The Great Smoky Mountains are a popular vacation destination for many reasons: the beautiful forests, mountain scenery, and outdoor adventures; the country-fried Southern cuisine, kid-friendly attractions, and dinner theaters… The list goes on!
Yet, the amusement parks are perhaps a collective favorite among locals and visitors alike. Do you love chasing those adrenaline highs, and are you wondering where to take your next travel adventure? Then bring your partner or best friend on the ride of a lifetime at the most famous amusement park in Pigeon Forge and the best mountain coasters in Gatlinburg!
The Dolly Parton-themed amusement park, Dollywood, is Pigeon Forge’s claim to fame. People come from all over the country to participate in the roller coasters, theatrical and musical shows, events, festivals, and water park rides. While you could spend countless hours perusing the shops and enjoying a bite to eat at the restaurants and snackeries, you won’t be able to contain your excitement once you see their most impressive rides.
If you call yourself an adrenaline junkie, you can’t miss the Lightning Rod. This hot rod-themed mountain coaster takes off from zero to 45 mph to go up 20 stories and hit a 165-foot drop, clocking in at 73 mph. The Mystery Mine also features a drop, measuring about 85 feet, before plunging headfirst into the pitch black of a coal mine. Thunderhead is another extreme coaster original to Dollywood, in which you’ll reach 55 mph and throw your hands in the air at a 100-foot drop. You’ll also find plenty of gentler round-about-style rides, country fair-esque rides, and playgrounds designed with younger guests in mind.
Your fun doesn’t have to stop at Dollywood when you can hop right over to Dollywood Splash Country for a refreshing or heart-racing stint on the water rides. Take a relaxing tour along the lazy river to soak up the sun, or grab an inner tube to catch the current in the 25,000 square-foot wave pool.
When you’re ready to take the energy up a notch, head over to the park’s most intense water slides, like the exhilarating 70-foot straight drop at Fire Tower Falls or the dueling corkscrew tunnels and multi-drop slides at Mountain Scream. With more than a dozen splash-filled rides and activities, Dollywood Splash Country should be at the top of your list of summertime adventures!
The Moonshine Mountain Coaster is one of Gatlinburg’s most exciting ride attractions. Participants get to board a separate two-person car and use the handles to adjust the speed, potentially reaching up to 30 mph. The track will lead you through sharp turns followed by sudden twists and steep climbs followed by startling drops. Take it slow to enjoy the mountain scenery, or push it full throttle to tear through the wind! Remember to stop by again at nighttime, when the forest is lit up in magnificent colors.
Sometimes, all you need is pure physics to send you careening down a wild track. The gravity-propelled cars at Ripley’s Mountain Coaster will have you zooming through the forests and past gorgeous views of the Smokies. Plus, their two-seater sleds are the perfect size for a parent and a small child, a pair of siblings, or two best friends. Embrace both your need for speed and love of nature at the same time at Ripley’s Mountain Coaster!
In 1970s Wisconsin, there once was a restaurant that allowed goats to take their snack time on the roof. That was then, but today’s Pigeon Forge is just as quirky when it comes to incorporating goats into the human world. At Goats on the Roof, you’ll get to hand-feed and hang out with some adorable goat friends, then embark on a 4,875-foot gravity coaster! The ride takes you to the top of the mountain before launching you at 27 mph along twists and turns toward the bottom. For seven whole minutes, you’ll breathe in the fresh forest air and take in the stunning mountain views in the region between Pigeon Forge and Wears Valley.
Rowdy Bear Mountain is a Pigeon Forge amusement park with a unique offering of exciting activities. At the Rowdy Bear Smoky Mountain Snowpark, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is – there is always a chance to go tubing! In winter, hop on a snow tube and take the fun way back down to the bottom of the hill with a 70-foot drop and 500 feet of runway. Hit the lanes again in the summertime to reach a top speed of 35 mph, and stick around at nighttime when the whole arena gets lit up with colorful LEDs.
Rowdy Bear also features two roller coasters for adults and kids at least 40″ tall. On the Ski Lift Shootout Coaster, you’ll feel as hardcore as James Bond, shooting targets with laser guns while you fly, duck, and curve through the air in a suspended 2-seater. Meanwhile, the Avalanche Snow Coaster is a classic double-rail coaster that launches you in an individual cart over bends, twists, turns, suspenseful climbs, and sudden dips. You can even control your speed to go faster than the devil’s coattails or as chill as a sloth in a hammock!
Once you’ve hit all the thrill rides, enjoy a friendly game of competitive axe-throwing, or take the kids to get the rest of their energy out on the playground. By the time you’re finished with everything, you’ll be ready to return home, knowing that you’ve made lifelong memories with your friends or family. The best part is that you can do it all over again a few months from now! Unlike most amusement parks, Rowdy Bear Mountains stays open all year round to bring you endless heaps of fun no matter when you plan a Smoky Mountain escape.
The roller coaster rides in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are not just your run-of-the-mill cheap thrills. Many of the mountain coasters are unconventional in that they allow you to control your speed. Plus, some of the amusement park rides uniquely incorporate interactive elements, such as shooting targets with laser guns, splashing through waves, or taking in the stellar mountain scenery. Next time you’re planning a fun summertime adventure, turn it into a “buddymoon” of all the Great Smoky Mountains region’s most thrilling roller coasters with your best friend!