Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have a reputation for being family-friendly. But as any parent of a toddler knows, family-friendly and toddler-friendly aren’t exactly the same. You may be surprised at some of the toddler vacation activities you can find up that way. So if you have a toddler in addition to your older kids, we have plenty of options for you. If you have a toddler in addition to younger children, I am so, so sorry.
(We were given tickets to some of these attractions in exchange for sharing our experience. As always, we only share our honest opinions and experiences.)
Ripley’s Mini Golf. Yes, with a toddler.
So we really took the toddler mini golfing at Ripley’s. They have two courses available: Old MacDonald in Pigeon Forge and Davy Crockett in Gatlinburg. We figured he would be engaged by all of the animals and décor there. And he was. There are all sorts of animals that talk and fun things to look at. Balls vanish into holes and reappear somewhere else completely. Bean loved watching for each player’s ball in our group to come out of the holes. They offer two courses, harder and easier. Or, with a toddler, harder and harder. But, brilliant as I am, I got him a ball and club, as well. Thus was born Bean Rules. Keep an eye on the blog for greater detail about that. Suffice to say that the toddler did, in fact, play putt-putt with the rest of us. We played at Davy Crockett, this time, but the one in Pigeon Forge will be next. Because it heavily involves pigs. You know, in case you know anyone who likes pigs.
Dolly Parton’s Stampede
Dolly Parton’s Stampede is a dinner show which we have discussed before. We also mentioned how much Bean loved it. More than a little bit. He loved the horses, he loved the Christmas lights, (please note, we went to the Christmas show,) he loved the pigs, he loved the chickens, he loved the food. He just loved all of it. And he wasn’t a problem, even sitting on my lap the whole time because
he is such a little angel there was plenty to hold his attention. Dolly Parton’s Stampede should already be a must-visit on your list, and even having a toddler in tow shouldn’t slow you down.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Ripley’s has a neat Aquarium in Gatlinburg. While there are plenty of aquariums that you could visit, this one features one thing that most others don’t; tons of sharks. Yes, there are sharks at almost every aquarium. But I feel like you get to see more sharks, closer, at Shark Lagoon inside Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. If you have a little shark lover in tow, this is the place to be. There are plenty of other beautiful fish to see, as well, so make sure to pay them a visit.
The Track in Pigeon Forge is a combination arcade/rides attraction. What is really nice about the Track is that they use a point system for everything there. Arcade games, skill games, speedway cars, bumper boats, mini golf, you name it. If you have a group with varying ages, you will find this indispensable. Older kids want to ride the speedway, but toddler is too young? No problem. Just load up a point card for each member of your group, and let them spend points on whatever they choose. Then you can take the little one into the arcade, and let him or her go to town on some fun games and even win some tickets. There are even kiddie rides, in case games aren’t your little one’s thing.
Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge is another must-visit. You can get a Christmas fix anytime that isn’t Christmas. Or even more saturation if it is Christmas. There are Christmas lights everywhere, so you already know Bean loved it. Also, the little moving model trains kept him excited for a long, long time. There are all sorts of great decor items and gifts to fit a wide range of tastes, so there is bound to be something to please everybody there.
Of course, we can’t forget about Dollywood. If this isn’t a stop on your trip to the Smokies, what is wrong with you? Dollywood offers a range of activities for a whole range of ages, which makes it a great destination for families. But most importantly, scattered through the park are little play areas for your toddler to play in. While Bug and Beth rode Firechaser Express. Three times in a row. Bean was so happy “making a build” that he didn’t want to leave when the girls had finally had enough. There is also an area with age-appropriate rides for your little one, and finally the Rockin’ Roadway cars are open to any visitor who can at least sit up by himself or herself.
So there are really plenty of options available to you in the Smokies. Vacations can be taxing, and everything is harder with a toddler. Even going to the bathroom. Next time, consider taking advantage of an area that will at least accommodate your little
tyrant bundle of joy.