The Herd, my husband, and I were very excited about the opportunity to explore the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, TN as a part of our family vacation to the Gatlinburg area. Having always loved reading about the Titanic and watching documentaries about it’s tragic voyage, the prospect of seeing actual artifacts from the ship was thrilling. Before we went to the Titanic Museum, my husband and I prepped the kids by talking about it, even though the older two had heard of the Titanic before. We discussed it’s amazing construction and size, as well as the crash and how it happened.
Walking up to the attraction stirs up excitement for the visitors, as they see that the museum is actually an impressive replica of the ship. After picking up tickets, Titanic museum employees dressed as employees of the ship (maids etc), greeted us and presented us each with different cards detailing the identity of an actual passenger that sailed aboard the Titanic. This is a nice touch, in that it draws the visitors into feeling like they are actually setting sail on the ship. In the first gallery we were captivated by a tour guide explained the experience of being aboard the Titanic when it crashed from the point of view of Molly Brown. We enjoyed her story and enthusiasm.
Other terrific efforts are made that take the experience from merely viewing artifacts in a museum to actually participating. Sound effects, such as the Titanic’s horn (that actually rattles the visitors a bit), create a convincing ambience. The smells slightly change from gallery to gallery as well, and the lighting is reflective of the various levels of the ship and the emotions that need to be conveyed at different points in the tour. Seeing the luxurious, posh decor of the first class accommodations (exquisite furniture, fireplaces, top of the line crystal and porcelain china dining ware) contrasts heavily with the utilitarian environment of the third class level (tiny rooms with bunk beds and only TWO bathtubs for the entire third class to share!). One of my boys was horrified that the percentage of surviving first class passengers was much higher than that of the third class passengers.
The presence of personal pictures and correspondence throughout all of the galleries gave us a glimpse of the faces we would’ve seen as fellow passengers, and filled me with a sense of them actually being there around us. The Titanic Museum has an exact, to-scale replica of the famous “Grand Staircase” from the ship, and it was impossible to not feel regal when walking on it. A helpful tour guide, dressed as a ship’s maid) was stationed there and told us about the original Titanic blueprints being used to construct this area, which was fascinating for my boys.
The Titanic Museum makes a concerted effort to engage children by providing both a children’s audio tour in addition to the standard adult tour, and included various child-specific question and answer panels in the galleries. There were also multiple “hands on” stops that gave us a small chance to feel like we were participating in the ship’s workings. In the coal room we got the chance to lift a huge shovel that was heavily weighted down by mock coal and place it into the furnace. This was very helpful in illustrating how laborious the job of a man working in the coal room would’ve been. A sign on the wall told us that it took 325 men during a 10 hour shift to shovel enough coal to keep the Titanic powered, while enduring 100 degree heat.
In the captain’s deck, we actually got to steer the ship’s wheel, which all four of my kids loved, and seeing where the ship would’ve been controlled fascinated my boys. One of our favorite galleries was one that including a “real” frozen iceberg that we could touch as we walked on the ships deck. The room was dark with only pinpoint lights that mimicked starlight to light our way, so that we could experience how the passengers might’ve felt when they saw the iceberg. It included a place to feel 28 degree water, so that we would better understand how the water felt to those who drowned.
There was a place to climb on a replica of the ship’s deck as it was placed on the varying angles that the Titanic endured after the crash. My daughter was horrified by the one at a 45 degree angle, and it’s easy to imagine people sliding down it. In the children’s gallery we saw pictures of all children who sailed on the ship, and there was a game by where one must steer the ship’s wheel to keep from hitting the iceberg that my oldest son loved. He was pleased that he was able to avoid the iceberg (the video game told us only 1763 other people had succeeded, so now he thinks he can be a cruise captain. 😉
This was an amazing, educational but also entertaining experience for my entire family. Even though the subject matter was above my 2 year old’s head, she still had a great time and enjoyed exploring the ship. This is a fantastic way to spend a few hours when you’re in the Pigeon Forge area, and I highly recommend it for families with children and older visitors alike. Unfortunately, but understandably, photography of any kind is prohibited in the museum, so I can not include pictures with this review… But that just means you need to visit it yourself!
Have you ever been to the Titanic Museum? What was your favorite thing?
*In exchange for writing this review, my family and I were given complimentary admission. Opinions are my own, and honest…. I wouldn’t steer you wrong!*