Lights, Music, Action! Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland

After checking into your Sevierville, Tn cabin rental, you might decide to venture out in the evening. Does the neighbor’s overdone Griswold house down the street make you smile? Then choose to get an overflowing dose of Christmas spirit at Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland. Not just blinking colorful lights, this is a computerized, synchronized to music, LED light extravaganza like none other. An award-winning, nationally recognized event, this year’s theme is “Santa’s Beach Party”, with annual new display additions and a longer driving route through the hundreds of thousands of lights.

Admission is $20 per family vehicle, payable from the car at the entrance. There is an additional upcharge for group vehicles and buses. The display opens at dusk until 10pm (in all weather) until January 5, 2014. Car radios are tuned to a music station, which allows you a personal concert of lights visually dancing to holiday favorites, as you drive through the marked route. The event is located at Tennessee Smokies Stadium, easily accessible from I-40 at the exit 407 interchange. Trust me, you can locate Shadrack’s display from the interstate if you arrive after dark!

Also available onsite is Santa’s Village, with concessions, photos with Santa, and a small carnival area with camel and pony rides, and a small petting zoo (some items are an additional small fee). So if the children are a little restless, this makes a nice diversion either before or after your lights tour. My best tip is to not rush driving through the displays, but pull over and park along the route. Enjoy the jumping, elaborate choreography to an upbeat song, or soak up the peaceful beauty of an arcing, illuminated “Silent Night”.

Even better, Christmas Wonderland donates a portion of its proceeds to local community charities. So make it a family tradition to load the car and visit, since your entertainment experience also benefits others in need. Shadrack’s truly works hard to spread joy to others during the holidays!

‘Tis the Season for Smoky Mountain Winterfest!

Sevier County is celebrating its twenty-fourth year of Smoky Mountain Winterfest, which begins on November 12 and lasts through February 28, 2014. Here are the upcoming kickoff events in each city:

Pigeon Forge begins their celebration on Tuesday, November 12, after a Veteran’s Day parade. Action is centered at Patriot Park, with live music, celebrity appearances and more before illuminating over 4 million holiday lights. http://www.mypigeonforge.com/events/winterfest/

Sevierville also begins on November 12 at the Sevierville Community Center, with live music and dancing. All Christmas lights in the city provide a 100% LED glow, shining both bright and environmentally green. http://www.visitsevierville.com/winterfest.aspx

Gatlinburg actually starts its events on Monday, November 11 at Ripley’s Plaza at the Aquarium, with a ceremony honoring our military, including music and a flyover salute. Then the Winter Magic street fair begins Wednesday, November 13 on the Parkway in the center of town, from 5-8 pm. Enjoy live entertainment and vote in the chili cook-off contest before over 3 million lights ignite the season with brightness. http://www.gatlinburg.com/events/details.aspx?id=11

Multiple local businesses add to the festivities throughout the holiday season. Just a few to consider are Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, and several local theater holiday shows are available. Ober Gatlinburg Winter Resort offers snow skiing and tubing, along with ice skating and other activities. Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at Smokies Stadium is a stunning drive-thru lights display with synchronized lights and music. Shopping season is already in full swing, with multiple opportunities for bargains and special sale events.

The weather has crisply cooperated with an appropriate chill! So light the fireplace in your Smoky Mountain cabin rental, and settle in for another great season of pleasure in our Tennessee home. See you soon at Smoky Mountain Winterfest!

Last Great Chance for a Good Scare-Kyker Farms After Dark

Ahhh, the sights and sounds of fall: crackling logs in the fireplace of your Sevierville cabin rental, multi-colored leaves tumbling in the breeze, strobe lights and chainsaws with screams of sheer terror or delight?

Yes, Kyker Frams Corn Maze is an annual limited engagement family fun time in the month of October. Located on a heritage farm homestead of 500-plus acres, the Kyker family creates the expected cornfield mazes (four to choose for the daytime), and a pick-your-own pumpkin field with a tractor-pulled hayride to and returning from the field.

There is also a clean playground area which features swings and tunnel slides, a straw bale crawl tunnel, a corn tub to swim in, and corn hole beanbag games. Families can also visit the critter barn to feed the farm animals, and a large bouncing pillow trampoline. Groups can enjoy using a bonfire pit and party area.

But a different fun begins “After Dark”: there are two opportunities for a spirited good time. First, the Zombie Blasterz, which is a ride through the woods with mounted paintball guns, where you can shoot at “real live” illuminated zombies, who don’t fire back at you. Just nail them mercilessly. Much fun!

If you prefer fear, try the Haunted Trail. Picture all of your nightmare creepies, and then put yourself on a footpath through a pitch-black cornfield. The place is full of nutty folk highly experienced in scaring the stuffing out of you, or whatever else comes out involuntarily when you scream.

It’s all in good fun, day or night. But hurry, here’s the link: http://www.kykerfarmscornmaze.com/Home_Page.html

This is the last weekend to enjoy it all, though they will also be open next week on Halloween. We are all going, how about you?

3 Easy-Access Family Photo Opportunities in the Smokies

Many people use a special family picture to document each year, often as the family photo Christmas card. Of course, you will create some vivid memories while your family vacations in a Gatlinburg luxury cabin. With many scenic spots throughout the county, I am certain you will find several favorites to call your own. Though you cannot build a sand snowman here, and you may have already done the “all jump” candid (hopefully not in matching shirts!), extraordinary local Smokies images don’t have to require lots of driving or a major hike.

I chose a single landmark in each town, all of which require little effort for a photograph opportunity. First, the Dolly Parton statue in Sevierville. Located on the front lawn of the Sevier County Courthouse (itself architecturally interesting), the statue is just one block off the Parkway in the center of downtown. The bronze statue was sculpted by local artist Jim Gray, and was dedicated to the county’s most famous native in 1987. Our generous and beloved local icon, this venue is the easiest way to get your own photo with Dolly. Turn left at traffic light #15.5 on West Bruce Street, and left again on Court Avenue.

It is safe to say that the Old Mill waterwheel in Pigeon Forge has been photographed millions of times throughout the years. It is an historic structure, dating back to the 1800’s. Though the mill is located literally in the center of town, it is a simple task to stand at the handrail with a picturesque background of the rustic mill and the Little Pigeon River cascading beside it. The Old Mill Square complex should truly be a part of your visit here anyway. Multiple restaurants and shops offer excellent food, unique merchandise, souvenirs, and treats. Turn at traffic light number 7 on Old Mill Avenue, and learn more of what is available at www.old-mill.com/about/visit-old-mill

Try the Space Needle Observation Tower for the most expansive view of downtown Gatlinburg and the surrounding mountains. For a fee ($8.50 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children 5-12, free children 4 and under), all can ride the glass elevator to the standing platform over 400 feet above street level. Located at traffic light #8 on Historic Nature Trail, the Needle is a fantastic spot for viewing changing of seasons in the daytime, or for a selfie shot with the downtown city lights as an evening backdrop. www.gatlinburgspaceneedle.com/theView.html

None of these locations are new, or for that matter, particularly trendy. Yet all are easily recognizable as classic Smoky Mountain originals. Please come visit us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals soon. We love sharing our Smoky Mountain home with you, and will do everything we can to make your stay with us “picture perfect”.

Which Theater Show is the Right Choice?

You will want to visit a theater show while on vacation in your Pigeon Forge rental cabin. But which one is right for your family, with something to entertain everyone? Consider Smoky Mountain Opry, an upscale, fast-paced variety show production to suit every taste.

The show opens with an expected delectable slice of Nashville: contemporary hits followed with a classic series of memorable tunes. Talented, seasoned musicians provide professional live music as the tunes evolve to a bit of Broadway, pop, and movie scores. The melodies turn from nostalgia to heart moving with some Gospel pieces, and end with a patriotic celebration.

The continual action is visually captivating, with dynamic stage sets and lighting, used artfully throughout the musical arrangements of skilled singers and dancers. Where else can you see flying fiddlers, silk aerial artists, and flaming pianos in a single sitting? Be transported from Nashville to London to Africa without moving from your seat? And the animals! From horses to serval cats and tigers, to the newest addition: a rare and regal white lion.

One highlight is the Circle of Life/Lion King set. Splendid tribal-costumed dancers recreate animals in their homeland, and the appearance of the majestic large felines makes this scene memorable. The theater also has planned to construct a habitat for these gorgeous creatures, so they will be well-maintained in a natural environment. Great care is taken to provide for the needs of these beautiful beasts.

Interspersed throughout the music is a wide variety of entertainment acts: talented character comedians, amazing physical feats from “Slim Chance” the juggler, and audience participation in a silent movie slapstick routine. Also appealing is a fast-paced, circus-themed “Magic Beyond Belief” act of large-scale illusions.

Our 5-year old laughed aloud at the comedy, grandmother gasped in amazement at a daring physical feat, and I could not help but sing along to various well-known lyrics. This show truly works the hardest in town to provide quality entertainment. So after checking in with us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals, make sure and check out the engaging show at Smoky Mountain Opry Theater. For more information, see www.smokymtnopry.com

Fantastic Family Time at Fin-Tastic Summer

After settling into your Gatlinburg rental cabin, you will want to locate venues that will both engage the entire family, and create some memories at the same time. Many other area visitors have declared Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies the number one aquarium in the nation, and here are a few reasons it’s a great place to start.

Besides daily swimming mermaids, the “When Giants Ruled” dinosaur exhibit, and the always fascinating shark tunnel, the aquarium is happy to announce the arrival a new addition to the Penguin Playhouse. Born May 4, a baby African black-footed penguin is the youngest member of this endangered species in the Gatlinburg penguin family.

Ripley’s has also launched its inaugural “Fin-Tastic Summer Celebration”, which includes special events, activities, arts and crafts, performances, and more from June 21 through July 26.
A short summary of available activities includes:

Monday through Friday from 11 am to 3 pm: Free arts and crafts, games, activities, and special performances on the Plaza in front of the aquarium.

Fridays at 9 pm: Free Movies under the Stars on the Plaza: bring a blanket to spread out and enjoy an outdoor film!

Special Events scheduled include free performances by magicians and mentalists, appearances of SpongeBob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer, and opportunities to meet several Disney Channel TV Series youth stars. For a complete listing of specific event details and dates, visit http://www.ripleyaquariums.com/gatlinburg/things-to-do/special-experiences/kids-fin-tastic-summer/

Also consider special offers and combination packages to visit Ripley’s sister attractions in our area: Guinness World Records Museum, Believe It or Not! Odditorium, Haunted Adventure, Marvelous Mirror Maze & Candy Factory, Moving Theater, Davy Crockett MIni-Golf and Old McDonald’s Mini-Golf.
Check this link for ticket special offers:  Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Our families at Volunteer Cabin Rentals enjoy visiting  Ripley’s various venues, and we know that your family will too. Have a fantastic summer!

Ways to See the Smokies without Hiking or Huffing

Many families have members who cannot (or choose not to) exert major physical exercise to view the panoramic mountain scenery of our area. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to enjoy the view, while someone else does the work of getting you there. From old to new, budget to luxury, here are some unique options that will both provide spectacular views and create memories for all ages. We guarantee none of these are your typical at-home, backyard summer experience!

1. Helicopter Tours-These rides offer the ultimate personal panoramic view, with a variety of flight choices for all budgets. Explore the online discount for booking tours at this link: www.scenichelicoptertours.com

2. Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway-Since 1973, over 18 million passengers have experienced the 10-minute ride that transports them 2 miles to the resort at the top of Mt. Harrison. The return ride to downtown offers magnificent views of both Gatlinburg and the surrounding mountains. More information is available at www.obergatlinburg.com/activity/aerial-tramway

3. Wonders of Flight at Wonderworks-A recent addition to Pigeon Forge, this tethered, giant helium balloon suspends an open-air gondola 400 feet in the sky. Think of approximately 20 minutes of a peaceful, silent, floating platform from which to view the surrounding countryside. This safe and secure lookout can accommodate up to 30 people. Find more details at www.wondersofflight.com

4. Great Smoky Mountain Wheel-Located at the Island of Pigeon Forge, this new attraction opens officially next week on June 20. Take your family for a 4-revolution spin in a climate-controlled, enclosed glass gondola, which reaches 200 feet tall and can carry up to 8 people. VIP experiences are also available. For rates and additional information, see islandinpigeonforge.com/great-smoky-mountain-wheel

We are glad that you are choosing Pigeon Forge luxury cabins for your stay, and hope that Volunteer Cabin Rentals becomes your destination of choice each time you return to our area. Come relax with us, sit back, and enjoy the view: the majesty of creation here is breathtaking in every season.

Smoky Mountain View Down Under

Seems like visitors who stay in Smoky Mountain cabins have acquired multiple new options in recent years for viewing the beautiful countryside surrounding Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Current novel choices include a helium balloon ride, ziplines through tree canopies and across open spaces, and a soon-to-open, enclosed gondola ferris wheel.
So what about adventure when summer weather does not cooperate: sweltering temperatures, rain, or wind?

Here’s a choice most of your friends haven’t experienced: spend some time viewing the inside of the Smokies in a cave! Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville provides a guided underground trail tour that is both entertaining and educational. This historic natural attraction can satisfy the entire family, even the bored teenager and safety-conscious mother (well-lit paths with handrails where needed). Go spelunking (cave exploring) into numerous grottos, and check out natural formations and an underground stream. For directions and more information, view the company website forbiddencavern.com.

Volunteer Cabin Rentals Wears Valley suggests adding this uncommon activity to your must-try list while staying with us on your vacation. Oh, and maybe grab a jacket; it’s always 58 degrees cool. Check that box for your kid’s writing assignment about a unique summer experience. Done!