Over 50 Money-Saving Vacation Items from the Dollar Tree

So you have just arrived in the area, on the way to checking into your Sevierville cabin rental. Your family will inevitably stop at the grocery and/or discount store to stock up on food and other items that you will need during your stay. Our guests run the gamut from traveling with only the will to shop, to bringing absolutely everything to avoid buying any duplicates while here. For those that fall in between, I propose a pitstop you may not have considered to save you some substantial cash to reallocate as play money.

Don’t stop reading now: please give this concept a chance. Note there are several dollar discount stores in our area to shop for your liking: Big Lots, Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree. All of these chains offer discount items, with some great deals among the cheap junk. For the purposes of this blog, I chose the local Dollar Tree store, since it is conveniently located directly on the Parkway in Sevierville, which the vast majority will pass on the way into town. Also located in this center are a small Belk department store, TJ Maxx, Outback Steakhouse, Popeye’s Chicken, and a local bank ATM. By the amount of out-of-state tags that I see every time I visit TJ Maxx, it is obvious that everyone likes a great deal wherever they may roam. Another plus is that Walmart is just three more traffic lights up the Parkway, so you can stop here first. In addition, a new second location has also opened this month in Pigeon Forge at 161 East Wears Valley Road, in the Shops of Pigeon Forge center.

Map of Dollar Tree, Sevierville, TN

Map of Dollar Tree, Pigeon Forge, TN
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1. Celebration Items-So many come to our area for happy times: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, showers, family reunions, buddy trips, holidays, and more. Check out these items that will help you celebrate at $1 each or less:
greeting cards, car window markers, decorations, party favors, mylar and latex balloons (mylar inflated instore), candles, gift bags, cellophane treat bags, wrapping paper, gift tissue, ribbons, bows, table covers, tableware and serving utensils, functional and decorative glassware, specific seasonal items, and holiday items. With a little creativity on your part, your celebration will not be diminished by using items that are $1 each. Even Martha Stewart thinks quite highly of tissue paper decor. Here’s the proof:
http://www.marthastewart.com/274329/tissue-and-crepe-paper-crafts/@center/276982/craft-tools-and-projects
2. Water Play Items-If you plan to play in the local waters, inexpensive water toys are available in abundance now, and there is even a small selection year round here because of area indoor water parks. Think pool noodles, diving weights, small squirt guns, goggles, tote bags and backsacks, clear zip bags, flying discs, and flipflops (gotta love shoes for a dollar). Durability is not a major concern if you consider such toy items as “use and lose”, or pay them forward for someone else to enjoy (no packing to haul home!).
3. Kitchen items-I am certain you brought your own “can’t live without” coffee creamer from home! You can find all manner of foil pans, plastic and foil wrap, clear zip bags, picnic items, tote baskets and plastic containers available, along with many oddball kitchen gadgets that may not be standard vacation rental issue.

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4. Toys and Candy-Namely, cheap entertainment, but I’m not advocating junk toys at all. Skip them for simple pleasures like balls of all sizes, sidewalk chalk, silly string, puzzles, glow sticks and glow jewelry. Not enough? Simple crafts, poster and foamcore board, paints and markers can also satisfy a kid’s creative side. See if you can challenge them to play a different way and set aside the electronics for awhile on vacation.
Candy? Yes, really. Theater box brand-name candy is $1 or less, and usually very fresh (blog writer tested). Other candies include Tootsie Roll products, Werther’s, Dubble Bubble and other name brand favorites. Many other items are American-made by regional confection companies and of good quality. Don’t be afraid to try these treats; if you have any concerns, check the dates or ask the staff. A recent score (for school gifts) was an entire box case of small Toblerone bars for $1 each, and they were completely fresh and lovely.

My point is to consider saving all you can on the functional stuff of trip life, to have more of your hard-earned dollars to spend on fun. I am assuming your innate capability to discern the foreign-made junk from the great gems that you can mine for your own shopping needs. I think you will find more than you expected, with a pleasant ending cash register total, as opposed to the typical tourist town sticker shock. For those already in the know, I am certain you have far more additional creative ideas than I could ever list here.
Enjoy your stocking pitstop, and we look forward to your arrival at Volunteer Cabin Rentals very soon!

Burning with Desire: More than 7 Things to Do When It’s Hot…Really Hot Outside

It’s only June, but the thermometer is over 90 degrees, and we are just starting the season. I’m going to gloss over some of the more obvious cooling methods like wetting down in a swimming pool or water park, theme park water rides, boating on Douglas Lake (with lots of locals), or hanging out in the air-conditioned comfort of your Pigeon Forge rental cabin. If your Chilly Pad towel or cooling scarf is letting you down, consider these ideas to beat the heat while playing in the Smokies’ humid summertime.

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1. Get into the river. Mountain springs make our river water icy cold and refreshing year round. Go tubing (that’s floating via inner tube for the uninitiated) on the Little River in Townsend. Try Smoky Mountain River Rat in Wears Valley to get you floating downstream in style. For a little more adventure, try whitewater rafting. Smoky Mountain Outdoors is one company that can provide this service, on both the upper and lower Little Pigeon River. Plan this as a daytrip, since the outpost is about 30 miles out of Gatlinburg near Hartford, TN, for the closest whitewater trips in our area.
2&3. Find a cool and shady forest spot. The easiest place with lots of options for not much effort is definitely Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. I have written in detail about this gem location in the past (check out July 18, 2013). Drive a winding 6-mile loop past rushing streams of water, and historic buildings to explore. Also along this drive are the trailheads for both Rainbow and Grotto Falls. Which leads me to number 3. Hike to a waterfall, and get in. Grotto Falls is particularly nice for this, as you can step behind the falls and also get into the eddy pool at the bottom (both with caution, I might add).
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4. Hide in a local theater. There are plenty of choices, from the Forge Cinema for current movies, to a variety of music theaters with various styles of tunes. Also try vaudeville, murder mystery and magic. You can also choose a dinner theater, and eat a meal in comfort while being entertained. Try Lumberjack Feud, Dixie Stampede, or Hatfield & McCoy.
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5. Put yourself on ice. Go ice skating at Ober Gatlinburg’s Olympic size ice rink at the summit of Ski Mountain. Guaranteed that it won’t be as crowded as midwinter, and skating in shorts is perfectly cool.
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6. Go down under. Many people overlook the unique experience of the Forbidden Caverns tour, which can give you a completely different perspective on the Smokies. It’s 58 degrees there all year long, so take a jacket.
7. Take your cool within. Frozen treats are never too difficult to find in our area. There are multiple chain locations for ice cream like Baskin-Robbins, Marble Slab, and Ben & Jerry’s. Other good locations are Mayfield Dairy Bar, Russell Stover, and local spots like Kilwin’s, Apple Valley Creamery, and Island Yogurt, and the newly opened Tara Jean’s Ice Cream and Bakery. Our family favorite is Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt in Pigeon Forge: interesting flavors that rotate by season and lots of everything to add on top, along with really tasty sugar-free options.
Whatever the weather outside, we will always do our best here at Volunteer Cabin Rentals to greet you with a warm smile, and assist as much as we can in making your vacation stay with us all you want it to be. Please call us and make your reservation today!

Smoky Mountain Father’s Day: 5 Part Wish List from a Local Dads’ Survey

We’ve already honored Mom this year with ideas for special treats. Now it’s Dad’s turn, and I tried the same survey experiment. Here are the results:

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1. “Feed the carnivore within me.” Enjoy an intimate, romantic dinner at the Peddler Restaurant in Gatlinburg, where steaks are cut to order at your table side. Another option: the guys think that Longhorn Steakhouse in Sevierville has the best Angus beef locally. Or go for a barbecue fix: ribs at Calhoun’s, or a

¬†picnic 10-pack from Buddy’s.
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2. “Let me walk on the wild side.” Punch it to top speed at Xtreme Racing. Scream with the kids upside down on the meanest roller coasters at Dollywood. Take a family whitewater rafting trip adventure at Smoky Mountain Outdoors.
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3. “Sweet treats are always appreciated.” When the orange neon sign is on at Krispy Kreme Donuts, apparently hearts beat faster for those hot, gooey doughnuts straight off the production line. Indulge at Smoky Mountain Cheesecake Cafe for a slice of sweet richness after an authentic Cuban sandwich. Pop open a mega box of caramel corn from Karmelkorn Gatlinburg, and chase it with fudge from Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen. The most creative idea was to plan a progressive dessert trip (can you say sugar overload?).
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4. “Get me out the door with my clubs and my best foursome.” There are plenty of challenging golfing options to choose from in our area. Check out the blog archive on April 16, 2014 for details on the best choice for his game.
5. “Set the alarm for a 3-hour nap.” Leave him on the couch at the cabin rental in Sevierville, as Mom takes the kids out for fun. Let Dad relax with some rare alone time…and no honey-do list!
I had to laugh, because the mens’ responses were overwhelmingly skewed toward gastronomic fulfillment. Whatever Dad might desire to eat, you can find it locally. We hope you enjoy your Father’s Day weekend in our beautiful Great Smoky Mountains.

Breakfast Options Both Sweet and Savory

Some of our guests like to leave their alarm off and snuggle deeper into the pillows in their Wears Valley, TN cabin rental. Others want to rise early and get a tasty start on their adventures for the day. Here are some suggestions for that most important first meal of the day, with menus and operating hours provided.br1

The most venerated location requires the earliest arrival, since in high season the lines extend down the street. The Pancake Pantry is a downtown Gatlinburg tradition, one of those “gotta go” places to check off your list. A broad menu of options for breakfast awaits. The first pancake restaurant in Tennessee, they have been serving up meals since 1960, and in its current location since 1975. Not really a place for a quiet meal here (unless it’s off season), since the restaurant does a high customer volume (though not rushed). They also serve lunch with good sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads. Cash only, so be prepared.

7 am-4 pm June-October, 7 am-3 pm November-May, 7 days

In Pigeon Forge, consider Log Cabin Pancake House at the north end of the city, just before leaving Pigeon Forge toward Gatlinburg. This family breakfast diner is another in-season busy location. Hearty Southern breakfast choices like ham, biscuits and gravy are offered, in addition to sweet options. Known for country cooking, think good food and large portions: you will not be left wanting more here. Friendly service, and also a simple country lunch buffet complements their breakfast. There is a second location in Gatlinburg, an option to Pancake Pantry when it is too crowded.

7 am-2 pm, 7 days
Frank Allen’s Market and Grill in Sevierville is a local hangout diner that is also a gas station. Clean and basic, grab a stool at the counter and enjoy a fresh meal from the griddle. Sausage and egg biscuit? Yum. If you need local endorsement, Dolly Parton really likes to eat here too. If you slept into lunchtime, Frank Allen’s is also known for pretty great burgers too: voted best burgers in the area for several years straight.
9 am-5 pm Mon-Sat, 10 am-4 pm Sun, 7 days
My few comments regarding these establishments: they are all straightforward basic eats, certainly not gourmet (unless you consider crepes highbrow). All are family-owned, with food made-to-order. If you want chain restaurant pricing and quality, go to the chains: there are plenty in the area. I think it’s unfair to compare family restaurants to chain establishments, especially regarding service. If pricing is a concern, check the menu prior to visiting. Please tip generously for friendly, efficient service. Servers make the majority of their income from tips, just like in your hometown.
So don’t eat at dining places you can find at home while on vacation. Experience our local Southern cooking: it’s a treat, even for us locals. Bon appetit…y’all!