Extraordinary Museums in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
From space to industry, technology to culture, our world is overflowing with themes as diverse as they are captivating. Curious artifacts, lesser-known phenomena and intriguing stories stand in testament to the extent of human discovery in these fields, offering the extraordinary pleasure of learning about the mysteries that interest us most personally. Museums provide an opportunity to immerse your mind in the objects of your curiosity — whatever that obsession of yours may be that seems to bear fruit endlessly.
Known for its rich cultural history and kid-friendly atmosphere, the Great Smoky Mountains harbor museums dedicated to such subjects as cars, forensics, pop culture, science, and local icons. Whether you’re staying in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg or Sevierville, knowledge and fascination are abound just around the corner at these museums!
Pigeon Forge Museums
One of the most kid-friendly museums in the Smokies is found in Pigeon Forge. Alcatraz East Crime Museum inspires the budding forensics scientist, lawyer and criminal investigator with five galleries and over 100 interactive activities looking into the history of American crime. Observe the clues that paint a picture of the most notorious criminals in the U.S., follow in the footsteps of law enforcement officials to investigate crime scenes using forensics tests, and serve just punishments with lie detectors and jail cells. The museum tickets are free for children under seven and discounted for law enforcement, military and Sevier County residents.
WonderWorks landed in Pigeon Forge after Professor Wonder’s science laboratory blew away in a tornado he created and attempted to control. This unique museum educates about all topics pertaining to the natural sciences and entertains with over 100 hands-on challenges across the six Wonder Zones: Extreme Weather, Physical Challenge, Space Discovery, Light & Sound, Imagination Lab, and Wonder Art Gallery. Tickets to WonderWorks also include access to the laser tag arena, 4D motion theater, and indoor ropes course.
Pigeon Forge is also known for paying homage to the icons whose contributions and talents have irrevocably shaped our culture. At the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center, you’ll get to walk the red carpet alongside hyper-realistic wax figures of Hollywood’s most loved stars and learn fun facts about their lives. Get costumed up and take ‘grammable photos with your celebrity crush or pop culture idol! The all access pass provides entry to the wax museum, plus the 5D adventure at Castle of Chaos, the quest to save the princess at Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors, and the desperate escape from zombie hordes at Outbreak: Dread the Undead.
Known for her timeless country music and life-changing charitable and humanitarian work, Dolly Parton is much more than just East Tennessee’s most revered cultural icon. Her humble beginning is rooted in a small mountain home without electricity or running water on Locust Ridge. Today, you can explore a perfect two-room replica of her childhood home at Dollywood’s Tennessee Country Home, located inside the nationally-renowned Pigeon Forge amusement park honoring her name. Plus, at Dolly’s Home-On-Wheels, you can view the actual three-bed two-bath bus that carried her across the country throughout her career.
At either of these Gatlinburg museums, you’ll stumble upon objects that are the only one of their kind and have a unique story to tell. Hollywood Star Cars Museum features the one-of-a-kind whips from the past 50 years of film and television. Imagine zooming through town in the Batmobile from the 1966 TV show! Check out what’s under the hood of the 1967 Shelby GT 500 named Eleanor from Gone In 60 Seconds. Take a photo alongside the DeLorean’s gull-wing doors from Back to the Future, and then check out the autographed visor in Sir Paul McCartney’s 2006 Cadillac. Each of these cars was once a vital part of a classic American story that is still remembered today. Make sure to purchase your Hollywood Star Cars Museum tickets in advance from their website for a museum coupon of $1 or $2 off.
The adventurer and collector Robert Ripley explored every nook and cranny of the world for fascinating artifacts and little-known stories to bring back home. One of the wackiest museums you’ll ever experience, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium exhibits shrunken heads, a two-trunked elephant, a gallery of artwork made from odd materials, and interactive areas that test your perception, including the Kaleidoscope Room and Optical Illusion Room. Oddities from over 200 countries prove that the most curious thing on earth is humankind. Museum tickets are available for single purchase or at a discounted rate when packaged in a combo pass to multiple Ripley’s attractions.
Sevierville & Dandridge Museums
The museums in Sevierville stand to demonstrate the evolution and penultimate forms of the vehicles that afford us so much freedom today. The Tennessee Museum of Aviation highlights the fascinating history of flying, showcasing aircraft memorabilia, military vehicles, helicopters, amphibious machines and aviation engines. As you walk through the hangar, you’ll learn about the unique specs, historical significance and utilitarian purpose of over a dozen warbirds. Meanwhile, the Muscle Car Museum specializes in the most notable vehicles of the roads, primarily from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Floyd Garrett’s car museum features 8 million dollars’ worth of modern and classic cars, from the 1970 Ford Torino King Cobra to the 1969 Chevy Yenko Camaro to the 1969 Pontiac GTO “The Judge.”
Just 40 minutes from Sevierville in Dandridge stands a museum in tribute to a humble food item that has since become a staple in Southern cooking. Dive into the 110-year-long history of America’s favorite bean brand at Bush’s Visitor Center. You can explore the museum and general store to learn about products you won’t see on the grocery store shelves and stop by the café for a free sample of the “bean of the day.” Admission to the visitor center is free and so is the inspiration to do some Southern home-cookin’!
When you escape to the Smoky mountain towns of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville, you also escape into your spheres of interest. A revered space purposed with the preservation of an entire field of knowledge, a museum has the power to instill a deep appreciation for our beautifully vast world. Perhaps we gain such satisfaction from exploring what attracts our minds because, ultimately, they shine a light on what it means to be alive and human.
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