There are plenty of reasons to enjoy the excitement at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (see my post “7 Reasons to Play at Dollywood Summer 2016“). But did you know there are also some fabulous reasons to STAY at Dollywood to continue the adventure? Read on to find out why our family enjoys staying after we play, and turning our theme park vacation into something much, much more – a DREAM come true!
Beyond Theme Parks: More Reasons to Stay at Dollywood
Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge is a destination in and of itself. In a recent post I listed “7 Reasons to Play at Dollywood.” However, there just as many reasons to stay, even when you’ve exhausted yourself of the theme park and other Dollywood attractions. Dollywood offers options for staying at either a beautiful new mountain-view resort, or at the beautiful and not-so-rustic cabins. There’s also no shortage of interesting and fun things to see and do all around you in the Great Smoky Mountains. Here’s a list of my family’s favorite reasons to stay and continue to play a bit longer:
1. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort
Not every trip to the mountains involves “roughing it.” Sometimes we choose to enjoy luxury accommodations. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is, simply put, Dolly’s dream of a mountain mansion come to life. Rooms are large, with nine different configurations to choose from, including our favorite, the family-friendly King Room with Bunkbeds. Our boys love it, and my husband and I love having a king-sized bed, with plenty of walking-around space in the room. The amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, a playground, a fitness facility, a children’s club called “Camp DW”, outdoor fire pits with s’more roasting and storytelling in the evenings, sweeping porches with plenty of rocking chairs for taking in the fabulous mountain views, and wonderful food at The Pantry and The Song & Hearth Restaurant. And, of course, there are some perks for Dollywood and Splash Country for guests of this resort, including a complimentary TimeSaver Pass to hold your place in line (up to a $30 value per guest per day); early Saturday entry to the Parks; complimentary door-to-door transportation to an exclusive Dollywood Park entrance via their beautiful trolley; and complimentary package delivery from the Parks directly to your room. All of these extras definitely make this resort a value worth experiencing.
2. The Spa at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort
If vacation to you means “relax and unwind while getting pampered,” this is where you go in The Smokies. The Spa at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is approved by Dolly Parton herself and exemplifies the glamour and glitz that she brings to the hills of East Tennessee. Sparkling mirrors, glittering artwork, shiny fixtures, and beautifully appointed furnishings will ease you into relaxation as you take in the view of the gardens and water features from the expansive windows.
The Spa features the amazing, 99.6% natural products (with many certified organic ingredients) of FarmHouse Fresh. These “farm to spa” products are packaged beautifully, and smell yummy enough to eat! I tried the “Southern Warmth Delight Pedicure” which incorporates a Nectar Whole Milk Bath Soak, the Bourbon Bubbler Sugar Scrub, and Agave Nectar Body Oil. I asked if I could put it all in a cupcake and eat it! The Spa also features the same friendly and professional service you receive everywhere in Dollywood. And they are constantly changing things up – adding delicious new treatments and packages!
3. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins
If you want to “rough it” a little bit more, these cabins are definitely the way to go! But the truth is you aren’t really roughing it, because we are talking about luxury cabins with hot tubs, pool tables, luxurious rooms, fully-outfitted kitchens, and sweeping mountain views. You feel like you’re far away from everything, way up in the mountains, but in actuality you’re less than 10 minutes from the Dollywood Theme Park gates! Our family absolutely fell in love with these cabins, which also feature an outdoor pool and playground, as well as free parking at Dollywood. It’s an affordable way for larger groups or multiple families to get away together.
4. Baseball: The Ripken Experience
The Dollywood Company has been named the official entertainment partner of The Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge. Tournament participants who visit the facility in the beautiful Smokies will not only get to play and watch baseball tournaments in one of the most awe-inspiring settings in the world (the view of the surrounding mountains is breathtaking!), but they will also receive access to Dollywood Theme Park, Splash Country Water Park, and other hospitality options at the DreamMore Resort, the premier hotel partner of The Ripken Experience, as well as the Smoky Mountain Cabins. If your team is looking for an adventure in baseball this summer, check out www.ripkenbaseball.com for opportunities to register for and play in a tournament there. Free parking and admission for guests makes it easy to come watch your favorite players this summer!
5. Titanic Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge is an amazing playground of entertainment, dining, thrilling attractions, museums, shows, shopping, and more! There is simply no way to get bored here – even if you are trying (and why would you do that?). In addition to Dollywood and all of the amenities offered there, you will also have fun exploring all the other options around you.
Titanic – the World’s Largest Museum Attraction is worth spending at least half of a day exploring. You will find yourself experiencing interactive exhibits, viewing over 400 actual artifacts recovered from the ship, hearing the stories of the passengers, and more.
And this summer, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge has been awarded the world rights to exhibit the most prized RMS Titanic artifact ever recovered! For a limited time, June 5 – August 14, 2016, you will have the opportunity to view the first public display of Bandmaster Wallace Hartley’s RMS Titanic Violin, since it was sold in a private sale to an unknown private European collector for $1.7 million dollars! Music lovers, Titanic enthusiasts, and anyone who is interested in learning more of the incredible stories of our history – you don’t want to miss this opportunity!
The Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge is definitely a family favorite for us, and one experience that took me on an emotional, heartfelt roller coaster, much different than the thrilling ones at Dollywood. Do not miss!
6. The Island at Pigeon Forge
The shopping and dining you will find all around you is as varied as the wildlife you’ll find in the Smokies. The Island at Pigeon Forge is a treasure trove of restaurants and shops, with some fun attractions thrown in, all in one place with its own parking lot and shuttle nearby. It’s a new favorite destination for my family. After shopping for just about anything you can imagine at more than 35 retail and specialty shops, we love to test our mettle on the Island Ropes Course, or ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel more than 200 feet up in the sky for spectacular views. Once you come down, we draw straws to see who gets to choose our dining plans for one of several restaurants, such as Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, Timberwood Grill, Mellow Mushroom, Dick’s Last Resort, or Margaritaville.
7. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Dolly Parton was born in Sevierville, Tennessee, in the midst of the beautiful, mysterious and majestic mountains of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. No trip to Dollywood is complete without exploring these mountains that she called home – the ones that inspired her dreams and instilled music in her veins.
This year, we celebrate the National Park Service Centennial – 100 years of stewardship for America’s national parks and communities across the nation! Check out their website to participate in Find Your Park Experiences to learn, discover, be inspired, or just have some fun!
Our family favorites include a hike to Rainbow Falls, just off the Roaring Fork Loop in Gatlinburg; a stop at The Sugarlands Visitor Center for a walk through their exhibits and a short, flat hike to Cataract Falls (especially great for small children and elderly visitors); bike riding around the 12-mile loop at Cades Cove; stopping for lunch and creek-walking at The Chimneys Picnic Area; and driving up to Clingman’s Dome, the highest spot in the Smokies, for the amazing views from the lookout tower.
For those looking for something a bit more challenging, you can hike portions of the Appalachian Trail, such as the 8-mile moderate/difficult hike from Newfound Gap to Clingman’s Dome, or enjoy a hike to and overnight stay at LeConte Lodge, which requires registration in a lottery each year to be chosen to make reservations.
One Bonus Reason to Stay Longer
I could go on and on – but I think this list will get you started. However, there is one more thing… more than anything you can see or do in the Smokies, I encourage you to take time to get to know the people who live and work in these Great Smoky Mountains. Their history runs deep, their stories are plentiful, and their hearts are full of pride for their mountain home. They’re eager to make sure you feel at home, too. It’s my hope that your time in these mountains will inspire you and your family to create and share more stories of your own!