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Scenes from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge on Friday, May 1 as the area begins phased reopening amid coronavirus in East Tennessee.

Knoxville News Sentinel

Labor Day weekend is approaching, although many people may have lost track of time amid the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s still a big world out there to explore, though, and one East Tennessee spot landed on Airbnb’s top 10 travel destinations for the holiday. 

Pigeon Forge is ranked No. 9 on the list, which includes several other Southern cities, including Hilton Head and Charleston, both in South Carolina, as well as Wilmington, North Carolina, and Orange Beach, Alabama.

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All the getaways in the top 10 are traditional summer escapes with access to water or quiet places to take in the changing colors of fall. Here’s the full list:

  1. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
  2. Big Bear Lake, California
  3. Lake Havasu City, Arizona
  4. Charleston, South Carolina
  5. Scranton, Pennsylvania
  6. Wilmington, North Carolina
  7. Palm Springs, California
  8. Orange Beach, Alabama
  9. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
  10. Fredericksburg, Texas

Why Pigeon Forge is the place to be

Airbnb reports travelers are opting for the outdoors and deciding against dense areas during the pandemic.

Remote areas make up 30% of booked trips this year — that’s almost double the share compared with last year. City travel has been cut in half, going from 40% of bookings in 2019 to 20% in 2020, according to Airbnb’s stats. 

Pigeon Forge has plenty of family-friendly activities, including Dollywood, The Island and other themed attractions. It’s a short drive to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park if travelers want to vacation in a slower, more socially distanced space. 

People also are staying close to home. Airbnb discovered more than half of all the bookings on its site in August were nearby weekend stays within 300 miles of travelers’ homes. Pigeon Forge is less than an hour’s drive from Knoxville.

Airbnb travelers want a change of scenery from places they’ve been quarantining during the pandemic. The company’s report stated that unique locations like cabins and tiny homes are overtaking traditional options in searches. Cabin stays are up 40% since last year across the site.

Of course, Pigeon Forge has that, too. Cabin visitors have the best views of the Smoky Mountains, which will only get better as the leaves change for fall. 

Email Allie Clouse at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @allie_clouse. If you enjoy Allie’s coverage, support strong local journalism by subscribing for full access to all our content on every platform.

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