Author: Ric Deane
Date of Trip: June 2006
My wife and I live in Clearwater, Florida. We have seen Orlando and Disney World, and the other Orlando theme parks many times. This year, my wife decided she wanted to visit Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Pigeon Forge is approximately eight miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Both places are major tourist areas, and both are easily accessible by flying or driving. If you go, I recommend driving so that you can drive through the Great Smoky Mountains. Awesomely beautiful!
In early June, the weather is great and it’s before the real start of tourist season. One has the pick of hundreds of hotels and motels. We used the AAA guide and stayed in a lovely hotel in Gatlinburg. This hotel had fireplaces in every room, hot tubs, an indoor/outdoor pool and small gym. What it didn’t have was a hotel restaurant, which meant room service was catered from outside restaurants. Expensive and not very good. Rooms had a refrigerator, but no microwave. One needs to ask about these things before booking a room if, like us, you intend to stay a week.
Now about out trip to Dollywood! If you stay in Gatlinburg, I recommend using the trolley system to go to Dollywood. It only costs one dollar per person and alleviates the parking hassle. Buy your tickets ahead of time at AAA if you have it. Even at 10:00 in the morning the ticket line was very long to get in. AAA also gets you a 10% discount on these tickets. When entering, make sure you get a show program and sight map.
This is the most laid back theme park I have ever visited. Lots of shade and places to sit. It is a lot of walking up and down hills, which one should expect because of its location. The park is divided into five different theme areas, with live shows in each area. These shows are outdoors (under cover) and each venue seats approximately 400 people. Some of the shows were country western music by Dolly’s relatives. In this show, they told stories about Dolly and her family, and played many of her top hit songs. It lasted about an hour. Another show was about wild birds of prey, with live birds. This show reminded me of the bird show at Busch Gardens.
Every where you look, there are live demonstrations of how things were done or made in the old days in the mountains. It was all very interesting. One of the theme areas was for rides. We were not interested, but they looked like a lot of fun. We did, however, take a ride on a turn of the century steam locomotive. It was an hour ride that went up into the surrounding hills. The scenery was awesome. I recommend this trip be done in the fall to see the leaves changing, however, September is high season so it will be very crowded.