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North of the South coaster trip questions


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Thanks in advance for reading an your advice, its really appreciated.

 

We are planning our trip based around theme park visits. I have been browsing the forums and have already gotten some great tips from other threads. I just wanted to present our schedule and am interested what you guys think. Already found loads of great info on food here and not doing SFA.

 

We are in our 30's but young at heart.

Around 14 whole days for the entire trip, our planning is flexible and i'm only planning to book the first and last hotel of the trip and doing the others the day before so we can change whenever we want.

Thinking doing last week of may, 1st week of June.

Fly to Washington (from the Netherlands)

Spend a day in DC (been there before so no need to see everything)

-> Kings Dominion

-> Busch Gardens Williamsburg

-> Carowinds

Hiking in the Pigeon Forge/Smokey mountains area

-> DollyWood

NashVille? Jack Daniels Distillery

-> SFoG

Spend a day in Atlanta

Fly home from Atlanta

 

We are planning to do this at a pleasant pace. Probably i'm the only one driving and though i don't mind driving a few hours, i cannot do the fast schedules I've seen here on other threads. Also i love doing parks slowly, enjoying the food, doing rides multiple times and and seeing the atmosphere.

 

So my questions are these:

- Are any of these parks worth multiple days?

 

- Is there anything else (non theme park) that are must-see. Already found quite a few national parks and civil war sites that have our interest.

 

- Would you advise other theme parks. We thought quite a lot about going to Kings Island but its pretty far out of the way.

 

- Are last week of may - 1st week of june busy times? Would you advise different weeks? I saw that this is the first weeks that parks are open all week. I prefer to visit during the more quiet weekdays if possible.

 

- Id also like to find a place for some shopping, there are regular malls everywhere i'm sure. I'm looking for something special. On a previous trip in Philadelphia we apparently were there at no tax weekend which was great for buying clothing. Prices are so much lower than at home, especially on jeans.

 

- Car rental suprised me a bit. Because were ending in a different place the rentalprice doubled because of the extra fee you have to pay. I cant recall having to pay that much on previous trips. Is there any way around this or can we mitigate the extra fee a bit?

 

Again, appreciate it!

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The only parks I would even consider suggesting two days are Dollywood and Busch Gardens, but you can easily do everything you want even on a crowded day at all those parks by purchasing the Quick Queue, Flash Pass, Fast Lane options at each park. Dollywood and Busch Gardens both have many shows, but I'm not sure how interested you are in the entertainment aspect.

 

The first weeks of the season are ideal times to visit parks in the US due to mild weather and light crowds. Although parks can be more crowded Memorial Day weekend (May 28th and 29th, 2016). On Memorial Day itself (Monday, May 30th) parks are generally not as crowded as the weekend.

 

The car rental return charge for a different drop-off point can not be mitigated based on your situation.

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If you're into History and Wars and anything like that as it seems you may be you should really give yourself more than one day in DC. It's a fabulous city with enough to keep you busy for a week. Try at least 2 days and be prepared to go from sunrise till after sunset!

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Thanks in advance for reading an your advice, its really appreciated.

 

Sure. I hope I'm helpful.

 

- Are any of these parks worth multiple days?

 

With purchases of queue jump bands/bots, I think Carowinds, Six Flags, and Kings Dominion are single day parks. They just don't have that much outside the coasters worth serious time spent on, and the coasters themselves are, by and large, not necessarily all day session rides. Dollywood and Busch Gardens are different situations.

 

- Is there anything else (non theme park) that are must-see. Already found quite a few national parks and civil war sites that have our interest.

 

The region in which you're heading is one of the richest in terms of historical attractions pertinent to the development of the United States. Washington DC is filled with *free* museums that are absolutely world class. Monticello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mount Vernon and Historic Williamsburg are extremely notable places dealing with American history. Gettysburg is nearby the general route and the most well known battlefield in the country. Nashville is the center of the Country Music industry. The Biltmore Estate is roughly halfway between Dollywood and Carowinds and is the largest home ever constructed in the Western Hemisphere. There's also beaches like Emerald Isle as well as full tilt boardwalks and resort cities like Ocean City, Maryland and Virginia Beach. Those are the most obvious things to me. And since you're heading down south, soul food and barbecue should be the primary targets.

 

- Would you advise other theme parks. We thought quite a lot about going to Kings Island but its pretty far out of the way.

 

If you want a relaxed trip, there's not many options I'd actively suggest. Somewhere like Pigeon Forge could easily eat 4-5 days if you plan to spend significant time in the Smokeys. Lake Winnepesaukah would be something I'd actually throw out there though. Historic and unique stuff there and along the route.

 

- Id also like to find a place for some shopping, there are regular malls everywhere i'm sure. I'm looking for something special. On a previous trip in Philadelphia we apparently were there at no tax weekend which was great for buying clothing. Prices are so much lower than at home, especially on jeans.

 

Virginia has one of the lowest sales taxes in the nation. Northern Virginia by Washington DC will have everything you can imagine in existence. You'll likely find other/better deals further south. Yes, there's outlet shopping, but this is 2016 and now outlets have clothing produced specifically for them rather than be locations at which you'd find ridiculous deals on 1st rate merch. You'll at least find a lot of major retailers all together.

 

- Car rental suprised me a bit. Because were ending in a different place the rentalprice doubled because of the extra fee you have to pay. I cant recall having to pay that much on previous trips. Is there any way around this or can we mitigate the extra fee a bit?

 

Price out several different companies and see if you can get a deal with any. I'd stick with the major national brands: Hertz, Avis, National, Enterprise, Alamo, Dollar, Budget. When we say "it depends", a lot of that has to do with local demand. Taking a one way rental from Fort Myers to Detroit in the dead of winter will be cheap and desired by rental firms because it will return cars to them. Taking a car from DC to Atlanta isn't nearly as desirable from their perspective.

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If the timing is right on your drive from Dollywood to Atlanta, I would highly suggest checking out Lake Winnie for a few hours. It has a ton of vintage charm, a solid 1960s woodie, a ridiculously intense small wild mouse, a hand crafted boat chute ride built by the owner in the 1920s that dumps you right into the lake, and what I believe is the only Fly-o-Plane left which is extremely intense. I consider it the mini-Knoebels South honestly. Really cool small park. If you happen to be driving down to Atlanta during the day, it's right off of I-75 and only requires a few hours.

 

Your trip sounds pretty great.

 

If you want any SFOG info, I frequent the park so I can probably offer some advice. First word of advice is arrive well before opening (the front of the park opens half an hour early and you can ride Georgia Cyclone and Georgia Scorcher with no line) and when the park opens head straight to Dare Devil Dive. It's line is almost always pushing 2 hours without fail after the first 30 minutes of operation, all day everyday.

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Adding Kings Island wouldn't work. If you wanted more big parks, I'd say fly to NYC and go to SF Great Adventure. Or if a combo of beach and coasters appeals, maybe Moreys in Wildwood NJ. EDIT: forgot Hersheypark, also not that far out of the way, and great.

 

DC is great, but depending on you it could have little interest.

 

Personally I'm not sure what would be a choice for 2 days, but BGW wouldn't be it. Shows may not be opened yet that time of year at some parks, also, check... KD would certainly keep you occupied 2 days, but the essentials can be done in one day -- although none of those days because I consider night rides essential, and every day they're open after dark that early in the year will be otherwise overcrowded except maybe Monday May 30. If you can figure it out, look at arriving late to KD or BGW late 5/30 or 6/4 and then going all day the next day, and maybe the same thing further south the next weekend.

Edited by bill_s
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Unless you REALLY like country music, I would skip Nashville. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Dollywood and you would have to backtrack a little to get to SFOG. If you do happen to go to Nashville, stay at Gaylord Opryland and go to a showing of the Grand Ole Opry.

 

As for shopping, the Tanger Outlets are very very close to Dollywood and has just about anything you are looking for from golf clubs to clothes.

 

As for the GSMNP, I would reccomend a drive around Cades Cove and there are places you can park and hike around the loop. If looking for something a little more scenic, you can drive about 1.5 hours to Bryson City, NC and hike to Clingmans Dome.

 

If your path from Dollywood or Nashville does take you through Chattanooga, do stop at Lake Winnie and also check out the aquarium. It's one of my favorites.

 

You say you have seen everything in DC but here are some lesser known attractions/Museums that might interest you: the Newseum, The National Museum of Crime and Punishment, The National Spy Museum, The Postal Museum (located at Union Station), and The Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. Also be sure to check out the baby panda that was just born at the zoo! While not technically in DC, Gettysburg Battlefield is just and hour away and well worth the drive; it is a day trip though.

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Sounds like a fun trip. A few tips:

 

The Alum Cave Trail in Smoky Mountains National Park is a nice hike. It's on Hwy 441, which is a nice scenic drive.

Not booking hotels ahead of time is tricky. Yes, it will give you more flexibility, but you also could run into issues where prices are very expensive or everything is booked up, specifically on Memorial Day weekend. Booking ahead in the big cities (DC and Atlanta) as you've planned is a very good idea. You might also consider using AirBnB, which has some unique options.

If you have extra time, considering driving off the Interstates. The Interstates (I-90, I-40, etc) are by far the fastest route, but you'll miss a lot of the scenery and local flavor. You can check this list for scenic drives that might be near your route. Stick to the interstates if you're just looking to drive fast and make good time.

Don't forget there are 4 alpine coasters near Dollywood if you're interested in those.

 

I have plenty of advice for Atlanta, especially things to do and local places to eat. Feel free to send me a direct message if you want any tips for this city. This might be a particularly good place to buy clothing since it's your last stop, and there's everything from cheap outlets (Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta, Tanger Outlets, North Georgia Premium Outlets) to huge malls (Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza) to unique shopping areas (Ponce City Market, Atlantic Station, Little Five Points, Westside Provisions, Virginia-Highland).

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as others have said, Busch Gardens Williamsburg needs at least 2 days (especially if you want to do shows -- we did and for the most part they are above average to VERY good (Celtic Fyre)).

 

Colonial Willamsburg is right there too, (literally. . less than 5 minute drive) and if you're into history, that is a fun afternoon, with period food, and several museums (tho the whole site is a "living" museum, with folks staffing stores in costume and staying in character).

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The Alum Cave Trail in Smoky Mountains National Park is a nice hike. It's on Hwy 441, which is a nice scenic drive.

That is an amazing hike. It's definitely worth going all the way to the top of Mount LeConte but you really have to enjoy a moderately difficult hike. I agree Hwy 441 is gorgeous too.

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Awesome replies there, thanks a lot.

 

Already visited Gettysburg on a previous holiday and some other sites. We mainly fly to Washington cause the airfare is silly cheap (icelandic airlines are great for flying between USA and EU).

 

Will make BGW a 2 day visit and will take some extra time around Dollywood. The area sounds great. Also got a tip to use Roadtrippers which is also great for those short stops along the way. Us EU drivers arent really used to multiple hour drives.

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We are planning to do this at a pleasant pace. Probably i'm the only one driving and though i don't mind driving a few hours, i cannot do the fast schedules I've seen here on other threads. [...] Car rental suprised me a bit. Because were ending in a different place the rental price doubled because of the extra fee you have to pay. I cant recall having to pay that much on previous trips. Is there any way around this or can we mitigate the extra fee a bit?

Those one-way rental charges are a bitch and unfortunately there's no easy way to avoid them.

 

Have you considered just driving back to Washington from Atlanta? Apart from avoiding the one-way fee, I'd be surprised if the airfare for a Washington return isn't cheaper than the open-jaw one you're planning. I realize you're not keen on long drives but you could split it into two days and the savings would probably pay for an extra night's hotel.

 

I'm currently in the planning stages of a similar trip to yours (except with the "fast schedule" you mentioned!) around the same time, involving starting at Six Flags over Texas and ending at Six Flags over Georgia, but I'm driving the 800+ miles back to Dallas from Atlanta to avoid the fees!

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Although parks can be more crowded Memorial Day weekend (May 28th and 29th, 2016). On Memorial Day itself (Monday, May 30th) parks are generally not as crowded as the weekend.

That's quite surprising and good to know - thanks!

 

I usually plan my holidays early september and ive found Labor day to be the same

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