Branson and Pigeon Forge are two of the country’s top tourist destinations. They have similarities to one another in terms of being family-friendly and offering a lot of entertainment.
There are some differences as well, so which destination is right for you?
Below we cover what to know about both and how they compare.
Branson, Missouri, has been a tourist destination for more than 100 years. It’s in the Ozarks, so it’s scenically beautiful. The city and surrounding areas are known for hospitality and kind people with a welcoming spirit and wholesome entertainment appropriate for all ages.
If you were going to Branson, it’s on the southern border of Missouri, very close to northwest Arkansas. Interestingly, it’s estimated that one-third of the country can get to Branson in less than a day’s drive, which might be one reason it’s such a popular destination.
If you’re going to fly, there are two national airports within 50 miles of Branson— Branson Airport and the Springfield-Branson National Airport.
When you arrive, you’ll notice shopping, dining, and entertainment are essentially everywhere.
The weather is pretty mild year-round, so any time is good to visit, and winters are mild.
Table Rock Lake is nearby, and it’s an area where people often camp or take advantage of RV parks while staying close to everything Branson has to offer. There are also condos and bed and breakfasts near Table Rock.
Restaurant options are varied and include barbecue, diners, and breakfast cafes, among other options.
The live shows are probably one of the main reasons people go to Branson. Branson is called the Live Music Show Capital of the world., with more than 150 productions to choose from, catering to all interests and audiences.
There are comedy shows, gospel, magic, family bands, variety, and a number of others.
The Haygoods is perhaps one of the most well-known and popular shows in Branson. The Haygoods is a family act with five brothers and one sister. They play instruments, sing, and dance. They’ve been performing in Branson for more than 20 years.
There are a lot of recreational and entertainment options too. Silver Dollar City is a theme park based in the 1880s, with roller coasters and a train ride.
For outdoor lovers, you can hike and bike the Ozarks.
You can head to Top of the Rock, which is part of Big Cedar Lodge. There are golf courses, a wine cellar, three restaurants, and Top of the Rock is also home to the Lost Canyon Cave Nature Trail.
Branson Landing is a destination for shopping and restaurants, and these are just a tiny sample of everything there is to do.
Visiting Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge is another family-friendly, activity-packed destination. It’s in the Smoky Mountains, so you can visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Parkway that runs through Pigeon Forge has all the tourist attractions you might think of like mini-golf, go-karts, and extreme adventures.
Sevier County, where Pigeon Forge is located, is also where country legend Dolly Parton was born. She’s left her mark on the community in a big way, particularly with Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country.
Dollywood is a theme park with an appreciation for all things related to Smoky Mountain heritage and culture. It’s quaint and charming but also has some amazing thrill rides. Dollywood has more than three million visitors a year, and the DreamMore Resort and Spa is just across the street and opened a few years ago.
Wildwood Grove is the newest expansion in the park, which lets you explore more about Dolly’s inspiration and imagination. Wildwood Grove was part of a $300 million investment into the park that started six years ago.
Pigeon Forge is very close to Gatlinburg, another Smoky Mountain tourist destination. Gatlinburg has its own set of attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium, Ober Gatlinburg, Anakeesta, and the Gatlinburg Space Needle.
It’s impossible to talk about this area without going into a little more detail about Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are more than 800 square miles of stunning beauty to enjoy. Some of the best views come from peaks like Clingman’s Dome and Mount LeConte. The main entrances to the park are in Gatlinburg and Cherokee, North Carolina.
It’s the most-visited national park in America, so going off-season can help you avoid some of the crowds.
Branson Vs. Pigeon Forge: Which Is Right For You?
Branson and Pigeon Forge are incredibly similar in a lot of ways. They even have some of the same attractions—for example, both have Dolly Parton’s Stampede, a dinner show.
If your primary interests are shows and entertainment, Branson is probably the destination for you. Branson is perhaps also more high-energy than Pigeon Forge or the surrounding communities near the Smokies. A lot of people think that Branson has better food, although that may be a matter of opinion. Table Rock lake is also a positive on the side for Branson.
If you’re someone who loves the outdoors, then you should probably opt for Pigeon Forge. While Table Rock Lake and the Ozarks are beautiful, it’s difficult to compare them to what you’ll see in the Smoky Mountains.
Price-wise many travelers find that Branson is less expensive, especially when it comes to lodging. The Pigeon Forge area can get very expensive, particularly during peak seasons.
If you’re traveling in winter, you may prefer Branson because the weather may be a bit milder. It can get cold and sometimes snow in the Smokies, but it’s not an area known for skiing or a lot of winter sports. Both locations have holiday-themed decorations and celebrations. Some places in Branson do close in the winter, which isn’t the case as much in Pigeon Forge.
Overall, when planning a family-friendly trip, you’re probably not going to go wrong with either choice. Both are great for multi-generational trips as well when you want to please multiple age groups.