case in point, the theater has added a great looking video-wall that acts as a huge virtual set / backdrop at the far end of the theater. This allows them to create some new and unique atmosphere options that were simply not possible before, which adds greatly to the show experience, without being so over the top that it takes your attention away from the performers.
In addition to incredible choreographed musical numbers, including both horse and riders, the show also features several fun musical acts, enjoyable competition elements to get the crowd cheering for their side, as well as some hairy looking stunt performances as well, including a rider who jumps through a ring of fire. On top of it all, there is the comedy elements that are just genuinely funny. In fact, it may be the comedy moments that stick with you the most, as these acts are usually headlined by the antics of "Skeeter", the lovable redneck who has just great timing with his punch lines.
As always the food is plentiful and oh so tasty, which just adds to the great value of the show itself. Plus it was great to watch my kids be enthralled by the show, the performers, animals, the music and more. Such a perfect way to end a long day in Pigeon Forge too.
Margaritaville Island Hotel - Review by Lance Hart
(3/23/15) Welcome to the fourth and final installment about the great and fairly new things to see and do in the Pigeon Forge, TN area this year. While the three previous chapters were all about your evening entertainment options, today Screamscape takes a look at a great new resort that just opened a few months ago… the Margaritaville Island Hotel built at the very heart of The Island in Pigeon Forge.
While most hotels in Pigeon Forge are just about what you would expect from a generic hotel stay, the Margaritaville Island Hotel strives to be different, offering a very high quality experience while bringing the relaxing and laid back Jimmy Buffet / Margaritaville attitude to the Smoky Mountains. This is presented to you right away as you pull your car up and are met by friendly staff in Hawaiian style shirts to help you unload your car. Walking down the path to the lobby you may catch glimpse of guests hanging out by the outdoor fire-pit… and keep in mind that they do offer S’mores kits in the lobby! Once inside you’ll find a relaxing room with big chairs to hang out in by a huge indoor fireplace, a great little coffee shop with bakery items to the left, and the pathway to the Latitudes bar just ahead, to the right of the front desk. Oh… and if you were wondering, the official Margaritaville restaurant is just across the driveway from the hotel, so you can’t miss it.
While the hotel does have free self-parking, it can be a bit of a walk, so I’d highly recommend using the $10 / night Valet Parking service. The staff is great, and you can call down from your room just before you walk out to have them bring your car up front anytime. Just tell them you want to use it when you check in and they’ll add it onto your account. Margaritaville Island Hotel has several different room options to choose from, which you can see from their official website, but to make the most sense of these options you’ll have to understand a bit more about The Island in Pigeon Forge itself.
While The Island in Pigeon Forge started out as a very different style project before stalling out during the economic downfall and changing owners and developers several times over the years, what they have now built and open is really far better than what was originally planned for the site. The entire property is visually anchored by The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, standing 200 feet tall and covered with a great lighting package that makes it visible throughout most of the Pigeon Forge tourist corridor, day or night. Surrounding the Wheel is a well landscaped entertainment zone that offers retail, dining and unique entertainment offerings.
In addition to a couple of smaller rides, The Island currently also offers Arcade City (a large and well run arcade), the Interactive 7D Adventure ride, as well as Island Mirror Maze (which also offers a Laser Maze and Atomic Rush). There are plenty of small shops to browse throughout The Island (with many more on the way) including stores for sweets, toys, puzzles and even a large Build-A-Bear. For the adults, The Island also offers a brand new location for Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine which can show you how “shine” is made on site, as well as give you an extensive taste test of the various fun flavors and variants they've come up with. It is worth mentioning that Ole Smoky has been cooking up some fun seasonal flavors that are good. During my visit they had a tasty Butterscotch flavor, an Orange creamsicle flavored version and the best of all was an incredible Pumpkin Pie flavored one. New flavors are always in the works, and I’ve heard about previous limited runs of Eggnog and Cinnamon flavors, so you never know what kind of treat you may be in for. (note: Ole Smoky also offers a pretty kick butt BBQ sauce that has become a favorite in my family… so keep your eyes open for that too.)
Restaurants is also a place where The Island shines bright, serving as the local site for popular eateries like Mellow Mushroom, Timberwood Grill, Dick’s Last Resort, Margaritaville (of course!) and coming very soon in 2015 is Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen.
Now picture the Margaritaville Island Hotel built in the heart of this complex with all the rooms built up on the second floor, either overlooking the shopping corridor of The Island, or with a River view to the rear, or a Fountain View on the front side, where your rooms overlook a small lake area full of colorful lit fountains that dance to music throughout the day and into the evening. The hotel also features a rooftop pool and jacuzzi area with rentable cabanas, and nearby there is also a large fitness center.
The rooms styles at the Margaritaville Island Hotel vary by layout as well as view options (see the official website to choose) but each comes with a unique feature I’ve never seen anywhere else… an official Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker in each room. For those who are chomping at the bit to make your own in-rooms Margaritas, I do have an important tip for you. Local laws don’t allow for the sale of hard alcohol in Pigeon Forge itself (other than special rules that allow the local Moonshine places to run as long as they make it on site) so you’ll probably either need to bring a bottle of your favorite tequila from home, or stop by one of the liquor stores in Gatlinburg. There was a card in the room about how you can make a Moonshine based beverage as well if you just want to walk over to Ole Smoky. Either way, you can sit out on the balcony and enjoy your beverage of choice from the comfort of your room… an experience made especially more cool if you have a Fountain View room to provide you with an awesome bit of scenery.
Other fantastic features of the rooms are the attractive stacked-stone fireplaces, comfortable beds and chairs, and perhaps my favorite thing of all was the dual-head rain showers. Seriously… I could have spent an hour in the shower alone. It is also worth mentioning that the complimentary bathroom items provided are also well known brand items and not just generic. Each of the rooms also come with free WiFI, a small wet bar with a fridge and microwave, a Keurig coffee maker, lighten mirrors, hair dryer, alarm clock/iPod dock and a 40” flat screen HDTV. The later has an assortment of plugs and inputs in the wall for if you want to stream content to the TV from your own laptop, tablet or smart-phone, so don’t forget to bring along a spare HDMI cable.
Whatever your needs are, trust me, you will be extremely comfortable at the Margaritaville Island Hotel. In fact, this brought to mind another great realization during my stay here… that there is so much to see and do nearby, you can actually just leave the car and walk to a great number of things. I’m not just talking about Margaritaville next door or the other features of The Island, but you are within easy walking distance of other great entertainment options like the Lumberjack Feud show, the Comedy Barn show, Happy Days Diner, Stages West western wear, TGI Fridays, Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride, along with many other tourist shops and eateries. In the past I always found myself driving up and down the parkway, several times a day on most visits… but on this trip I found that I was perfectly fine relaxing either at the Margaritaville Island Hotel, at The Island, or taking a stroll over for a show in the evening at a nearby theater instead… completely car free.
The Comedy Barn - review by Lance Hart
(2/28/15) For the third part on my Pigeon Forge series I’m going to talk about an attraction that is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year… The Comedy Barn. If you’ve been to Pigeon Forge before you know you've seen it... either on the billboards or passing by the large red building in the middle of the parkway. While it sticks out, it also had an unfortunate effect to blend in with the other assorted mess of crazy shops, tourist traps and attractions. Truth be told, before my latest trip to Pigeon Forge, I had always wondered about The Comedy Barn, but I never had any serious intention to stop in and find out. I’m happy to report what a colossal mistake I had been making all these years, and one many of you are also probably guilty of.
The site itself has some history, as The Comedy Barn began with the purchase of the closed Archie Campbell’s Hee Haw Theater, which was already themed to look like a barn, so when the founders: David Fee and Jim Hedrick, bought it, they decided to run with it and renamed it The Comedy Barn Theater when it opened in 1995. A year later they had experienced almost nightly sellout shows and decided to build their own new theater in the middle of the parkway, and kept The Comedy Barn name and theme.
As the name implies, The Comedy Barn is an comedy show held in the evenings that will feature a little pre-show entertainment, some musical acts, an intermission and several different comedy acts that were all original and hysterical. There are also an assortment of comedians on staff at The Comedy Barn so who you see perform there one night may be entirely different from who you see on your next trip, which is great as it keeps things fresh for repeat visitors.
Another awesome feature of the Comedy Barn, no matter who is performing, is that the comedy is kept CLEAN. This is a family friendly show that you can feel entirely comfortable in bringing both young children and grandparents alike to come see.
Open year round, The Comedy Barn puts on one or two shows nightly and is offered at a great discount rate right how as part of a combo ticket offer for the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, which was featured in last week’s review. One item of note... this is NOT a dinner theater. You can however buy food and snacks in the lobby before the show or during intermission. You can pull up the schedule and buy your tickets online in advance at the official website.
Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show - review by Lance Hart
(2/20/15) This second article in my series on visiting Pigeon Forge, TN will be all about another one of the area's famous dinner theaters, the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show. The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show, located next to the Titanic Museum, is also one of the newer production in town, opening back in mid-2011. Unlike some of Pigeon Forge’s other dinner theaters the Hatfield and McCoy building is a highly themed masterpiece, with bright red and blue cartoon style colors that would look right at home within any theme park environment. The building is designed not only to stand-out, but also gives a great visual representation of the family feud story it is based on, with fun props outside as well as farm animals (Goats, pigs, chickens and big fat rabbits) on display. In addition to some fun photo spots outside with the animals, outhouses and funny signs, there is also a neat doorbell gag installed at each of the three entrances into the building, daring you to ring the bell.
Once inside, you can wander around a large gift shop area which actually has some great redneck / hillbilly themed gifts inside (beer or bacon scented soap anyone?), fun t-shirts and a very impressive fish aquarium that is themed to look like it was made from a gigantic old moonshine still. It is worth mentioning that the creation of this moonshine still themed aquarium was actually documented for a recent episode (Dec. 12, 2014) of the reality show, Tanked, which can be viewed here.
Arrive early, because you'll need to get your tickets from one of the windows and line up to go inside the theater, and it gets crowded rather quickly. Keep an eye out, because some of the characters from the show are actually wandering around in here as well, and fortunately Ma McCoy saw the confused look on my face and rushed over to welcome Kerry and I to the family reunion. After the brief welcome she took us to the right ticket window and made sure we would be sitting with the rest of her kin on the McCoy side of the theater. Apparently we were distant cousins and invited to take a quick photo for the McCoy family album (we were even given a moonshine jug and uncle Jeb’s rifle to hold) before being taken to our dinner table.
“Cousins!!” We were quickly welcomed at the table by Cousin Pee-Wee who asked what we wanted to drink and said he would be right back with some fresh Possum Soup. This was a great touch, as even the food service staff was in on the act, which only helped to make the experience even more immersive and fun. Before we knew it Cousin Pee-Wee was back with two bowls of the Southern Style Creamy Soup (minus the possum thank god!) and a basket of warm biscuits. Just as we finished the soup, he was back again with several small pots filled with awesome southern comfort food items like Corn on the Cob, Fried Chicken, BBQ Pulled Pork, Mashed Potatoes and Coleslaw. Seriously... this was a ton of food, all of it very good, and just when we were stuffed and couldn't take another bite of pulled pork, Pee-Wee was back with dessert, a chocolate Worms & Dirt style pudding, minus the worms. The food was great, the serving size was more than enough, and service was excellent! Your Tea and Soda are included with the meal but if you want something more you can flag down another one of your new cousins who are walking around with a cooler full of beer or a jar of Moonshine for an additional charge.
While all this was going on, we were entertained in the theater by some great music and small comedy bits for the pre-show, which lasts for the duration of the meal. Unlike the bigger "arena" style dinner theater shows like Dixie Stampede which need room for animals to run around, the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show is an more intimate experience with an assortment of big tables on the floor level right up next to the stage, a ring of tables around the main entry level promenade, proceeded by several levels of tiered seating beyond that. There isn't a bad seat in the house.
Once dinner is done, the show proper begins with the local Mayor hiring a new Sheriff assigned with keeping the peace in town as the local feuding families, the Hatfields and McCoys, are on their way down to a barn dance. As you can imagine, as soon as they see each other the nostrils flare, the fists begin to fly and weapons are soon brought to the ready as the hapless sheriff intervenes as best as he can.
I'm not going to give away any more of the story than that, but the rest of the show is full of action, comedy, singing, dancing, banjo dueling, the occasional bit of gunfire and a lot of laughter. The show's comedian talents are top notch at performing in front of a live audience, and the cast has a great assortment of talented musicians and dancers of all ages who all rocked the house. In short, I loved every minute of this show and would go back in a heart-beat, especially as I hear that they have a special "Christmas Disaster" show they put on for the holiday season as well that I can’t wait to see!
You can reserve your own night at the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Theater at the official website, which I recommend doing in advance as they can easily sell out a performance. They also have a great deal on their website right now allowing you to add on tickets to the group's four other sister shows for just $14.95 for adults, and free for kids which is a steal. Their other shows are the Smoky Mountain Opry, Blackwoods Morning Variety Show, Magic Beyond Belief and The Comedy Barn. (We opted for the Comedy Barn which will be the subject of our next article...)
So the next time you are in Pigeon Forge and looking for an evening of good laughs, great food and fantastic entertainment, then look no further than the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show. You wont regret it.
The Tomb - (10/8/14) An interesting article talks about the rise of “Escape the Room” style attractions where you are put in a small group and trapped within a a small environment or small room(s) and have to search through the contents within to solve riddles and puzzles in order to escape. According to the article, the attractions began appearing in Europe and Asia about a decade ago, but are now starting to appear in the US in limited form, and the article goes on to describe one in Miami Beach called Escape the Quest.
While I haven't seen that particular attraction, which is said to only have a 20% success rate, I did try a similar concept themed attraction in Pigeon Forge back in August called The Tomb. At The Tomb you are teamed up with a small group, and sent into a creepy Egyptian tomb themed experience, along with a guide, who also acts as a storyteller and aide just in case one of the puzzles is proving a little too solve.
Sections of the Tomb are dark… very dark, and you are even given flashlights to find your way in one room, all to help create a creepy, almost haunted house style atmosphere. The puzzles are not hard… but some do require a group effort while others are far more easier if a leader type is there to help direct the action, but the overall experience is quite fun and worth a try.