Yes, of course, you might recall hearing of this town before; it was Dolly Parton who put her old stomping grounds on the map, so to speak. Pigeon Forge is now the home of “Dollywood,” and by my estimation, the town is one of the premier “Happy Crap” capitals of the world.

Besides the plethora of gift shops and go-kart tracks lining the main drag, one of the things that immediately caught my attention was the abundance of Pancake Houses. More prolific than coffee shops in Seattle, Pancake Houses have obviously taken over the restaurant industry in Tennessee.

I kid you not! On just a cursory drive through town you’ll encounter Aunt B’s Pancake House and Grill, Flapjacks Pancake Cabin, Little House of Pancakes, Log Cabin Pancake House, Lucy’s Pancake Grill, Pancake Cabin, Pancake Pantry, and Smoky Mountain Pancake House. So of course, I had to eat pancakes. When traveling, one always wants to be sure to sample the local cuisine.

Besides eating pancakes, we managed to do quite a few other activities indicative to this region. First we toured the Forbidden Caverns, a few miles outside town. The guide was knowledgeable, the stories were fascinating, and the underground rock formations were awesome.

Next I went on my very first helicopter ride. After being UNDER the Smoky Mountains, it was only fair to fly OVER them. If you’ve ever thought about taking a scenic helicopter tour, DO IT. I’m not the bravest of creatures, but the ride was as gentle and calm as sitting in a recliner at home. I honestly did not know when we left the ground; it was truly an amazing experience, with not a hint of motion sickness! I only wish we’d stayed up there longer than our 18 minute flight.

Later we attended the Dixie Stampede. Yep, it’s Dolly’s creation, and it’s a rollicking North vs. South type of dinner show. Over 700 people fill the auditorium at each of two nightly seatings, and the program includes bareback riding, barrel races, pig races and lots of audience participation. The food wasn’t bad either, only the math boggles the mind. One hundred forty chickens served seven days a week comes to 4,200 roasted birds a month!

Gatlinburg is a short six miles away, and there we found a year-round ski lift, a tram, and what they call a “space needle” (and I call a laugh!) highlighting the available activities. They also had the largest craft fair I’ve ever attended, with many homemade items I’d not seen before. Also of note in Gatlinburg was “Fanny Farkle’s Ogle Dog,” an honest-to-goodness foot-long corndog!

Yep, our stop in Pigeon Forge (not to be confused with Pigeon Fork, Pigeon Poke, or Pigeon Poop) was a wonderful experience. Just don’t try to find an espresso stand without help… but that’s where asking the locals can come in handy!

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