Oh, the dazzle of Dollywood!!! If you’ve been following CMC for a while now, you know that we join a bunch of other Sister Sites across the region for a special Mom Collective event each year down in Pigeon Forge, TN at Dollywood! This year, we got to go behind-the-scenes at Dollywood on special tours to see what’s new and what’s coming later this year in 2023!
We started off our annual event this year with a quick tour of the DreamMore Resort where they hosted us for our stay. Then, we made a short trip nearby to do a tour through the Smokies with Pink Jeep Tours! We got so many pictures and videos just from these first two things that there was no way we could fit it all in this one blog post. Make sure to check out our Reels and our Dollywood Highlight over on our CMC Instagram page to see even more of our fun!!
The hospitality all around Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is second-to-none. You truly get Southern charm and care while you’re down here. With Pink Jeep Tours, we got to see a lot from the road AND got some short walks in to see some of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and really amazing historic sites. Being out in nature like that was an incredibly centering feeling. It was also unseasonably warm for February, which made it even better!
Our next stop after Pink Jeep Tours was Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show where you get “fun, feast & adventure”! We could see Pirates Voyage from the parking lot of Pink Jeep Tours and had worked up quite the appetite by the time we got back after a full day of travel, walking, and hiking. Our group got a fun pre-show visit with the Captain of the show, and he was a character for sure! We also got a look at the delicious food they were going to serve everyone.
For the regular diners, they brought out soup, biscuits, fried chicken, ham, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and peach turnovers. I am vegetarian have a gluten sensitivity, and I was so excited to find out that they have PLENTY I can eat that meets those dietary restrictions. 🙂 I got an Udi’s gluten free roll, fruit cocktail, veggie and quinoa, steamed mixed vegetables, and an Udi’s gluten free snickerdoodle cookie. They even had Coke Zero!!! My taste buds and stomach were so happy. Also, the show was the best dinner show I’ve ever been to in my life. I can’t wait to go again and take more of my family with me next time.
On day two, we donned our oh-so-fashionable hard hats and started with a construction tour of the new HeartSong Lodge & Resort (we saw all the groundbreaking when the fam and I came down last August, so I was geeked for this tour!). While the DreamMore is a little more classy and Dolly Parton-style, they wanted the HeartSong to feel a little more down to earth and Smokeys-style. At the new resort, they don’t want the “don’t” word. In the design, they didn’t want rooms where families felt like they had to keep telling kids, “Don’t touch that… don’t touch that.” It’s going to be a wonderful family experience and addition to the Dollywood properties. Can’t wait for Fall! My mother-in-law kept saying how gorgeous the view from the balconies will be during Winter. 🙂
We also got to see the other newest addition coming soon to Dollywood Parks & Resorts, Big Bear Mountain. Back in August when my family and I took the train ride around, it was all just a bunch of dug up dirt. The final track had already been put in place when we got there this trip, but it was most certainly still a construction zone! We got to watch a video simulation of the ride to see what it will be like when it’s completed, and it looks so fun (this is in one of those Reels I told you to watch!). 😉 When we got to talk to Dollywood staff, they told us that Big Bear Mountain is intended to be a family thrill ride and was designed as a kid’s first big coaster. Dolly and Dollywood are all about bringing families together – just like in the rooms of the DreamMore where the bunkbeds are in the same room as the main bed(s). I’m usually a big sissy, but I’m doing this coaster when it opens!!! My teenager will be so excited to see me so brave!
One of our hosts for our event said, “Music and food are the great unifiers.” And, Dollywood has both! I know I briefly talked about food with what we ate at Pirates Voyage, but we ate SO much during our stay. We had breakfast at the Song & Heart buffet at the resort – omelets are the best part! Plus, they have a gluten free section. We got to meet Dollywood’s culinary director and his two executive chefs at the Front Porch Café. They gave us a sampling of the food that will be at the 50th anniversary celebration soon for Dolly Parton’s song, I Will Always Love You. We ate pizza from the DreamMore and had breakfast (and their famous cinnamon bread!) from the DM Pantry – they serve Starbucks coffee, which made me happy. Those chefs really know what they’re doing down there. Southern eating at its finest.
There are so many festivals happening throughout the year, and the Dolly Experience will reopen in 2024. The Flower & Food Festival has been quite the evolution, we learned. One of our Dollywood hosts said they live by the mantra, “Don’t let your expectation of perfection stop you from delivering positivity and joy.” (This is a great lesson for all of us – especially me!) The first year of Flower & Food was smack dab in the height of the pandemic. All the limited Dollywood staff were trying to plant the flowers that came from Canada, and it was far from perfect. Yet, it was a beautiful celebration and allowed people to gather together outside and find joy in the experience. This will only be the third “official” year in 2023. They continue to go into each day, saying, “Today is going to be a great day; we’re going to make it a great day.”
Start planning your own visit to Dollywood today! What are you waiting for?!
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Did you know Dollywood Season Passes get you discounts outside of Dollywood Parks & Resorts?! Around Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you get discounts at Titanic, Ripley’s Attractions, Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction, Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, and Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud. Right here in Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, you get discounts to the Newport Aquarium!!!