Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg – Which is Better?

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

Both of these wonderful vacation destinations share the majestic Smoky Mountains background and also are great locations if you have plans to experience a vacation near the breathtaking mountains.

If you’re planning a trip and are trying to decide which place would be the best vacation spot for you or just want to know in general what sets these two places apart, then this article is for you.

Let’s go ahead and explore the differences between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg: Location

Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg: Location differences

Pigeon Forge compared to Gatlinburg when it comes to location puts Gatlinburg closer to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park which makes Gatlinburg a better location if your main focus is to spend time in the park.

Pigeon Forge is 12.8 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while Gatlinburg is just 5.5 miles away and much nearer to the National Park’s entrance.

From Nashville, which is Tennesse’s capital, Pigeon Forge is around 3 hours and 20 minutes drive while Gatlinburg is about 3 hours and 30 minutes drive.

As you might have noticed in the duration of the drive from Nashville, these two places just have a short difference. This is because Pigeon Forge is just 7.5 miles away from Gatlinburg.

Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are both located in East Tennessee.

Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg: Food

Food comparison Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

When it comes to food, the difference between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is pretty clear. Pigeon Forge has a much wider variety of restaurants to choose from.

Whether you’re looking for some good old southern cooking or want to try something new, you’ll be able to find it in Pigeon Forge. With the different restaurants and food choices, Pigeon Forge is a great place for a family or if you’re with friends who are picky eaters.

Some of the best restaurants in Pigeon Forge with the most delicious food are The Old Mill Restaurant, Blue Moose Burger & Wings, Pigeon Forge Deli, and The Pottery House Cafe and Grille.

You can also enjoy wonderful dinner theaters that offer incredible shows in Pigeon Forge. Sample dinner shows that you should not miss are Dixie Stampede, Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, and Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show.

If food is your main priority when you’re choosing a vacation destination, then Pigeon Forge which offers a variety of choices is the better choice for you.

Gatlinburg also has a decent amount of places to eat, but not nearly as many as Pigeon Forge’s restaurants. Though, downtown Gatlinburg has more high-end restaurants than Pigeon Forge which makes it a great place for couples searching for the best romantic destinations.

You can find some best steakhouses in Gatlinburg such as The Peddler Steakhouse and The Cherokee Grill and Steakhouse.

Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have pancake houses that serve delectable breakfasts.

Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg: Attractions

Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg: Attractions

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge when it comes to attractions differ a lot. Pigeon Forge mainly focuses on amusement parks and other types of attractions whereas Gatlinburg focuses more on the natural wonders.

When it comes to amusement parks, the Smoky Mountain city of Pigeon Forge is home to many theme parks like Dollywood which is one of the most amazing Amusement Parks in the world owned by the music superstar Dolly Parton who is a native of Sevier County. Another of the best attractions is Dollywood’s Splash Country which is a water park, a famous attraction perfect for those hot summer days.

More attractions in Pigeon Forge that you should visit are the Comedy Barn Concert Theater and the Old Mill Pottery House Village.

Gatlinburg, as one of the Smoky Mountain towns that banks on the natural beauty of the mountains for attractions, is home to many hiking trails, waterfalls, and other wonders.

Other attractions in the mountain town of Gatlinburg that enchant many visitors are Gatlinburg Space Needle, Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park & Ski Area, and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum.

The Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg is one of the best aquariums in America and worth a visit and the Gatlinburg Space Needle is one of the tallest observation towers in the whole of Tennessee.

Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer the best sights of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg: Shopping

Shopping in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

When it comes to shopping between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Pigeon Forge’s downtown area has a wider variety of stores and more major shopping centers. Pigeon Forge is home to many outlet shopping malls like the Tanger Outlets and the Pigeon Forge Factory Outlet. The Pigeon Forge Parkway is also a great place for shopping as it is full of different shops.

Downtown Gatlinburg offers a slightly different type of shopping experience from Pigeon Forge as its main focus is on local artisans which are unique shops that offer souvenirs and other handicrafts from the area.

Places to shop in Gatlinburg’s downtown area as part of your Smoky Mountain vacation are the Village Shops, the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, the Gatlinburg Jewelry, and Gifts Company, and Cades Cove Treasure Chest.

Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg: Outdoor Activities

Outdoor activities comparison

Both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg when it comes to outdoor activities offer exciting and memorable things to do with their great location near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Pigeon Forge is home to many golf courses, zip-lining companies, and horseback riding stables. Some of the best places to go golfing in Pigeon Forge are the Gatlinburg Golf Course, the Sevierville Golf Club, and the River Islands Golf Club.

You can also experience fun activities like white water rafting, scenic helicopter tours, Go Kart Tracks adventure, and fishing in the Little Pigeon River in Pigeon Forge.

If you’re interested in spending your time hiking and exploring nature, then choosing the small town of Gatlinburg for excellent outdoor adventures would be a better choice. Gatlinburg is home to many hiking trails like the Rainbow Falls Trail, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and Grotto Falls Trail.

The other fun things that you can do on your Gatlinburg vacation are wildlife viewing, riding the Gatlinburg Trolley, joining a Ghost Walk tour, riding the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, and going to the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park.

You can also visit the spectacular Farmer’s Market in downtown Gatlinburg for some fresh produce.

Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg: Accommodations

Accommodation in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

Comparing Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge when it comes to accommodations, Pigeon Forge offers a wider variety of hotels, cabins, and lodges compared to Gatlinburg.

Pigeon Forge is home to luxurious resorts such as the Park Grove Inn, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa, and the Staybridge Suites Pigeon Forge.

There are also Pigeon Forge cabins with private indoor pools and hot tubs offered by Sherwood Forest Resort by Vacasa and Bear Camp Cabin Rentals.

The accommodations in Gatlinburg also offer a great variety of places to stay that will suit your budget and needs. If you’re looking for the perfect cabin stay, Gatlinburg also is home to some of the best cabin rentals.

Cabin Rentals that you should check include Mountain Shadows Resort & Rentals, Elk Springs Resort, and Cabins USA Gatlinburg.

Other places to stay in Gatlinburg are the River Edge Motor Lodge, Hampton Inn Gatlinburg Historic Nature Trail, and Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park.


Gatlinburg is the better choice if you’re looking for a more relaxed and intimate trip. Gatlinburg is also the ideal choice if you’re into more outdoor adventures in nature.

If you want to enjoy modern conveniences as part of your Smoky Mountain vacation experience, Pigeon Forge offers a wider variety of accommodations and shopping opportunities.

However, Pigeon Forge offers a wider variety of accommodations and shopping opportunities making it ideal for those who want to enjoy modern conveniences as part of their Smoky Mountain vacation experience.

Pigeon Forge vs Gatlinburg FAQs

Which place is better to visit at Christmas, Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg?

Both places have spectacular Christmas lights and Winterfest events but Pigeon Forge has The Christmas Inn, the award-winning, year-round Christmas-themed hotel.

What is the closest airport to Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg?

McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee is the closest airport to both places.

Which place is more kid-friendly Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg?

Pigeon Forge is more kid-friendly with the different amusement parks it offers.

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Article by Kyle

Digital nomad since 2010. I spend my time traveling around the world learning about new cultures and languages. I've lived in 4 continents and still have a lot left to explore!