We recently visited Pigeon Forge, TN, hosted by the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, and were delighted with the huge magnitude of activities available for (and appealing to) tweens. Since we were only in town for two days, we had to pare down our HUGE wanna-do list to a slightly more manageable itinerary and definitely plan on a return trip to experience the rest! There was way more than we adventurous souls could attempt in a short period of time!!
So what did we do in Pigeon Forge, TN?
WE HAD A BLAST!!!
#5…. We Soared at Flyaway Indoor Skydiving!
Oh yes, we did!! We couldn’t get in the building, up the stairs, and in the training room fast enough!!
After a short 20 minute training session and a brief equipment prep, it was flight time! WOOT!
What a blast! This was such a unique and different experience, exactly what we always try to accomplish when on vacation—try something we can’t do in our hometown. It was a bit hot for Ariel, as she doesn’t like wearing layers and layers of clothes, but I think the excitement of the activity overcame being a bit uncomfortable. Indoor skydiving was a huge thrill, one she believes everyone should try at least once. Her tip: If you have long hair, be sure to pull your hair back in a bun, tucked inside your helmet, or you’ll have knots the size of Tennessee!! I agree… her hair was quite the rat’s nest when she finished!!
Timing: we did have a few minutes wait before each stage, but nothing major. We had planned on this taking about an hour and it did.
The dinner, consisting of cream of potato soup, roasted chicken, potatoes, corn on the cob, a biscuit, and an apple turnover, and choice of non-alcoholic beverage, was delicious and filling. And good food is really important when you’re on vacation and need fuel. 😉
But the entertainment was even better than the food! A pre-show warm-up tickled our funny bones and had us clapping our hands and stomping our feet. A thoughtful salute to veterans warmed our hearts. And then our hearts started pounding with excitement as we thrilled to the lumber sports competition!
I didn’t know a lot about the arena of lumber sports… but I’m a lot more interested in learning more now! These guys (lumberJACKS) and gals (lumberJILLS) are true athletes…. I love that they post their real names and achievements on the big screens to recognize their athletic prowess. (Even the specially trained lumberDOGS get recognized!! They were amazing too!!)
There was some good ol’ mountain dancing–clogging– and some great fiddle playin’ along with just enough cheesy humor to delight all ages throughout the show. I was afraid Ariel would think this kind of show was too young for her… or too old for her. So I was super glad when she wanted to add it to our top 5 list….that’s high praise from a 12 year old!!
Timing: you should plan on arriving 30 minutes before the posted show time. We had called ahead for reservations and ended up in a short line to pick up our tickets, but it wasn’t major. The pre-show music was playing as we walked through the small museum on our way to the arena and we were seated and our dinner served shortly. We had thought it would take about 2 hours and counting in our early (suggested) arrival time, we were right.
(And don’t forget to take tip money for your servers, just like at Medieval Times. Those folks are working really hard and deserve every bit of that tip money!! When you pay for your dinner ahead of time, it’s easy to not think about cash for tips until it’s too late! )
#3….We Set Sail on the Titanic Museum Attraction!
Yes, our hearts will go on… but they won’t be the same after we experienced the impressive and compelling Titanic Museum Attraction. Housed in a building designed to look like the RMS Titanic at the fateful moment as it struck the iceberg, the museum is Pigeon Forge’s #1 attraction (as rated on TripAdvisor) and it’s easy to see why! It’s a well-organized and attractive museum built around precious relics rescued from the world-renowned wreckage of the infamous unsinkable ship.
Photos are strictly forbidden inside the museum, so I have nothing wonderful to show you, but you can see lots of the interior on the Titanic Museum Attraction’s website here. If you have a “Titaniac” in your family, like I do (or maybe you’re one yourself), then you need to make this a definite stop on your trip to Pigeon Forge. And make sure you allow plenty of time for your visit. We allowed two hours and wished we’d had another hour. We did read a lot, because that is what you do when you’re in a museum, and we were lucky to be able to hear some of the roaming tour guides’ spiels, but we would have gladly soaked up more. The artifacts, the stories, the presentation–all first class. They host traveling exhibits and special events here regularly too.
#2….We Splished and Splashed at the Outdoor Gravity Park!!
Ever roll down a hill in an 11 foot clear plastic ball? Me neither.
If I’m completely honest, the idea of doing it never even crossed my mind!!
But obviously the brains behind Outdoor Gravity Park decided humans could play like hamsters (with water–wet hamsters at that!) and would LOVE IT!! And they were SO RIGHT!! The concept is so brilliant… and the fun is exuberant and contagious!!
Bring your bathing suit and join in the fun! More than one person can ride in the OGO or you can ride separately and race. There are three different courses for all kinds of fun. None of the folks I saw after their rides were disappointed!! And you can use their Go-Pro camera and video yourself coming down the 1000 foot long hill–perfect for the selfie lover in your life!! 😉
I wasn’t quite sure how to find the Outdoor Gravity Park–it’s not right on the Parkway like everything else and there wasn’t much, if any, signage at traffic light 1 off the Parkway. The area really looked like a residential neighborhood and Siri insisted I wasn’t there yet. But… turn left onto the side road when you see the green gate and the sign. Don’t continue on past it, even though your GPS might insist on it.
Timing: There wasn’t a long line, thank goodness, because rain was threatening, but the entire process took a bit of time. We had planned on this taking about an hour, and with swimsuit changes and waiting times, it took about that long. If the line had been more than a few folks, it would have taken longer.
Indeed! Science is a blast!! How could it be otherwise in an upside-down building, right?!?!
And I have to tell you, I would have bet my next to my last dollar that Ariel would have thought WonderWorks was too young for her… too babyish. I was so wrong.
And I’m so glad I was. I just wish we had budgeted more time for our visit. It didn’t help that WonderWorks is an incredibly popular place–there were a lot of people there having a great time–there were at least short waits for almost every exhibit. And some lines, like the one for the World’s Largest Indoor Ropes Challenge Course, were quite lengthy. It wasn’t possible for us to leave and come back at a later time in the same day to try to avoid the crowds, but I so appreciate that they allow that option if you need it. Perfect for families with children of varying ages and their multi-level scheduling needs!
There are over 100 interactive exhibits, each one offering something different, educational, and FUN.
One of our favorites was the Xtreme 360° Bikes, where the movement of your bike depends on your pedaling speed and intensity! You can make a 360° revolution if you work at it!! Another favorite was the puck-less Air Hockey. So cool! And the child-size Wonder Brite—adorable!
WonderWorks is one of those places that is sensory overload! And for that reason alone, it was perfect for my tween! Lights, action, music, adrenaline, color, energy–every box was checked! In spades!! Even entering the exhibit area through the inversion tunnel was exhilarating! I wasn’t sure if the room was turning…. or just my stomach!!
When planning your visit, remember that some activities, like the Xtreme 360° Bikes, have physical restrictions. You may have to meet certain height or weight restrictions to be safe on the exhibit. Check the restrictions on the WonderWorks website–I found the best listing in their FAQ section. And make sure everyone that’s planning to participate is wearing closed toe shoes–no flip flops or sandals on some of the exhibits.
Have you ever been to Pigeon Forge? What were your favorite activities? What should we plan on next time?
Disclaimer: We received a complimentary VIP Pass from the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, which granted us free admission to a number of attractions in Pigeon Forge. However, ALL views and opinions expressed here are our own.
Are you among the 11 million folks that will visit Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, this year? If so, you NEED to know about The Inn On The River!! We visited Pigeon Forge last week and were graciously hosted at The Inn On The River by General Manager Karl Thomas. He even gave us a sneak peek into what’s upcoming as far as their continuing renovations and improvements!
First off, The Inn On The River is an older property that is being redone from the ground up. It was a chain and now is privately owned. Can I just tell you how perfectly located this hotel is? It’s right on the banks of the Little Pigeon River at traffic light #2 (all of the directions given throughout Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg use directions from the closest main traffic light on US Highway 441 (known around town as “Parkway”)–much easier than learning street names in an unfamiliar area!). The Inn On The River is one of the very few hotels located on the banks of the river, giving it a peaceful and beautiful aspect that is unrivaled in the area.
And convenient! We were mere minutes away from all of the attractions on our agenda. If we had wanted to, we could have even left our car parked at the hotel and taken the multi-route trolley. It departs just a few steps from the Inn’s front door. (We didn’t this time, but will definitely do it next time! It looks so convenient and easy.)
As Mr. Thomas showed us around The Inn On The River, his pride in the all of the improvements being implemented was obvious. He told us of the new pool upgrades happening later in August/early September (properly timed after the summer rush is over). Note: The Inn On The River is one of the few hotels in the area to have both indoor and outdoor pools. The new color combinations are beautiful and attention has been paid to choose function too: the new flooring tiles have non-slip properties. And since the current pools are already so attractive, I can’t wait to see the new look! They’re going to be amazing!!
The guest rooms are all being remodeled and we enjoyed a newly-done spacious and lovely first floor room that faced onto the river. It was fun waking up to a family of ducks (and a few geese) in the morning!!
The guest rooms feature Serta pillow top mattresses–ours had two queen sized beds, but king sized beds are also available. We loved the in-room Keurig and thought the bathroom was gorgeous. The Bath & Body Works Stress Relief toiletries were a nice touch too.
From the moment we walked into The Inn On The River, we knew it was a special place. A popcorn machine is not normal hotel lobby decor!! But here, it makes evenings fun. Toss in some family board games (tucked away–but within little ones’ reach–in special bins in the lobby) and 24 hour complimentary coffee, hot tea, and hot chocolate and you have some of the unique touches that make The Inn On The River so delightful. Oh, and there is a special “Vacation Starter Kit” for kids 10 and under. It includes such fun items as an arcade gift card, a deck of playing cards, stickers, and some other assorted toys. Such a sweet idea!
There’s a free breakfast buffet in the morning with all the expected standards and plenty of seating inside and out. I was impressed that an awning was being installed on the patio to turn it into more of a multi-season space. It’s a beautiful area next to the river, but full of sunlight… and in the summer, it gets hot quickly. So an awning makes perfect sense. In the fall, they’re going to add patio heaters and the space will become a warm, welcoming retreat. Perfect!
So, as you can tell, we thought The Inn On The River was perfectly located, quiet spot on the river but within reach of so many favorite spots…. but we also thought it was just perfect. We loved all the little extras that added up to one fantastic hotel. It’s #3 on TripAdvisor for a reason!!
Disclosure: We were invited by the folks at The Inn On The River to stay with them while we were in Pigeon Forge so we did receive a complimentary night’s stay in exchange for an honest review on our blog. ALL of the opinions in this post are completely our own.
Looking for some free entertainment this summer? We highly recommend watching some of the many wonderful FREE movies and television shows available on Amazon Prime. We’ve long been members of Amazon Prime and love the free two-day shipping. Recently, though, we’ve started streaming videos and have thoroughly enjoyed seeing some new flicks as well as some oldies but goodies. And now with a FREE 30 day trial of Amazon Prime, you can join in the fun this summer!
Here are a few of the wonderful flicks we’ve been watching… or have plans to!
We LOVED seeing Cinderella, the new Disney live-action movie in theatres recently and were inspired to create the above graphic. Ariel has it as her phone wallpaper! It’s really good advice for all of us, no matter our living situations or social relationships. Love it!
There is so much to experience at Great Wolf Lodge that it’s hard to fit in everything you might want to do while there.
What? You don’t believe me?
You think: Great Wolf Lodge = Fun Water Park Hotel
And you’re right.
They are known for their water parks! And truthfully, you don’t HAVE to do anything else there. I know that many families come to Great Wolf Lodge just to experience the water parks and are extremely happy to do that. And why not? The huge, 84° water park is AMAZING and a lot of fun. (and while each GWL property is unique and has features specific to its location, the AMAZING part is standard!)
But…. let me tell you about some of the other temptations at Great Wolf Lodge!
(And there are many!)
OMG. Can I just tell you, I think Ariel would play MagiQuest all day AND all night long if allowed. (Thankfully, it’s turned off at 10 pm and starts back up at 9 am, for Hibernation Hours.) I’m sure there are some readers asking: What exactly is MagiQuest? Here’s my simple-because-I-really-don’t-completely-understand-it answer: it’s an electronic scavenger hunt that takes participants frantically up and down stairways and hallways, looking for the next answer on their quest. Ariel’s tried to explain it to me, but like the Concord General Manager Angie Brown stated in her tour, most adults have a hard time grasping the concepts; kids don’t have a problem at all!
You need a special wand, which is easily purchased at the MagiQuest shop on GWL property for $15-20 each. We’ve always had one per participant but it’s easy enough to share, and the wand can be used for future games as well so hold on to it. A game runs about $13 and will last a while—maybe 6-8 hours! (If you don’t finish your game on a visit, you can restart it for a fee on your next visit.)
New similar games, Compass Quest and ShadowQuest, have been developed in the last few years and promise even more challenging fun. We’re definitely going to try those on a future visit!
If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, know that the staff members in the MagiQuest store are wonderful. I asked all kinds of questions and they answered them all, just as patiently as if I were the first to ask…. and you know I wasn’t!
MagiQuest is best for children that can read well enough to comprehend the clues and remember locations. Some families do the activity together, but it’s perfect for tweens and teens that can do it on their own in a group. They gain some independence and parents can take a breather. I’m NOT advocating leaving young children unattended for a long length of time!! I’m saying I was okay with my older tween and her older cousin (both equipped with cell phones) to attack the course located in the main part of the hotel together, checking in visually with me every 8-10 minutes or so. The Grand Lobby of the hotel is well situated for this viewing activity and a welcoming fireplace and comfy couches provide an opportunity to relax while the kids burn off some energy.
MagiQuest is such a great way for tweens to problem-solve and get some much needed exercise. I imagine MagiQuest as feeling like you’re inside a video game and you’re the hero! What a fun experience!
And what warms my heart so much is that as the kids are racing around, looking for clues and answers, they are often stopping to help others that aren’t quite as far along. Advice, tips, encouragement. Love that feeling of community that’s engendered with MagiQuest!
TIP: Take good running shoes as well as shorts and a t-shirt for your MagiQuest participants! We were at Great Wolf Lodge in early March, which means we arrived in (and only packed) jeans and long-sleeve tops for non-water park time. Didn’t even think about all of the running around with MagiQuest. (I felt like an idiot, but Ariel (of course!) was excited to have a valid, Mom-can’t-say-no reason to go shopping!) We ended up buying a super cute tank and shorts, so not too sorry, but we could have saved a few bucks and some time if we had packed appropriately.
Here’s the outfit Ariel chose:
According to Concord General Manager Angie Brown, about 50% of the families that stay at Great Wolf Lodge participate in MagiQuest. It’s huge, I tell you!! All of these families cannot be wrong!
Scoops Kid Spa
What girl doesn’t love to be spoiled? We didn’t do spa stuff this trip, but definitely enjoyed it last time we were at Great Wolf Lodge. (read about that trip here) TIP: Make your appointment as early in your planning as possible!! There are only so many appointment times available and the spa is a very popular experience!! Scooops is for children 4-12; Elements is for adults, with special services for teens 13-18.
You will have to call the spa at your Great Wolf Lodge to make the appointment–can’t do it over the interwebs!– but that will give you the opportunity to find out all the available options and if needed, make any special requests. For example, I was interested in treating Ariel to a Chocolate Covered Organic Facial, which is recommended to teach tweens the importance of proper skin care. Sounds amazing, right? But she has extremely sensitive skin and the online brochure indicated that it wasn’t for sensitive skin. I immediately discounted that as an option. However, after talking to Mihaela Werner, the spa manager at Concord, I was assured that the treatment could be easily modified to fit my daughter’s skin care needs and that Ariel would benefit tremendously. SWEET! You can bet next time we go to Great Wolf Lodge, I’ll be arranging one of these. You know Ariel will listen to the professionals about skin care far more than she will listen to me!!
But…. don’t be too sad if you don’t get an appointment. You can still shop in Elements Spa— they feature awesome brands such as bareMinerals, Éminence, OPI, and Aveda —and there are some super-cute gift ideas that you probably won’t find in your local shops. The ice cream themed items make me smile!
There’s even a budget-friendly $9.99 children’s spa treatment! It’s “Sprinkled in Scooops” and doesn’t require reservations. It’s perfect for every age, especially little ones that might not have the patience for a full-blown spa experience but want to be pampered.
Northern Lights Arcade
We love a good arcade and Great Wolf Lodge has a fun one!! Lots of interactive games that involve movement and activity, as well as some fun games of luck and chance. We enjoyed all of them!! The lights are bright, the music is fun, and the atmosphere is lively.
I love a good deal and was so happy when I realized going to the arcade BEFORE the rest of Temptation Alley (the area right next to the arcade; so-called by property GM Angie Brown) was a great idea. Why, you ask. Because buying a larger gaming package equals more Paw Points per dollar…. and because Paw Points can be used to pay for all the other activities on Temptation Alley. I had totally planned on visiting those other attractions, so it was an easy way to save a few bucks.
(Yes, I did totally stand there in the middle of the arcade to take this picture. Yes, I did totally embarrass Ariel by doing it. No, I don’t feel guilty about it at all!)
(And, yes, I do know it’s not perfectly straight and publishing the picture is completely not in agreement with my OCD-ness, but it’s the best I’ve got. I was being rushed by an overly-anxious and embarrassed tween.)
Before buying a package, I quickly calculated the value of a Paw Point at each level, thinking about how much I was willing to spend at the arcade as well as many of the other activities I wanted us to experience. Knowing that a certain number of Paw Points would be used for those other attractions made it much easier, as well as practical, to buy a more expensive package and therefore getting more bonus points.
TIP: If you’re the kind of person who’ll be able to find your game card next time, it’s worth a buck to save it: you can just recharge your old card instead of buying another one.
I had planned on us each participating in Atomic Rush ($3 each), 4D World ($3 each), and Howly Wood XD Theater ($6 each), so I knew I’d be spending $24 for two of us for those experiences. Add in some arcade fun and the $50 package made a lot of sense for us, although it seemed like A LOT of money at the time!
(Turns out, when you calculate the various prices of the different packages available at Great Wolf Lodge, they’re all incredible deals! We bought a Paw Package on a previous trip and thought it was a great value!)
Howly Wood XD Theater
Much more of a ride than I anticipated (which means I let Ariel have my ticket too!), Howly Wood XD Theater is a short, 3-6 minute (depending on which one you choose) movie+ride+special effect experience. There are three different movies to watch and a package to do all three is a bit cheaper than buying all three individually. Ariel loved it!! I was able to watch her outside in the lobby area so I could see her reactions to all the different effects. That was fun for me!
This 4D experience is new since our last visit to Great Wolf Lodge and I could see where a lot of folks would love it. It’s highly interactive and engaging. Ariel had a good time playing. Me? I get incredibly motion sick and couldn’t handle the depth perception differences in my head, so I didn’t try to play. It did look like fun though!
Do you know the electronic hand-held game Simon, where you press differently colored buttons in ever-increasing patterns, competing against the clock and the computer? Well, Atomic Rush is just like that—except it’s LIFE-SIZE!! Fast-paced and challenging, even on “easy,” Atomic Rush was a lot of fun! So much fun that we played it multiple times!! (so much for budgeting my Paw Points!) Definitely something Ariel would want to do again and again and again.
So Much More to Explore
With Howly Wood XD Theater, 4D World, and AtomicRush all located in one communal area just down the hall from the Northern Lights Arcade, everything was easy to find and not have to search for them. It would be easy for the space to become cramped—and maybe it is some of the time. But it wasn’t during our time there. In between these two spaces is Ten Paw Alley, the cutest, sweetest bowling alley ever! My tween is much too tall to enjoy bowling there now, but it’s perfect for those with little ones. Sized perfectly for those under 4′ tall!
More Fun Activities at Great Wolf Lodge
Other fun activities at Great Wolf Lodge include Cub Club and Creation Station. We did both of those on our last trip to Great Wolf Lodge and enjoyed them thoroughly. We found out about the Face Painting and the Dance Party held in the Grand Lobby and were happy to take part in those activities. Tip: Be sure to read Lodge Life, the calendar of events that you’ll be given at check-in. There are many free experiences for your children to enjoy!
So much tween fun! We had a wonderful time at Great Wolf Lodge!! It seems like every time we go, we find new experiences to enjoy while still thrilling to favorites from before. I love that so many of the activities are fun for children of all ages.
And…. I still haven’t told you about our fabulous dining and fun shopping experiences at Great Wolf Lodge! Stay tuned!
Have you been to Great Wolf Lodge? What was your absolute very favorite part?