If you’re taken aback by the upside down house that rests beside the Pigeon River in Pigeon Forge, you wouldn’t be the first. WonderWorks, a combination arcade/science museum, is one of handful of Pigeon Forge attractions that not only stand out because of their rave reviews, but because of their outward appearance.

Constructed to look like it landed upside down in Pigeon Forge, WonderWorks is arguably the most unique building in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s located right next door to the new Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud. WonderWorks bills itself as an amusement park for the mind, featuring over 150 interactive exhibits. It’s 55,000 square feet of fun for the whole family… And don’t forget to stick around for Terry Evanswoods’ thrilling magic show, sure to delight the mind and play tricks on the eyes.

Take your time and enjoy WonderWorks for all it’s worth. It’s a go-at-your-own-pace attraction where you can try out every single exhibit as many times as you want! Get your fill of each of the exhibits while you’re there, there are no limits. It’s a great place for families looking to keep their kids enthralled and entertained for hours! On average, people can spend two hours just going through all the exhibits once. Feel hurricane winds, the shaking of what an earthquake feels like, flip upside-down on a bicycle-like contraption, see how hard you can throw a baseball, design a own virtual roller coaster and then ride it, try laying on a bed of nails, and more! WonderWorks is a must-stop in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Inversion TunnelA word to the wise, it can get crowded, so pick a good time to go when you do. Try early mornings or late after dinner. I would avoid Fridays and Saturdays unless you’re prepared to deal with an influx of people.

A few more tips:

  • Don’t eat anything too heavy beforehand. There are rides that spin and flip, so try to eat after you go on any of the rides.
  • There are a lot of photo opportunities at WonderWorks (bed of nails, spacesuit), so pack your camera.

Terry Evanswood’s “The Wonders of Magic at WonderWorks” is rated as a 5-star attraction on Trip Advisor and was voted No. 1 of 62 Pigeon Forge attractions. They advise guests to: “Discover the Wonders of Magic at WonderWorks. Prepare to be dazzled by one of the world’s greatest magicians. Terry Evanswood, don’t miss this opportunity to participate in one of this areas true greats. His show is so amazing you will be asking yourself, “How did he do that?”

If you have tips that you would like to share about Wonder Works in Pigeon Forge, TN then please post a comment below!



100 Music Road
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

When Ripley’s announced they were going to put an aquarium in Gatlinburg, there were two questions that everybody asked:  Where? & When?  Well, they built it in the center of town, right off River Road at traffic light 5.  It is impossible to miss this complex that has become as much a part of the scenery of Gatlinburg as the Aerial Tramway to Ober Gatlinburg.  Opening in late in 2000, this attraction is more than a decade old and has become one of the most visited family attractions in the Smokies.

With an aquarium, you expect to see tanks full of fish.  Ripley’s has designed an aquarium that allows you to roam from tank to tank, making sure that you are able to see fish in as natural an environment as possible.  The aquarium boasts over 10,000 aquatic animals, some of which you can even hold and touch.  This is a world class aquarium, bringing you salt water animals from all over the world.  As you walk from tank to tank you explore places as diverse as the Amazon Rain Forest, the Pacific Ocean and coral reefs.  Each exhibit has been painstakingly designed to give you a sense of being close to the action – of being in the water with the fish.

Two of the exhibits are hands-on.  The Discovery Center lets you explore different aspects of the seas and get even closer to some of the fish you have been seeing.  Included in this area is a flowing water exhibit that allows you to pick up and handle a horseshoe crab, one of the oldest and most unchanged animals on the planet.  Being able to reach into the shallow water and touch these oddities of the undersea world is both unique and exciting.  As you near the exit of the aquarium, you will find yourself at Touch-a-Ray Bay.  This location lets you gets hands on with small rays and shark in a safe environment.  Divers and aquarium staff are on hand to teach you about the animals you are touching and make sure that everyone gets a chance to get hands on.

Ripley's Aquarium of the SmokiesOne of the most unique features of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a trip through the underwater tunnel which brings you through the world of a coral reef with a huge mixture of animals.  You stand on a moving walkway that passes through this amazing world.  Sharks soar past, inches from your head.  Sea turtles glide gracefully through the water and all this time you are moving slowly through a tunnel enjoying the amazing scenery and the spectacle around you.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a must do activity in the Smoky Mountains.  Thousands of visitors go through their exhibits each season, making this one of the most visited attractions in the area.  A well designed and maintained attraction with an experience that will stick with you for years to come.  Make the aquarium a stop for you and your loved ones on your next trip to Gatlinburg.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
88 River Rd
Gatlinburg, TN

Ober Gatlinburg Set to Open Friday for Snow Tubing

*Ober Gatlinburg is scheduled to open their snow tubing park Friday, November 16th, 2012.

The idea that good skiing can only be found in the northeast or out west has been debunked by places like Ober Gatlinburg in the recent years. With the number of great changes every year to the current resort, things look to be getting even better at Ober. And that starts this year with an even earlier opening date thanks to some new snow making equipment.

Right now, officials with Ober Gatlinburg plan on opening the snow tubing area this Friday. Their new Snow Magic system has enabled the Gatlinburg resort to begin snow making even earlier, and in less than adequate temperatures.

When you think of the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, you think winter sports from skiing to snowboarding and everything in between. Here, you can experience all your favorite winter sports on 8 different trails, varying from beginner to the advanced. Experience the breathtaking views and vistas of the Smoky Mountains on your way down the slopes. You’ll notice the majesty of the Smokies’ snowy peaks, white forests, and the lights of Gatlinburg. For the novice skier, or if this is your first time skiing or snowboarding, take a lesson at Ober’s Smoky Mountain Snow Sport School, located at the resort. You can take lessons as an individual or with a group. It’s a great way for families, friends, or large groups to learn how to ski.

Ober’s gear store allows people who don’t own skis or boards to rent everything they need before hitting the slopes. They offer ski gear in a variety of sizes and styles for kids and adults.

If you’re in town during the spring, summer, or fall, don’t think that Ober just shuts everything down because the temperature is a bit warmer. Ober Gatlinburg’s amusement park features some great warm weather attractions like the Alpine Slide, an indoor ice skating rink, and a scenic chairlift that takes visitors on picturesque rides up Mount Harrison. Guests will also find a waterslide, arcade, pirate ship, bungee jumping, bumper cars, Velcro jump wall, shooting range, and mini golf course at Ober. Ober Gatlinburg literally has something new around every corner. You could visit twice and still find new activities you didn’t get to try the first time.

Winter sports at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort is a must on everyone’s Smokies “To Do” list. Ski or snowboard the slopes, ride up and down the mountain, or just take in the spectacular views of Gatlinburg and the Smokies.

Tweetsie Railroad

You know, Dollywood isn’t the only theme park in the Smoky Mountains. A quick drive east in the charming mountain town of Blowing Rock, NC, you’ll find Tweetsie Railroad – one of the most original Wild West attractions in the nation. Since the 1950s, Tweetsie’s famous steam engine, No. 12, has taken park-goers on the ride of a lifetime through the old west. One of the best theme park train rides in the southeast, Tweetsie Railroad also offers plenty of other attractions to entertain its guests during their park visit.

Obviously, people come to the park to ride the train first and foremost. You’ll be taken back to a time when guns and horses were the things men relied on to settle the open plains of the West. Only this time, you’ll take a train through the Great Smoky Mountains. Look out for bandits trying to rob the train in true outdoor drama style. It’s a spectacular Wild West show, and while you enjoy it, sit back and relax on a grand piece of American history. Built in the 1800s, this particular steam engine had been around the country before the people at Tweetsie gained ownership of the nostalgic locomotive during the middle part of the last century.

Live shows also make up a big part of the theme park, in addition to the show on the train. Hop on over to the saloon and you can take part in a live 1800s style saloon show with bar girls, gamblers, bandits, and the like. Stay for the Tweetsie Cloggers, who have been entertaining crowds for years. Roam the streets with the Tweetsie Railroad cast as they pull you into their wild-west story.

Tweetsie RailroadKiddie rides abound at the Tweetsie Railroad theme park. Inline cars, a merry-go-round, planes or any of a number of other rides have been built with children being the sole focus. This is a great time – while the kids are enjoying the rides – for parents, or anyone else to get something to eat in the park. The food is all carnival-type fare, and really good. From cotton candy and caramel apples to ice cream and hot dogs, all are available at the park’s restaurants or food vendors. Just be sure to ride everything you want before you eat.

Whether you’re just there to hop a train ride or sample park food till your heart’s content, you will have the time of your life at Tweetsie Railroad. The Tweetsie Railroad theme park delights thousands of guests each year. You’ll find yourself having more fun then you thought you could ever have in Blowing Rock, NC. Check the Tweetsie Railroad website for operation times before you go because their hours are limited. They are only open during the better weather parts of the year so please plan your visit accordingly. Tweetsie Railroad is a sure-fire, fun time in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Gem Mining

The gem mining industry in North Carolina has been a part of that culture for decades.  When the first settlers came to the Smokies to put down roots, they discovered that the soil of the mountains contained precious and semi-precious stones.  All of a sudden, the economy in these quiet mountain towns changed.  People came to the mountains look for what they hoped would be the next gold rush in the country’s history.  And while they found some wealth and they did mine gems from the mountains, the gold rush they were hoping for never really took off.

In modern times, the land that once housed big operations that mined the hillsides, is now a tourist mecca.  And the people that still own that mine land, have decided to give those visitors to the Smokies the chance to try their hands at finding that treasure in the Smokies.  You can pan for gold, sift in a sluice for gems and in some cases even go dig the dirt out of the mountain face itself.

Jackson Hole Gem MineJackson Hole Gem MineHighlands – This roadside attraction on the road between Franklin and Highlands, has been attracting visitors for a long time.  With the promise of hot boiled peanuts on the marquee outside, you get to sit under a covered area that contains the sluice or the water trough that you use to mine gems.  The earth that you sift through has both native and enriched gemstone sin it.  Experts are on hand to help you see what you have found.

Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire MineFranklin – The Cherokee Ruby and & Sapphire Mine tries to keep it ‘real.’  If you are looking for an outdoor activity this is the place to go.  The natural stream that feeds the water flume keeps the water nice and chilly as it runs downhill.  The dirt you are sifting through is full of naturally occurring gems, some of which are of facet quality.

Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby MineCherokee – In downtown Cherokee you can not only mine for gem stones but also pan for gold.  If your children are learning about the gold rush, there is no better way to spark their interest in history then by letting them get their hands dirty.  And at the Smoky Mountain Gold & Ruby mine you are guaranteed a find!

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s history is forever tied to the nation’s railroad industry. So much so that the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is still one of the best ways to re-live the history of the Smokies while getting an up-close view of its natural beauty at the same time.

Obviously, the scenic train excursion is what makes The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad such a unique attraction. Train rides include the Nantahala Gorge Excursion – a 44 mile trip to the gorge and back, or the Tuckasegee River Excursion – a 32 mile roundtrip along the river. These spectacular trips range from three and a half hours to an entire day and can even include a meal or special seating while you ride the rails in the Smokies.

With each new season comes a different set of trips. Rhododendrons explode into a pink canvas in the spring; the fall foliage comes into full view as the steam engine makes its way around the Great Smoky Mountains. This is the same experience people had decades ago when they wanted to visit the national park before it was actually a national park.

The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s special events calendar is pretty crowded each year with new programs and shows turning up by the month while annual events continue to attract large crowds.  The Lone Ranger is the star event on the spring calendar.  With a “Hi Yo Silver!” the Lone Ranger does what he does best – saves passengers from a train robbery.  In October, the railroad features an adaptation of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” This classic Halloween tale is told to kids while they travel to the pumpkin patch to pick out their own great pumpkin. Also dedicated to kids is a November ride aboard the Polar Express. Listen as the story of the Polar Express story is read while families ride along behind the train. It’s one golden ticket per person to ride the Polar Express.

Great Smoky Mountain RailroadDeciding on the type of rail car you want to ride will be your hardest decision. It’s a decision that will more than likely depend on how much money you want to spend on your trip. Pick from First Class, Crown Class or Standard seating.  With a First Class ticket you get a ride in an air conditioned enclosed car with a meal served to you by the car’s personal attendants. Crown Class admission gives you a seat in an enclosed environment with large windows. You also get a tumbler for a drink during the trip. The final option, Standard seating, is the most cost effective way to travel and includes open air seating during the train ride.

For East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is a one-of-a-kind attraction. Bryson City, NC is home to this unique attraction and they continue to preserve and share this piece of living Appalachian history with visitors of all ages.  Whether you’re in town for one of the seasonal special events or just to take a train ride through the Great Smoky Mountains, they give you plenty of options for the train enthusiasts in your traveling group.  Make sure that you ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad while you are in the area.

From Gatlinburg, TN: Take US 441 south to Cherokee, North Carolina. US 441 will dead end onto US 19. Turn right onto US-19. Turn left at next stoplight onto US-441 South. Continue on US 441 South to US 74. Go West on US 74 until you reach Bryson City exit 67. Bear right at the end of the exit ramp onto Veterans Blvd. Turn right onto Main St at the first traffic light on Veterans Blvd, and then turn left onto Everett St at the next light. At the first traffic light on Everett, turn left onto Mitchell St. Parking for the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad will be on your right.


Teepees in Cherokee

I remember as a child, when we were vacationing in the Smokies, the signs in Cherokee, NC advertising “real live indians” always intrigued me.  Now that I am an adult, I realize that at that time, the people of Cherokee were giving the people that visited the mountains what they expected.  They were giving the tourist a ‘real’ indian, not a real cherokee experience but the indian experience that they expected, full of teepees and tomahawks.  Looking back on this now, it was kind of sad how exciting that prospect was.  Here is th good news though, these roadside attractions are still around but they have changed.

Nowadays when you visit the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, NC, you can still sit on the benches under a small tent.  You can still get your picture taken with a ‘real live’ Indian but the show has changed. Now you will get to see traditional Cherokee dancing.  You will get to hear stories about the Cherokee, about the proud people that settled this land thousands of years before the European settlers go to the Southern Appalachians.  You will hear the true tongue of the Cherokee, you will be able to understand more about their language and their culture.  And of course, the best part is that they are not the cheesy roadside stands of many years ago.  These offer a more modern look at the Cherokee.  No longer are they doing this to make a little income.

Now these Native Americans are using this darker part of their past when these roadside stands were frowned upon and making them an interactive attraction.  They are making these an educational opportunity.  Now, you can sit down and here Cherokee stories and be taught songs about the Cherokee people, you can also see authentic Cherokee dances.  Yes, the teepees are still there, and though they are out of place (the Cherokee never lived in teepees) they are a reminder of the past and great way to bring in the crowds to learn more about the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.

Hiking Trails

Juney Whank FallsHiking is probably the most popular activity in the Smokies.  There are hikes for every level of hiker.  Strenuous to easy, leisurely walks in the woods to all day and overnight hikes that require permits to stay in the backcountry the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has everything a hiker could want in a trail.

Make sure, if you are going to spend a lot of time hiking in the Smokies that you pick up their little brown book.  Titled “Hiking Trails of the Smokies” this book has every trail in the Smokies and gives pertinent information like, elevation, length, highlights and even landmarks so that you track your progress along the trail.

Abrams Falls Trail – This is the trail that starts at the Abrams Creek Trailhead in Cades Cove and runs to Abrams Falls.  This is a highly trafficked trail and one that is wide enough through the majority of its length to walk two or three abreast.  Rolling hills add a touch of difficulty but the payoff of the beautiful Abrams Falls and the swimming hole around it is spectacular.

Kephart Prong Trail – Named after one of the people that helped the Smokies become a national park, Horace Kephart, the Kephart Trail is 2 miles into the mountains from the North Carolina side of the park.  At the end of the Kephart Prong Trail, you come to the Kephart Shelter, which you can reserve for backcountry camping before you make your choice of the other trails to branch off from after a night spent in the shelter.

Gatlinburg Trail – This trail connects Gatlinburg and the Sugarlands Visitors Center.  A well maintained, easy trail with no steep grade or elevation change, the Gatlinburg Trail is an quick 2.5 mile hike through lush forest along the side of a bubbling mountain river.  Within the first mile and a half from Gatlinburg, you cross a foot bridge and then began a slow assent past a former CCC camp.

Laurel Falls – This is the most popular trail in the Smokies.  Easy is the best word to describe this trail.  Paved, wide and short, you can hike this trail in an afternoon.  At Laurel Falls you get to experience the fun of hiking in the Smokies while not having to get off road and hike on a dirt trail.  And the payoff is a beautiful view of Laurel Falls – one of the most photographed waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains.

Go-Kart Tracks

Who doesn’t like to ride go-karts.  For small children this might be their introduction to driving.  For young adults this is the height of competition, racing around the track at breakneck speeds trying to see who can cross the finish line first.  For the older ‘kids’ in the group this is a chance to be a kid again.  To climb into the go-kart and race your friends, no matter how old they might be or to chase your kids around the track , this is the thrill of racing a go-kart, this is the reason that you will find go-kart racks and other family adventure venues all over the map in the Smoky Mountain area.

You will also find that there are several different types of tracks in the Smokies:

  • Slick Track – Slick tires on a track that has been oiled.  You will find yourself slipping and sliding around every turn.  Not for the timid, the slick track is harder to find then it used to be but a lot of fun.
  • Wooden Track – These became big in the Smokies in the early 2000s.  Wooden tracks allowed the owners of these tracks to take the go-kart tracks ‘up’ instead of out.  Climbing around a tight circle before a steep descent is the norm with these tracks.
  • Kiddie Tracks – Designed for those younger kids in mind.  You can probably find a track in town that will let all but your youngest children drive around and around and around.
  • 3/8 Scale Tracks – The fastest tracks that you will find.  These are almost half scale cars that go FAST.

The TrackThe Track – This is one of the biggest family fun parks and go-kart locations in Pigeon Forge.  Along with the go-karts you can play in the bumper boats, bungee jump, ride the Skyflyer or play in the Kid’s Country.

NASCAR Speedpark – This might be the premier place for go-karting in the Smokies.  With a 3/8 scale track that gets you as close to NASCAR action as you are apt to find.

Cherokee Fun ParkCherokee Fun Park – Located in beautiful downtown Cherokee, NC, this fun park has a little bit of everything.  Go-karts, an arcade, rides and more.  Walk around downtown Cherokee and then spend a little time in the fun loving atmosphere of the Cherokee Fun Park.

Lumberjack Feud Dinner Show

Lumberjack Feud is  now Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventures. Information is maintained below for historical purposes.

Lumberjack Feud Dinner ShowOne of the newest entertainment venues in Pigeon Forge, TN is the Lumberjack Feud.  The Lumberjack Feud is one of the first non-musical shows in Pigeon Forge and it’s a dinner show to boot.  Their state of the art theater is located right off the parkway between traffic lights 3 and 4.  The theater is divided into seats for the dinner and show and seats that are just for the show.  As you enter the theater, you get your picture taken with your entire party and then you are escorted to your seats.  You will find that the cast you will see in the show later is helping to seat the audience.  There of course is an opportunity to get plenty of snacks at the concession stand, if you chose not to do the dinner and show, as you make your way to your seats.

As the lights go down and the show starts, you are entertained by Danny Black – the ‘world famous lumberjack of the Smokies.’  Danny is the host for the show and helps move the action along and make sure that everyone is following the plot.  Besides that he is extraordinarily funny, a talented juggler and physical comedian and he masterfully works the crowd.  The crowd interaction starts immediately as well, with people in the crowd being brought onto the stage and made part of the show.

Lumberjack Feud Dinner ShowThe plot is a feud between two logging families in the Smokies.  The show takes place right around the time that the Great Smoky Mountain National Park has been created by President Roosevelt.  The time of logging in the Smokies is almost over and the two families can see that they are not going to be logging in the Smokies anymore so there is a competition to decide which family has the best lumberjacks and lumberjills in the Smokies.

The competition portion is great.  These are professional lumberjacks that are participating in traditional lumberjack sports.  The events that are featured include:  the standing shop, cross-cut saw pull, log rolling and much more.  The hot saw is a crowd favorite.  They fire up the saws, let the engines warm up and then make two of the fastest cuts you will ever see made at a dinner show.  Of course, seeing lumberjack games at a dinner show is a little odd anyway.  They even get their family pets into the action with a series of dog games including a long jump into the pool that is the center of the stage.

Lumberjack Feud Dinner ShowThe main action in that pool is the log rolling event that ends the evening and decides the winner of the nights show.  As you cheer on your family (the audience is divided in two halves to cheer on the different families) two of the lumberjacks take to the log and began to roll against each other.  The feet are flying and the water is splashing and you are waiting for someone to go into the drink.  They do a best out-of-three competition and it really is the highlight of the show.

Make sure that you check out the Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge.  It is brand new, it is completely different and it will make memories for your family that you will never forget.  The facility is amazing; there is a great cast and something completely different from the traditional variety show that you usually see in Pigeon Forge.