We hope for everyone a blessed Independence Day holiday. As you relax with your family in a secluded Pigeon Forge cabin rental, please make plans to visit the first Fourth of July parade in the nation at midnight in Gatlinburg on Thursday, July 3rd. Or if you choose to sleep in, don’t miss the Patriot Festival in Pigeon Forge, beginning at noon on Friday, July 4th. That event has a carnival atmosphere with food vendors and a children’s area, music on stage throughout the day with this year’s headliner Lonestar performing at 8:30 pm, and a bang-up fireworks finale beginning at 9:45 pm. Park at the convention center public parking and take the free shuttle, as public parking is limited to handicapped spaces for this event.
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.
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:
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
That lovely scenic view from your Smoky mountain cabin can be taken home with you, through the eyes of two talented local artists. Both Ken Jenkins and Robert Tino have devoted their careers to education and preservation, charity and faith, beyond just producing wares for sale as their livelihood.
Ken Jenkins is a nationally known and widely published wildlife photographer. In addition, he writes and speaks publicly on natural history topics and faith. His work can be found in hundreds of publications like National Geographic, Southern Living, and Audubon.
We take family time away from work too, and understand that vacations are expensive. That’s why here at Volunteer Cabin Rentals, we offer regular specials to help keep your lodging costs reasonable. Once you arrive and are settled in, consider these ways to enjoy our area that don’t cost anything (except maybe the gas to get you there).
1. Stroll the sidewalks of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. You can encounter so much on foot that is missed just driving by. Explore little nooks leisurely, hear live music, see crafts being made, or watch candy making demonstrations like taffy, fudge, and caramel apples. Consider the attractions available with a close-up inspection. Strike up a conversation with a friendly local for places to visit. Even better, take a spot on a bench and people watch. I guarantee it won’t be boring.
2. Vist the Smokies area city parks. Walk the dog around a greenway track. Feed the ducks on the river. Let the kids release a little energy on the playground. Play a round of disc golf; shoot a few hoops; toss a ball, go stream fishing, or have a picnic. View last week’s blog for more details on what our area’s six municipal parks have to offer. It’s much more than you might expect!
3. Take a mental break at the King Family Library. Sevierville has a lovely, modern facility (opened 2010) that can be an enjoyable, relaxing pitstop for all. Check the events calendar for free children’s programs, which are offered year round, and are open for all to attend. There are also smaller branch libraries throughout the county, for a quiet place to read. What better location for the ultimate reference resources on this area?
4. Learn more than you ever thought possible about knives. Quirky, yes. But interesting, too. The Smoky Mountain Knife Works complex not only sells all sorts of functional and collectible implements, but it also is “home of the largest knife collection showplace” and has an extensive taxidermy collection, to view without spending even a thin dime. If you like Bass Pro Shops just up the road, you will want to also make time to visit the Knife Works. I file it under the category of “Who knew?”
5. Ham it up for a photo opp at the Dolly Parton Statue. Dolly herself says of all her many accolades and awards, this bronze replica of her likeness is what she is most proud of, because it came from her hometown people that truly know and love her. It is located on the picturesque Sevier County Courthouse lawn in Sevierville, just one block off the main Parkway. I can’t think of a better area celebrity selfie shot than this!
6. Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Please. For free! It is the only National Park in the nation without an entrance fee. I cannot imagine coming to Sevier County, and not soaking up even just a bit of the majesty and history that is our mountain legacy. To make plans specific to your family’s desires, start at the Sugarlands Vistior Center at the park entrance. There is a free movie with park information and an interesting natural history exhibit. Rangers can assist you on choosing the best nature walk, hike, or drive for you to explore the Park at your own pace. Our family has a deep, personal love for the therapeutic powers of such beautiful nature. Find a rock in the middle of some rushing stream water, and just rest awhile. See if you don’t agree.
There is so much more to see, touch, hear and taste. Spend your “good times” budget however you choose, but start by stepping out for a little “free time” first. You just might make a memory. Total cost value? Priceless.
If you found room in your vehicle for a bag of clubs and some spikeless shoes, it’s important to have a summary at hand to make the best choice for your foursome (twosome or self) to have a beautiful day of par-knocking. Here’s a summary for those adults with skills surpassing last week’s mini-golf primer.
What an interesting year it has been thus far with crazy weather in the mountains! Literally, in one week, you could wear shorts one day, and build a snowman a little later. Of course, you can always kick back by the crackling fireplace or in the swirling hot tub of your Smoky mountain cabin rental. But what is a tourist to do when the weather does not cooperate with your original plans? Here are a few ideas for activities not impacted by the weather.
Jellyfish, slugs and eels, oh my! Please experience this ode to ooze, even if you aren’t an eight-year old boy! If it’s been awhile, or if you have never been to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, now is the time for a visit this spring. Not exactly the green bucket stuff, but it’s just as fascinating to short people, and frankly, to adults too. Want to touch a jellyfish? Try it here, with much more.
The new Slime Exhibition adds an exciting and interesting addition this season. This exhibit replaces last season’s popular dinosaurs display. The Slime Exhibition is a hands-on experience: enjoy the Jellyfish Encounter, interactive displays, and multiple aquarium tanks featuring aquatic animals in their habitats, and how they use slime in their lives. Over thirty exhibits are featured in this area, providing as much “gross knowledge” as anyone could desire.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a world-class living museum. The permanent exhibits make the Gatlinburg location the #1 ranked aquarium in the nation by Tripadvisor reviews. Over 10,000 creatures of 350 different species live here. Penguins, sharks, rays and many more make this “zen water getaway” a whole family pleaser for both fun and education. Located in the heart of Gatlinburg at Parkway and River Road, the aquarium is also adjacent to the city trolley stop, making this attraction simple to access.
To purchase aquarium tickets online, or to buy combination discount tickets with several of Ripley’s area attractions, visit the website.
Maybe it’s because you have been encased in a 7-passenger automobile for several hours to arrive at your rental cabin in Wears Valley. Maybe you had to let go of that sports car to acquire that family SUV or minivan. Maybe you have just always loved everything to do with automobiles. Did you know there is plenty of opportunity in our area to view all types of vehicles while on vacation?
If horsepower and high performance are most important to you, check out the 90 muscle cars located at Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum, in Sevierville, Tennessee. Featured on multiple television shows, this nationally known collection is worth a stop, along with acquiring your own memorabilia from the musem gift shop.
What about seeing the vehicle from your favorite movie or TV show? The Hollywood Star Cars Museum in downtown Gatlinburg houses over 40 vehicles, including Knight Rider’s K.I.T., Back to the Future’s Delorean time machine, Smokey and the Bandit’s TransAm, the Dukes of Hazzard General Lee, and the original Batmobile as examples. A recent addition is the Hummer from the Avengers. You can also be photographed in most of the vehicles for an additional sitting fee.
What about a whole convention of classic cars or street rod custom vehicles? April and September are your opportunities to join those likeminded folks that gather, and participate in all the fun.
Pigeon Forge Rod Run (formerly the Grand Rod Run) is planned for 2014 at the newly opened LeConte Center. Dates in the spring are Friday, April 11 through Saturday, April 12 and in the fall from Thursday, September 11 to Sunday, September 13.
Shades of the Past Rod Run is planned for fall 2014 at Dollywood’s Splash Country parking area, Thursday, September 4 through Sunday, September 7.
Must. Not. Miss. Of course, there are many activities on your list while here in town. Of course, you plan to attend Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival at Dollywood, and enjoy the merry holiday environment created throughout the themepark. But please, make sure and attend this year’s stage production of Dollywood’s “A Christmas Carol”. The show is the only version of this classic tale anywhere that uses holographic technology for “special effects cast members” throughout the production. It is a Broadway-style musical with extravagant Victorian sets and costumes, and an 8-song original score written by Dolly herself. Playing at the Celebrity Theater inside the park, this 45-minute delight occurs 4 times daily at 2:30, 4:15, 6:15, and 8:00 pm.
The technology: holograms are integrated into the show with live performers interacting with them. One quickly forgets how amazing this technology is, and accepts the images as equal players with the rest of the cast. Guess what hometown favorite daughter plays the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past? Yes, it’s a Dolly hologram, and my only joking critique is that Dolly’s British accent needs a little work!
The story: The presentation stays true to Dickens’ original story line, so you can foreshadow the ending, and enjoy the lovely details if you are familiar with the narrative. Children enjoy it just as much as adults.
The music: Dolly’s creative talent is evident from start to finish in the original, joyful music of this production. For those who don’t know, Dolly is far more than a country singer! She is also a prolific songwriter of musicals and movie scores along with many hit songs, all to her credit. She has composed over 5,000 songs in 60+ years of writing melodies!
Other great Christmas performances also occur throughout the park at scheduled times. Christmas in the Smokies, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and O Holy Night are all worth attending. There are 20 rides and attractions, holiday food and crafts, and shopping to enjoy along with all else mentioned. Please check the event schedule on Dollywood’s website, since operating hours and showtimes vary during this season.
All of us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals wish your family a joyous celebration together this blessed season, and hope that you will choose our Pigeon Forge rental cabins as your holiday home away from home.
Don’t let yourself be a Scrooge. Come see old Ebenezer be redeemed with hope with a new twist: there is zero chance you will be disappointed!