Sometimes it can add extra fun to combine a little mystery into your theme park experience. As family season pass holders and frequent visitors to Dollywood, we have literally explored almost every corner of the park, watching it expand and evolve over the years. On a recent excursion, we began to collect trivia throughout Dollywood for an upcoming group gathering. Here is the resulting scavenger hunt that we compiled, along with the answers (and location if needed).
Every summer includes water play of all sorts, depending on your preferences for getting wet. Though not located on the ocean, there are still plenty of opportunities to make a splash just a short distance from your Wears Valley rental cabin. Consider these alternatives:
In our tourist area, most regulars are very familiar with all the attractions in Gatlinburg, and things to do in Pigeon Forge. But we find that many are far less familiar with our county seat city, Sevierville, Tennessee. Home to many locals, it is a destination in its own right. Here is just a starter list of locations to shop, eat, explore, and play in Sevierville.
Once you have rested in your Smokies cabin rental, it’s time to go forth and shop! Have you forgotten anything? All the necessary suburban sprawl chains are available for your needs: grocery stores, Walmart, Lowe’s/Home Depot, Bass ProShops, Orvis, Party City, and more are close by, with several being added quite recently.
For fun time shopping, start first by choosing from the 100+ brands located at Tanger Five Oaks Outlet Center. You can get your entire fix in one location!
For non-chain experiences, consider the Apple Barn Cider Mill and General Store for gifts, home items, souvenirs, bakery goods and ice cream treats, just for starters. Smoky Mountain Knifeworks is also a worthy, interesting stop.
After power buying, you must be hungry. Three local eateries downtown serve both locals and tourists alike. Courthouse Donuts is a half block from the Dolly Parton statue anyway, so indulge in their delicious homemade custom orbs, and pick up lunch while you are there too.
Healthy Balance is two blocks away if you desire freshly prepared fare that is both tasty and nutritious. They can even provide prepared meals that you can tote back to your Sevierville rental cabin for a made from scratch solution to dinner.
If you prefer laid back, comfortable place for a nice dinner, try the Southern fare at Bistro 109. They will take good care of you.
Explore and have fun learning at these three locations: Tennessee Museum of Aviation is a great spot for those who enjoy airplanes and military history. Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum is the ultimate place to reminisce about revving those engines with a private collection of 90 vehicles. You can even go down under at Forbidden Caverns, an always cool, 58 degree place to take a guided cave tour in the midst of a steamy summer day. Add these three together, and it is guaranteed you will learn and see some things you have never encountered.
Now let’s play! If you want to relax and watch a great game, get in on the season at Tennessee Smokies Baseball Stadium, just off exit 407 at Interstate I-40. The Smokies are a minor league farm team for the Chicago Cubs. Always a great evening out, the games even finish with fireworks on Friday nights.
Burn off some boundless child energy, or even test your own athleticism at Sevier Air Trampoline and Ninja Warrior Park. This almost 40,000 square foot adventure park has ninja warrior courses to climb and hang from, in addition to the traditional trampoline and dodgeball venues. Determine the true warriors in your crowd.
Want to get on the water? Douglas Lake is a 30,000 acre recreation area just a couple of miles off our main thoroughfares. Rent a boat at Douglas Lake Marina, or just lay on the public swim beach at Douglas Dam Headwater Campground. Visit the Douglas Dam Scenic Overlook for an unmatched mountain vista over the water. Douglas Dam was constructed by the Tennessee Valley Authority as part of their watershed for hydroelectric production. You can also walk right up to the dam and observe the underwater turbines in action when water is being spilled into the French Broad River below.
I have only scratched the surface of Sevierville with some ideas to get you started. Do not overlook these opportunities to add more shopping, eating, exploring, and play to your next visit to Volunteer Cabin Rentals. Let us help you find places you have never been!
If you are like our family, all are looking ahead to summer vacation. Regardless of your destination in the Great Smoky Mountains, preparation is key to assuring your family’s comfort and that everyone has a good time. After checking into your Pigeon Forge rental cabin, most head outside for adventure. Visiting Dollywood during the hot weather months can be more enjoyable with these few specific tips while hitting the water rides. There are four seasonal rides that can quickly cool you off. Here are the details:
It is an undisputed fact that theme parks can be an expensive family activity. To maximize your fun and minimize your cost while at Dollywood, check out these ways to cut expenses on admission, dining, and parking.
You spend so much of of daily life handling problems: work issues, school project deadlines, sports activities scheduling, and maintenance and repair surprises. When it is the too short timeframe to enjoy being with the person that you love, make each moment count! Here are some ways to ensure you create great shared memories when visiting the Smoky Mountains this month.
1. Try a fun activity together like ice skating at Ober Gatlinburg. Whether a new experience for one or both of you, it is a simple pleasure to circle the Olympic-sized ice rink hand in hand. Bonus hand holding time is available if you park in downtown Gatlinburg, and ride the aerial tramway car to the summit. Descending from the resort at dusk grants a lovely panoramic view of the sunset over the surrounding ridges and the lights of Gatlinburg below.
You have already heard about outlet shopping. You may be familiar with the outstanding arts and crafts community. You might even have visited the Bavarian-styled retail spot called the Village. This blog is for the guys. Not to say that women would not enjoy these locations, but let’s find some purchase opportunities that might help with the man cave. So while you map out a shopping route plan on your GPS before leaving your rental cabin in Pigeon Forge, consider these stops for your list. Some are chains, some are locally-owned, independent establishments.
1. Bass Pro Shop (3629 Outdoor Sportsmans Place, Kodak). Located just off the exit 407 interchange from Interstate 40, you may have already spotted this opportunity on your way into town. This massive retail playland for hunting, fishing, and boating has a few things to keep the whole family entertained: an instore Starbucks and restaurant (Uncle Buck’s), a small arcading area upstairs, a glass elevator, and an oversized fish viewing tank. There are also seasonal events that are worth checking out if they occur during your stay.
Close by Pitstop Tip: Adjacent to the main building is a small shopping area that includes The Beef Jerky Outlet (3609 Outdoor Sportsmans Place, Kodak). Beef, turkey, and wild game jerky are offered in over 200 varieties, plus free samples. Enough said.
2 and 3. Smoky Mountain Knife Works (2320 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Sevierville) and Buds Gun Shop and Range (2270 Two Rivers Boulevard, Sevierville) are literally across the street from each other. The Knife Works slogan is, “If it cuts, we carry it.” An impressive array of all types and brands of knives, along with camping and sporting goods, kitchen items, clothing and gifts of all sorts. It’s unique, and worth at least a short visit. If you’d prefer a little more ammunition, try Buds. With knowledgeable people on staff (we know two retired policeman friends who work there for fun), you can find a variety of weapons, ammunition, and accessories at competitive prices, and be assured of making a good choice with your purchase.
Close by Pitstop Tip: Also located next to Buds is the Coleman Factory Outlet Store (2270 Two Rivers Boulevard, Sevierville). Whether you like to go roughing it, or prefer glamping, this place has many bargain items for use in the great outdoors. From kayaks to coolers, a good place to purchase dependable Coleman products.
4. J. Floyds Golf & Guns (539 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Sevierville). Located in close proximity to Sevierville Golf Club, this store can provide most of your golfing needs without having to pay the premium prices of local pro shops. All familiar name brands are offered, and they also fit, adjust and service equipment to meet your specific requirements. If you are thinking of a new club or even a set, check here first. J. Floyds will also ship merchandise for your convenience.
Close by Pitstop Tip: The Home Depot is directly behind J. Floyds, and Lowes is across the street. Not that you need anything, but it’s always good to know where one of these home stores is located, just in case. My wife jokingly (?) calls them “man Walmarts”.
5. Harbor Freight Tools, 205 Forks of the River Parkway, Sevierville. This retail chain just opened last month, and although there may be one close to home for you, when do you truly have time to go browsing? Stop in to view those “quality tools at discount prices” that they have advertised since 1977.
Close by Pitstop Tip: There is a location of Trapped Escape Game in this same strip shopping center. If you are a puzzler and want a fun adventure, it’s worth a look. Not technically a store, but hey.
6. Rocky Top Harley-Davidson (105 Waldens Main Street, Pigeon Forge). Who doesn’t want to ride a Harley? For novices, did you know that you can enroll in a New Rider course? This location offers academy classes almost every weekend, and the minimum age is only 15 to “Learn to Ride the Harley-Davidson Way”! If you already own a two-wheeled prize, skilled rider courses are also offered, along with plenty of fine machines for purchase. If you will always be only a wanna-be, there is also an apparel shop of Harley items to buy the look.
Close by Pitstop Tip: Five Guys Burgers and Fries (2525 Parkway, Pigeon Forge) is located about a block from Rocky Top Harley. Because after all the browsing, a guy’s gotta eat.
As a postscript, should you be forced to visit the Tanger Outlet Center with family, don’t despair. You can score some sport deals with Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and Reebok. Visit Oakley Vault for sunglasses and maybe a jacket from The North Face, and you are all set. There are even more clothing stores, if you really have to do that too. Let me just say that there’s still more here to see in our area that didn’t make this blog. With a little effort, even guys can spend some serious green in Sevier County and be happy about it. If you want any recommendations from anyone on our VCR staff, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Only a couple of weeks of school remain, and our favorite family activity on the last day is to leave the school parking lot and drive directly to Dollywood to celebrate. Many vacationers in the Smokies make a beeline to the queues at the newest and largest rides at the theme park. Here is a list of rides that are worth your attention, and typically not as populated with the longest lines and waiting times.
Anyone familiar with down home cuisine is acquainted with both the persona and recipes of celebrity chef Paula Deen, also known as the “First Lady of Southern Cooking”. Though healthfully tempered in recent years, her rich ingredients are enhanced with farm-grown flavors and sometimes surprising seasonings. Recently opened, Paula Deen’s the Bag Lady Cafe at the Island in Pigeon Forge takes Paula’s cooking back to its origins.
Paula and her two sons began her home-based commercial business in the late 80’s, with an express lunch delivery service to Savannah, Georgia area office workers. What became Paula’s food dynasty began as simple, delicious catering to fill a local market need. There is still a similar need in today’s market for convenient food that is created homemade fresh. Those same sandwiches, salads and sweets that made Paula famous are now delightfully available in a cafe environment, to be purchased as grab and go, or enjoyed on site at your leisure. If you have ever lived in the business box lunch catering world, this is cuisine that you already understand.
All menu items at The Bag Lady are created from Paula’s recipes, are freshly made inhouse, and include seasonal items to keep things interesting. A variety of sandwiches include standard meat and cheese offerings, along with tuna melts, chicken and egg salads, and homemade pimiento cheese. There are also healthy salad options and a kids menu.
Whether on your diet plan or not, strongly consider the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake dessert, which is an original signature Paula item that helped to drive business volume all those years ago. You really must taste it for yourself!
It’s time for that rare experience: a leisurely, hot pancake breakfast. Not cooked by a family member at your Smokies rental cabin, but served to you in a restaurant-where no one on vacation has to make everything and then clean up afterwards. Eat it all, and then walk (or waddle) away. Here are some out-of-the-ordinary breakfast treats you really should try while in our area. All of them are locally owned establishments. There are more locations, and some excellent chain choices available, but consider starting with these.
Log Cabin Pancake House (Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge)
They know how to do pancakes right, and for more than a few generations of family. The restaurant offers a broad, delectable variety of specialty pancakes, and also many crepes. Try the blackberry crepes for a special twist, or the buckwheat pancakes for a richer option than the standard stack.
Red Rooster Pancake House (Pigeon Forge)
A red metal roof, vintage tractors, and the token giant red rooster statue at the front door let you know you are in the right place. The chocolate eclair pancakes are the special favorite here. The stack is layered with Bavarian cream, drizzled with (not just a little) chocolate and then sprinkled with powdered sugar. Sweet teeth absolutely crow with delight (I promise no more bad puns in this blog). Regular respect on Trip Advisor and large portions keep people returning each time they visit town.
Reagan’s House of Pancakes (Pigeon Forge)
A long-time family establishment, Reagan’s has served many tourists and won best area pancake awards multiple times. For something different, try their fruit roll ups. This is not the kid plastic chew from a box, but a berry and cream cheese combination rolled between pancakes (choose your favorite berry). Definitely different and delicious. For those wanting a cross section of items, try their filling breakfast buffet.
Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin (Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Kodak)
These folks are near you wherever you may be roaming, with six locations sprinkled across Sevier County. Start here with sticky bun pancakes: cinnamon swirled pancakes with pecans, and then drizzled with creamy icing. These are fan favorites, and the food here has received national award recognition and has also been mentioned in Southern Living Magazine.
Sawyer’s Farmhouse (Pigeon Forge)
This country breakfast restaurant is a place that anyone with a big appetite can love. Hearty portions can make this a two-meal’s worth carb extravaganza. Think about the Bacon Belgian Waffle, with the bacon cooked inside and topped with butter. Make sure and drizzle the peanut butter syrup with a heavy hand (also excellent over the chocolate chip pancakes). Some swear there have been Elvis sightings here!