Four adults, four tweens and two teens stay in a log cabin in Tennessee…sounds like the beginning of a crazy joke, right? But for us, Spring Break 2019 was filled with laughter and fun and is a must share with anyone looking to visit Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
We started our trip at the DreamMore hotel in order to get the free time-saver pass (think Fast Pass for Disney) and free parking at the hotel, along with a VIP entrance (no line) to Dollywood the next day. In previous years we hadn’t really needed the time saver, this year it was definitely worth it! Dollywood was more crowded than we have ever seen it, with waits up to 40 minutes on the most popular rides. With our time saver passes, however, we ran right up to the front and never waited more than 4 or 5 minutes. So worth it! Plus, the DreamMore’s heated pool, evening smores-making and the bakery/Starbucks coffee shop were big hits with everyone. And the employees were so kind. I have to give a huge shout out to the front desk manager, Rachel, for some over-the-top customer service. I highly recommend staying there. If you do, drop by the front desk and give Rachel a big “hello” from us! She exceeded our expectations in every way!
We had a blast at Dollywood, as always, with the exception of my daughter getting a migraine and feeling pretty awful for most of the afternoon. I offered to leave with her multiple times, but she decided she wanted to tough it out and not miss any fun…so we closed the park down once again! However, before we left, my family FINALLY got me to ride on Wild Eagle. Remember my last blog when I said I normally get cotton candy while the others ride this? Well, I was with friends and I fell to the peer pressure. Literally. Fell 21 stories on that first drop. If you want to see what I would look like plummeting to my death, here it is. My husband has never pulled out his wallet as fast as he did when he saw this picture at the end of the ride. $17.50 of pure gold. We are still cracking up about it, but next time, I’ll stay with the bags, thanks.
This being our third trip to Pigeon Forge, we had to try some new adventures this time around. And WOW. Did we hit the nail on the head with them!! My personal favorite was Parrot Mountain. While I wasn’t sure the teenagers would be super excited by it, EVERYONE had a BLAST. They even asked if we could go again later in the week! Bonus fact was when buying the tickets, I casually asked if they offered any AAA discounts (I didn’t see that on Parrot Mountain’s website)…turns out they did! All I had to do was show my card to receive the discount. I then spent that savings on extra tickets to feed the birds inside. We went in and were able to hold all different types of birds, big and small. The smaller ones were my kids favorites. We were in the main bird holding area for over an hour and could have stayed longer. Then we went into the aviary and got to use our tickets for little cups of nectar, which is apparently bird crack. The birds zoom in on you as soon as you walk into the aviary. My son, at one point, had eight birds on him. I had five…two of them on my head, which was neat…until one tinkled on me. And by tinkle, I mean a big ol’ squirt right down my scalp. I got a paper towel to “dry it off” and the day went on, but not without me feeling a tad bit gross. That being said, I’d do it 100 times over. The grounds are gorgeous and we talked and danced with some birds…just an all around fun morning. Took about 2.5 hours to go through but honestly could have spent 4 hours there just hanging with the birds. We will DEFINITELY do that again.
Our next favorite activity was the llama trek. Steve was our guide and the owner of the tour. He introduced us to all of our llamas (we each got to pick one to walk with). I had Curly, although he wasn’t curly at all because he had just been shaved. But he was so cool. He even stopped for all my picture-taking and obliged by looking at the camera! My daughter’s llama even smiled for a photo! (See below.) I think I need more llamas in my life.
On the trek, there were 11 people, 10 llamas, 2 dogs, and 1 alpaca named Peanut Butter, who decided he wanted to walk with us too. Bonus! We trekked two miles through the Smokey Mountains. It was a gorgeous day and we had so much fun chatting with our llamas, stopping to let them eat some snacks (aka leaves), and taking in the surroundings. Calm and serene even with six kids!!! That’s a first. It took 2.5 hours in total. There are three different areas where Steve offers the treks, so we will be checking out a different location with him next time!!
Fun Fact: Llamas are very clean animals. They have certain potty areas where they will only stop and go. Once that spot is designated, that is where they will stop every time! Take that horses!
Next up was the Outdoor Gravity Park. Zorbing is when you dive into a huge 11 ft x 11 ft ball filled with 10 gallons of water and roll down the side of a mountain. You can choose from three different courses. On the “Speed Demon” you roll straight down the hill, and the ball can accommodate one to three people. Extreme Zig Zag is a course with curves that makes you bounce all over the place. This is a one person only course for safety reasons. Then there is the combo of the two courses, meaning that it still bounces you around at the beginning but then has a section of a straight roll down for the remainder of the ride. This is the most popular course as you can go with up to three people inside that one as well. It’s definitely fun going with someone else!
The day we went, the gravity park seemed to be understaffed. We were there for over two hours, and the kids took two or three rolls each. The manager was driving people up the mountain and he was definitely not the friendliest. We witnessed a very snarky attitude to some guests in front of our children, and he was pretty rude to the other employees. However, those other employees couldn’t have been nicer. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was having a bad day, and hope that it was a one-time thing, especially because the kids had a ton of fun. Overall, I’m giving it a thumbs up because it truly was a neat experience.
We normally go to dinner shows, but we didn’t this year. We decided to check out the Lumberjack Show instead as it’s relatively new. The kids enjoyed it, but I definitely think it was geared for kids 12 and under. My 14 year-old was probably a bit too old for the enjoyment factor, but I thought it was cool. These lumberjacks (and lumberjills) were highly talented. And we won two “cookies’ for crowd participation, which everyone signed at the end of the show. There was a lot of audience participation. Note: it is outdoors and rain/shine.
The Lumberjack Show is a Paula Deen show. I think she is starting to give Dolly a slight run for her money in Pigeon Forge. She’s not there yet, but we are seeing more and more pop up from Paula. “The Island” in Pigeon Forge, which is owned by Paula Deen is also home to her restaurant where we ate one night. I was hesitant about the Family Style dinner, but it was actually the most my family ate the whole week in one sitting. Finally, some bang for our buck!
Our favorites were the fried chicken (obvi) and the brisket with rice. Y’ALL. We must have ordered four baskets of each, on top of four sides and unlimited cheddar rolls. And that was all before dessert. We literally rolled out of there but not before stopping for my son to grab some pretzel bites. I don’t know where he puts it, but he informed me that there’s always room in his heart for Auntie Anne’s. So there you have it.
One of our last outings was to Ripleys Aquarium in Gatlinsburg. It was a fan favorite two years ago, but the 14 year-old wasn’t as impressed this time, making me wonder if it’s either geared to kids under 13 (and parents, because I liked it) or more of a one-time visit kind of place. HOWEVER, I must say, we went on a Friday this time, and it was raining, like flooding-the-rivers type raining, so it was crowded. AND, it smelled this time. A fishy smell, which isn’t totally surprising, but it was quite stinky and one of the kids got a headache and wanted to leave relatively early. If they had to pick a favorite part, it was between the shark lagoon and the penguin playroom. I enjoyed seeing the stingrays too. They are very interested in swimming by the windows! This one seemed to wave hello and give me a smile. Llamas and stingrays must be my spirit animals.
Because it rained a few days, we returned to Magi Quest, and the mirror maze, for some indoor activity. We also visited Hollywood Wax Museum, and when the weather cleared up, the kids rode an Alpine Coaster. On these last two, we got discounts for being AAA members (Always ask at tourist places- I have found that even if the discount isn’t advertised, if you ask, you’ll get at least a couple of dollars off!!) The kids loved the Alpine Coaster. We went at night when the mountain was lit up. There was a long wait for this (about an hour- this place is crowded day and night), but the kids said they would do it again. I didn’t go on this one…I was still all shook up from the Wild Eagle ride!
The whole week was busy and fun filled. The kids and adults really enjoyed themselves, although I have to say, I am exhausted. I guess that’s the price you pay to play! Pigeon Forge is still one of our favorite vacations! To see the amazing cabin where we stayed, check out and subscribe to the Vlog on YouTube, “Decor-eating on the Road” which will give you a video overview of our trip and the stunning scenery and views! It will be posted this weekend! Search Decor-eating on the road here! –> http://www.youtube.com
Well, nothing smacks you in the face with a dose of reality like unpacking and heading to the grocery store. So I’m off to do that but stay tuned for the cost-savings, number crunching wrap-up blog coming soon. AND…a sneak peek for what is coming next when Decor-eating goes back on the road.