After a night in Nashville, we felt like we had a taste of what Tennessee was all about, but we still wanted more. When planning the trip, one of my "must see" destinations was Tennessee...well, a specific amusement-type attraction in Tennessee...Dollywood. Lauren and Sarah laughed at the idea, but I knew that they secretly wondered what surprises a park dedicated to Dolly Parton would hold. I was happy when they agreed to stop in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the home of Dollywood. They both wrote off the stop as being about seeing the Smokey Mountains (Tennessee just has so many great things!) and not about Dollywood, but I believe otherwise.
We took the three and a half hour drive from Nashville to Tennessee and arrived in Pigeon Forge in the late afternoon. Rather than settling in at a hotel, we decided to explore. We made three observations about the people of Pigeon Forge within our first thirty minutes there - people in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee love Christmas, pancakes, and touristy/amusement type attractions. As we drove up and down the main road of Pigeon Forge we were pleasantly surprised to see tinsel-laden homes and signs, Christmas lights, and (our favorite) a Christmas themed hotel! Seeing as it was the middle of October, we surmised that the people of Pigeon Forge must really love Christmas and celebrate it all year round or have decided that taking putting and taking down Christmas decorations once a year is just too much trouble.
We also noticed an overwhelming number of pancake houses. We all decided that we would have pancakes for dinner that night, seeing as it seemed like the right thing to do and having pancakes for dinner is just awesome. There were also amusement/tourist attractions EVERYWHERE. Pigeon Forge is like the love child of Disney World and a strip mall - wonderfully amusing yet slightly tacky.
Doesn't this guy sort of look eerily like Jack Nicholson? Upside-down theater! After taking in the unnatural sites of Pigeon Forge, we decided to take in the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains. It was too late to for to catch the sunrise, but we were just in time for sunset.
Lauren's beautiful photo of the Smokys:
We left the mountain and promised ourselves that we would return the following morning for sunrise. It was time to settle in for the night and, of course, the Christmas themed hotel was our first choice of lodging. Unfortunately they were booked. We decided that we would spend the following night there and that we would dream of sugarplums until then. We were also saddened to learn that pancakes in Pigeon Forge are not as special as we had imagined and were only served during the day. Another low blow, but we vowed to remedy it - we would have pancakes for breakfast the next day! We got an Arbor Day themed hotel (not really) and settled in for a short while before heading out to find Dollywood.
We followed signs up a windy, poorly lit road towards Dollywood as Lauren told us stories about mountain people. Lauren pointed out a light up high in the Smokys and said that it must be the home of a mountain person. This scared us enough (for whatever reason) to nearly turn the car around. Fortunately, we were greeted with the Dollywood sign - a welcoming beacon that kept us driving. To my disappointment and just as Lauren and Sarah's had most likely planned, Dolllywood was closed. Oh, the injustice of it all! I forced Sarah to drive into the park despite it's obvious lack of activity and we infiltrated the parking lot and front gate - video camera in hand. Lauren told me that the cameras in the park had noticed us and that they were following us, which I of course believed, and we ran away from the park Blair Witch style ("I'm so scared! I'm so scared!) When we got back to our room, we were relieved and excited about the day ahead. There was so much left to explore! (Dollywood...ahem..ahem)