family fun smoky mountains

The temperature is heating up, and so is the season for thrills, chills, and grills! We have a line-up of awesome things to do in May in Pigeon Forge, especially if you love the outdoors and heart-thumping activities.



Cruise through the mountains and zip through the air at speeds up to 55 miles an hour (or slightly faster). If you want to test your limits, the zipline on the Goliath at Foxfire Mountain will challenge you. You’ll zip 475 feet above the Little Pigeon River. They’ll work you up to the mega line with a tutorial and training on a beginner 600-foot long line. Foxfire Mountain also offers a Waterfall Canopy tour where you’ll zip through the forest and check out creeks and waterfalls including Foxfire’s Lost Mine Falls. The beginner line on this trip is only 60 feet long. Other area ziplines we recommend you look into are Legacy Mountain if you like heights and Smoky Mountain Ziplines if you’d rather be closer to the ground. While zipline outfits are open a lot longer throughout the year, with warmer weather, you won’t mind the breeze on your face!

Mini Golf

There’s nothing quite like getting a hole-in-one! If you’re looking for a more relaxing way to spend your day in Pigeon Forge, try miniature golf. Several places offer both indoor and outdoor miniature golf options, but only Crave Golf Club offers both, with one on the roof! They also have delicious milkshakes and a huge candy bar (read more about Crave Golf Club from one of our other posts). Lost Treasure Golf offers two 18-hole courses, and you’ll board the expeditionary mining train up to the first holes. MagiQuest has three other attractions besides its interactive black light “Pirate Golf.” You can dive into the enchanted fantasy world with a wand in hand and use your new-found magic to solve the game. The Vault is a room full of lasers where you will need to twist and turn to navigate the maze. Odyssey is a 5,000 square-foot mirror maze—twice as large as the second-largest in the world!


Check out our previous post on all the waterparks in the Smokies, where we cover some of these in much more detail! Waterparks are a great way to cool off, and Memorial Day weekend is often the time when the outdoor parks are first opened to the public. One of the largest in the area, Dollywood’s Splash Country covers over 35 acres of land and offers something for everyone! Little kids can make a splash at The Cascades, an 8,000 square-foot pool, or get soaked in Little Creek Falls. Older kids will have fun on the Slick Rock Racer, heading down a 300-foot slide along with three other racers. Families can ride together on the rafting adventure rides called Big Bear Plunge, the Raging River Rapids, or River Rush. The best part about Dollywood’s Splash Country is the ability to buy a multi-park ticket so you can hop between Dollywood’s Splash Country and Dollywood!

Wilderness Wildlife Week

For over two decades, the Wilderness Wildlife Week has been offering education, appreciation, and environmental awareness to people visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. Named a Top International Event in 2017, this free event will be held from May 8th through May 12th in 2018. Activities include a photography contest, a trout tournament for kids, a 48-hour short film race, and outdoor excursions. Be sure to check out the exhibits, vendors, and unique displays located in LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge. Learn more by checking out the extensive program guide online.

Dollywood’s Bluegrass and Barbeque Festival

Hosted by Bush’s Baked Beans, this year’s festival is going to be jam-packed (or maybe we should say injected, for all you BBQ lovers!) with award-winning bluegrass performances from three-time Grammy nominated and two-time Grammy Award winner, Blue Highway. Also in the line-up are 2015’s America’s Got Talent semi-finalist, the Mountain Faith Band, and the 2017 International Bluegrass Music Association (“IBMA”) Emerging Artist of the Year, Volume Five. Best of all, admission to Dollywood covers your access to all of the performances during your visit! The festival will be held from May 25th through June 10th in 2018.

Whitewater Rafting

Pigeon River

While there isn’t any rafting happening in Pigeon Forge itself, you can go hit up the Pigeon River with Rafting in the Smokies (celebrating 40 years of rafting this year) or Smoky Mountain Outdoors and take on the Upper Pigeon adventure or Lower Pigeon family float. The Pigeon River has a dam-controlled release for the best whitewater experience, and the releases start historically from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Some rafting companies already have opened for the pre-season, although water levels vary much more, since the dam-releases aren’t happening yet.

Oconaluftee River

If you want to venture out a little farther, Smoky Mountain Tubing offers tubing, canoeing, and small rapids (I-II) on the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee. The name comes from a village name meaning “by the river,” and was the only known Cherokee settlement within the park boundaries. It’s a pristine river and is stocked yearly with 300,000 fish, so it’s also a great spot for fishing. The North Carolina Record Brown Trout was caught here, weighing 15.9 pounds.

Nantahala River

The Nantahala River, one of the most rafted rivers in the country, is also dam-controlled. It’s widely used for training and was used as an Olympic training site for the 1992 Olympic Whitewater Canoe Slalom events in Spain. In fact, the Nantahala Racing Club has created at least 23 Olympic whitewater athletes. The Ocoee River in Tennessee was home to the 1996 Summer Olympics, which is the only course ever used that wasn’t man-made. The Upper and Middle Ocoee have scheduled dam releases.

We hope these ideas sparked some ideas for your plans for your next trip. Ready to start your Smoky Mountain adventure and vacation? In addition to what we’ve mentioned here, there are plenty more attractions to explore on our website. If you want to save your favorites, be sure to create an account and save the brochures in your suitcase. You can have multiple suitcases for planning various trips or several days within one trip!

Content on this page is subject to change. Please contact the locations mentioned to see if promotions, hours, pricing, etc. are still valid.

About April Sadowski

April Sadowski is a wife, mother of a toddler, and a travel junkie. She's a content author for the Smoky Mountain region and is always looking for the latest tip for making a vacation a memorable one.

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