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Relax! (Bert-ie goes to Dollywood). A virgin visits for Christmas . . .seems appropriate.

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Nick and I had talked about going to Dollywood for years.

it was so difficult to plan, as there's no "simple" way to just fly in, get to the park, and enjoy the area without renting a car (we were really hoping for shuttles avail. such as many of the Magic Kingdom hotels offer, or like you can get from Vegas airport to your hotels).   And we never seemed to be able to get a good deal on flights and/or cars. . or if we did?  we didn't have the vacation time.

so after trying for a few years, we finally decided THIS year was the year we were going to go, and I secured tickets, and we booked a trip for Summer. . . and then he started having health issues.   It became really clear that a Summer trip was simply not in the cards - certainly not before I went to Europe.   So I reluctantly cancelled our bookings (rental car, flights, DreamMore resort) - but held onto the tix, planning that we'd go in Oct/Nov.

well. . Nick ended up getting sick again, and passed before we ever got to make the trip.

I was being urged by friends to go anyways, or at the very least, call Dollywood and explain what happened  and see if they'd extend the tickets thru 2023 (all good suggestions, but I just couldn't imagine going by myself).

while at Scream Hollow with friends in October, I mentioned to my dear friend Amy about this, and how sad I was that we never got to make the trip.  And she said "we're gonna fix that" and I thought nothing more about it.

cut to about a week later, and she emailed me confirmation of a flight into Nashville from Austin.    I was like "what is this?"    she had gotten all my info off of Facebook (note to folks. . go scrub your FB page of any info someone can use to do things in your name!!  LOL. . I scrubbed mine right away), and booked a flight for myself, her, her ex, and her Daughter to fly out of Austin with me.    We'd rent a car in Nashville, drive to a Air BnB cabin she rented, where we'd meet up with two other friends from Austin, and we'd have a fun weekend in Pigeon Forge.

I wasn't sure how it was gonna go. . . but how could I say no?   (and yes, I gave her $$ back for the flight, and towards the cabin rental).

gonna be upfront and say:  I will never be able to fully convey the amount of gratitude I have towards Amy (and Jamie who drove) for encouraging/forcing me to go.   

I can't say it wasn't rough in places.   and I can't say I had a wonderful time, but I had as good a time as I possibly could, being there without Nick.   hell in 95% of the pictures I'm smiling and that's purely due to those who were there with me.   (the other 5% would be the Prozac).     But I did love the place, and really would like to go back again in the future.

and at the end of the day?   the park was very hilly, the weather was drizzly one day, and freezing cold (upper 30's) the next - and Amy bitched and complained about both of them the whole time . . . so it really WAS like Nick was there with me, as that's exactly what he would have done the whole time.    And then raved to anyone who would listen about what a great time he had on the trip.

anyways. .that's my intro. . now onto the Trip report.

Day 1 - leaving Austin at 6am, and arriving in Pigeon Forge, checking out DreamMore, and the last fireworks of the season.

Pretty perky for so early (and Amy had been up for almost 24 hours at this point, as she worked well into the evening, then had to come up to Austin from San Antonio where they live to pick me up and we flew out of the Austin airport)


Jamie and Londyn sat in the row in front of us.



once in Nashville and got rental car, we were on our way to Pigeon Forge - approx. 3 1/2 hour drive.

a couple of hours in tho, it was time for a bathroom break and breakfast sammiches for some. . so a stop at Buc-ees.

and Santa Buc-ee was out!    a pic?  why of course!


not sure why I took this, but I'm guessing the golden dome there.    Is this Knoxville?


yay!  Pigeon Forge exit coming up.


oo. .the Great Smoky Mountains are so beautiful. . even from a distance


Dollywood THIS way!



but first?  we had to pull into WalMart to pick up Amy's online order - she was gonna stock the cabin up with breakfast food
(spoiler, turns out none of us are really "breakfast" people - especially with Cinnamon Bread at Dollywood!   So the breakfast bacon/eggs/cheese/milk/bread. . all ended up donated to the lady that came to clean the AirBnB when we checked out).

this waterpark, Soaky Mountain (HA!!) looked fun. . but it was already December, and it was closed for the season.
it was comfortable (mid 70's today, tho it did get much colder as the sun set later).



had to snap a pic of this DISGUSTING thing I saw in WalMart when I popped in to grab some Little Debbie for the cabin. 

ewwwwww. . . who in the world would want this?


we had planned to spend the afternoon in Gatlinberg, but had been made aware of a parade happening (thank you Franklin) and a quick check showed that mass of people (almost 90K was nothing we wanted to mess with). . so instead decided just to head to Pigeon Forge, and see if our cabin would be ready earlier than the supposed check in time at 3.

multiple Mountain coasters line the main road as well as several others in the area that we passed while driving.
also on the main drive in Pigeon Forge?  at least 11 Go-Kart tracks, multiple arcades, multiple Mini Golfs, and a ton of tourist trap type attractions.   

it looked like a blast, and we planned to come back later (not realizing that the whole town really does shut down pretty early)


this mountain coaster did look kinda fun, in that it used a chair lift to get to the top.

tho Amy took one look at that and said "hell no"


we're here in Pigeon Forge proper!



Hatfield & McCoy dinner feud?

I would think that would be HELL. . .   and had no interest.   
(we were interested in Dolly's show, that has the horses, but the times didn't really work, and it was a little bit pricey. . . tho we kept that as an option for later anyways)


eye-catching "touristy" architecture


and a Titanic museum, of course.



this Christmas village area had some in the car excited. . but it was SO packed when we drove by, I thought to myself. . I hope we don't stop!


but a ropes course right on the strip looked hella fun.


made note of the Margaritaville at the Island as we drove by.  This was important as when we were hungry the next night after Dollywood, only a handful of places here at the Island were open until 11pm.


HAHAHA. . "Alcatraz East"


Giant Rock-em Sock-em Robots graced the mini golf place that we passed as we turned off to the street that will go to Dollywood (and up to our rental cabin)


wow. . this road up to our cabin is beautiful.


but the cleaners were still working on our cabin when we drove up. . and it looked like it would still be a while.
(remember, we were there on 12/2, so we're pretty sure they were "Christmasing" up the place, as when we finally came in later, it was beautiful and there was a tree inside too).

we were all tired from what had been a pretty long day.  and Gatlinberg was out, since the parade made it too packed to go.   so what could we do to kill some time?

i asked, and they indulged me, if we could perhaps go to DreamMore to look around?  as I really wanted to check out the place where Nick and I had intended to stay on our planned trip.

they graciously agreed, and we took the 5 minute drive, past Dollywood and into the DreamMore resort.



somehow, I didn't get a  pic of this additional lodge they are building on the property.   But it's HUGE, and looks to be at least 1/2 (or more) done.
it's connected to the main DreamMore parking lot, and I expect will be open early next year, based on how much of it was built already.

got a pic of the sign for it tho :)


me, trying not to cry, in front of the DreamMore lodge





the property is lovely.


and all decked out for Christmas.

with Wassail being handed out in the lobby (that was so yummy, I ended up getting some in the park the next day too)








the "lounge" areas on either side of the lobby are adorned with crystal encrusted instruments that Dolly has played.




down the hall, there's a really nice gift shop, that sells things unique to the Resort, with only a handful of things you can also get in the park.

I like that they keep the offerings at the resort unique for the most part.   (tho these shirts were branded Dollywood, and were some of the few things that WERE avail. in the park too)

the lady running the gift shop was very nice, and we talked to her for a little bit and she recommended we go downstairs and check out the wall of records, the Dreambox, and that we should do a toast to Nick in the bar down there.


so we went downstairs - well worth a trip just for this photo op, I'd say.


supposedly this wall features every Album Dolly ever released




and here is the "Dream Box" the lady in the gift shop told us to go look at.

it contains the final song that will every be released by Dolly Parton - nobody has ever heard it.  Dolly locked it away, and it's only to be opened on her 100th Birthday in 2046.

the case also includes a piece of the front porch of the cabin that Dolly grew up in.

I found this very cool, and what a hidden neat thing - tucked away in an alcove downstairs.    I'm glad we were directed to it.



I'm so thankful they were willing to take me here. 

yes it killed time, but it really made me feel closer to Nick.







it was well after 4pm, so we knew the cabin would be ready.  So we piled back in the car and headed back over.
Passing Dollywood's entrance on the way.    Luckily we hit a light, so was able to quickly get a pic of the entrance sign.


yet another mountain coaster we passed between the front gates and the cabin.   Tho this one didn't look super exciting compared to some of the others we had seen.


we got back to our place for the weekend, and it was ready.

a lovely cabin. .that had 3 levels, with sleeping for 12-14, with 3 bathrooms (one on each floor)

downstairs: sleeper sofa, Full size bunk beds, queensize bed
Upstairs: two queen size bunk beds
Middle: king size bed, and reclining Sofa.

we were only 6 total, so we each got our own floor basically.



how nice. . snacks in the kitchen for us.


the main entry level - the kingsize bedroom is to the right, straight ahead is dining room and hot tub.


the reclining sofa in the main room.


did I say Hot Tub?

yup. .this cabin has a hot tub room - which felt SO good after walking in the park all day, and with it cold outside.   (kudos to Amy for insisting on booking this option)



dining room (which we never used, since didn't eat breakfast. . LOL)


thru the door in the kitchen downstairs to the lower level.


huge space (with a kitchenette), and that sofa is a sleeper sofa.   
Downstairs had the Space Invaders game.. but upstairs had a multi game machine with Centipede and lots of other options.

I loved the timed fireplaces that were on both floors.


the patio outside the lower level.


lovely view


the full bunk beds, and the bathroom down here.

didn't get a pic, but to the right is the door to the room with the queen size bed.

originally I was going to take the lower level, giving the King on the main floor to Xander and Johnathan. .but their friend Scott was going to join us for a night, and so we put them all down here because this floor had the space for 3)
Amy and Jamie took the upstairs queen bunks, since Londyn wanted to sleep with her Mom.


back up the stairs now.  (but how great is this cabin??)


up the spiral staircase to the top level, and here's the other game machine. . and a pool table!)


as well as the queen bunks.


this floor has a patio as well.. and just LOOK at this view.

yup. .that's Dollywood right over there!




oh look. . a pic of a coaster WITH the train on it.   how unlike me. . LOL



a few more pics up here, then will head back down to the main floor.




and a peek into what ended up being my room.

yeah, the owner has a bear fetish apparently. . bears, bears EVERYWHERE. . .it was pretty amusing to me.



Xander and Joseph weren't arriving until post 1am (they had to catch a later flight from Austin than us) and Scott was coming in the next day. . and we decided we were hungry.

so we debated the Dolly's horses show, and ultimately decided on a Brazillian Steakhouse, Amy made the reservation, and we headed out for food.


the area is lovely at night.


we will, Dolly, we will!

that's why we're here!



one of the many gokart tracks and arcades lining the main street in Pigeon Forge.

this pic is from the parking lot of the Brazilian Steakhouse.   Yes, it really IS in the lot behind a Taco Bell   LOL



Meat on Sticks!  Meat on Sticks!

they weren't packed, but they were busy.

unfortunately, our service was kinda sub-par (the sides didn't come out until well into the meal, and only after we asked about them several times).  

but the food - in particular the Fillet Mignon, the Leg of Lamb, and the Teryaki Chicken was fantastic.

and I had more than 2 bowls of lobster bisque. . yum!

so yeah, I'd recommend it if you're in Pigeon Forge


and they had Creme Brulee for desert!  Amy and my favorite!


everyone was super tired after eating . . so we kind of scuttled any plans for doing anything during the night (I was pushing for Jurassic Jungle Boat ride, LOL). . but I got it, I mean she'd been up for well over 36 hours at this point.

and it had gotten REALLY cold out.  Low 40s.    But since we were out and about already, I did ask if we could drive by and look at some of the mountain coasters, as they were advertising how they'd be lit up for Christmas.

we passed one that looked really high, and there was almost nobody there. . so I wondered if maybe they were giving discounts tonight, as they were so dead due to the weather?

Jamie was going to turn around to go back and see the cost (tho Amy was a hard no), when we spotted another one that looked *better* further up the road.

it turned out that one was Goats on the Roof's "Goat Coaster"

so we pulled in there just to check it out - and the digital sign said rides were only $12.






seriously, NOBODY was there!

so we started talking to the operators, asking them if they ran it when it was cold. .and they encouraged us to ride.


and look. .they actually DO have "goats on the roof" !


so I nudged and nudged, and kept making the case it was only $12 !!! and Amy eventually (even tho she was terrified) agreed to ride with me.

so Jamie and Londyn went to look in the gift shop, and we got tickets.

(the cold certainly perked me up!)


it was so good, I bought the pics. .and since I bought, the booth operator let me take pics from the screen so I have bigger pics.

look how much fun!


so fun!  and SO fast.

(and SO freaking cold!)


we hung out for a bit and talked to the operators - and they told me I had "shirt of the day"   (it says "Spice Grohls"). .and then we headed to the car to meet up with the others.


a few folks did come in to ride behind us. . but yeah, it still stayed dead.

here's a look at the queue line as we headed back to the car. .  .


we got back to the cabin, and decided we all wanted to get into the hot tub.

and as we were changing, we started hearing "booms". . and Jamie called out for me to join them on the upstairs patio deck.

where we had an incredible view of the park at night, as well as the fireworks show:







even tho tomorrow was our first full day in the park, and we'd see it from inside the park?  we stayed and watched the show.

and I'm glad we did. . as the next day they announced no fireworks due to drought conditions (and after the show, we DID hear quite a few sirens while we were in the hot tub. . so have to wonder if the sparks caught something on fire?)

and then this past Friday, Dollywood announced no more fireworks for the rest of the year.

so I'm really glad we watched, as it was the last fireworks of the season. . even if we didn't know it at the time.

Amy was going to try to wait up for Xander an Joseph (she didn't make it 😛 ), but the rest of us were wiped out post Hot Tub soak.   

So I said my goodnights, took a shower, and crashed hard.

it had been a long, and emotional day, but I was glad I had come.   and tomorrow?  my first time ever at Dollywood!

to be continued. . . .

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That's no cabin  ..... that's an amazing experience, Bert!!! Wow. Totally floored by the size of it, how everything was put together and how you access through it all - amazing! Thanks for sharing all that.

And THANKS to everybody who helped you decide to go and celebrate the season, there. Hugs for that, guys.

Looking forward to your 1st Full Day there. And "Seasonally-Adjusted Greetings!" Jingle, jingle!

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Day 1: part 1 of 2:

after an exhausting travel day we all slept a little later than we had intended (Xander & Joseph arrived well past 1am). .  so we didn't actually make it to Dollywood for opening at 11. 

it had rained/drizzled most of the night, starting just after we went to bed. . so we weren't in a big rush to get out the door, thinking it would keep the crowd away.


by 11:30, the drizzle had stopped, and we climbed into the car and took the 2 minute drive to Dollywood.

luckily it wasn't too cold today (that would be tomorrow), just a little bit nippy . . but the rain cooperated, and stayed away the rest of the day.


*absolutely* worth the extra $20 for Preferred parking.  
the preferred lot is way up front (past the handicapped lots) and gives fantastic views of the coasters as it's up on a hill.   

the view from our parking spot:


the new Big Bear Mountain coaster under construction (orange track), with Dragonflier (green track)




Lightning Rod across the way. . . erm. . . haven't seen it testing (uh oh)


walking from the Preferred lot to the separate entrance - yeah. . that's another perk of Preferred parking.    A separate entrance gate (and dedicated exit lanes for later).

worth every penny.

fantastic view of Thunderhead, Wild Eagle, and Dropzone (hiding behind Thunderhead)


the path down to the Preferred Parking entrance offers a lovely view of Lightning Rod (and down in the distance at the bottom, is where the trams drop off at the main entrance)


I'm here.  I'm at Dollywood.   

without Nick, that makes me sad. . but I'm here, and that would make him happy that I came.


a nice shot of the "quiet" entrance/exit to the park from the Preferred lot.



you enter from the left of the Emporium (near the height check station). . up ahead is the main entrance to the park, if we had parked in a regular lot and taken the tram in.

not super crowded - recall, it had just recently stopped raining - but not a bad crowd considering the forecast for the day.



and quiet enough to be able to get some great pics, that will always give me fond memories.


they really go all out for Christmas Season (as I had suspected, and always heard).    I was looking forwards to seeing everything lit up at night!



small stages set up thruout the park with performers. .these guys were playing some bluegrass near the main gates.

it was really nice to just come across a small stage with entertainment all over the park.


that big building is the Dolly Parton Museum, which unfortunately was closed for renovation.  

oh well.  an excuse to come back to walk thru!

this pathway also leads towards Lightning Rod - but the app said it wasn't operating (yet)


butterflies *everywhere*. . . it really is such a lovely park.


one of the main squares of the park - tho this one *might* be THE main square, as it's right outside the big theater that hosts the ~1hour show, Smoky Mountain Christmas.


and a view from that area, across the water for a great photo op of Lightning Rod.


since our #1 choice for the day was down, we headed thru the park towards Blazing Fury/Tennessee Tornado area. . . but this was the first ride we came across.

nobody else wanted to ride (despite the fact, we've ALL ridden the "smaller" version at SWSA. . .LOL).   So they all went to go watch the glass blower, and look at the ornaments, and I headed up the steep hill to Barnstormer for 1st ride at Dollywood.



so well themed. . .



and I really liked there was a kid's playground area - similarly themed - right next to the "big" ride.  Something for the kids to do if too small/too scared to ride the big rides.
(this was something also seen over by Thunderhead - where the kiddie coaster is next door, and over by Firechaser Express - with a kiddie playground right next to the entrance)


my ride done, I went back to meet them at the glass blowers.

very cool.




and can't pass up a photo op. . .especially for a Carousel, with a wonderful set up.


I can be so far down. . but put me near a Carousel or Carousel Horse?   Instant happiness.


yeah, yeah. . I'm Jewish.

and the park was VERY "Jebus-y". . but I mean, I'm here at Christmas. .and love seeing it.



the lanterns hanging in the trees are GORGEOUS at night.    such a simple thing, but so effective.




ohhh. . I should have expected this (especially with the coaster in the park), but how neat to come across a Bald Eagle Sanctuary, in the park.    The entire side of the mountain is netted off to protect them, and there were at least a dozen Bald Eagles - all rescues / recovering from injuries I believe - in the sanctuary area perched on trees, posts, or on the ground.


across the way were some polar bears.    LOL. .not really sure why. . they were in a few places in the park.


what I found so amusing about them?   Tho they looked pretty decent in the daytime?   at night, they disappear and turn into just lighted blobs.

lt was hysterical how they looked like Aliens from "Attack the Block" in the evening. . couldn't even tell what the heck they were supposed to be.


near the Bald Eagle Sanctuary, is a row of Birds of Prey as well.

I loved how close you could get to them, and the birds seemed very used to people being around, and actually "posed" for pics.   It was great!
(and the park covers the birds in the evening to let them rest, and protect them from the cold.   So make sure you see the birds early in the day).






had we actually made it to our first coaster?

well, sort of. . I mean, Blazing Fury IS a coaster - even if it's mostly lift hill, with just a couple of small drops.

but it was so bizarre and F'd up that I loved the hell out of it.
(ended up riding it 3 times during the trip).

LOL.. the first time as we exited, i asked - so where was the fire?     HAHAHAHA.. I had missed all the instances of "fire" other than the one section with the LED lit firehose.

so of course had to ride again so could see the theme of the dang ride.

those Mannequins. . . loved it.




(and adorable)


on the way to Tennessee Tornado.

most interesting thing to me over here was the game to the far right (that I didn't manage to get in the picture) that early on Saturday was a "throw the ball to knock over the clowns" type game - but instead of clown targets, they were all Santa.

I even said to Amy - that seems rather disrespectful to Santa, odd for this park!

but when we passed by later that afternoon?   no more Santas - the game had turned into a "darts at balloons" game.     

I guess someone higher up saw the game and made them change it with the same thought I had.   ???


Firechaser Express.

of our group of 6, only one of us had ever been to Dollywood before - and for him it had been many years.   So he was most excited about getting to ride this.
for the rest of us?  everything was a "new credit" . . . we'd be over there shortly (and then would wait to ride it the next day, as the queue never dropped below 30 minutes, while everything else was either walk on or 1 train wait).


but first?  Tennessee Tornado.



oh, you naughty, naughty, ride.

(or am *I* the naughty one?  😛 )


it's an Arrow looper.

and a relatively short one.

but you know what?  it was pretty decent.

I KNOW !!!

ended up riding it twice.  Once with Amy, and then convinced Jamie to give it a go with me.


the first loop, since it's not an exact loop, is really quite comfortable, and offers a bit of hangtime.




just gotta watch out for that Batwing (or as Dollywood calls it, "Butterfly turn") for some slight headbang.

but it's so short before coming back, it really isn't too bad.





I think this is the backwards section. . LOL. . tho in pictures, you can't really tell which way the train is going.


with the line at 30 minutes, we instead headed to Wild Eagle. .which was a walk on.
(and we had been watching from the cabin the night before)


wasn't it nice of someone to park their scooter right in front of the photo op? 
(I didn't get a picture of the lady trying to push it out of the way so she could get a picture. .LOL. . but was fun to watch her try to move it herself).

still. . a pic most everyone takes. . .



I liked this one.  a LOT.  

they really leaned into the theming, and some of the moves the coaster makes, really does feel like you are a bird diving and flying.



and one gets a FANTASTIC view of Firechaser Express from the Wild Eagle queue:

(as Robb would say, "Twisty!")





everyone was starting to get hungry by this time. . . so a quick discussion and the vote was the Family Style place we had passed earlier.

Scott had made it to the park, and was going to the long show, which was close to the restaurant.  so we headed that direction and briefly considered stopping for Cinnamon Bread - but the line was already pretty long.   and we were about to eat.   so decided to save it for later.

but here's where they make it!





where we ended up was "Aunt Granny's". . .all kinds of home cooking.

and very reasonable for a theme park!

it LOOKED like at one point it had been a buffet line type restaurant (pre Covid). .  and it still seemed to be set up that way.   Except that now there were servers, and you ordered at the table and they went up and got the food for you, to serve as family style.

honestly?  I MUCH preferred the service this way, and had a great time.

(and tho the menu says limited choices per table, any refills you want, you can swap out to try other things).


coming back from the restroom (washing my hands), I snapped pics of what looks like used to be the buffet line.





a table's order ready to be picked up by waitstaff




said waitstaff were dressed adorably too. 

I'm assuming this is for the Holiday season?  or maybe they always look like this.


really nice, and fun to chat with.   a great experience.

and she brought us a big ol basket of rolls.  that were inhaled in an instant.


the food was all VERY good.  (tho the Pot Roast was a little bland and needed some salt).

from left:

Corn Pudding, Mac & Cheese, Stuffing, Ham, gravy, Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Fried Chicken.

refills got more Mashed Potatoes, more Ham, Sweet Potatoes, and I asked for a side of Brussels Sprouts for me, as I wanted SOMETHING green with lunch. 

as noted. . most everything was excellent. . with the star being the Fried Chicken in my opinion.

for desert, I had the Cinnamon Bread Pudding.  YUM!


the app said that Lightning Rod now had a 5 minute wait. . so we finished up and headed directly to it.

stopping for a photo op first, of course.   I mean, it IS me on this trip.


and we get there. . and the sign says temporarily down.

darn. . .  apparently it had been up while we were eating, but went down again.



so we decided to hang around the area for a little bit, and checked out the shopping in Dolly's Closet.

I LOVED this stupid thing.. . "Old Jewish Lady" style, with velvet sleeves!   it was only ~$55 I think, but it was dry clean only. . and the largest they had was 2X.. which seemed a little bit small.


but I considered it. . .I mean. . look how awesome! 

that dry clean only gave me pause tho. . .as I'd ruin it after one wearing, assuming it even would fit.

so I decided to hold off and see if I REALLY needed it, and would get it tomorrow if I didn't see other shirts I liked more.


before heading back to the other areas of the park (we still had about 1/2 of the park to cover), we stopped at the bathrooms - which are right by Lightning Rod.

and while there?  it started testing:







so we hung out for 5 minutes or so, and when they opened the doors to the ride, we were among the first 10 people in.

we didn't get on the first train, as the folks who had bought timesaver today (it really was a dead day. . so I guess they bought it so they could be sure they got on Lightning Rod if it comes up?) rushed that queue, and the whole first train was filled by those folks.   

I didnt' care, as long as we got on it before it broke down again (which it did.. after about 4 trains). . BUT . . we were on the 2nd train, so I got my ride.    yay!

we then went and met up with Jamie and Londyn, who were riding the cars, next to LR.



two rides after ours. . train 4. . and look, there's still people on it!


we considered getting back in line, since were here and it was running. . . . but then this was the last train we saw, so it went down again just after this.

so only one ride today on Lightning Rod.  But hey, I'm not greedy, I got to ride it.

I thought the launch was a bit "meh".. but that wave turn after the main drop is amazing.    And thanks to the restraints (with handles to hold on to), I didn't even mind the amount of Ejector air - something that usually KILLS RMCs for me.      So. . very good, but I prefer everything past the launch, even tho the launch is what made this ride well known.



Londyn wanted to ride the teacups, so we headed over towards the back of the park, where most of the "family" rides, are - and also where the train depot is.

the park had started making announcements that due to dry weather, there would be no fireworks tonight . . which was odd since it had rained all night.  But then again, we had heard those sirens last night.     Maybe with no fireworks, the crowd that was in the park wouldnt' hang around until close?

we absolutely wanted to ride the train, but even on a "slow" day, it was PACKED every time we saw it pass.       Besides, we wanted to ride it at night as had been told that we simply had to.   It was in the station when we walked by tho, so was able to snap some nice pics.




So many lights over in this area.   (and this was the section we could see from our deck).

I was excited to see this at night. . .


down this way is the Country Fair section - where the teacups are.

but Jamie convinced Londyn that before we go down that hill, we should do the other ride that she really wanted to go on. . which was up here by the train.


(insert angels singing)




as I said.. my happy place.


them too.






oooooo. . .    ok then!    coming back here later 😛


and then it was down to Country Fair area for the family rides
(and hot chocolate that was so hot, it burned "someones" tongue, after she didnt' listen to Mom to wait for it to cool down before taking a sip).  

NOT ME tho. . I had more wassail.


the area is lovely. .and thru the trees you can see some of the cabins on the mountain that are part of the complex we are staying in.





it was just starting to get dusky - surprising how quickly it got dark - and the lights were really starting to pop




looking at the app, there was a train leaving in 20 minutes. . so since over here, maybe we should try to get on it?

i mean it would be dark by the time we left the station.

so we decided to go for it and head up that way.. . and found a line that extended well past the station out into the walkway.   AND a completely full train already.

we debated what to do, and eventually, got to the realization that:  we WANTED to ride the train - it's a must do.    and as packed as it is?  if we leave and come back, we'll miss it again.  

So we just joined the line, for the 45 minute wait until the next departure (and about 20 minutes in, they moved most in the line into the depot - with the comment from the associates, that if you're in the depot, you'll make it onto the train).

. . to be continued in part II , Dollywood on a Saturday Night.

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Don't let the name Hatfields & McCoys fool ya, it's actually a pretty good dinner show and not at all what you expect, my opinion is this and Pirates are the top 2 dinner theaters in Pigeon Forge and both have the best food again just my opinion.

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5 minutes ago, mikeykaise said:

Don't let the name Hatfields & McCoys fool ya, it's actually a pretty good dinner show and not at all what you expect, my opinion is this and Pirates are the top 2 dinner theaters in Pigeon Forge and both have the best food again just my opinion.

I was so impressed with the Brazilian Steakhouse tho. . . love me some meat on a stick :)

but good to know for next time I am able to go back!

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Thank you so much for sharing your TR.  It’s been 3 years since my last visit to Dollywood and this really has me itching to get back.  The park is gorgeous on any day you visit, but yeah that Christmas event is freaking incredible. 
If you ever get the chance to return to the area, I highly recommend the Old Mill Restaurant, which I believe is one or two intersections away from Dollywood’s entrance road off the Parkway.  Delicious southern cooking in a beautiful grist mill setting.  There’s also an awesome cupcake place on Wears Valley Rd across from the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster called Cakes By Bakin Bishop.  Best red velvet cupcakes ever!

Looking forward to part 2 and glad you had a great time 


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Part 2 - evening on Saturday, 12/3/22

as mentioned above, it got dark really quickly. . and by the time we had finished with the Teacups and the *hot* Hot Chocolate incident, and came back up to try and catch the train that was leaving in 20 minutes, it already looked like this.

just gorgeous over here.

by the way..the train depot is on the left out of picture range. . and this picture is taken from where we ended up in the line for the NEXT train, that was scheduled for 45 minutes from now!
as noted, we debated, and decided just to stay in line, as the train was a must do, and we were here already.    So just enjoyed the lights, and sipped our drinks.


the folks that joined the line BEHIND us shortly after. . and partially why we decided to just stay in the line.

yeah. . the train during the Holidays is popular (you'll see why in a moment)


after about 20 minutes, the line in the walkways was funnelled into the train depot - well, some of it was, there was still quite a few folks who didn't make it into the depot and would have to wait for the next train.     Luckily, we made it in and moved towards the front of the station - which they packed solid with folks, telling everyone "if you're in the Depot, you SHOULD get on"

it was a lot of people, but they were packing them in the train rows like sardines, so we felt pretty confident in getting on.


and success!

here's the group I was with:

back row: Amy and Scott
our row: Me, Londyn, Jamie, Joseph, Xander



and now. . . a handful of blurry pics from a moving train.
(apologies for the blurry pics, but thought some might wanna see them, so included some of those that were blurred from the moving train)







the new coaster. . . big portions of it built up already.


and looks like almost all the track is on site and stacked up ready



so if you've never taken the Dollywood train (and most of us had not) - it actually goes outside the park, and up the mountain!

resulting in some fantastic views of the park. . .



but what really makes this a must do during the Holidays?     up in the mountain, there's a big "turn around" (the train uses the same tracks going up and down the mountain) that circles a large field.

during the Holidays?  Dollywood covers the field with *millions* of LED lights that play in patterns and colors.

oh, and the train plays Christmas Carols by Dolly, and her telling stories over the speakers while the train is going.

anyways. .here's some looks at the field of lights:






and then you turn around and head back down the mountain, so the other side of the train gets some great views.

again, that's the new coaster on the far right (orange track)



coming back into the station, we were greeted upon disembarking by an acapella show.



the "Mistletones". . . hokey name, but dang, they were good.  So we stood and listened for a bit.   


then we headed towards the section of the park we hadn't been to yet - and had seen from the train - the area with the tree/Mystery Mine/Thunderhead, and wildwood grove.
to get there tho, we had to pass Blazing Fury first - which looked lovely at night.

Londyn wanted to "mine for crystals" - so they stopped there to do that while myself and the guys headed towards the tree.

Scott hadn't been on Blazing Fury yet. . .so we stopped and took a ride.

what's interesting. . is literally 30 seconds after I snapped this pic?  the whole ride went dark - all lights on it out, and folks streamed out of the queue building. 
so we barely missed getting trapped and evacced from Blazing Fury (which would have been cool. . but there was only so much time left in the day, and way too much we still wanted to do, so I'm glad we weren't on it when the power went down)



strangely the power outage only affected Blazing Fury. . the giant (and absolutely beautiful) area of icicle lights next to it that led up to Tennesse Tornado and Firechaser remained lit up.



beautiful. .



and color changing. . .


looking back towards Blazing Fury


eventually, we all met up at the Dollywood Christmas Tree.

and to say I was impressed is an understatement.

it was beautiful, but I didn't realize that the LED lights on it were going to tell a story. . and the whole tree is color changing!


the speakers in the area came on, the crowd gathered, and the tree told us a story thru images and words.










and there was quite the subtext in the story too. . .   supposedly it was about a Polar Bear and a Brown Bear who are "friends" and the Polar Bear travels from the North Pole to spend Christmas with the Brown Bear. . . where they sled together, wrap presents together, and hold hands.

yeah. . . LOL...   never thought I'd see a gay interracial relationship celebrated at Dollywood (hey, that's how *I* took it) :)



awww. . reaching out to hold hands


and then, once they touch hands?  

yeah. . it started "snowing". . . .       

Dr. Frued ?  analysis please?   LOL

but, it was so neat, really.   recommended viewing.  


this is Scott's WTF is this face when the snow started "erupting" . . .  LOL



I have this as my desktop at the moment.

perhaps my favorite pic I took on the trip:



once the tree show was done, Joseph and I headed over to Mystery Mine, to grab a ride since it was close to walk on.


I braced myself for the roughness, even tho I had heard that they had done some major track work on it (and in fact, the old U-shaped banked turn is still there!  the new track just bypasses it).

but at the end of the day it's a Gerstlauer, so I was prepared to hate it. . but was gonna ride regardless as all the coasters here were new to me.



and you know what?

it wasn't bad!  

yes, this park has a decent Arrow, a very good Vekoma (Dragonflier) AND a decent Gerstlauer.

it was a Christmas miracle!     (and it looks pretty amazing at night)



after our ride, we all made our way down to Wildwood Grove to meet up with Amy and family who had continued walking while we stopped to ride.








very overcast, but loved how the lights reflected off the clouds.


big fences up for the new coaster. . lots of dirt and construction over here, where the station is gonna go.


the tree they had put in the center of this area (that I had forgotten I'd heard stuff about when it first opened).

I thought it was recycled materials or something about conservation (when I saw it from the train, I REALLY thought it was a 'trash tree'). . but getting closer?

it's covered in LED lit Butterflies.

very pretty, even if I couldn't tell what it was until we got close to it.


what's this?    ride a bear?

oh my gawd!!!

can adults ride it?   


I was embarrassed to ask, so instead we went into the gift shop next to it. and watched it.



but then I saw like, 7 adult men get in line with no kids. . so quickly joined in behind them.



OMG. . how awesome!  


it's not a Carousel. . but my goofy ass loves this crap.



so much I even got the ride attendant to snap a pic for me.

look how happy! 


what else is down here in this area?   let's take a look:



it was getting late, and park close was in ~ 1/2 hour. . but we decided that since we were here and DragonFlier was posting a 10 minute wait?  we'd go for it.


low to the ground, and seemed to be running pretty fast for a "family" coaster.

they were only running one train tho - the only coaster we'd seen that on today.


the flyers across from the queue looked fun, but we were tight on time, so would save those for tomorrow.


soon enough it was our turn, and I adored this.

so fast, so low to the ground, and that tunnel!   I didnt' expect a dive into a tunnel.     A little short, but really. . a Vekoma in the USA that's this good?    be sure to ride it if at Dollywood.


so fast, that the best I could get of the train was a blur as we walked by to try and get to Thunderhead before park close.



we made it!

walk on. . .



we rode in the back, and it was SO good.   so much airtime, and in the dark, no idea what was going on with the track.

I loved it so much, we decided to try and get another ride in, even tho it was park closing time.    

operators told us we'd have to exit and walk around, but there was still a few minutes left, so to do that. . so we did.

and ended up near the front of the train (more airtime, but also quite a bit rougher - maybe because it wasn't a full train). . but we got the last ride of the night, as they closed the queue just after we got back in it.   The operator even announced it was the last train of the night and to make some noise.

Amy had never had that experience.. so I'm glad I got her to ride with me again, even if the roughness of this second ride did hurt her back a little bit.



and before leaving the station to head to the front gates, was able to get this pic. . which I also love.


Arctic Passage - which is a tunnel of lights leading back to the front of the park.



and comes out right by the preferred parking entrance/exit.  But we wanted to shop, so followed the crowd around to the Emporium.

and I'm glad we did. . because not only was it "snowing" over here too?  but Santa was waving goodnight to everyone, since the park exit at night is thru the Emporium.




Ho Ho Ho



ending the day in a deserted park, with a lit up version of the pic I started the day with.



we were (shockingly after that huge lunch earlier) a bit hungry

this is when we discovered that pretty much everything in Pigeon Forge was closed - at 9pm on a Saturday !

Amy's googling found that some of the restaurants at the Island were open until 11, including Margaritaville.    I'd never been there, but was game, so we all headed over there for Margs and food.
(having never been there, I didn't know that the "large" comes in a plastic souvenir cup shaped like a blender.   sheesh. . my empty cup got gifted to Londyn)


walking back to the car park, I snapped some pics of the ferris wheel at the Island.

it was pretty, but also cold, and we were wiped out from a long day. . . . so the hot tub was calling.   So just took some pics.




and with that, we headed back to the cabin to soak and then crash.

it had been a fantastic day - even tho we didn't get any Cinnamon Bread (when we passed it on the way to the tree, the line was really, really long. . so we decided to wait a day for it so we wouldn't miss anything).

a Great 1st visit to Dollywood.    I managed to get on every coaster except Firechaser and the Kiddie Coaster (which I didn't care about). . multiple rides on some of em. . and most of the flats I cared about. 

so tomorrow the only thing I really wanted to do was:  Firechaser, DropLine, and Thunderhead in the daytime.    anything else would just be gravy.

so I went to bed this night very happy I had come, and I had dreams of Nick, that made for a really great night's sleep.

tomorrow?  Day 2 at Dollywood.   
(and it was freaking cold! )

thanks for reading along!

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Great report as always Bert looks like it was a good trip. We took our kids there for Christmas last year and just had the best time, we're already planning on another Christmas trip for next year. It's a great park and at Christmas time it does just feel a little extra special.

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So Sunday we woke up and the weather cooperated in that it wasn't wet. . but it HAD gotten very cold.

Park opened at 11. . but no one was in a huge rush to get to the park (all wiped out from yesterday) and besides, we were watching the temps and waiting for it to climb up high enough that things would actually operate. 

so I killed a little bit of time taking some morning pics.

these were on almost every light switch, and I hadn't noticed them until this morning.



a better shot of the spiral staircase leading up to the upstairs loft (with the queen bunk beds, bathroom, pool table, deck, and arcade game)


in front of the cabin keeping Amy company while she smoked


view from the parking spot.



from our decks we saw Flying Eagle start to cycle, so we headed to the park - with Cinnamon Bread on our minds - and got there just around 12:15 if I'm not mistaken.


as we were headed to the Cinnamon Bread, we saw Lightning Rod had a 5 minute wait. . so we detoured over that way, and got in line.

and as we climbed the stairs, heard a groan from above us, and people started exiting past us out of the line.    We asked what happened, and LR had a roll back.

and the people were stuck at the launch.   

we waited a moment to see if they could resolve, but when they started walking out to the train to evac?   we called it and just went over to get Cinnamon Bread (as the digital signs in the park said LR was temporarily unavailable).  

got pics of the train sitting at the bottom of the launch tho - not blurry, as it wasn't moving 😛



how had I not seen the weird statues thruout the park yesterday??  

kids riding on trees all over in this section while headed to the Grist Mill for Cinnamon Bread


there was still a line - even tho the park was EMPTY (due to the cold). . but way shorter than last night.   So we got in line.









it was so cold, we actually went to the BarBQue place across the walkway - with the heated dining area- where some in the group bought food, so we could sit and eat in the heated area.

so good!   (and reheated well. . since I ended up taking 1/2 of my loaf home and it still tasted great 2 days later, after 5 minutes in a 350 oven).


proof I had official Dollywood Cinnamon Bread :)


we continued around the park, and I think we may have stopped at Blazing Fury for another ride. . but today really was about getting the few things missed yesterday, and Londyn shopping and riding the kiddie stuff.

so really 1st on the list was Firechaser Express.
not a walk on, but only 15 minute wait today.






it's a fun family coaster, that looks way more extreme (and high) than it is.   The backwards section is short, but memorable, and I enjoyed it.

Didn't think it was great enough to get back in line to ride again, but I'm glad I got to ride it.

Amy had missed out on Mystery Mine last night, as only Joseph and I had ridden it - so we headed that direction next.

stopping for Photo Ops as I passed them tho, of course :)


the old section of track still remaining is behind this tower.   That "U" shaped wave turn.

it's weird they left it.. but also, I kinda like it.


we didnt' get to ride tho, because as we walked up, we saw them walking people from the back area (a group of girls) and the front of the ride was closed off.


hurm. . . :(


Oh well, I had gotten to ride it yesterday, and the only thing I really had remaining on my list was DropLine (which is close by).

No one else wanted to ride, so I got in the walk on line. . and the group of girls we had seen coming out of Mystery Mine ended up right behind me.   So I asked them if they had been evacced, and they freaked out telling me yes!  and from the Vertical lift.  that they had used a cherry picker to get them out of the train, and it freaked them out.

but the park had given them skip the line passes.    (not that it mattered, it was so cold park was dead).     

So that's two now that had to have people walked from down coasters - I have to assume the cold weather was affecting?


anyways, DropLine was fun - tho very short.   and it does have the added seatbelt restraint now.    And oddly, the operator was discussing the Orlando drop tower incident with the guys sitting next to me on the ride (it came up because one of them was telling his friend someone had been injured on this ride and that's why it had been closed earlier this year).



more polar bears around DropLine's setting. . which I hadn't noticed yesterday, as they were just glowing blobs by the time we came by here in the evening.

I like this pic tho as you can see Thunderhead and the new Bear Mountain coaster in the background (along with the flyers).



it really was a bit too cold to ride anything, and folks were just meandering. . . . luckily LOTS of photo ops all over the park.

i particularly love this pic.





Thru the trees!


I wanted a daytime ride on Thunderhead even tho it was cold, and others were willing. . .so we headed over that way to get our ride.

Londyn was excited because Whistle Stop Chaser is right next to it. . so she got to ride that 3 times. . . riding with most of us in the group.

here's my turn. . pic courtesy of Xander.


and then we go to go on Thunderhead.

SUCH a great coaster, tho it was running a bit rougher during the daytime than it had been the night before.

I still think it was fantastic, but some in the group said it hurt their back a bit.




more photo ops. . .



we knew with the light crowd today, we wouldn't have any issue getting into the "headline" show, and sure enough, it wasn't a full auditorium for Christmas in the Smokies.

it's an indoor theater, for an ~1 hour show. . so we went for it.

very well done, with some really nice voices, and carols.  (and way less Jesus-y than I had expected (I thought it was the story of Jesus, really). . .  Amy said for that we'd have to watch the Nativity show)


the show is. . . odd tho.  

it starts out with a story - folks coming home to the Smokies for Christmas, and visiting family, and singing. . then they all go sledding. . . then there's a cabin inside a church. . then Jesus is born (I think?). . then they are all Angels.    

Or something?    

I was told by a show aficionado that the "storyline" has been the same since it started, and yeah, it makes no sense as a complete story.

I just took it as "they all died while sledding and came back as singing Angels"

regardless, it was very entertaining, with some Broadway style set changes, and great voices for the most part.




this cabin "unfolded" on the stage for a giant indoor set. .




the show finished. . and we swung by the Emporium where I finally was able to purchase the Magnets I wanted (long story. . but it took multiple tries, as they were sold out EVERYWHERE in the park, and had to keep checking to see if they restocked. . but the ladies knew I was looking for them, and pulled some aside for me and had them ready for me when we came in).

Lightning Rod was showing a 5 minute wait, so we excitedly headed over that way. . only to see:


ok then.

we decided to hang around the area and do some shopping - back into Dolly's Closet and the other stores over here.   
Londyn wanted to ride the cars that were over here. . and we needed a toilet break. . which are right next to LR.

while coming out of the restrooms, saw it start testing. . .. .  so we hung around, and a few moments later, they took the sign away and opened it back up and we rushed with the  small crowd to get in line.

it was a fun ride again, and when we got back there was NO line.    So I said "let's ride again".. we're here, it's running. . let's!

the others begged off (Jonathan and Xander had to head back to the airport, and Amy was just too cold).. but since Londyn was on the cars with Jamie anyways, I got back in line. . and as a single rider, got put in the front row!

yup. .I got a front row ride on Lightning Rod.

(and froze my face off). . . LOL



Came off Lightning Rod so cold..everyone was pretty much done with Rides, other than Londyn - who wanted to go back to the Country Fair section to ride a few of the family rides.
So we headed that way to do that and do some shopping. . snapping a pic of the lovely (and very Pink) Dolly's Closet as we passed by :)



oh look. .they sell Genital Lice (Crabs) in the Squishmallow store!


I really was tempted to buy it, as it looks so happy . .LOL



as we headed towards the front of the park to pick up some fudge, and shop on the way out (it really was simply too cold to ride anything more, and tho we stopped and listened to some performers as we passed by, the moment you stopped walking the cold just shot thru you). . I said to Amy:

"oh. . I never got to see Dolly's house. .it's supposed to be here, right?"

and I asked that literally as we were walking by it - something we had walked by multiple times in the past 48 hours and I just hadn't noticed.

so good timing on my part, and we swung in to take a look.





by then it was close to 7 and we were ready to be back at the cabin, so we went down the main street so I could get some pics

SO pretty at night. . and you can see from the "crowds" how busy it was this day.



In the sweet shop, I felt seen 😛


and then we waved our goodbyes to Dollywood. .it was a great experience, despite how cold   and I'm so thankful for my friends for encouraging me to go in honor of Nick.

End result was that I *did* get on every coaster at Dollywood at least once, and a few of them multiple times.    So a very successful trip, and 9 new coasters for me!


next up. . swag !  


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all too soon, it was time to head back to the airport and back to Texas.

but not before I snapped a few final pics of the Smoky mountains and our view from the decks.

Dollywood isn't open during the week, so the "smoke" in these pics are really why these mountains got their name.







in the car on the way back, we passed by this factory with the HUGE smokestacks.   I've never seen any that tall, so snapped a pic.


the flight was uneventful, and tho the evening after getting home was a complete and total Cluster (won't get into it, but it involved notifications received about charges to my deceased Spouse's credit cards received when I took the phone out of airplane mode - that I had to deal with immediately. Will just say that by the time I was done dealing with things, the food I had picked up on the way home was way cold, and I didn't get to throw in laundry or even unpack anything until well after midnight - with getting to bed at 3am - after landing at 7pm).


anyways. . swag bought.

I didn't get the Dolly face Tshirt, as I liked these better (this one for the color)






this one for color and design:


and this one for the design:


bought this magnet from the giftshop at DreamMore


another magnet I loved


a magnet that matched the design on one of the shirts that I liked


and those magnets that I tried for 2 days to get, but finally did. . and the saleswoman had pulled one for each color for me.

I gave two as gifts and kept 2




all in all?   it was a trip I'm glad I took, and hope to go back at some point in the future - tho maybe not in the wintertime :)


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