The Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is not your typical museum. Your children will be fascinated and involved for hours, and so will you, as you become part of the attraction and stories-come-to-life. For entertainment, educational, and emotional value, this attraction is top-notch!
Titanic Museum Attraction – An Interactive Experience
The Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and the original one, located in Branson, Missouri, are billed as “the world’s largest museum attractions.” And, yes, I can attest that it is so much more than simply a museum. It’s an interactive experience – you enter as a guest, and leave as a passenger of the Titanic.
Last year, I had the opportunity to visit the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge with my parents and two sons, ages 12 and 7 at the time. Not knowing what to expect, I planned our day in Pigeon Forge with the idea that we’d spend about an hour to 90 minutes, tops, at the museum before heading out to continue exploring Pigeon Forge. Boy, was I wrong! Five full hours later, we emerged from the Titanic Museum having experienced something that we would never forget.
“Iceberg right ahead!”
Those fateful words were called out in warning as soon as the crew of the RMS Titanic recognized the impending danger ahead. The captain and crew worked furiously to avoid disaster, and yet, it was too late.
Only 37 seconds later, the RMS Titanic would hit the iceberg and begin taking on water.
A mere two hours and forty minutes later, the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic would disappear beneath the freezing, dark, still waters of the Atlantic, taking more than 2,200 passengers and crew with it. Ultimately, the collision with that fateful iceberg on April 15, 1912, claimed the lives of more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
The RMS Titanic would rest upon the ocean floor, two miles below the surface, for 73 years. In the years since, many expeditions were mounted and failed. None were met with success until 1985.
This year, I had a second opportunity to visit the attraction, this time with a group of social media influencers on April 15, 2016, 104 years to the day that the Titanic sank. On my expedition this time, I had the privilege of meeting the owners of the Titanic Museum Attraction, and hearing their stories firsthand. Again, the experience was one I will never forget as the gravity of what had happened so many years before registered in my heart and mind as never before through the stories I heard.
Much More Than a Ship
You might think that the story of the Titanic is about a ship, but you’d be wrong. It’s the story of the passengers and the crew, the ones who survived, and the ones who perished. These stories are the legacies of their families, handed down for generations, and they have become part of the history of each of our lives, because the legacy of the Titanic is universal.
“How do you pay respect to those who gave their lives? You simply tell their stories.” This has been the “magnificent obsession” of the owners of Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, John and Mary Joslyn.
John Joslyn was fascinated by the Titanic story and the mystery that surrounded the ship since he was a young boy growing up in Wisconsin. As a successful Los Angeles television producer for many years, he produced many interesting documentaries. Finally, in 1987, he had the opportunity to be co-leader of a six million dollar expedition to the site of the sinking, and to document every moment for the world to see, for the first time. His team’s mission was to explore the wreckage, retrieve artifacts, and bring back film footage of the remains. After making 33 dives to the site in a $20 million dollar submersible, they returned hundreds of hours of footage which became a television special he co-produced, “Return to Titanic…Live!” It was a two hour documentary, and still stands as the second-highest rated live TV show.
Years later, after taking the artifacts he and his team retrieved on exhibition throughout the US and abroad, John teamed up with his wife, Mary Kellogg-Joslyn, a former vice president over television programming with ABC-Disney, to build the permanent homes for these treasures. Each museum location houses over 400 artifacts that were recovered from the Titanic.
Telling the Stories of the Passengers and Crew of Titanic
Mr. and Mrs. Joslyn have dedicated their careers to telling the stories of the 2,208 passengers and crew who were on board. The Titanic Museum Attraction totally surprised me – I’ve become a huge fan, mainly because of the excellence with which this couple has guided this attraction. Evidence of their passion for the Titanic, people, storytelling, and entertainment is carried out from start to finish in every detail – from the beauty of the lavish galleries and the excellence in training of their staff, to the dedication of making sure these stories are told in a way that brings it all to life for their guests.
When you enter the Titanic Museum, you are given the opportunity for a self-guided interactive tour on your own, or for the enhanced tour with audio, which is included in the ticket price. The audio version, which I highly recommend, has dual options – one for adults and one for children. My boys actually listened to the children’s version – and I listened to both. I found it extremely interesting to hear stories from both the adult and child’s perspective.
You are also assigned a boarding pass as you enter, attributed to an actual passenger or crew member. From that moment on, you will be walking in the footsteps of your Titanic namesake, and experiencing their journey firsthand. On my latest excursion, I was assigned the identity of Amalie Henriette Gieger, an immigrant to America from Konigsberg, Prussia.
I learned from my boarding pass that Amalie was part of the entourage of her employer, Mr. George Widener, heir to the largest fortune in the state of Pennsylvania. She was employed as the maid of his wife, Eleanor, and was a trusted, respected member of their household. Their voyage on the Titanic was their voyage home after the family’s European visit, and she was traveling first class. At the end of our visit, we were invited to explore the memorial room, and locate the namesake given us on our boarding pass to find out whether or not our passenger or crew member survived. This ending turned out to be an emotionally solemn or joyful moment for each of us.
What My Kids Loved at Titanic Museum Attraction
- Learning from a child’s perspective via the enhanced audio tour.
- Meeting the “Captain” and hearing his Christian testimony, learning to “steer” the ship, and hearing his true stories about piloting one of the submersibles to retrieve artifacts on the actual RMS Titanic recovery mission (he really did!).
- Touching an actual, growing iceberg and submerging their hands and arms into freezing water kept at the temperature of the water that fateful night.
- Various other interactive experiences such as sending Morse code, shoveling “coal”, etc…
What I Loved Most about Titanic Museum
- Exploring more than 20 galleries and over 400 actual artifacts, plus the myriad replicas.
- Hearing the actual stories, as told by actual surviving passengers.
- Walking up the replica of the Titanic’s iconic staircase, built to scale with the exact materials of the original (no sighting of Jack or Rose, though…).
- The fascinating gift shop, which carries books, clothing, jewelry, ornaments, and many other interesting gifts, keepsakes, and educational materials.
- Watching my kids have FUN for five hours, never once realizing they were learning historical and spiritual “lessons”!
Even More to Experience at Titanic Museum
- The Titanic Museum Attraction can be reserved for private museum tours and rentals, and for groups and events, such as formal sit down dinners, progressive dinners, cocktail & hors d’oeuvres, company gatherings, Christmas events, Titanic Tea and Museum Tour, Dessert parties, retreats, conferences, and more.
- Passenger actors can be on hand to great your group and to share the stories in person.
- Titanic Museum is available for religious retreats, as its stories provide many opportunities for spiritual lessons – a tangible way to bring lessons such as trust, fear, and salvation to life, as well as understanding the fragility of life, and the importance of establishing and keeping a personal relationship with God. The management and staff are excellent to work with in this regard.
- Educational Entertainment Experiences are wonderful interactive events for students, as they are surrounded by Titanic “passengers” and artifacts. Educational guides and a scavenger hunt can be downloaded from the website.
Why We’ll Go Back to Titanic
My last tour, with the social media influencers group, was conducted by a fascinating actress portraying “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” As part of our experience, Mrs. Mary Kellogg-Joslyn was our hostess as we were served a beautiful, sit-down formal breakfast and treated to moving accounts of the stories of the Titanic passengers, as enacted by members of the Titanic Museum cast.
An actor portraying Wallace Hartley, the Titanic bandmaster and violinist, gave a dramatic performance for us. Mr. Hartley did not survive, but his story certainly did. His violin was dramatically rescued from his body beneath his life vest, and will be on display in Branson March 7 – May 29, and then the Titanic Violin will be on display in Pigeon Forge June 5 – August 14. It is valued at a cool $1.7 million dollars. The owner has graciously allowed the museum to exhibit this piece for a limited time.
A new Music Gallery has been added as a tribute to the musicians of the Titanic. There were FIVE steinway pianos aboard, and one bugler, whose position was to announce meals in the first class dining room with the tune, “O! The Roast Beef of Old England.” The eight musicians traveled as second class passengers and performed as two separate entities: a quintet and a trio. Three of the musicians had never been to sea before, and we learned that none of them had ever played together before boarding the ship!
I look forward to taking my boys, who are budding musicians, back when the violin is brought in on exhibition so they can experience these stories first-hand for themselves.
- Make your reservations ahead of time online. Crowds can get heavy at certain times of year, especially summer months, and the museum staff works to ensure that crowds are controlled so that each guest has a wonderful experience.
- Plan to spend at least two hours at the museum, but feel free to stay longer if you like.
- The museum is fully accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.
- Prepare your children before you go with a little bit of history about the Titanic. This will create an interest and spark their curiosity as the stories come to life before them.
- If you plan to visit during the holiday season, you will be glad to find out that the Titanic Museum will be fully “decked” out in holiday fashion!
- If you plan to visit with a group of 15 or more, be sure to call ahead to make arrangements with Group Sales for discounts, upcoming events and special opportunities.
- If you are planning an educational field trip, be sure to visit the website for information, downloadable tools, and scavenger hunt lists.
- Looking for a place to stay and play close by? Check out Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, located only a couple miles away.
- Check the Titanic Museum website for special combo offers with other attractions in the Great Smoky Mountains, such as Dollywood!
The Titanic Museum Attraction checks off so many of the boxes that my family looks for in a destination attraction. We certainly finds that it’s worth a special trip, and believe that you and your family will, too!