From Nashville we hired a car and headed for the great Smokey Mountains for some beautiful scenery. But I did have an ulterior motive- Dollywood!
I never though I would be able to convince JP that it was worth spending a day at Dollywood but he agreed without any persuasion. I was amazed, and he only complained a little bit about the ticket price.
To visit Dollywood we had to stay nearby so we chose Pigeon Forge. This was a great choice as the place is a tourist destination in itself. A kind of southern cowboys Blackpool with all the lights, music, and dubious taste you can handle. We absolutely loved it. After playing crazy golf we went in the huge quilt and souvenir shops, and walked round the amusement places. The Smokey Mountain wheel was fun. It has forty two glass gondoliers and gives you view of the town and the foothills of the mountains.
Pigeon Forge has a trolley bus making getting around easy. The trolley even goes as far as Dollywood so we got there early to spend the day going round the amusement park.
Most of the rides are quite fast and steep but we were there to hear the music and see the other attractions so we didn’t bother with them (thankfully, I’m a bit of a wimp nowadays). There are craft demonstrations in Craftsman’s Valley and Bald eagles on display. Then there is the Dollywood express, a coal fired steam train which does a five mile tour of the park and the mountain foothills.
You can learn all about Dolly, seeing her tour bus and a mock up of her childhood home. There is “Heart-song The Movie” which tells you all about Dolly’s love of the mountains. Music is everywhere including a Dolly family singing show called My People, this was a bit cringey to be honest but we had an absolutely brilliant day.
If you haven’t had enough of Dolly there is also the Dixie Stampede. This is great fun, very fast moving with lots of noise and lighting. Its a dinner show based around an arena with galloping horse, pig racing, chicken chasing and crazy competitions. There’s lots of flag waving and music and your dinner is served as you watch. A “homemade” southern meal of soup, chicken, corn on the cob, baked potato and an apple turnover. Not fancy but nice and you can even buy a packet of the soup to take home with you.
Then on to the official reason for the visit- the Smokey Mountains. Famous for having more tree species the northern Europe and American Black Bears. We drove to Clingmans dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail at 6,643 feet above sea level. There is a concrete observation tower ( much nicer than it sounds) a steep climb from the car park. Fantastic views.
We also drove the Cades Cove Tour. This is an eleven mile circular route showcasing the heritage of the area. There are barns, old houses and couple of churches and BEARS- big black ones quite close to the road. They are dangerous so you mustn’t get too close but I did mange a blurry photo!