DIY Dollywood Scavenger Hunt

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).

1. What European city is depicted in the painted murals on the Waltzing Swinger ride?
2. What two names are engraved on the bottom of the horses’  hooves?
3. What are the names of the two vintage steam engines that provide the locomotion for the Dollywood Express?
4. What year was Temple’s Mercantile Warehouse and Old-Fashioned Candy established?
5. How many spokes are on a single side of the small water wheel that is fed by the elevated water flume?
6. What saying is above the entry door just inside the Robert F. Thomas Chapel?
7. What partially intact vehicle has “landed” in a tree?
8. What building is the origin of the flaming explosion on the Firechaser Express?
9. How many whistles are located on Willy’s Engine?
10. If you choose to play the gong in the Lumberjack Jam Band, what cooking item was used to create it?
BONUS 11 . Who is the Master Craftsman Candy Maker of Dollywood?
1. Found in the Country Fair section, the scenes on the ride depict Venice, Italy.
2. On the Village Carousel, the horses’ all have the names Bradley and Kaye engraved on the bottom of their hooves.
3. The engine currently pulling the train cars is often mentioned while on board the ride, and any park conductor will know that Klondike Katie and Cinderella are the two engines that work so hard, out of the train station located in the Village.
4. The exterior Village building placard says 1880. Many establishments in the park are named after real locals known to Dolly. Jimmie Temple and his wife Marie operated the landmark Temple’s Feed and Seed in downtown Sevierville for many years.
5. Found in Craftsman’s Valley close to the chapel, there are 9 spokes that are sooo much easier to count when the wheel is not turning! Note-this is NOT the gristmill giant wheel, which will disqualify you on this question.
6. “The world is filled with beauty when your heart is filled with love.”
7. Adjacent to the Tennessee Tornado coaster in Craftsman’s Valley, most parts of a wooden wagon still remain “treed” all these years later after that epic windstorm.
8. This coaster in the Wilderness Pass area has its termination point in Crazy Charlie’s Gas, where the flames explode the coaster into reverse!
9. Whistlepunk Chaser is the location of the answer for this question, found in the Timber Canyon section. Willy’s Engine is the centerpiece display engine of the coaster, and there are 6 whistles on this vintage steamie.
10. On the downhill walk back from Timber Canyon to Showstreet, this children’s musical area has a gong created from an oversized iron skillet, not unlike those used for cooking in other areas of the park. A metal mallet is also attached for effective noisemaking.
11. On the wall of the Sweet Shoppe on Showstreet, there is a plaque that honors Linda Rice for her 35+ years of service in fresh candy making!
 If physically searched in order,  the hunt begins in Country Fair, and then makes a simple loop through the park to finish close to the main entrance on Showstreet. We awarded simple prizes for our event, but you can easily award the quickest successful players with park treats like fresh homemade taffy, an ice cream sundae, or the well-loved cinnamon bread. We hope you enjoy adding an extra twist to what is always a fun day, which can be shared by both the young and the young-at-heart. Come tell us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals if you enjoyed your extra detective work while visiting Dollywood!

Essential Tips for the 4 Wettest Rides at Dollywood

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:

Mountain Slidewinder: This is your opportunity to board a single file foam canoe with holding straps, which you will definitely need. You will launch onto a waterslide down the mountainside. Parts of the ride are partially enclosed tunnels, and the curves often create riding high up on the sides as you go. It is well worth the short uphill walk to reach the ride. Do it!
Your wet factor: The amount of soaking on this ride is inconsistent. There are intermittent water splashes to the face and most definitely wet bottoms. The more weight in your raft means both a much faster and wetter ride.
Daredevil Falls: A classic attraction from the Silver Dollar City days, the flatboat ride is a mild journey winding through a themed river, building suspense for a single final 60 foot free fall drop to splash down at the end. There are no restraints required, just a seatback bar in front of you to grip for the descent.
Your wet factor: Depending on where you are seated in the boat, think of getting splashed with a few full buckets of water. The front of the boat receives far more water impact than the back portion. It is inconsistent whether hair, shorts, back, or all gets wet. If you duck behind the seat when freefalling, you avoid the direct splash to the face, and can take the brunt of the water on your back instead. But only if you want to.
Smoky Mountain River Rampage: Visible from several areas of the park, the twisting, winding “river” sloshes the round boat rafts down a whitewater type event. No two rides are ever the same because of the rotation of the raft on its own accord throughout the ride. Put your feet up if you don’t want your shoes filled with water. The rafts are self-bailing, with water draining through the bottom.
Your wet factor: Typically the heaviest person will get the wettest, since that side of the raft rides the lowest in the water, and usually rotates toward that side in the dips where big side sloshes into the boat occur. There are also a couple of moments with dripping and splashing water overhead. A decent soaking is usually included for most, not always to the hair, but sometimes.
River Battle: The offering here is a large, 8-person flatboat raft ride, winding through a compact, theme decorated pool area. Manually operated water soaking guns allow you to shoot at other rafts as you pass each other and also to people ashore at various points. There are over 100 targets throughout the ride that include talking animals and other motion and special effects when the bullseye is engaged. The ride is ADA friendly and not at all frightening, so it is applicable for all ages. Lining the shore perimeter are several “return fire” manual cannons where a volley of water can stream back and forth as you shoot ashore.
Your wet factor: Be aware that it can vary tremendously! High attendance park days usually guarantee a much wetter experience. Here’s why: although one can get wet from the streams from other boats, someone with a shore gun and no mercy can literally “swamp a sitting duck” if they choose. From my experience, one ride both a man and his son “took a liking” to me, and I literally had no dry spot left on my person! It was as if I had jumped in a pool. If you avoid such a line of fire, you will be pleasantly soaked, which is the best part of the fun.
If targeted from land, River Battle is (surprisingly) far and away the wettest ride at Dollywood. Don’t fear though- there is a pay per dry machine outside both River Battle and River Rampage. Many unsuspecting guests end up using it.
My tips for wet riding are a little different than for those just going swimming for the day.
Attire: I recommend a dri-fit type tee or rash guard shirt and swim bottoms with athletic shorts and wet sandals. This allows for quick drying without suit discomfort on other rides. A swimsuit alone does not always transfer well to other activities.
Protecting your stuff: Take use of the free cubbies for stashing things at the beginning of the ride in a backsack or a simple, unpretentious pack. The staff oversees them during your adventure, and in over a decade of visiting, we have never had any issue with possessions. If you must carry items with you, ziplock plastic bags are the best to protect cameras, phones, wallets, and the like.
Carry with you items: Carry sunscreen and reapply, as wash off from sweat and water contact does frequently occur. Hand sanitizer is also wise, as wet does not always equate with clean! I have seen folks also using dollar store ponchos (which I don’t understand on wet rides), but it’s a lightweight item to carry if you want them.
My best tip of all is to visit the park on a warm, but rainy or overcast day. Showers are often short lived, and the park clears of many folk who are rainwater phobic. We have had many lovely afternoons riding wet rides over and over with short to no lines on rainy days like these!
So prepare appropriately, and go forth to enjoy your soaking! Know that all of us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals would love to be right beside you enjoying the fun. Summer will be here in a moment. We look forward to having you visit us very soon.



5 Foolproof Romantic Places in the Smokies

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.

2. Enjoy a leisurely, peaceful dinner at the Peddler Steakhouse, seated at a table overlooking the Little Pigeon River. Located in an historic Gatlinburg landmark cabin, it’s an intimate atmosphere to enjoy a steak, hand cut to your liking at tableside. The salad bar is extensive and can even be a meal in itself. Plan to finish by celebrating with delectable homemade desserts like hot blackberry cobbler, peanut butter mud pie, or Kahlua Creme Brulee.
Extra tip: If the Peddler is too crowded during your planned visit, try its co-owned sister restaurant, the Park Grill. Located a couple of blocks away, this larger, more contemporary lodge restaurant also can be a pleasurable dining experience for two.
3. How about going for a drive together on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail? I have written previously in detail about this popular roadway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Although extremely beautiful in the spring when the native rhododendron bushes are blooming, the driving loop offers mountain serenity every season of the year, and will most likely not be very crowded in the February winter. Be aware that it is within the national park boundary, so this road can be closed at times due to inclement weather. There are multiple stopping points along the roadside: streams, trailheads, and historic homesites all can be explored along the way. Donate a dollar for a self-guiding booklet in the honor box at the driving trail entrance. If local rainfall has been recently adequate, make a beautiful photo op stop at marker #15, the Place of a Thousand Drips. This waterfall is just off the roadside near the end of the trail. An umbrella can make a fun photo accessory!
4. Perhaps you should forge a closer bond by surviving danger with your bestie at Smoky Mountain Ziplines. Full disclosure, such activity is weather permitting in the winter months (call the office to check for tour availability). This adventure park has a selection of zipline tours, from novice to advanced, for those with previous experience. I suggest you test your courage on their new canopy tour (opened in 2016). It features multiple lines with manmade platforms. Some platforms are independent towers and some are tree platforms that encloses a selected trunk. The mix provides both wide open scenic views and zips that are immersed among the forest trees. SMZ also is the only local company with a rappelling feature (descending vertically from a tower platform) to move from one line to the next. Not your typical date, but a fantastic adrenaline rush, guaranteed! This video gives you a taste of the tour.

5. Perhaps the best romantic spot of all is to relax in each other’s arms, in front of the fireplace in your secluded Smoky Mountain cabin. Whether you choose an old movie favorite on television, or just gaze at the flames with some quiet conversation, it’s the perfect setting for time that is all your own.
As you plan your visit, enjoy one or all of these suggestions to make this special time everything you hope for it to be. Let Volunteer Cabin Rentals help you with the details, and we look forward to seeing you both here soon.

4 Best Ways to See and Study Trains in East Tennessee

If all things locomotive interest you, there are multiple opportunities in East Tennessee to explore train history in our area. Some favorites are mentioned here, starting closest geographically to your Smokies rental cabin, and moving outward.

1. The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum in Townsend features the mountain logging industry and the historic railroad operations supporting it. The exhibits here document the lumber company’s ascent with the lucrative business of “timber mining” local hillsides. This same railroad shortline was also used by Knoxville tourists to access their Elkmont community vacation homes via the L&N (Louisville & Nashville) line. Volunteer docents bring the details of the exhibits to life, and recount how the logging industry changed the area, along with its eventual industry demise here. In addition, the establishment of the the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and World War II are also explained regarding their impact on the life of the Smoky Mountain community. Definitely interesting, donation admission only, and worth a whistlestop!
For more information, see
2.The Dollywood Express in Pigeon Forge. If you plan to visit the Dollywood theme park, carve out some time to ride the park-based steam train called the Dollywood Express. Original to the theme park all the way back to the original Rebel Railroad in the 1960’s, the 20 minute, 5 mile open-air ride gives passengers a sweet taste of train travel flavor in the steam locomotive era. Our tip for riding is to sit farther back in the train, and wear sunglasses to avoid stray airborne ash cinders. So whether being pulled by Klondike Katie or Cinderella, this easy-access rail ride is enjoyable for the entire family, and included in your park admission price. Have your camera ready to photograph the engine where the track curves along the way.
3. For an afternoon day trip, consider the Three Rivers Rambler in Knoxville. This steam train ride originates at the University Commons depot, accessible from I-40, Alcoa Highway from Maryville, and Kingston Pike at the western edge of the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus. The Commons retail area was originally the Fulton Bellows Foundry industrial site that operated from 1917 to 2005. The Rambler (3RR) trip traverses 11 miles and 90 minutes of scenery in the Knoxville countryside, and is operated by the Knoxville & Holston River Railroad (KXHR). Excursions fill quickly, so plan ahead to ride the Hoot ’n’ Holler Autumn Express, or the holiday-themed Christmas Lantern Express.  Some families make this ride an annual tradition.
The John Henry Number 150 steam locomotive is also on display, having just arrived this past July. This memorable piece of history is named for the American folk hero, and was the source of the John Henry song.
For trip schedules and ticketing, get more details at
4. Should you be a serious train enthusiast, you must take a day trip to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, just north of Chattanooga. Located not far off I-75 South, the trip can be easily driven from your Wears Valley cabin rental to the museum in about 2.5 hours of mostly interstate driving. The train yard at the museum is fascinating and allows for many photo opportunities. There are also multiple excursion trips to choose from.
My family’s absolute favorite is the Missionary Ridge Local trip. It is roughly an hour long, goes through a mountain Civil War-era tunnel, and stops at a turntable to rotate the the engine locomotive for the return trip. Passengers can choose to disembark to observe this feat, and absolutely should! It is exciting and educational for all ages to see early 19th century industrial technology, and realize that digital may not just be all there is. This trip is well worth the time commitment to learn and enjoy!
So choose which visits are right for your family, and find that there is still so much to learn about in the mountains of east Tennessee. All aboard!

4 Exciting Downhill Thrills in the Smokies

For those in your crowd who don’t really like it tame! We have beautiful mountains to admire from afar, and certainly to hike upon (that’s a different type of thrill I’ll save for another time). We also have many rolling foothills, with action chasing that is only found where the terrain is more than horizontal. So what can you do once you are at the top of the hill? Here are four thrill-satisfying ways to reach the bottom.

1. Coast Down via a mountain coaster. There are now several of these in our area, which indicates the popularity of twisting down a mountainside strapped into a coaster seat on a smooth rail. It’s a smooth ride akin to the thrill of sledding as a kid, except your direction is determined, and your speed can be adjusted to suit your courage. Nice also that not much strength or athleticism is required, and it’s not jerky or inverted like many theme park roller coasters. As long as you can get into and out of the seat and control a braking mechanism, most of your family can enjoy this sweet rush of wind through your hair while taking in the view.
Try Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, the original and reputable organization on Wears Valley Road, which is the closest location to your cabin in Wears Valley. The mile-plus track (the longest in the US!) is well-placed on the hill for a ride of eight minutes or so, depending on your chosen speed of descent.
2. Roll Down via sphere. For those who really like to live on the edge: would you enjoy rolling downhill in an inflated sphere with some water inside? Those manic, twisted minds that seek a wild ride will love the Outdoor Gravity Park! you and up to two buddies can take a smooth, wet ride to cool off. It is essentially a rolling “slip and slide”, for those of a certain age who understand what I’m talking about. The activity of rolling in the OGO sphere is called ZORBing. There are four tracks downhill to choose from, and each has a different experience. There are multi-roll packages, which you might as well buy, because once is not enough—trust me. It is addicting, and almost every teenager will buy into the cool factor of this activity. Preview the details here, because you gotta go—really.
3. Zip Down via cable. A little more grit and macho required? Ziplining is just your ticket. Harnesses, clips, and heights, oh my! Even if you don’t think you have a fear of heights, this activity will definitely vet any pretenders. No kidding, that first step off the platform into space and trusting the cable (and your guardian angel) to arrive safely is like NOTHING else.
Our family really enjoys Smoky Mountain Ziplines. This outfitting company truly works hard to assure you a safe and fun experience. Highly trained guides even keep jokes running to calm nerves, and are never condescending to anyone regarding ability or level of courage. Their current courses are completely engrossing, and the firm plans to open a completely new course next year with some additional unique twists found nowhere else in the area.
4. Fly down. Lastly, do you want to cover the most downhills possible in the least amount of time? I suggest changing your perspective, and getting above the hills with a helicopter ride. Who says you have to be actually on the hill? Another one of those bucket list activities, a family helicopter ride creates a memory, and is a fantastic way to get extraordinary panoramic views of just how lovely the countryside is here. This is also one of those activities that some of our customers revisit each time they come to the area—the view changes tremendously depending on the season. Find the best rides locally at Scenic Helicopter Tours.
There’s just something about sun, shorts and sweat that seeks adventure. Of course, there are other adrenaline rushes available (like the seat ride that swings you around 360 degrees in a vertical circle), but I wanted to suggest activities that are exciting, instead of wanting to make you lose your lunch. After a hard day of such play, head back to your Smoky Mountain rental cabin and relax those thrill-tensed muscles in the hot tub. Then you can begin your first round of story telling of this vacation’s adventures, whether mild or completely wild!

Visit the Tropics Up Close and Personal This Winter: Rainforest Adventures Discover Zoo

After you gain your second wind from relaxing in your Sevierville cabin rental, this is the season to divide and conquer. Don’t drag the kids through all the holiday shopping. Send the diehard gift acquirers in another direction (but don’t forget the unique things found in the gift shop here). Take a break yourself with the sights, sounds, and a few smells of the tropical rainforest, just off the Parkway in Sevierville at Rainforest Adventures Discover Zoo.
No matter your age, you’ll meet something you’ve never seen. We looked straight into the nostrils of a python from six inches away (glass between!), and were lucky enough to hold a blue-tongued skink. There is a vast assortment of reptiles, including an albino boa (which is a beautiful combination of sunflower yellow and cream). Small creatures like lizards, blue poison dart frogs, and Norway rats share the indoors with cockatoos and lemurs.rainforestvcr1
The whole family can enjoy this venue for a few hours of escape. Its unique collection of  animals can be viewed (and some interacted with) up close and personal. All are well-cared for, with the staff intrinsically involved with their ongoing welfare, and true concern for their well being. It is a reptile house also, so be aware there are odors that naturally come from such an environment, which some misinterpret as unclean. It’s an indoor zoo, folks.
This locally owned animal habitat is not actually just a zoo. Many small organizations are run strictly for profit and self-interest using creature performers. Not here. Let’s draw back the behind-the-scenes curtain on this special place. The owner of this location is a renowned animal preservationist with many years experience in animal rescue and rehabilitation. For this reason, a few of the residents here are actually living in a safe home for trauma recovery after being victims of abuse. One example is a toothy caiman crocodile that the Park Service wildlife management requested be removed from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He was saved from the local Little Pigeon River between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge: an illegal pet that someone cruelly turned out to fend for itself. Among the reptiles is a beautiful python relinquished from a fraternity house. There are also some endangered species inside that are no longer found in the wild.rainforestvcr2
The team here has a heart for education regarding animal appreciation. Captive breeding helps increase endangered species numbers, and also provides a haven for those injured in the wild that can no longer survive in the natural environment. Rainforest Adventures works with other zoos around the country to find happy homes for those who have healed after trauma, or are growing and waiting for a proper family fit, including mates and suitable animal social groups.
Throughout the year, babies arrive! We have seen a three-day old capuchin monkey holding tightly to her mother’s shoulder, and a golden-headed lion tamarin that will develop a lovely mane as he grows, and a day-old baby goat sweetly bleating. Most of the exhibits are located comfortably indoors, with glass front enclosures for viewing mere inches away. What a fantastic benefit to study an animal you would never have the opportunity to even glimpse in the wild.
Let’s step outside. Terrapins, llamas, emus, goats, sheep, and more are located here for viewing, seasonally dependent. Coin-operated feed machines dispense appropriate treats for hand feeding the animals. Some are more greedy than others, but all are well-fed and entertaining. These animals understand respect. The llama will spit if he deems it appropriate!
One sweet animal friendship I learned of is Ro-Ro and friends. He is a parrot that was surrendered by his owner, who has a snuggly relationship with a pair of South American cavys. They “groom” each other, so his feathers are a bit askew. He will sing “Row, row, row your boat” with you if he feels inclined. He is one of many great stories inside this creature habitat.
Educate. Rescue. Protect. Rehabilitate. There are some who think zoos are wrong. Spend five minutes with the preservation staff here, and you will appreciate that exotic animals are fascinating! Also, it is quickly obvious that rescuing vulnerable wildlife from irresponsible owners requires both hard work and loving care. Don’t look for a flashy parade of trick animals here. Come and learn, and see the intricate beauty of so many lovely creatures you’ll never see in your backyard.

Come Shop the Extraordinary: the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair

So you have settled into your Gatlinburg rental cabin and spent some time unwinding. So what’s next? Tourism surveys indicate that one primary “to do” while on vacation is to acquire both personal souvenirs and mementos for others. For those who are also planning ahead for the holidays, finding a few just-perfect gifts is an added benefit of early shopping. What if you could locate all of the purchases you seek in a single location? You can do just that by attending the 39th Annual Fall Craftsmen’s Fair, currently occurring in the heart of town at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. This event gathers together fine craftspeople from all over the country, including multiple artists from around our local area (over 170 are attending this season). The fair is a nationally recognized tourism event for the southeastern United States. If quality, artisan products interest you, you must stop and shop here!
Visiting this biannual gathering offers not just a gift buying spree opportunity, but also a cultural and educational experience. Professional artists demonstrate their work, and also gladly answer questions regarding their specific artistic passion and livelihood. Any media you can name, along with multiple crafts you may have yet to discover can be found over multiple floors at this location. Fine drawings, paintings, and photography of many types, along with pottery wares for both aesthetics and function can be purchased here. Handwoven crafts, all types of original, one-of-a-kind jewelry; glass, wood and leather works; clothing, toys, decorative items, and many other artisan products are offered. There is just too much variety to be described in short summary in a blog.
Let me emphasize clearly that this event is not akin to your hometown craft fair. These distinctive artists must be screened for their skills prior to exhibiting, and the exceptionally talented are showcased here. This is the place to find the unusual, the uncommon, perhaps even the unheard of item that will suit your needs. For every artist’s wares on display, the principal craftsmen for that product line must be present at the fair. Quality crafting is both considered and honored throughout the venue. There are unique goods available in all price ranges, and all items are carefully curated for your viewing and purchase.
Don’t miss this opportunity. It is true that multiple arts and crafting events occur in different locations in our area throughout the year. None is as unique and comprehensive as the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, held during our season of autumn beauty in October. Plan to enjoy yourself and save precious vacation time too, by finding everything in one location. Come browse to locate that special creative piece , and even enjoy live bluegrass music daily while you shop. Adult admission is a modest $6 per person, with children 12 and under free. The Gatlinburg Convention Center is a modern and comfortable facility located at 234 Historic Nature Trail, which is the Traffic Light #8 intersection with the Parkway. For daily hours and more details regarding this must-attend event, view this link:

See ALL the Fall Colors of the Smokies: Scenic Helicopter Tours

scenic-helicopter-largeOne of the many pleasures of a secluded Smoky Mountain cabin rental is taking in the views of nature around you while relaxing. Choose an easy chair, a porch rocker, or a steaming, swirling hot tub. But what if you could view the Smokies in all their autumn splendor? What if you could view all of the Smokies? Ok, well, maybe not all. But when viewed from above, the vast, undulating landscape that we locals call home rolls out beneath you like a multi-hued carpet!

Consider taking a helicopter ride, to see our area like you’ve never seen it before. This activity is a superb choice for creating a one-of-a-kind experience for you and your family. There are several options available, offering different areas of flyover and duration, to accommodate various budgets and levels of courage.  Make a quick journey over Douglas Lake and the surrounding foothills, or fly deep into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see Cades Cove stretch out below you.

scenic-helicopter-smallPlan your glorious, fall color review now by checking out the touring information at Scenic Helicopter Tours. Their experienced, professional pilots fly the most number of approved flight paths throughout the Smokies area, giving you the best selection and value for your airtime dollars. All members of your group can fly (from the youngest to the oldest), in 3- or 4-passenger groups. Don’t forget your camera, since photos and videos are highly encouraged.

It’s truly a different perspective to see notable landmarks and the area’s natural wonders from the air: sightseeing at its best. Our VCR family loves these flights, and so will yours!


Keep the Smokies Weird! 5+ Quirky Places to Visit

The Tomb attraction in Pigeon ForgeSometimes you just want to kick back, daydream and do absolutely nothing on the deck of your cabin in Pigeon Forge. Of course, you may have planned some regular pit stops iif you are a returning visitor (the majority of visitors to our area are repeaters). Today, I just want to challenge you to try a few new locations that might interest you. They are at least unusual, if not downright strange.

1. The Tomb, Pigeon Forge-Of course, an ancient Egyptian pyramid makes perfect sense in Pigeon Forge, right? Tucked behind Firehouse Mini-Golf and adjacent to Calhoun’s BBQ in Walden’s Landing, this indoor archeology attraction can be amusing on a rainy day, as you puzzle your way through the guided “pyramid innards”. This place is most fun for a group on its own curious expedition.

2. The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, Gatlinburg-If you appreciate the process of collecting, you’ll enjoy this display of one family’s efforts to amass the unusual of those functional pairs of kitchen items. Created over 25 years, with over 20,000 pairs (?!), it’s worth an interesting look when you are in Gatlinburg. Be aware that should you want to purchase a pair of shakers, there are many options available online also.

3. Parrot Mountain, Pigeon Forge-Hundreds of beautiful, tropical birds have a local aviary residence at this 4-acre garden park, near Dollywood on McCarter Hollow Road. Come see more parrots, lories, and other birds than you’ve ever seen in one location: in a lush setting where you can also feed them by hand. Don’t forget your camera for some photos!

4. Smoky Mountain Knife Works, Sevierville-Need a sharp knife? Like taxidermy too? This large complex on Winfield Dunn Parkway in Sevierville is billed as “the World’s Largest Knife Showplace”. From collectibles, to kitchen performance brands, to military and martial arts, there are so many brands of knives available, it is literally mind boggling—who knew? The safari animals on display have never made sense to me, but they too are a bit interesting. If there is any type of knife you can imagine needing, you will find it here.

5. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium, Gatlinburg-On the Parkway in the heart of town, this museum is the definition of quirky, with all sorts of exhibits to meet that “beyond belief” quotient. Yes, you should probably go and enjoy this well-known center of kitsch and odd entertainment.

Ripley’s obviously hasn’t cornered the market in this area on the, ahem, unusual. Keep your antennae up and sensors on search, as there are still more places like these dotted across our landscape…Smoky Mountain Cathouse, anyone? So, raise that one curious eyebrow, and enjoy. To each, his own!

Pigeon Forge Extinct Attractions: What They are Today

How long has your family been visiting the Great Smoky Mountains for vacation? The vast majority of visitors here are returning guests, who have enjoyed spending time together as their relatives grow and change. Though Gatlinburg had developed a burgeoning tourist business by the mid-1960’s, it is obvious from the aerial picture below that Pigeon Forge was still in its infancy as a vacation destination. More than likely, the secluded Pigeon Forge rental cabin which you have chosen as your place to relax was built within the last 25 years (most likely the last 15), which is the time window when most of these accommodations became more numerous here. With so many changes, I wanted to remember a few earlier attractions that some members of your family may enjoy recalling from a simpler era. 



Rebel Railroad was a fort-like attraction that featured a steam engine train ride through the mountain countryside, with a Confederate-themed flavor. I chose this photo of its advertising billboard on the Parkway, because this train is still sitting in its same location at the corner of Parkway and Dollywood Lane. This marked the original turn for the entrance to the theme park, which now has been moved to Upper Middle Creek Road. Rebel Railroad operated from 1961 through 1970, became Goldrush Junction from 1970 to 1976, Goldrush from ’76 to ’77, then expanded broadly as Silver Dollar City from 1977 to 1986, when Dolly Parton and the Herschend organization recreated the park as Dollywood. This brought a major economic boost locally and lengthened the tourist in-season here through the Christmas holidays. Of course, the train still runs daily at Dollywood, and the same loop through the countryside can still be enjoyed, with a tremendously altered scenery. The train is no longer stopped and robbed by “armed gunmen” as it was in the past, with less dramatic flair than in past years!


If the original Water Boggan was a wet ride that you enjoyed in the 70’s and 80’s, you know that you would not want to lose your foam rubber mat on your ride down the hill! The textured, painted concrete troughs made for a bit of a roughed up bottom, unlike the smooth fiberglass runs of today’s parks. Other water attractions of that era included Mountain Ocean, the town’s original wave pool, and Ogle’s Water Park, the first and largest complex of water slides and pools at that time. The pictured Water Boggan, hillside at the far north end of Pigeon Forge is now dotted with camping rental cabins. Mountain Ocean has long been paved over as the upper parking lot of (originally named) Factory Merchants Outlet Mall (red roof mall stores) in the early 80’s. Ogle’s Water Park was sold, dismantled, and redeveloped as Walden’s Landing in 2003, at the corner of Parkway and Wears Valley Road .


Ah, the water-skiing stunt show that was Tommy Bartlett’s Water Circus! This ski, sky, and stage show opened in 1977, and was billed as “the greatest show on H2O”. The show’s run in the area was splashy (ok, that was a really bad pun), but relatively short, ending in the early 80’s. The grandstand canopy is still rusting in place on Sugar Hollow Road just off the Parkway across from the recently closed ZORB attraction. It was redeveloped by a church organization with buildings added roadside, and then again changed hands later. 


If you ever visited Porpoise Island, you caught a taste of Hawaii in the Smoky Mountains. Surely an unexpected combination of Polynesian and East Tennessee cultures, but “the porpoises are calling you!” (declared their commercials). The attraction featured a seal and porpoise water show, trained parrots, and a Hula dancer music luau show, among others. Students from Hawaii were flown in each season, along with almost all the animals. It was a fun and interesting place to visit. In doing some research for this blog, I noticed on Facebook that the Porpoise Island cast recently held a reunion in 2012, expressing fond memories of Tennessee, just as we have fond memories of their time here in the 1970’s and 80’s. The same property in the middle of the Pigeon River is now The Island, which is a rapidly growing development with new attractions and restaurants. Just look for the large observation Wheel, and you’ll be standing on what was once “native Hawaiian” stomping grounds.


Magic World grew and changed over the years with this park map representing its offerings in 1991. This was an amusement park from a simpler era, prior to all of the special effects and over-the-top rides and coasters that are major draws today. This park featured a small train, dinosaur statues, amphitheater musical shows, stunt shows with bikes, skateboards, and high divers, and a magic show. Early animatronics were used in the Haunted Castle and the Magic Carpet rides, and also the Confederate Critters show. A Martian Flying Saucer was actually a small theater with pre-IMAX type screens and imaging, supposedly taking you on a ride from the theme park over the Smoky Mountains (until you noticed the helicopter shadow in the flyover footage). The Kid’s Kingdom area in the park replaced the saucer later on (as in this map) with carnival type rides like the Spinning Spider, along with the Dragon Coaster and a rope net climbing course. Magic World’s entertainment mishmash closed in the mid-1990’s, when the property owner decided to subdivide the land, instead of renewing the park’s lease. Today, the remains of the volcano mountain and its waterfall, along with the schooner ship at the entrance are incorporated into Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf.
Attractions certainly evolve and change in our area, sometimes more quickly than expected, surprising even us locals. As mentioned above, ZORB has closed just this season. Their reason for closing is unknown, as it was quite popular. You can be sure there will always be something new to try here in the Smokies. But all the better to get those vacation photos while you can, since sometimes those special locations become just a memory too soon. I hope you enjoyed this little summary of the past. We look forward to your upcoming stay with us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals soon! Book your next memory making trip with us today.