Glimpse: Pigeon Forge, Tenn.View 7 Photos
Photo courtesy of Jim R. Rogers via Flickr
Glassmaking at Dollywood, which showcases the old-time crafts and lifestyle of Appalachian folk.
Pigeon Forge, Tenn., was a lush farming community that got its name from now-extinct passenger pigeons, which once were so numerous they darkened the valley's skies, and for a forge that was built in 1817 alongside the Little Pigeon River.
The city's transformation into a tourist mecca began with the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just a few miles away, first envisioned with a bill signed in 1926 by President Calvin Coolidge and finally dedicated in 1940 by President Franklin Roosevelt.
Pigeon Forge was mostly unscathed by the wildfires that in November 2016 devastated its sister city, Gatlinburg. The roughly 16,000 acres of wildfires killed 14 people and destroyed or damaged more than 2,400 vacation cabins and other structures.
But no businesses in Pigeon Forge were damaged. And Dollywood, the city's largest employer, offered three new attractions in 2017: Drop Line, a 200-foot tall free-fall experience; Whistle Punk Chaser, a new junior coaster; and TailSpin Racer, a tube ride at Dollywood's Splash Country.
Dolly Parton, Dollywood's namesake and co-owner, played a big role in helping those affected by the fire. She pledged to donate $1,000 a month to every displaced family, Parton participated in one telethon and then held her own in December 2016 that raised a reported $9 million for the fire's victims.
Sources: Dollywood, census.gov, Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, cityofpigeonforge.com
All About Dolly
* Dollywood opened on May 3, 1986
* Situated on 150 acres
* Since Dollywood’s official opening, additions to the entertainment complex through 2016 (not including the investment in Dollywood’s Splash Country or Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort) represent a total investment of more than $300 million.
* Annually hosts nearly 2.5 million visitors
* Tennessee’s No. 1 ticketed attraction
* Five annual festivals: Festival of Nations, Barbeque & Bluegrass, Dollywood Summer, National Southern Gospel and Harvest Celebration, and Smoky Mountain Christmas
* The area now known as Pigeon Forge was once a Cherokee hunting ground and used by European settlers as a passage west into the frontier. It was settled by pioneers in the late 18th century.
* In the 1980s the Pigeon Forge Parkway was expanded to six lanes, and a trolley system was developed to accommodate the heavy traffic flow.
At a Glance
Pigeon Forge is a giant among national tourist destinations.
* Estimated population: 6,119
* Biggest employers: Dollywood, general retail, tourism and hospitality industry
* Landmarks or geographic features: The Little Pigeon River runs through the city which is nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
* Date founded: Settled in the early 1800s, the city was incorporated in 1960.
* Unique traditions: Visitors can ride the Pigeon Forge Fun Time Trolley, the city’s mass transit system, designed to help provide a means to see the town’s many attractions.
* About 10 million visitors come to Pigeon Forge each year.
Where to Eat?
Pancakes! Pancakes! Pancakes!
If there’s one thing that stands out about Pigeon Forge and its neighbor, Gatlinburg, it’s the plethora of pancake houses.
Some speculate it stems from the area’s logging history. Others say it jibes with the tourist mecca’s family-friendly image, because kids love pancakes.
Whatever the case, it’s a good bet that Pigeon Forge has one of the highest concentrations of pancake houses anywhere. At least, anywhere we’ve ever seen.
They’re not hard to find, but some of the pancake houses include Reagan’s House of Pancakes at 2820 Parkway, Red Rooster Pancake House at 3215 Parkway and and Wild Bear Pancake House at 4160 Parkway.