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Pigeon Forge rolls out the red carpet for spring 2016

ripken experienceThe Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge is one of many new and updated attractions in Pigeon Forge in 2016. Image by Jeaneane Payne.

PIGEON FORGE, TN -- As spring rolls into the full-fledged family travel season of summer, Pigeon Forge visitors are finding exciting new and updated attractions, shows and activities. Here’s a sampling.

Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge – Baseball Hall of Fame member Cal Ripken Jr. came to town in early March to open the $22.5 million Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge, a six-stadium youth baseball complex. The all-weather lighted fields are atop a ridge, each offering spectacular views of the Great Smoky Mountains. The footprint of each field mirrors a professional stadium, with the largest being a match of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Teams are coming from across the country, and spectators are welcome.

Lightning Rod at Dollywood – The Dollywood theme park is adding Lightning Rod, the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster and the world’s first launching wooden roller coaster. The thrilling $22 million ride is the largest attraction investment in the park’s history. Themed after a tricked-out 1950s-era hot rod, Lightning Rod launches riders from zero to 45 mph to a point 20 stories high. It races down a 165-foot drop and propels guests along its 3,800-foot-long track to a top speed of 73 mph, the fastest speed for a wooden coaster in the world.

Splash zone at “Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show” – Over the winter, the producers of the “Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show” used several million dollars to build a swimming pool in the stage area in order to add a high-dive element to the show. Inspiration came from Cirque du Soleil’s “O” in Las Vegas, but producers promise a Smoky Mountains twist. Look for announcement of the first splash party.

Mornings at the Smoky Mountain Opry Theater – Popular Pigeon Forge entertainer Charlie Bob Smith is the star of a new morning show at the 1,400-seat Smoky Mountain Opry Theater. He and comedian Billy Baker, along with a cast of singers, dancers and musicians, will get audiences singing and laughing on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Bouncing and Rolling – The area’s first trampoline park is called TopJump, but it’s much more than a trampoline park. In addition to open jump, you’ll find dodge ball, basketball (soar like an NBA player), a ninja course, a gladiator pit, a kids’ zone and climbing challenges. It’s all indoors. In contrast, there is new outdoor fun at the Outdoor Gravity Park, where a zigzag course called the Funnel Track lets up to three passengers splash and laugh down a hillside while inside an 11-foot-tall ball. Think of it as a combination of a water slide and a human-sized hamster ball.

Lumberjack Adventure – Dolly Parton is planning Pigeon Forge’s newest dinner show, “Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure Dinner & Show.” Expect lots of lumberjack action and good music, too, when it opens in May.

Wallace Hartley Violin – When the RMS Titanic sank into the frigid North Atlantic, a legend was born about the ship’s bandleader, Wallace Hartley. His cherished violin was found strapped to his body after the sinking and was returned to his fiancée, only to be lost to the world for almost a century. It sold at auction in 2013 for $1.7 million. Pigeon Forge visitors can see the Hartley violin in a special exhibition at the Titanic Museum Attraction from June 5-Aug. 14. Every day, there will be special early-morning admission for a limited number of Titanic enthusiasts to view the violin and shoot heirloom photos.

For more information, visit

Published May 4, 2016

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