Category Archives: What to do

An insider’s reviews and tips on what to do in Pigeon Forge, TN

Dollywood’s Great American Summer

It’s going to be a Great American Summer at Dollywood! Well, isn’t it always? In reality it is, but this happens to be a certain new initiative in which Dollywood’s operating hours are extended daily to 10 pm.

Start the day out with a live performance of the Star Spangled Banner and end it with a spectacular fireworks show titled, Dolly’s Nights of Many Colors. Dollywood’s rides come alive like never before! Its Wild Eagle, Thunderhead, Mystery Mine, and Tennessee Tornado under the moonlight.

Dollywood has been providing families with a great Smoky Mountain experience since 1986 when it took over the former Silver Dollar City. Dolly’s core values are reflected in the theme that bares her name, values that include faith, family, and fun.

Speaking of fun, there will be plenty of it to go around this summer. It all starts with the park’s newest attraction, River Rush, located at Dolly’s Splash Country right next door.

As for Dollywood theme park, shows like “My People: Dolly’s Letter Home” headline the new attractions at the park. If you come from a musical family, you’ll enjoy this show, which includes several members of her family. “My People: Dolly’s Letter Home” is scheduled to opens in early May. Elsewhere on the new show bill, “The Great American Country Show” opens around the same time.

Dollywood’s emphasis on live entertainment has earned plaudits — including, for the past four years, Golden Ticket Awards for Best Shows. Golden Ticket Awards are presented by the trade publication Amusement Today, which last year gave Dollywood top honors for Friendliest Park, Best Food and Best Christmas Event. The park likewise earned a Best New Ride nod for its Wild Eagle roller coaster.

Parton’s music also will be featured in “Dolly’s Nights of Many Colors,” a nightly fireworks display. Along with expanded park hours, the show is part of Dollywood’s new Great American Summer promotion, which runs June 22-Aug. 4.

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain River Rampage

The wettest ride at Dollywood is the Smoky Mountain River Rampage.  This white water rafting style ride promises dips, plunges and lots and lots of water.  Stepping into the circular boat means that you have agreed to get drenched in the fast moving water.  The ride is located at the front of the park, in Rivertown Junction, making it easy to find and of course, making it a perfect last stop after a hot day in the park.

As you enter the line, you are going to notice one thing right off the bat, the line can get very long.  It has one of the longest, and most winding queues in the park outside of the roller coasters.  This line can really stack up.  The wait can take a good bit of time, but the folks at Dollywood have made sure that you stay under the cover of trees and buildings most of the time so that you don’t get too hot before getting really wet.  On a similar note, if it starts to rain, that’s the perfect time to head for this ride. For whatever reason, if it is raining people tend to leave the lines for water rides.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense but it does seem to happen.

River Rampage2After standing in line for a little while, you will reach the front of the line and you will see a line of circular boats lined up in front of you.  The people running the ride will help you into your boat. Make sure that you are secured in your seat before setting off on your journey.  The boats bounce merrily along the course before they begin their journey up the first hill.  This hill is the start of the fun part.  As you top the hill, you get a great view of the surrounding area outside the park, before plunging down the other side.  If you are on the downhill side of this plunge, get ready to get soaked.  After this plunge, you will be on a twisting course through rapids, beside cascades and close to waterfalls, all designed to get you as wet as possible.  Add to that, the fact that the people that are watching you get soaked can add to the fun by firing water cannons at you and you have a ride that is guaranteed to make sure you are cooled off after a hot day in the summer sun.

Once your ride is over, you arrive back at the docks, ready to disembark.  After you have gotten out of your boat you can exit, or get right back in line to ride it again.  And, if you are lucky and there is no one else in line, they might just let you ride through again without getting out of the boat at all.  Either, way you have just been on the wettest ride that Dollywood has to offer.  It is exciting, it is fun and it really knows how to take away the heat.

Dollywood’s Mystery Mine

In March of 2007, Dollywood invited its guests to take a ride on the Mystery Mine, its haunted mine car roller coaster that, at the time, was setting records and was the first roller coaster of its kind in the US.  This steel Euro Fighter style coaster features inversions, loops and at the time the steepest drop in the country.  Mystery Mine is still packing the people in with the wonderful theme-ing and the fact that it is one of the fastest rides in the park.  Located in Timber Canyon, it is on the hill as you walk toward Adventure Mountain and River Battle and it is just right up the hill from Thunderhead.

Mystery Mine is a Euro Fighter style roller coaster.  This design of coaster is the invention of the Gerstlauer corporation.  They build roller coasters all over the world and the trademark of this type of roller coaster is the beyond vertical drop.  In other words, one of the drops along the track will descend at greater then 90 degrees.  This type of drop really pours on the speed and the g-forces, making the excitement and thrill for the passengers even greater.  At the time Gerstlauer installed this ride for Dollywood it actually had the steepest drop in the world, though that spot has now been taken over by the Steel Hawg at Indiana Beach.

The theme of Mystery Mine is that you are entering an abandoned, condemned and haunted mine shaft.  You start your journey with a quick drop and several tight turns before the lift kicks in and pulls you straight up the main climb.  After this drop you are sent outside the mine building over the walking crowds below and into an Immelman style u-turn and then back into the mine.  Inside the mine shaft there is an explosion of dynamite as the car sets off through the last pieces of the track:  a 95 degree drop, after which you are pitched back into the outside world to a camera flash, taking your picture, before you start a barrel roll and a final half loop.  After the loop, you arrive back at the station.  The whole trip took you 2 and a half minutes, you reached speeds of 48 miles per hour and you were inverted in the safety of your car twice.  This is a stunning roller coaster that is still calling to thrill seekers from around the world.

Awards:

  • Best New Theme Park Attraction for 2007 by Theme Park Insider
  • 48th on Amusement Today’s Best 50 Steel Coasters for 2997
  • #2 New Ride of 2007 by Amusement Today

Mystery Mine is one of those rides you have to experience to believe.  The line does get long, the ride is not very long but you will see people get out of line after riding it and get right back in line to ride it again.  This is still one of the biggest thrills at Dollywood.  Combining aerial acrobatics, great theme-ing and of course, plenty of safety. Mystery Mine promises to bring on the thrill for decades to come.

Dollywood’s River Battle

In 2008, Dollywood opened one of the most inventive rides that they have ever put in their park.  It is a water ride, but it is so much more.  Part water gun fight, part water ride and fully interactive. The riders are not the only ones involved in the ride, the people that are watching the folks on River Battle get a chance to get in on the action as well.

The first thing you are going to notice about River Battle is the fact that it is beautifully made. It is designed with the younger visitors to the theme park in mind and Dollywood has spared no expense in making it look wonderful. The ride is decorated with plenty of Smoky Mountain critters and madness. Frogs, raccoons  bees, flowers, parts to old cars, signs and everything else come alive in the lagoon that is the course for River Battle. When you step into the boat and find a seat you will notice that you have a water gun with a spinning handle on it in front of you. The faster you spin the handle, the more water that shoots out of the gun. As the ride gets going you will be able to shoot targets and the decorations and the people walking along the path outside of the River Battle.

And, the people that you are shooting at will have the opportunity to shoot back at you! Yup, the people that are watching the ride can walk to one of the water shooters on the rail along the ride and hose down the people that are on the ride. And you can shoot back at them. In fact, if you want to stay dry around River Battle, you need to give the ride a wide berth, walking in the dry areas around the ride itself. If you stray into the wet parts of the lane around the ride, you will get wet. This pitched battle between the people on the ride, the people on other boats in the ride and the folks walking around the ride is what makes this one of the most fun sections of Dollywood.

River Battle is one of the rides in the park that doesn’t have seat belts, it doesn’t have high speed drops and spins, it is a simple ride with lots of fun and lots of water powered high-jinx. And, after you come off the ride they have family sized dryers where you can get dried off before your next adventure, or… go find another water ride, like Daredevil Falls or River Rampage and see just how wet you can get at Dollywood in one day.

Dollywood’s Daredevil Falls

I love a good log flume and Daredevil Falls at Dollywood is one of those must ride, rides each and every time I visit the park.  From the speed of the line, to the 60 foot plunge at the end of the ride, this is one of those thrill rides that combines speed with water and makes the whole experience awesome.  Add to this the fact that they take a souvenir photo of you halfway down the final plunge and you can also pick up something to remember not only the day by but also that particular ride.

The log flume and log flume style rides have been around for a long time.  In 1998, Dollywood added its own large capacity, long drop log flume to its line u of thrill rides.  As a themed ride it is beautifully done.  You are walking through a lumber camp in the Smokies – easy to imagine, seeing as you are in the Smokies already.  You get into the flume log, which looks like a log itself and you start your float around to the lift.  From the bear in the tent to the flapping of the bats wings in the cave, this leisurely float around the ride is great.  You then start the ride up the lift to the top of the ride and the waiting plunge.  At the top of the ride you are in the recreation of the lumber mill itself, complete with a saw that looks like it might saw the log you are in, in half.  You continue around the top of the ride until you get to the plunge.  You fall 60 feet down at 60 miles per hour, with your heart in your throat.  Even the most seasoned thrill seeker will feel their heart race after this plunge.

And of course, on the way down you get your picture taken.  This picture is of the whole car, so if you planned it right and you have your whole party in the boat with you, you get a souvenir of all of your expressions as you were in mid-fall, at 60 miles an hour.  This is a great way to commemorate the day.

Remember how I mentioned the speed of the line you wait in?  It is one of the quickest ride sin the park.  The logs never stop.  You simply step onto the platform and then into the moving log itself.  This constant motion keeps the line moving.  Even from the very back of the line, there is a constant flow of traffic on and off the ride.  You never feel like you have to wait very long, plus the queue itself is under cover so you are not left baking in the sun either.

Make sure that you leave time in your schedule for the Daredevil Falls the next time you go to Dollywood.  It is an awesome ride, with a great theme and a thrilling drop at the end.  Plus, if it is a hot day outside you get drenched at the end of the plunge.  So, take the plunge, get the photo and get ready for a

Dollywood’s Mountain Slidewinder

Dollywood is full of water rides and during the summer you will find that they are a respite from the heat of the day and loads of fun.  The Mountain Slidewinder is one of those water rides.  Based out of the Owens Farm section of the park, you climb the actual hillside itself to get to the Slidewinder and then you and a set of friends enjoy the fast, exhilarating ride down the mountain.

Owens Farm is the section of Dollywood is where the new Barnstormer ride is located.  Once you are in this section, look over behind the Pig Pen play area and you will see signs directing you to the entrance for the Mountain Slidewinder.  You will start your journey to the top of the slide from there but you can also watch the other people come down from the same spot.  The last of the ride is right in front of you, a huge ride down on a raft with a splash down at the bottom before the riders walk up one way and the rafts go up the other way.  Continue walking up the small mountain path, following the signs and maybe stopping to rest on the way up, it is a bit of a hike.

When you get to the top, prepare to get in line and wait for a few minutes.  The loading of this ride takes a little longer then some of the others in the park but it is worth the wait.  They will line you up and determine by the weight of the group of people who goes in what line and on which sled.  After you have been divided up, they help you get onto the sleds and then you begin your descent.  The speed you pick up on this ride is amazing.  After the long walk up the mountain, you will be surprised at how quickly you wind your way back down.  Twisting and turning, gravity causing you to pick up speed as you fly down the waterslide.  As you go you will feel like you are going to fly off the slide, but trust me, that is why they weighed you, to make sure that you r group was the perfect size to give you speed and safety on your way down.

This is one of those hidden treasures in Dollywood.  People walk right past this ride all the time without realizing it is there.  Take the time to make the climb.  Enjoy the sense of exhilaration on your way back down. Take your friends up and down the Mountain Slidewinder as any times as you can.

Wear City Park Opens!!!

Pigeon Forge is now officially home to a brand new municipal park. Wear City Park opened this past Friday to a number of onlookers as well as kids looking to take advantage of the new playground and athletic fields.

This was the first phase of the Wear Family City Park which is located a half-mile off the parkway on Wears Valley Road in Pigeon Forge.

In all, the park will take up 118 acres. The first 40 acres will feature five lighted baseball and softball fields, a lighted football field, a playground, two shelters, a basketball court, concession stands, restrooms and walking trails.

Everyone in attendance on opening-day enjoyed their share of popcorn, hot dogs as well as a fireworks display, and a number of old-time games.

As mentioned, everything that is now open represents just the first phase of the park, which will eventually include Waldens Creek and the possibility for additional walking or biking trails.

The Forever Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to raise funds to help build and maintain the new Wear City Park, was credited for their role in getting the new facilities up and running.

City Manager Earlene Teaster said a park was needed in Pigeon Forge that generations could enjoy, as well as another mark on the city’s resume everyone could be proud of.

“This is a tremendous asset for Pigeon Forge,” she said. ‘We’re excited about what it’s going to do for our kids in the community.”

They also credited the Wear family, who sold the old farm used for the park.

“It means so much for us that so many generations of this community will be able to come here and enjoy this property and make memories for their families the same way our family did or so many years,” Charlotte Wear said.

Love Running 5K’s? Come to Pigeon Forge!

If you’re into running 5K’s, you might want to check into all that Pigeon Forge has to offer. Not only are they gearing up for the annual February Freeze on Feb. 9, a few other 5K’s are currently in the works. And not to leave anyone out, Pigeon Forge’s next door neighbor Sevierville completes their calendar year with the annual Santa Hustle 5K run at the Wilderness resort each December.

Recently, the Pigeon Forge Planning Commission took up just that exact subject. The Smoky Mountain area has shown a renewed interest planning for a number of yearly 5K’s that you really just didn’t a handful of years ago.

The first 5K event on the list is actually a race that has been run before, and many would like to keep it that way. Titled the Preserving the Mountain in Me 5K, which is put on by the environmental group Keep Sevier Beautiful, it’s an annual Pigeon Forge 5K that is scheduled this year for April 27. For anyone interested, the race will begin in the city parking lot and end on the Pigeon Forge Greenway.

“Showcasing the greenway is a big part of our mission,” said Laura Howard, executive director of Keep Sevier Beautiful. “It’s an underutilized part of our community. It’s a great area that shows off our natural beauty.”

Races like Preserving the Mountain in Me are “a great way to raise awareness and generate funds,” Howard said. “It’s also about getting our citizens outside and into some physical activity.”

Also on the planning commission’s agenda is the 5K in May, a May 4 race that will benefit Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries.

So as you can see, Pigeon Forge is gearing up for a year that could feature as many as three 5K’s within the first half of the year. Couple those with Sevierville’s Santa Hustle 5K in December and you’ve pretty much got a runner’s paradise in the Smoky Mountains. Next time you feel like runnin’, lace up your sneakers come on over to Pigeon Forge. You’re bound to run into a 5K on the way.

Celebrate Irish Month at the Titanic!

Come see if you have the luck of the Irish this month at the Titanic Museum Attraction. What do we mean by that you say? Well, all month long the Titanic in Pigeon Forge will be celebrating Irish month by focusing on the people, culture, and history of the small European country that built the Titanic. The Titanic was built in Belfast, Ireland in 1911.

As is becoming custom each year, the Titanic Museum Attraction shines its light on Ireland in March, with Irish stories, music, and dancing. The Titanic takes St. Patrick’s Day and turns it into an entire month of green festivities.

Want to know what it was like for passengers boarding the ship, their lives, the times, then visit Pigeon Forge’s Titanic attraction. Guests can walk down the hallways, cabins, and even the Grand Staircase of the Titanic – just as it was when it set sail on its maiden, yet fateful voyage. Want to know what that iceberg really felt like? You can. You can even dip your hands into 28 degree water and view over 400 personal artifacts from Titanic passengers that were recovered from the ship. It’s a collection that’s valued at over $4.5 million. A few of the items are on display to the public for the first time ever.

The Titanic’s Memorial Room contains the over two thousand names of passengers and crew who were aboard the Titanic when it sank. As previously mentioned, you can view the Grand Staircase, the heart of the Titanic. The beautiful glass dome illuminates the room where many guests made their appearance on the Titanic.

The dates for Irish month are officially March 1-30. Guests can even explore their own Irish roots with genealogy experts. You never know, maybe even one of your relatives was on the Titanic.

The Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, TN is located on the main Parkway. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm. Admission is $20.68 per person. Children 5-12 are $10.77, and children under five years of age are free. Group passes are available.

For more information call 1 (800) 381-7670.

Dollywood Express

Hop Aboard the Dollywood Express!

With the popularity of Thomas the Tank engine, it is no wonder that kids from across the country are thrilled when they find out that there is an actual steam locomotive at Dollywood.  And what’s more… you can ride it up around the park for one of the best rides in the park and one of the best ways to take in the park as a whole.  And it Christmas they take this ride to a whole new level by adding lights and the sounds of the Holiday Season to the ride.

The Dollywood Express, the engine and the track came from theme park owner Grover Robbins.  Robbins had built a theme park n Blowing Rock, NC called Tweetsie Railroad.  After acquiring a new engine for his theme park in Blowing Rock, he placed a second one in Pigeon Forge at a new park called Rebel Railroad.  This train, and Rebel Railroad opened in 1961.  That train that started on the tracks in the 60s is still in operation today.  It is a USATC S118 Class 2-8-2 and came from the White Pass.  Engine #192 from this deal – otherwise known as Klondike Katie – is still in operation today at Dollywood.  Along with this engine, they also have engine #70, known as Cinderella that runs on the Dollywood Express track throughout the year.

The train ride is hugely popular.  There is just something to be said for sitting in the passenger cars being pulled behind a steam locomotive that makes the ride up the mountain even more enjoyable.  People line up more than a half hour before the ride leaves the station to make sure that they get a good seat on the train.  After you board, the station master will give you some brief instructions and then you will start your trip up the mountain.  You ride through the theme park itself for most of the ride.  Yo get to wave at the crowds as you journey up into the mountains.  On your trip you will get to see the backside of Dollywood, dioramas of mountain life including a replica farm and of course, you get one of the best views of Dollywood ever – from the moving grandeur of a more then 75 year old steam train.

Make the Dollywood Express part of your Dollywood experience.  Make sure that you get there early.  Make sure you get a good seat.  Buy some refreshments for the journey.  Watch in delight, the children sitting around you.  Marvel at the way their eyes grow as they listen to the steam whistle out of the train and the music that the train makes on the tracks as it journeys through the mountains.