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Updated: 5:34 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 | Posted: 3:35 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010

Pigeon Forge



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History

Five miles north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge is a mountain resort town in Sevier County, Tenn. The residential population is around 6,000, but it soars to more than 50,000 daily with the number of tourists coming through town to visit local attractions and outlet malls. The primary destination for most visitors is Dollywood, a theme park with action rides and live musical entertainment named after country music artist Dolly Parton.

The town of Pigeon Forge was named after an iron forge built sometime around 1820 along the Little Pigeon River, which was given its name because of the flocks of passenger pigeons that frequented the banks of the river. The Pigeon Forge Mill opened in 1830. By 1841 a post office was established for the mill and the small community of Pigeon Forge that had developed in the surrounding area. The old mill still stands today and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Why you should go

An absolute must for any diehard Dolly Parton fan, there is, however, much more to see and do in Pigeon Forge. If you’re a fan of retail shopping, don’t pass up the chance to visit Belz Factory Outlet World, which boasts more than 85 outlet stores in a 450,000 square-foot space. When it comes to dining there’s the region’s signature Southern style cooking, along with a plethora of eateries serving international cuisine.

Main attractions

* Dollywood: Tourists from just about everywhere flock to Pigeon Forge to experience the fun and thrills at Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park. Open from late March to early January, the park entices visitors with exciting rides like the Thunderhead and Mystery Mine roller coasters. Live musical performances daily include classic rock ‘n’ roll, bluegrass, gospel and down home country. There’s also a musical that’s not to be missed: “Sha-Kon-O-Hey” is a celebration of the Great Smoky Mountains, its people and culture. www.dollywood.com

* The Titanic Museum: This new museum offers an interactive hands-on experience for individuals of all ages. You can walk the Titanic’s Grand Staircase and touch the frozen surface of an iceberg. Man the ship’s wheel and turn the Titanic hard to port. A significant number of Titanic artifacts are on display, as well. www.titanicpigeonforge.com

* Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame: Located inside Dollywood, The Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame opened in 1997 and is managed by the Southern Gospel Music Association. Pioneers in the field of Southern gospel music are represented in the Hall of Fame. Members are selected by the association annually and are honored with a plaque and portrait. The Museum contains thousands of items of memorabilia, a gift shop and an animatronics singing quartet. www.sgma.org

How to get there

Take I-75 North to I-40 East. Exit 407 takes visitors right to Pigeon Forge. Travel time is a little more than four hours spanning 236 miles. The closest airport is McGhee-Tyson Airport in Knoxville, which has the capability of receiving small aircraft (50 passenger jets). Flying time from Atlanta to Knoxville is about an hour. Driving from Knoxville to Pigeon Forge is another 45 minutes. It cuts the travel time a little under half, but when you add take off, landing and car rental, a road trip from home sounds a good deal less complicated.

Links of interest

* Tourism/Dining/Lodging: www.mypigeonforge.com

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