Join the Crowds for New Years in the Smokies

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If a 50,000 people party is your style for ringing in the New Year, then you must plan to be in Gatlinburg for the New Years Eve celebration to ring in 2015! The focal point for the celebration is the Space Needle at Parkway and Historic Nature Trail, next to the Convention Center. Cap off your year with a festive ball drop and fireworks. Here are a few tips for planning your attendance to avoid some frustration:

Park-Choose your parking location ahead of time or ride the trolley into town (and enjoy the lights while doing it), since attempting to drive in and randomly find a spot later in the day would prove aggravating.
Watch-With a little research and asking locals for suggestions, choose your venue for the countdown. Whether that’s parking yourself streetside, viewing from a restaurant balcony, or just walking among the throngs, think ahead to enjoy it best.
Eat-Yes, you gotta. Absolutely plan restaurant reservations! Or for just one more worthy treat, please don’t skip the Carmelcorn shop on the lower end of the Parkway. It’s a local institution, and you can walk off the calories, I promise.
How about being above the foray yet still among the throngs? Enjoy ringing in the New Year at Ober Gatlinburg. There’s plenty to do for family activities throughout the day and evening: snowtubing, skiing and snowboarding, ice skating, and more. With a little planning and cooperative weather, one could watch some of the festivities below on an aerial tramway ride down the mountain.
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If you’d rather choose Pigeon Forge, then consider celebrating with the mass of folks at the Island at Pigeon Forge. Family activities, a midnight countdown, and fireworks are all a part of the festivities. Live entertainment starts earlier in the evening, and also adds to the party atmosphere. So “get stranded” as they say, at the Island in Pigeon Forge.
If you want to fill your evening with music, multiple theaters offer special evening celebration packages. Consider the Smoky Mountain Opry or Country Tonite as possible options.
If you want to stay on the move enjoying a variety of activities, you can’t get more seasonally festive than Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas (open until a few days into January). Extend that holiday cheer by taking in some of the live performance shows, letting the kids have a character visit, or walking among the wonderland of lights throughout the park. Get some cold face windburn by riding a few roller coasters to end the year with some adrenaline rush. How about one last calorie-laden indulgence with a loaf of fresh, hot cinnamon bread chased with a cup of steaming cocoa? Guaranteed there will be a line to wait for purchase, so you might get two loaves for good measure. Dollywood closes at 10 pm, just in time for a late evening restaurant meal to sit back, relax, and offer a toast to blessings past and good fortune for the days ahead.
Multiple restaurants throughout the area offer self-contained New Year’s Eve packages and party celebrations, from upscale to down home. There are many options available; check your favorites early.
How large your party crowd is to be is entirely up to you. Could it be as simple as a festive family gathering to celebrate? You purchased your fireworks at exit 407 and party goods from Hobby Lobby on your way into town, right? Why not just settle deeply into a get-away-from-everything evening at your secluded Smoky Mountain rental cabin? To me, there’s extreme gratification in focusing on those you love most, and remembering the joys and trials, successes and mishaps of the prior year. Start the year together with sharing your hopes and plans for the coming days ahead.
So if your crowd is several hundred, a couple of dozen or even a party of two, make early plans to celebrate, so nothing can derail your idea of the perfect way to begin your year in the Great Smoky Mountains. Best wishes for a fantastic 2015 from all of us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals, and we look forward to your visit with us again this year. See you soon!

Enter into Indoor Adventure! MagiQuest Castle Pigeon Forge

If December weather holds true for east Tennessee this year, playing while away from your Pigeon Forge cabin rental for the day may require short sleeves or a winter parka! If you find that you desire a few hours of indoor adventure because of obstinate weather, consider MagiQuest Castle on the Parkway.

There are two stories of multiple activities contained within, which can be purchased as a package or separately. Be forewarned that if you are searching for inexpensive entertainment, this location is not it. Be informed (and preferably ticketed online) before you arrive to avoid admission sticker shock, and to choose the best value purchase option for your family.
The ground floor of the building has three separate attractions that are independent of the Quest experience, and can be explored on the same day or at a different time. Typically these three events are purchased as a nominal $5 upcharge combination to the quest attraction (a decent value since each event is about $4.50 child/$6 adult individually). If an ultimate package is purchased ($30 each person with online coupon), you receive all four activities (including basic take home wand) that can be used all together or on different days, since you receive an individual ticket for each event.
Indoor Black Light Miniature Golf-The Special FX Pirate Miniature Golf course is an 18-hole layout doused in neon colors, which creates a unique experience for the typical game of putt-putt golf. The course is self-contained in an enclosed area with pirate-themed scenery throughout and a centerpiece galleon ship in the middle. The course is not too simple, yet also not too challenging for even the youngest players.
The Vault-This activity is a takeoff from the latest spy movie you might have seen. A single open area is lighted only by green laser beam lines. As a timed, single-run event, each participant enters alone and is scored on how quickly they move through the room, and how often a laser beam is disturbed. Scores are available for viewing (and competitive comparison) after exiting.
Odyssey Mirror Maze Adventure-If you have a poor sense of direction, then you may spend longer than twenty minutes or so wandering the aisles of this attraction, among the disco lights. You are given complimentary plastic gloves to minimize fingerprints and keep from marking and spoiling the trail for others in this mildly challenging walk-through. Most families thoroughly enjoy this, and the price here is less than other mazes in the area.
The second floor is completely devoted to the interactive  scavenger hunt that is the Quest experience. Though most would consider this a youth activity, there are plenty of gamer adults that enjoy participating also. First-time visitors will be instructed by a host with a short tutorial regarding how to play the game. Each participant works independently with a personal, programmed wand to advance through the steps of the hunt. The location supplies plain loaner wands as part of the experience, but rest rest assured your child will want you to purchase a take-home version with decorative adders for an additional fee (poof! instant increased profit!). Note that the magic wand turns into a pretty stick when you are not using it in a Quest facility, so its “magical powers” are location specific without an active imagination. Regardless, the facility database stores what hunts (quests) that each specific wand/player has completed, along with character information. Should you want to return to any of their multiple locations around the country to continue the games not finished or selected on your visit here, the information is saved for your convenience.
The play session is 90 minutes long (or 60 minutes if you choose the less expensive loaner wand option), more than enough time to complete at least a few (maybe 2-3) quests, by following tasks and clues that require you to wander the forest, dragon’s lair, and village venues for multiple trips to solve the mysteries of your choice. A multi-screened “tree” is the starting point to select what scavenger hunt of clues you wish to try. The wand is pointed at screens and other emblems and items throughout the area, to virtually “gather” items. Additional clues and recorded instructions are given to advance through the hunt. Adults can accompany and assist younger children without any additional entry charge required.
There is really nothing frightening about the mysteries or spaces, unless mild suspense of a “dragon’s lair” or perhaps being in an enclosed “secret room” with some potential for having to figure out an exit would cause concern. There are costumed villager hosts stationed throughout the area to assist with questions, or help you advance with more clues as needed. This venue is as much fun for the creative mystery lover as it is for the silly adventurer, and also a great place for photo opportunities.
My take on the pros and cons of this attraction: If you are seeking something rather different from other fare available on the Parkway, this virtual, medieval scavenger hunt fills the bill, and even includes more traditional fun with a small upcharge. The facility is clean and well-maintained, with nothing diminished by nonfunctioning elements or the like.
Your experience can be adversely impacted by overcrowding that regularly occurs, and how respectful (or not) the group of your fellow patrons behaves. Early in the day and evening times are less populated, so plan on an off-hours arrival for a more private/personal experience, and less waiting in line. Nice outdoor weather also usually equals less volume of adventurers to share your journey.
So take some time to explore MagiQuest for entertaining, interactive, mystical fun in the mountains. Return later in the week (or on your next trip) to complete another challenge: Ye just might find it addicting!
For more complete seasonal pricing, operating hours, and activity details, visit the the website link below. Use the website coupons to purchase your best price package online. For a visual preview of what perils lie ahead, check out this video.

3 Absolute MUST DO’s at Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival

GristMill.ashxWe are so glad that you will be settling in for a special vacation holiday this year at your cabin rental in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The crisp air and crackle of the fire in the hearth are completely relaxing, and soon you will be ready for some serious entertainment. One of the best Christmas events in the nation is located in our area at Dollywood, which is transformed from its summer playground into a very special place to gather for the holidays. Please go visit, and while you are there, don’t forget to complete this short list.

1. See a musical show. Choose from a variety of award-winning options, all of which have the intrinsic power to put you into a holiday state of mind. Choose the classic tale “A Christmas Carol” to rid yourself of any trace of Scrooge. This professional live production includes original Parton-penned music. There is even a “Dolly-fied” holographic twist, appearing as one of the ghosts that Ebenezer meets as the plot of the 45-minute performance carries through to its hopeful and powerful finale.

Try an infusion of Southern gospel quartet harmony with “Christmas with the Kingdom Heirs”, a truly soul satisfying music experience. One of our favorite repeat traditions is the “Christmas in the Smokies” production, a mountain home medley of Christmas favorites with a sweet storyline and an always happy ending. There are several more shows to choose from the playlist daily, each with its own uniqie emphasis on the meaning and joy of the season. Please do take the time to settle in and absorb more than one performance. You will have no regrets, and memories will come flooding with each familiar tune.
2. Indulge and eat a treat. Okay, of course you can do this anytime during the year at Dollywood. Savor some Southern “down home” cooking that will warm your insides at several restaurants throughout the park. Special Christmas holiday menus offer additional choices with the normal selections. Check out the options at Aunt Granny’s Buffet, or have a laid-back, full service Southern meal at the Backstage Restaurant.
 But our family’s very favorite (oh, mercy!) treat is made from scratch onsite at the Dollywood Gristmill, located in the heart of the park at Craftsman’s Valley. Watch as the gooey, hot, cinnamon-laced, pull-apart pastry bread prepared and then taken directly from the oven to cool in the sales case for your finger-licking enjoyment. Don’t forget the extra cup of glaze to make it an over-the-top indulgence! One loaf is enough for a family to sample, but you may find it too quickly gone.
3. Take a multitude of pictures (or have some taken)! Photo opportunities abound throughout the park, with some perfectly beautiful venues as backdrop for the family Christmas card shot, or at least some stunning vacation mementos. If you are handy with aperture adjustments and the like, the Christmas lights themselves make lovely scenery (see above). Flash NOT recommended, of course. There are many other spots to consider. Try character meetings at Holly Jolly Junction and Santa’s Workshop for fun child moments, the Robert F. Thomas Chapel for a country church setting, or next to the Dollywood steam engine locomotive (or just on the empty tracks) for some interesting shots. You can even enter a gigantic snow globe for a still family photo, or the best “snowball” fight photo op ever.
I strongly suggest reading some of the details on Dollywood’s website link, so you can preselect a few not-to-miss locations to suit your own group’s preferences. I think it’s more enjoyable to have a loose to-do list, than to wander aimlessly and perhaps overlook something you wish you hadn’t. So enjoy a steamy cup of hot chocolate for me, and relish this Christmas season together like no other. Happy holidays from all of us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals!

Holiday Snow Wonderland at Titanic Pigeon Forge

titanicsnowExperience Another Era’s Winter: Titanic’s Holiday Snow Wonderland
When you come to the Smokies this season, wouldn’t it be marvelous if you could plan to wake up to a beautiful snowfall outside your Pigeon Forge cabin rental? Well, it’s not that easy to predict frozen precipitation in the mountain foothills. Except for the GUARANTEED SNOW that occurs every Friday and Saturday evening at the Titanic museum in Pigeon Forge.
Guaranteed snow? Yes, real falling snow is created outside at the bow of the ship for visitors’ enjoyment. Everyone can enjoy the delicious fun of an evening snowfall, and then can extend the wintertime ambience by visiting the Titanic’s museum. Robed in vintage holiday decor, come gaze at the lights, Edwardian and Victorian ornaments, the Christmas trees, along with holiday music and carolers. In addition to providing a unique and memorable vacation experience, fulfill your interest for education by taking a two-hour, self-guided tour of this special facility.
The museum building is a permanent, 1/2 scale, 3-deck replica of the original Titanic ship, with 20 galleries contained inside. The building’s interior includes reconstructions of various areas of the ship, carefully crafted from the original design blueprints. Real artifacts are also on display, all recovered from both surviving passengers and crew, and also from salvage efforts of floating debris by rescue boats.
Your entrance ticket is a printed boarding pass of an actual Titanic passenger or crew member, which personalizes the travel experience for each visitor. The fate of each name is listed on the Memorial Wall at the conclusion of the museum tour.
The whole family can immerse themselves in the events of the voyage. All ages can access a trove of historical information, to study at length as much as desired. Everyone can, even today, realize the awe of the large-scale undertaking that was required to create and sail the massive ocean liner.
Children will be fascinated by such activities as the following:
–attempting to balance on decks that vary in slope, to show the steep changes as the ship sank
–to play and learn in the little tots room for ages 6 and under
–to touch an iceberg’s frozen surface and feel the chill of the ocean water that night
–to steer the ship’s wheel from the helm room
–to listen to a special youth audio player with facts and stories
–to participate in a scavenger hunt activity
Much more is found throughout, with anecdotes and articles that will teach everyone something they did not know prior to visiting.The museum gift store is open free to the public, and offers items of interest along with a schedule of special events that occur throughout the calendar year.
The facility is also available to host your own gathering event, such as birthdays, weddings, or corporate activities and meetings. More information can be obtained from the staff, and also on the website.
Bring your entire group to experience and study the legacy left by the many lives and stories of those present on the fateful voyage of the Titanic that cold winter season. History can be truly fascinating!