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Photo Trip Report: Dollywood and Pigeon Forge

Holidays in the Great Smokey Mountains

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The holidays are nearly upon us, even for those of us that want to celebrate Halloween 365 days a year (me included). I had the chance to make a visit from the warm state of Arizona to the nice, brisk and cold state of Tennessee and visit Dollywood and Pigeon Forge. The last time I was in Dollywood was in 2006 and the park was still constructing Mystery Mine and the park still had the wonderful "Y" layout. I have been wanting to go back to Dollywood for some time, and since my youngest cousin was getting married near Dollywood, I HAD to make a visit there.

I was fortunate that Dollywood had their Christmas offering already up and OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! I was amazed by how beautiful the park was during the day and even more magical at night. The food never disappoints at Dollywood (and my waistline will never be as small as it was before I entered the park) and I was pretty excited that they had a Holiday Tasting menu around the park.

There are three parts to this trip report...

Part 1 - Dollywood

Part 2 - Dollywood at night

Part 3 - Pigeon Forge

Enjoy the pictures!

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The main entrance to Dollywood was all decked out for Christmas this year.

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But first up, it was time to ride some coasters before the park got crowded. Thunderhead immediately landed in my Top 10 wooden coasters when I rode it back in 2006. Let's hope it still runs awesome!

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Through the trees! Is that still a thing? Does anyone remember that during the beginning years of TPR or am I really getting that old? Well, it's going to happen a lot in this report. Anyway, Thunderhead still rode fantastic! This ride never lets up and it's still in my Top 10 wooden coasters. So glad Dollywood has kept this coaster in great condition!

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Right next to Thunderhead was Dollywood's version of a kiddie ride with the theming of some punk, whistling at someone. Not sure how nice that is but it's still a fun ride for families.

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Don't be tootin' willy's whistles now ya hear?

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The ride that was under construction during my last visit...and all I could see through a peep hole back then was a shed. Now that shed has turned into a Mine...a Mystery Mine that is.

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This was a fun little ride. It was a nice mixture of dark ride plus some coaster elements. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

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It was also interesting to see that the track was modified. I don't know when that happened but I also love the fact that the park kept the old piece of track in place. It makes it even more like it's an abandoned old mystery mine!

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Oh yeah, and that cell phone losing hang time was great!

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Time to enter the newer section of the park. If I was able to bring my family to the park, we would have spent a lot of time in this area. Yes, there is also a Carnival area of this park, but the Wildwood Grove section was just nice, very beautiful, and just relaxing with some great kids rides.

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And my oldest would have loved to read these signs so he could learn the history of this section of the park. It's these nice little touches that some people look past, but some families and kids really enjoy it.

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Family Suspended credit at the far end of the park. Let's see what it does...

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IT HAULS @$$ THROUGH THE TRACK, that's what it does! I mean, damn! This was a family coaster? I sat in the back of this ride and got airtime on it than sitting in the front on Lightning Rod! It's a great coaster but could be terrifying for little kids if this is their first coaster.

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And the G Forces were pretty great too! I'm not gunna lie, I was really impressed with this ride and actually rode it a couple times throughout the day.

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New for next year! Black Bear Trail!

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Oops...nevermind...this Black Bear Trail is the little kids version of the insane "family" ride that Dollywood was currently building behind construction walls while I was there.

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They also had some pretty awesome flyers. I couldn't get mine to "crack the whip" but it was still fun!

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Another fun family ride in Wildwood Grove.

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Time for another "family" coaster. I have been following the park for quite some time and I'm impressed how this ride utilizes some of the structures and areas that was previously here. I think this is a great addition, rather than a ropes course....

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Serious question...Does Dolly Parton have a thing for Firemen? I mean, there's this ride and the beautifully constructed and maintained Blazing Fury. Just curious...

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This was also a very unique coaster. I really loved the layout, how it launched out of the station and also the backward bit. It had a little bit of everything.

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But a family coaster!?!?! Again?!?! This ride seriously hauled throughout the course of the track and the backwards bit could take anyone by surprise! 

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The layout was a lot of fun though and I really enjoyed how it utilized the terrain. And no one was burned on our coaster train so that's always a plus.

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Through the trees! (I told you this was going to happen a lot in this report)

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My very first B&M Wing Coaster! It was a lot of fun. I rode in the back outside and then again in the front outside and both were very smooth. It is a way different feeling than Furious Baco in Port Aventura, Spain...holy hell that ride hurt in the back outside.

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Wild Eagle dominates the skyline. This ride was very impressive while walking around the Wildwood Grove section of the park because it seemed so damn tall!

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And here's it's impressive loop.....through the trees! Haha!

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I'm pretty sure everyone has a picture of this sign...and I'm pretty sure that 95% of those pictures are better than this one. But that last really is enjoying her hot chocolate!

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Are these wild eagles? Or are they wild owls? you decide!

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The very last Arrow Dynamics Looping Roller Coaster. But that's ok because it's......THROUGH THE TREES!!!!!

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I really do love this layout and a part of me wished it was a little longer. But then my head and neck remind me that my body can only take so much over a certain period of time.

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FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!!! If you know, you know!

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The ride still is a lot of fun. It reminds me of the Calico Mine Ride at Knott's Berry Farm. I grew up in So Cal and the Calico Mine Ride was one of my favorite rides as a kid. I can see how people who visit Dollywood frequently would love this ride. Oh...and yeah....THROUGH THE TREES!!!!

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Alright...time to see what all the fuss is about on this coaster. Will it break down, how long was the wait, where is the single rider line? Let's check it out!

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Yeah...it was only a 15 minutes wait throughout the entire day, I rode it 6 times, it never broke down and this first launch lift hill was pretty damn awesome!

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It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the ride. I wanted to enjoy it more but I think the hype made me too hyped for it and it just didn't live up to what everyone was saying about it. Don't get me wrong, it's a great ride and I had a lot of fun on it...hell, I rode it 6 times!

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Through the trees!!! And over the water!!!!! Thunderhead is more fun in my opinion.

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Ok folks...one of these is the main reason you go to Dollywood. Which one is it?

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Cinnamon Bread! DUH!!! I remember this deliciousness back in 2006 and I couldn't wait to get it again. Well, I mean I had to wait because the line to get the bread was longer than any ride that day...BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!

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Speaking of food...time to eat my way around Dollywood and all it's delicious offerings it had. The tasting Pass was such a great deal. You get so much food for a great price. Let's check out what's to eat!

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I love that they still offer "salad". I mean come on, who's really going to get a salad? Time for some belly of the pig!

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Pork Belly. This was one delicious pig!

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Christmas in a sandwich?!?! Sign me up!

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Again...this was amazing!

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The real heroes of Dollywood...the giant skillet!

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I hope this turkey worked out and had some plump thighs!

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Oh boy did he work out! And that was a pretty good sized helping of turkey!

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Now for some other sweets that aren't Cinnamon Bread!

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You can't go wrong with a delicious sugar cookie!

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I WANT THEM ALL!!!!!

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But I ended up getting the Gingerbread cone. Nice and delicious!

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After eating Cinnamon Bread the first time, I realized I didn't take a picture before I finished it. That gave me an excuse to buy another order of cinnamon bread. Still so damn good!

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Time to check out the Dollywood Bird Show!

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Fun fact, the screech owl does not screech...it screams!!

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Vulture attack!!!!

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Dollywood has released 300 Bald Eagles into the Great Smokey Mountains! Their Bird Sanctuary right next to the show area was huge and there were a ton of Bald Eagles throughout the sanctuary.

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There were all sorts of birds hanging out at the park today!59.thumb.jpeg.857d1dda81e56a958a635c28f66861b2.jpeg

And there were some fun floral arrangements around the park as well. Dollywood really is a beautiful park.

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And since it was the holidays, of course there were shows scattered throughout the park all throughout the day.

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All the shows seemed real popular.

Up next, Dollywood at night!

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Great report so far, keep it coming!

Dollywood runs the entire park during the Christmas season?

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good timing, . .  I'll be at Dollywood for the 1st time (ever!) in less than 2 weeks!

really enjoying so far, and looking forward to the rest!

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Part 2: Dollywood at night.

There is only one word that can explain Dollywood at night ... "WOW!!!!"

I mean this park goes all out during the holiday season and it was so much fun to walk through at night time. Even for people that don't ride rides, don't go to shows, and don't eat delicious food (those people are weird but there are some) just walking through Dollywood at night time during the holidays is a sight to behold. Each area of the park has a different "color theme" and it was so unique and fun and really just a great time.

Enjoy the pictures!

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We will start off in Wildwood Grove. Lots of trees with beautiful lights.

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This is the Wildwood Tree! There are a ton of butterflies that light up the entire tree!

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The walkway into and exiting Wildwood Grove. It's like walking in an ice cave...really neat.

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I even met "Big Bear"! He was standing out front of his new ride that's opening next year. He was fantastic and he didn't eat me so that's always a plus!

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Now it's time to take a walk through Glacier Ridge. Everything was lit like there was ice all around us. It sort of reminded me of Antarctica.

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The trees even had icicles falling from them!

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Now it's time for a stroll in the Arctic Passage...much like the Gates Passage going to Antarctica.

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This was much smoother and a lot more prettier than the Gates Passage!

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Drop Line was pretty awesome at night. The few from the top and looking at all the lights is a must...even if you hate Drop Rides!

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Mystery Mine was looking pretty ominous at night.

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Now that is one giant Christmas Tree! They had a tree lighting ceremony too.

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You can see Wild Eagle behind the beautifully lit trees. And here's where I say it again....THROUGH THE TREES!!!

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This was the best area of the park. This section between Tennessee Tornado and Blazing Fury was covered with these hanging lights and they were twinkling to a soundtrack. There were times when it sounded like there was a storm going by, just the sound of ice melting, and then twinkling bells and the lights changed throughout all that. It was really cool to stand there for a couple minutes and just enjoy "the show".

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The chapel was beautifully lit at night as well. THROUGH THE TREES!

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The Cinnamon Bread Grist Mill reflection looked like those old school double Ferris wheels that can be found at fairs all over the country.

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The huge trees throughout the park had different types of lighting throughout. Some colored, and some white.

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Time to visit Dolly Parton's Home.

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I loved their use of wall paper in their Country Mountain Home.

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There were even presents that Dolly hasn't opened in all these years!

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There was a wall of white on the way to another section of the park. Pretty awesome to see.

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The Christmas Train was decorated and the trees around the station were all festive as well. The line for the train was probably an hour wait so I did not partake in it this year but heard from other people that it is totally worth the wait to take a Christmas Ride through the Smokies!

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Out of all the sections of the park, this area near The Village was my favorite. I just really liked how the lights were stringed on the buildings and rides.

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There was still entertainment going on throughout the night.

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The Carousel was pretty magical at night!

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Kids could even get their pictures with Santa!

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Another well lit building. Again, ii really enjoyed this lighting scheme out of all the other ones throughout the park.

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Giant Holly Tree!

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The Country Fair section was lit up like Peppermints and Candy Canes! I wanted to eat everything.

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The Demolition Derby looked delicious for destruction!

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And the Waltzing Swinger looked very patriotic.

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Alright...Lightning Rod at night was pretty damn fantastic. Riding in the back row and traveling throughout the course of the track in pitch darkness was awesome! The Quad down at night seemed a lot faster than during the day.

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There was a nice Retro feeling around the Lightning Rod area of the park.

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It reminded me of some Southern California towns back in the good ol' days and how they strung these bells over the Main Street through the towns.

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Dolly's Purple Christmas Tree.

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If you love pink and purple (which everyone should), then this is your favorite building!

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There were these butterflies all over the park. They were very pretty!

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Another tree within the park. Not as tall as the first tree but still pretty awesome with those balls.

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The Main Street area reminded me a lot of Disneyland's Main Street.

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One last look at the main theater during the night.

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But before I left, I had to get another round of cinnamon bread for breakfast the next morning. That's three for the day. My waistline will never be the same!

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Time to exit the park through the beautifully lit gift shop.

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Thank you Dolly Parton and Dollywood was an amazing day. Christmas time at Dollywood truly is magical!

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Part 3 - Pigeon Forge

If you are visiting Dollywood, you need to spend some time in Pigeon Forge. This area has pretty much EVERYTHING you can ask for, and some things you didn't really know you needed but can enjoy as well. Unfortunately for me, one of my days in Pigeon Forge was cut short due to some nasty weather in cold rain, sleet and freezing temperatures. There is so much to see but make sure to do your research and enjoy what you want to do while there.

Enjoy the pictures!

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No one is paying me to say this, but this place was great and just off the main strip in Pigeon Forge. Great breakfast and great price!

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One of like 50 different mini golf places along the main strip. This one was right across the driveway to my hotel.

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You can mine for gems just like in Stardew Valley!

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One of like 46 different go-kart tracks along the main strip. I didn't get a picture of it, but the best one I have done in Pigeon Forge was Nascar Speed Park.

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When there's a dinosaur, insert Jeff Johnson joke. I have had my fair share of those jokes so I will leave this one up to everyone's imagination.

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There are a ton of strip malls along the main road and they all offer different types of things. I mean who knew that right next to Ice Cream you can do sports and then eat fudge and then have black bears tell you that Jesus Saves! Great entertainment just reading some of the stores and signs.

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A classic? A rip-off? A local gem? A conspiracy theory that dinosaurs really are roaming our earth and they only live in this attraction? You decide!

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It's nice that some restaurants have mascots that you are about to eat. Looks delicious!

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Johnny Depp now showing his acting chops in Pigeon Forge. Come see him nightly at "Pirates!"

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There is absolutely nothing funny about the color scheme of this building.

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One of 63 different types of Arcades throughout the main strip.

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It looks like the storm was a lot worse than feared! An entire building has flipped upside down! But the trees remain perfectly intact in the ground upside down...not sure how that works!

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There are a ton of dinner shows all along the main strip. I have heard nothing but great things about this one.

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Plus, a dinner show that shows you the live animals that you are about to eat for dinner is always a win in my book.

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Hi Reed!

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Hogwarts is even in Pigeon Forge! Who knew? But in all seriousness, this is a great attraction for kids and families and well worth the price tag.

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The "other Hogwarts" though...might need some magic to convince people to enter its castle.

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The Hollywood Wax Museum is like Madame Tussaud's...but it's in the South.

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But I couldn't figure out is King Kong was made of wax or not.

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If Mt. Rushmore was built in the 1970's instead of earlier, these would be the faces on the mountain.

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This is where they take all the rowdy people from Dollywood...Alcatraz East Jail.

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The Island in Pigeon Forge is an area with attractions, restaurants, rides, hotels, and just a lot of different and unique things.

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They even have a Bellagio Fountain show out front.

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Pretty sure some people will be wasted away again in the Margaritaville Hotel...and I mean WASTED!!!

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SkyFly in Pigeon Forge is like a Soarin' ride. It has a unique pre-show and a fun concept that you are in a steampunk-esque type of hot air ballon. Did I ride it you ask.....

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Since it goes to places that I can see in my backyard, I did not ride it. Plus, the ticket prices were pretty steep so unless there was a multiple attraction pass, I wouldn't spend money on this since I love Soarin'.

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I wonder how tasty the pizza is if the employees have been "baked" since the 70's.

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There's also a coaster credit for those of you that keep track of that sort of thing.

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And one of these giant contraptions as well.

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Construction workers were adding some other rides so it looks like The Island will have a lot of newer rides in the near future.

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This thing was massive! A 200 foot tall Ferris wheel. The views on top were amazing!

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It really dominates the skyline at The Island.

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I don't know how many more D's you can have.

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Goats on the Roof where you can see LIVE  B    ABY. GOATS! (more about this place later)

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Goat Coaster! Fun fact, there are like 15 different alpine slide/mountain coasters throughout Pigeon Forge. I have read a lot about some of them and look at videos of others. Out of all of them, this was the one I heard great things about. 

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This mountain coaster was a lot of fun. It wasn't like some others where over the half the ride is the lift hill. This was also a nice relaxing ride through, over and down the mountain.

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Plus, they had some fun photo ops in the parking lot.

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And of course, LIVE  B    ABY  GOATS!

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Another fun one was Alpine Coaster. Unfortunately, I didn't see any bears.

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This one had another unique layout and I thought it was actually faster than Goat Coaster but not as long.

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But this place has the most unique ride out of the alpine slides/mountain coasters...042.thumb.jpeg.d69788dd375d2f40038e1a50fe72395d.jpeg

Again, another Bear...and this one likes to get Rowdy!

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Here it is...the weirdest thing I think I may have been on. Part chair lift, part suspended coaster, part mountain coaster, and part shooting ride.

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You sit in these chair lift type seats and your speed is controlled throughout the entire course of the track. While swinging through the track, you are supposed to shoot targets scattered throughout the ride. Once I found out how freakin hard the shooting part was, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

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They had other things here as well, like a playground for kids.

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And since I was there in the winter, they had Snow Tubing! That's pretty awesome!

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As I head back to my hotel, the architecture around Pigeon Forge is definitely something to see. I love this type of stuff and just enjoy seeing the weirdness around the main strip.

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Oh yeah, and if you want to learn about how a bunch of people died on some famous cruise ship where a girl couldn't move over on the piece of wood she was laying on and her lover died in the cold water, they have a museum for that too.

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Since I love candy, and I love Mini Golf...I decided to hit the green (or sugar coated wasteland) at this mini golf course!

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They had some unique elements, like the atomic bomb candy mushroom? But they had 2 courses, one of the roof and outside, and one inside.

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And if you wanted to spice up the way you play, at the beginning of each hole they had different things for each member of your party to do!

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Selfie! #cravegolfclub

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I will have to admit, I really wanted some candy after playing through all these holes.

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But then I saw that they spilled a whole bunch of cocaine...I knew the candy wasn't safe to eat.

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The inside section was nice and had a Christmasy theme to it.

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I really wanted to eat these guy's faces off after they were laughing at me for being so bad a mini golf. I still had fun though!

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Oh man...I think someone ate the candy and couldn't make it to the bathroom.

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The Gingerbread house hole was a nice touch. All in all, this mini golf course was really fun and had a lot of unique holes to it. Plus, having to do something different before each hole was a fun twist on the game.

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If you thought the daytime looked cool along the main strip in Pigeon Forge, you'd be wrong. It's a lot like Las Vegas, daytime looks cool but nighttime and how they light up all the attractions is really awesome.

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Until next time you awesome little money taker!

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I also saw these cute little guys all throughout Pigeon Forge. So if you see them, tell they I say hi!

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And that's it.

I hope you enjoyed the report and if you haven't visited Dollywood or Pigeon Forge during the holiday season, it is a must for anyone who loves this type of stuff!

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Great report man. We made a trip to Dollywood for Christmas last year and were just talking recently about how much fun it was and how badly we want to go back. It really is a special place and even more so around the Holidays. I've always wanted to check out the water park up there but if given the choice between visiting in the summer or over the Holidays it's hard to not pick the holidays.

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Through the trees! Is that still a thing? Does anyone remember that during the beginning years of TPR or am I really getting that old?

Always good to see a JimmyBo PTR.  As far as your question about getting old, I think it would be better if you just said you were "classic" 

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On 11/19/2022 at 10:12 PM, AmyUD06 said:

Great report so far, keep it coming!

Dollywood runs the entire park during the Christmas season?

Not sure if Dollywood runs the rides throughout the year. I'm sure they have to close some when it gets really cold. I was fortunate to visit earlier in the Holiday season and the weather was great.

On 11/20/2022 at 8:55 AM, bert425 said:

good timing, . .  I'll be at Dollywood for the 1st time (ever!) in less than 2 weeks!

really enjoying so far, and looking forward to the rest!

I hope you enjoy your visit Bert. It really is a great place to get lost in the scenery, food, shows and of course rides. If you are a show person, make sure to check them out because I have heard they are amazing. They have a schedule of the shows at the front of the park which I felt was easier to navigate than their APP. I didn't really see any benefit to the app other than checking rides wait times but even those weren't very accurate. It said 15 minute wait for Lightning Rod and it ended up being a walk on!

On 11/23/2022 at 4:23 PM, larrygator said:

Always good to see a JimmyBo PTR.  As far as your question about getting old, I think it would be better if you just said you were "classic" 

Larry, we all are classics in some way on the Theme Park Review Forum! Haha! I forgot to look at the Park Index before I went on the trip so I didn't know which rides signs you needed. Hopefully you can use some for the Index!

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On 11/20/2022 at 12:12 AM, AmyUD06 said:

Dollywood runs the entire park during the Christmas season?

Yes. Unlike most American seasonal parks that do Christmas events, Dollywood and Silver Dollar City are fully-open except for the water rides (weather permitting). All rides, coasters and areas are open.

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On 11/28/2022 at 12:40 PM, BitterOldHag said:

There's a list of temperatures that Dollywood's rides can operate in on their website: Dollywood Ride Temperature Guidelines

I love that Drop Line can run as low as FIVE degrees.  That'd be one chilly plunge!  🥶

I would ride Drop Line at 5 degrees at nighttime during the holiday times because that view from the top was amazing with all the lights around the park.

On 11/28/2022 at 1:05 PM, coasterbill said:

Yes. Unlike most American seasonal parks that do Christmas events, Dollywood and Silver Dollar City are fully-open except for the water rides (weather permitting). All rides, coasters and areas are open.

Speaking of Water rides, I remembered from my last visit that Blazing Fury had a water section on the ride. Has that section been removed or was it turned off because it's not the summer? "Fire in the Hole!"....which was then put out by not splashing in water.

On 11/29/2022 at 6:29 PM, SharkTums said:

I love Pigeon Forge, it's like the worst most perfect place on Earth!  I kind of wish Branson was more like Pigeon Forge. Great TR as always!

Thanks Elissa. I was supposed to have one more day in Pigeon Forge to enjoy the sites, but the weather was not cooperating with me on this trip. Pigeon Forge seems like the kind of place that you can't do everything during one visit so you are forced to come back...which isn't a bad thing. I just hope that I make it back sooner than a 16 year gap like it was for me this visit. A LOT has changed since 2006.

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