Winter 2012--Dollywood

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December 11th 2012
Published: December 29th 2012
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

To help us get in the Christmas spirit, we found a small window of weather opportunity and drove the 4 hours to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We had planned on going earlier, but decided we would have to bypass it this year because it was too cold to be walking around outside. However, as we watched the weather warming in Atlanta, we thought we would look again, and violá—a few days of warmer weather in Pigeon Forge, TN also.

Hotel points were used to reserve a room for 3 nights, clothes were packed, snacks were packed, travel checklist completed, and off we went. You can go to Pigeon Forge from Atlanta through the SmokyMountains or up I-75. AAA said it was actually shorter through the Smokies, but about 4 minutes longer. However, they didn’t consider the fog factor, which meant closer to 6 hours than 4, putting us in darkness and fog the last twisty part through the mountains.

Once we finally descended into the valley, we were greeted by the town’s Christmas lights. We really enjoyed the new LED lights depicting nursery rhymes and the old mill display on the hill.

We found the hotel quickly, and then went to have dinner. Sharon went to buy tickets and discovered that for a few ($2-5) dollars more each we could get another day free, so we re-planned how we were going to spend our time.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Today we headed for Dollywood to be there after they opened at 1:00. We discovered they charged $10 for parking, but if we drove a mile or so from our motel to Patriot’s Park, the main trolley station, we could park for free and take the trolley each way for 50 cents. That was a no-brainer. The trolley ride was about 10 minutes and dropped us off at the front gate.

Our plan of attack for this day was to see the major (45-minute shows) and see what else was around the main area to minimize walking and to allow greater flexibility for Saturday when we expected there might be crowds. (See for a map and more info on the park.) It was also a good plan because Valerie was trying to be careful with her stress-fractured foot.

We had some soup for lunch at the bakery and headed to the “Twas the night before Christmas” show, which was a musical comedy about a family whose adult children were going to miss their first Christmas at home together as a family and a small troupe of mice who loved Christmas cookies. It was fun and professionally done.

After that we looked around a little and headed for the ice skating show. We were a little disappointed in the ice skaters, but we had never seen a performance on a stage, so it was hard to tell whether they were limited by the size of the rink or their talent. Of course we are spoiled by the quads and triple axels and other feats that we see on tv using the larger rinks. We did enjoy the small group of singers who accompanied the skaters.

Then we watched the Carol of the Trees where they played a 20-minute music program while lights “danced” on a major Christmas tree and on the surrounding smaller trees and woods. It was most enjoyable as you can see in one of the videos Valerie has posted (probably on youtube, not here).

Our last show of the evening was “Christmas in the Smokies,” which included a loose storyline about people celebrating Christmas in the “holler,” with mostly singing and a little dancing. It was a nice way to cap off the evening, and we left looking forward to the next day.

When we got back to the Patriot Park trolley station, they had large light displays honoring the various armed services. It was a nice reminder of Pearl Harbor and those who gave their lives some 70+ years earlier. We rushed from one trolley to the next for our Trolley light tour of Pigeon Forge. It was an hour long for $5 each and the tour guide provided a lot of information about the town as well showing us the lights. It seems that the 3 towns in this area get together to co-ordinate their light displays, and with the new LEDs, they are really enchanting. We especially liked the ones at McD’s where the elves filled the French fries into a 12 foot packet.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It was a little cool (upper 50’s) as we headed back to Dollywood via PatriotPark. With the warm day to come and the weekend, the park was humming as we expected. This time, Valerie was equipped with a scooter so we could wander a little more. We saw almost all of the park except for the area where the roller coasters and other adult rides were. As we went along we enjoyed all of the decorations and people-watching.

This day’s agenda included a short concert, “Appalachian Christmas,” by a blue grass group, a movie where Dolly talks about Appalachia around the Smoky Mountains, a ride on the train, a ride on the carousel, a gospel performance at the chapel, a look at a reproduction of Dolly’s childhood home, a tour of her touring bus, a buffet dinner at Aunt Granny’s, a walk up craftsman’s valet, and a parade of lights.

There were several shows we skipped and several other things we could have seen, but it was certainly enough for one day. We so enjoyed the wholesomeness, ambiance, and value of the park that we bought a season pass for next year (at a discount) and talked about coming again next year, perhaps for Christmas again, and maybe on one of our trips north.

It was obvious to us that the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge-Sevierville area is working hard at making the area a family destination of choice. There are plenty of Branson type shows/Myrtle Beach/Panama City type of attractions, an unbelievable number of hotels and restaurants, lots of shops, and a inexpensive bus/trolley system connecting the three towns.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Like almost everyone else in the area, we were headed home this day. First, however, we had to stop for $2.98/gallon gas with everyone else, and hit the outlet stores. Armed with our Angel Tree lists, we went clothes and book shopping. We were somewhat disappointed in the lack of bargains, but we managed to buy enough anyway.

Arrived home safely and satisfied. It had been a good trip with reasonable costs—about $50 worth of gas, 3 nights free accommodations, about $80 a piece for 2-days at Dollywood and a season pass for all of next year, $7 for trolley rides and tours, and typical costs for eating out food! The days were warm enough and the predicted rain didn’t begin until we were almost home.

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