I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend! We stayed in town over Labor Day Weekend because we took a little family vacation a few weekends before, and I wanted to share our experience with you.
Each year my Mother-in-Law likes to plan a family trip somewhere within driving distance for my Father-in-Law’s birthday. Last year we went to Center Hill Lake to camp, wake board and ride around in the boat. This year, Cathy came up with Dollywood in good ol’ Pigeon Forge, TN, just outside of Gatlinburg.
I hadn’t been to Dollywood since I was much younger and I heard they had just opened a new roller coaster, so I thought it would be fun but wasn’t sure what to expect. We pulled in the parking lot bright and early Saturday morning just as the spaces were beginning to fill. They have so many people that visit each year that they provide trolleys to take everyone back to their cars; the parking lots literally go on for miles.
Dollywood is located in the most pristine and beautiful setting at the foot of the Smoky Mountains. The vista is so lovely. I was really impressed with how clean it is, and there is something for everyone. Whether you like roller coasters, bird watching, amazing candy and homemade fudge shops, crafts, games or making teddy bears, Dollywood has it all. Of course, we stuck to the roller coasters the whole time. As a kid, my dad was a great sport and would go on every roller coaster with me. It was always the same story – I would rush to the line in excitement, and by the time we got to the front, I was so nervous that my dad would have to encourage me to step foot on the ride – then I would have the best time. Of course I loved every minute of it, and then we’d have to go through the exact same scenario the next ride and on and on.
I haven’t been on a roller coaster in at least 12 years, and I learned that I haven’t changed a bit. Of course, the first one that we went on, at 9AM, (8AM central time, when normally I would be enjoying a cup of coffee) was the biggest, baddest and newest: The Wild Eagle, America’s first wing coaster where the seats are not on the actual track but to either side so there is nothing but air above and below the rider. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
I was terrified and still half asleep. There was hardly a line at that point, so we made it to the beginning in no time. I was the butt of all the family jokes, as they were enjoying seeing me tremble in my boots. Literally. It has that typical start where you go slowly up, up, up the track and then all of a sudden, wait for it, FREE FALL. No track, nothing above or below, just a whole lot of speed. I was unprepared. My stomach went so high into my chest, I think I lost it. It had been so long since I felt this kind of speed that all I could do was hold on real tight and repeat “I am OK, I am OK, I’m going to be OK, I can do this, I am OK” throughout the entire ride. Pete was laughing hysterically. If I could have pulled a lever to come to a halt, that is exactly what I would have done. I made it all in one piece though, and while I was shaky for the next 10 minutes, it really was a thrill. Seriously though, I am more of a baby now than I was when I was 10 years old! After trying out the other roller coasters, we came back to this one. I went through the exact same motions and was not sure why I suggested we try it again? Immediate regret. After the second time around, I determined it was fantastic! It is so smooth and fast and fun, and as long as you don’t get motion sickness, I would highly recommend it!
That night we went to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Show, which was hilarious and fun. We were served a feast of a whole turkey, ham, rolls, and apple tart while we took in the North and the South “battling it out” in the ring as well as some pretty cool horse riding stunts.
Up and down the Pigeon Forge strip, it is hard not to notice all the go-cart tracks. There are heaps of them including a Nascar one. On Sunday morning after flap jacks (what they call pancakes), we decided to race. Pete’s family is quite competitive, so I decided I was going to show all of them up. Didn’t happen. I floored it and right out the gate, I ran into a puddle of water where I very quickly spun out. This happened before I even had the chance to try to take the lead. In fact, the whole clan passed me as they rounded the corner of their first lap before I could even get the go cart turned in the right direction. Believe me, I heard about that afterwards!
I secretly hoped I would run into Dolly at the park. Of course that didn’t happen, but I have a chance to run into her in Nashville, too, as she also has homes here. I have to say she has done a great job with Dollywood, and we thoroughly enjoyed our trip! I would definitely go back for the roller coasters. 😉