I did not sleep very well during the night. I am not sure if it was due to the fact I was uncomfortable or that I was excited to see Dollywood. Mom and Gary woke me up at 8:30 and after another complimentary breakfast – this time featuring eggs, sausage, and pancakes – we were on our way.
Our hotel is on the west side of Knoxville so it took us about an hour to get to Pigeon Forge. The drive into Dollywood took us past many outlet malls, dinner theaters, and attractions including the under construction replica Titanic exhibit. It reminded me of a rural International Drive in Orlando or Harbor Blvd in Anaheim.
We arrived at Dollywood and parked and rode the tram to the Main Entrance. We went to purchase tickets and a Season Pass holder approached us and asked if we were buying one day tickets. She then informed us that she had a coupon to get us in for free if we filled out a form. As it turns out, she was only able to get Mon and Gary in, which was fine since I was the one who wanted to go in the first place. I told the ticket lady I was visiting from Disneyland and she seemed impressed that someone from there would come all the way to see them. She told me to be sure to see Sha-kon-a-hey, Dolly’s new musical about the Great Smoky Mountains.
We headed into the park and proceeded to the theater for the show. I actually enjoyed the show very much and is certainly better than some other theme park shows I have seen (I’m talking about you Beauty and the Beast at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!).
The rest of the day was spent at leisure throughout the park. I enjoyed a ride on the Dollywood Express Steam Train, Blazing Fury, the awesome Tennessee Tornado, the death-defying Mystery Mine, and finally the Thunderhead wooden coaster. I did really want to ride the Sky Zip, but it was an extra $40. Had I gotten in for free at the entrance, I’m pretty sure I would have done it. Also the show and train ate up a chunk of time that made us have to skip other things. As it was, we spent a lot of time walking around and looking at the shops and restaurants. Another highlight was the Dolly Parton “Chasing Rainbows” museum. It was wonderful and they said it’s being plussed up in the off season so I’m sure it will be even better.
I have to say, I really was impressed with Dollywood. It is one of the few non-Disney parks I have been to where the workers are friendly and really add to the show. Although, I did see one host talking on her cellphone walking through the park with a Burger King bag. Good thing I am on vacation or she would have been coached! The theming was very well done and I thank Dolly and her family of employees for welcoming me and showing me a great time.
We returned to Knoxville and went out to dinner with Gary’s cousin at a local Italian place. The food was not quite Petrillo’s or Miceli’s but it was filling and the atmosphere and company was great. After dinner, we went on a driving tour of downtown Knoxville and the University of Tennessee area. I loved the old Victorian homes and southern architecture. We made a pit stop at a McDonalds where I got the lovely sight of discarded underwear in the stall.
We then ended the evening with another gab fest at Gary’s cousins house and then headed back to the hotel for the night. We are heading to Asheville, NC tomorrow via the Great Smoky Mtns National Park and Cherokee Nation. We are still trying to find a hotel, but will make a reservation before bed.