6 Reasons to Visit the Smoky Mountains in the Winter
Date: February 1, 2017
You might think that the summer months are THE time to visit the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. That's the exact reason a trip to the mountains should be on your agenda in the cool, winter months of a new year. You'll find smaller crowds, great deals, and even more reasons to fall in love with the mountains and all that the Pigeon Forge area has to offer. Here’s my 6 reasons why January through March is a great time to plan a trip to the Smoky Mountains!
Most schools are back in session and summer attractions are closed for the season. That's one reason you'll find lower numbers in the first few months of the year. Don't let that deter you. If you have the ability to travel in the early months, it's a great time because you'll find less traffic and fewer crowds at your favorite stores and shows.
Be sure to check ahead on show times of some of your favorites. Although the crowds aren’t as big, dinner attractions like Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede and Dolly Parton's Lumberjack Adventure have limited seating and can still sell out! You'll also be able to visit area attractions such as Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies and the Titanic Museum without long lines and wait times.
Snow-capped mountain vistas
The sights of budding flowers in the spring are lovely. The changing colors of the leaves in the fall are fantastic. But when you get a glimpse of snow-covered trees and mountains, you'll understand why mountain-winterscapes are my favorite.
With hundreds of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are countless chances to see the beauty of the mountains in its coldest element. You can find a comprehensive list of hiking trails and their difficulty here. While the national park is open through the winter months, there are times when the park needs to close because of dangerous road and weather conditions, which you can check here. There's nothing more beautiful than a hike in the woods with a blanket of light snow on the ground. I highly recommend a trek up Clingman's Dome for the view.
Great rates on hotel stays
With less demand comes great hotel rates. My family will either extend our visit another night or upgrade our accommodations because of the value we can find. You should check into this, too!
This brings me to my next reason why winter is a great time to visit the Smokies: for obvious reasons, we tend to be inside more than other seasons. Choose wisely!
Warm, luxurious home base
Choosing the right hotel is important for any time of the year, but especially in the winter months. Just like there's nothing like coming inside from a day playing in the snow, there's nothing like having a comfortable hotel that feels like a home away from home when you're visiting Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in the wintertime. Dollywood's DreamMore Resort offers guests luxury, relaxation, and comfort. Whether you're pulling a chair up by the fireplace in one of the beautifully decorated living rooms or enjoying some much-needed relaxation in The Spa at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, this resort has something to make everyone feel at home in the winter.
If you're looking for larger group accommodations, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins are the perfect choice. Located throughout Pigeon Forge, the cabins are all close to the Dollywood parks and all the area attractions; but yet, you feel like you're up in the mountains away from everything.
Shopping opportunities abound
The amount of shopping opportunities are numerous when it comes to the cities surrounding the Smoky Mountains. Sevierville boasts Tanger Outlets where you can find dozens of name brands at outlet prices. The newly built shopping district, The Island, located behind Dolly Parton's Lumberjack Adventure is full of fun, one-of-a-kind stores with something for everyone. The winter months are a great time for shopping as the deals are plentiful and (remember!) the crowds are smaller.
While most outdoor activities in the Smoky Mountains take place in the warmer months of the year, skiing is one that is prime time for winter. Ober Gatlinburg is a Smoky Mountain MUST. Plus, in addition to skiing, Ober offers snow tubing, ice skating and even an alpine coaster!
As I see it, there's no shortage of reasons to visit the Smoky Mountains in the winter. There are lots of attractions, shops, and restaurants to keep visitors happy and busy throughout the season. I encourage you to think outside the box and give the Smoky Mountains a try in the “off-season.”
What I Love the Most About Dolly Parton
Category: Dolly Parton
Date:March 13, 2017
When people ask me what I love most about Dolly and what she's done for her hometown, they are sometimes surprised by my answer. While Dollywood is at the top of everyone's list for fun, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is one that definitely shines for children and their parents... especially my family.
I registered both of my girls for the Imagination Library as soon as they were born. That means that they each got one book every month until they turned 5! Yes, those 60 books [120 between the both of them] contributed to our growing library of children's books. The quality of the books are impeccable, too. You can tell that there has been so much thought put into the books that are a part of the program. For example, each child receives "The Little Engine That Could" as their first book, which really shares the sentiment of the entire program. Dolly explains the reason she chose this book to be every child's first in the program is because she always had a dream of going to Nashville and becoming a successful singer/songwriter; her dream came true because she always believed in herself, and she wants all children to do the same!
Dolly Parton created the Imagination Library 20 years ago in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee. With her own meager upbringing in mind, she wanted to create a program to help all families build their children a library of quality books. Since its creation, the Imagination Library has now mailed more than 87 million, yes million, books to children around the world! That's right—this program has expanded even outside of the United States and now has more than 1 million children enrolled.
I've always loved to read and I've always enjoyed reading to my girls, which has instilled a love of reading for them as well. That, along with the fact that they got a special gift in the mail with their name on it, made the day that they're "Dolly book" arrived in the mailbox the best day of the month. It probably also has to do with the fact that I always told my girls that the books were coming straight from Dolly herself. Because of our many conversations and, of course, visits to Dollywood, they both know Dolly very well. The fact that they think Dolly sends them a book through the mail every month, with their name on it, means so much to them.
So much in fact that when my youngest daughter received her last book on her 5th birthday this year, I thought she would burst from the excitement that, "Dolly sent me a birthday present!!!!" We've been talking about her upcoming adventure of going to Kindergarten this fall and it's always been met with apprehension until this book showed up with the special note from Dolly about how exciting school will be!
As a parent, it's wonderful to see your children so excited about learning and reading. It's also quite exciting to see my girls have a love for Dolly that matches their mama's! I'm continually amazed at how she gives back and the amazing work she does for our community, our children, and our world.
If you have children younger than 5 years old, be sure to register them in the Imagination Library. Please keep in mind that although the program is in all 50 states, it is not in every community. See the information below about how Imagination Library works and how you can get involved.
If you are in an eligible community, your kids will get excited about getting "books from Dolly" in their mailbox, too!
Visiting Dollywood with Three Generations
Category: Family Visits
Date:April 17, 2017
My parents have been taking me to Dollywood since I was a little girl. I spent many, many weekends of my childhood camping in Pigeon Forge and riding the trolley over to the theme park for the day. It's always been one of my family's favorite things to do as long as I can remember.
That's why it's no surprise that when I became a Mom, of course, I wanted to carry on my love for Dollywood and family time. We've visited many times over the past six years and still some of my favorite visits are when my parents come along with us. While it might be tricky to visit some places with three generations together, Dollywood is made for these types of family outings.Each area of Dollywood has been carefully thought out to include something for everyone. Although it's pretty obvious, I had never really thought about that fact until I took a behind-the-scenes tour last year as a Dollywood Insider. We were told that the park was planned out so that in each section there was something for everyone in the same small area, which would encourage families to stay together rather than split up.
This is very evident in one of the newest renovated parts of the park, Jukebox Junction. The 1950's area was always one of my classic-car-loving family's favorites, but now with the addition of Lightning Rod, it really does have something for everyone. In this section of the park you'll find the aforementioned Lightning Rod, a coaster themed after a tricked out 1950s-era hot rod that launches thrill seekers that are 48 inches or taller, from zero to 45 mph and up more than 20 stories. But right beside this heart-stopping coaster you'll find Rockin' Roadway, which is a leisurely ride for any age. Just across the road you'll taste the best burgers and shakes in Dollywood, but don't pass up the chicken sandwiches in the food truck either.
While my parents used to enjoy the rides at Dollywood, they've moved on to other things now, but that doesn't mean we have to go different ways. The Pines Theater is just steps from all these attractions and it's easy to catch a great show with several performances a day. There are also lots of themed gift shops for the family members who would rather shop than drop off the side of the mountain on Lightning Rod.
Jukebox Junction is just one example of how the entire theme park is laid out for multiple generations. I appreciate that Dollywood has put so much thought into the design of their park because that's why we're visiting together - to be together as a family!
My Family's Favorite Food Deals at Splash Country
Category: Water Park
Date:June 12, 2017
When the hot temperatures hit the Smoky Mountains, you’ll find my family keeping cool at Dollywood’s Splash Country. We all LOVE the water park because it’s the perfect place to spend the day. There’s no reason to leave - they have great food, great places to take a rest, and of course, great places to splash.
One great thing about Splash Country is the availability of food at a variety of places throughout the park. Another great perk is the food is just as good as Dollywood! Today I’m sharing with you my family’s favorite food deals when we’re visiting the water park.
Fill & Chill Mugs
Whether you’re visiting for the day or if you have a Season Pass, you’ll want to get a souvenir mug. My fellow Insider, Katie, shared a great video on how the mugs work and it’s definitely the best deal at the park.
My favorite part, other than the free refills of soda all season long, is the fact that you don’t have to wait in any lines for the refills. Just walk up to one of the five Fill & Chill Zones located throughout the park and refill with your favorite drink.
Hamburger Tray with Retreats
If you’re planning to rent a Retreat during your visit to Splash Country, you’re in for some great deals on food. Not only will you not have to wait in line to order your food, but you’ll be able to order a Family Meal Deal (Cheese Burgers and Fries Tray) for your family at a discounted price. Just pick up the phone in your Retreat and order from the Campsite Grill to have it delivered right to you!
It’s the treat you’ve been missing out on without knowing it. BeaverTails are parties made from whole wheat dough and hand-stretched just for you right after you order. They originated in Canada and Splash Country is one of only five places you can find them in the United States! I will say I’m totally partial to the Reese’s Pieces and chocolate hazelnut topping, but I’ve heard great things about the Cinnamon & Sugar version too!
When you’re hot, what’s the best way to cool down? With a frozen treat, of course! There are a few different ice cream versions to be found in Splash Country (like Berries 'n Cream), but my family’s favorite is Dippin’ Dots! You’ll find this ice cream of the future in three locations at the park and don’t miss the fabulous Souvenir Bowl deal! New this season—Dollywood’s Splash Country Dippin’ Dots Sundaes! There are four choices, including one with rainbow ice for those who can’t have dairy.
Be Sure to Take Your Kids to Little Engine Playhouse This Summer!
Date:July 21, 2017
Summer at Dollywood means storybooks come to life on stage at the Little Engine Playhouse, located in the Heartsong Theater (near the Village Carousel). If you have young children who receive Imagination Library books in the mail each month, this is a show not to be missed. Each one is short, just 20 minutes or less, but will capture your child's attention for the entire time.
The theater is small, which makes every seat a good one. Actors and actresses bring three books to life: The Little Engine That Could, Pretend, and Coat of Many Colors. Since my two girls and I are huge Dolly fans, we made sure to catch the Coat of Many Colors show. From the moment Dolly showed up on the screen to welcome everyone and provide information about the Imagination Library, we were enthralled. Even more amazing is to know that Dolly wrote all the songs that are featured in all of the shows, specifically for the Little Engine Playhouse!
Coat of Many Colors follows along with the book and song perfectly. You see a young Dolly who is so excited about her precious coat made by her mama, only to then be made fun of for wearing it. The show is done in such a way that both of my girls walked out of the theater understanding the message and how bullying or making fun of someone is not ok. The show is done in a way that makes it entertaining, yet interesting for very young kids.
I have to admit, when Dolly started singing the song over the speaker, I got a little teary-eyed. This song has always been so special to me and my family and was a great way to introduce kindness to my girls at even super young ages.
Don't miss the three shows at the Little Engine Playhouse located in the Heartsong Theater this summer. They'll be running each show twice a day until Aug. 6!