PIGEON FORGE, Tennessee
We discovered that mid-late September is a perfect time to come to Pigeon Forge. The weather is perfect and the crowds are small(er). We saved money by taking advantage of the discount coupons available from our hotel (see Clarion Inn at Pigeon Forge, TN). Taking advantage of those coupons, we enjoyed several attractions:
- Dollywood: A much more laid back theme park than those of the more common variety, Dollywood is nestled in the beautiful Smoky Mountains. There are theme-focused sections for theater productions, children's rides, crafts, and adult rides. There is a variety of shows throughout the park. We especially enjoyed reliving the music at the Dreamland Drive-In show. This park stands apart for its beautiful mountain/forest setting, its old timey atmosphere, and its underlying themes on faith and patriotism. My personal favorite ride was the Wild Eagle. A roller coaster that demands front row seating, it sports a huge vertical drop with smooth flying in loops and twists. It doesn't bang your head around like many roller coasters. We also enjoyed the Wings of America birds of prey presentation. Recommendation: You can pay $10/day to park at Dollywood, but there is a 50 cents per person alternative by parking at Patriot Park and taking a trolley for a short ride to the park's front gate. Just be aware that there are no instructions on where to go when leaving the park; we ended up in a line for transportation to the park's parking lots.
- The Wheel (on the Island): The Island is a new entertainment area in Pigeon Forge with the Wheel as the main attraction. In addition there is a variety of dining, shops and entertainment at the Island. The Wheel is a giant ferris wheel with climate controlled gondolas. We rode one that seems identical at Myrtle Beach but we were told this one is slightly larger. It provides a great view across Pigeon Forge and surrounding mountains. Recommended.
- Xtreme Racing (high speed go karts on a great and well maintained track): This track has two sets of go karts, 30mpg and 40mph. You are required to first ride the "slower" vehicles and are awarded a racing license after which you can ride whichever you want. It is a very well maintained track with a series of ultra-tight turns and straightaways. You are required to wear a racer's helmet over a head stocking provided for you to keep. Before racing you are carefully warned against running into other drivers or the track bumper walls. I discovered that this instruction is not taken over seriously. It is the first go kart track I've ridden where I could not go full accelerator the entire time. For one thing these go karts are fast. Fun fast. And the turns are very tight. The go karts have very good wheel traction, so taking a turn too fast does not result in sliding around the turn so much as bouncing around it. So for fastest times one must strategically slow and take the turns at optimal speed and approach. I thoroughly enjoyed my rides at both speeds.
- FlyAway, indoor skydiving: I last did this some decades ago in Las Vegas with my then young daughters. Having done a lot of skydiving I thought I would be expert on this "ride". Not so. My daughters really showed me up. So I looked forward to trying again here in Pigeon Forge. I enjoyed the experience a lot, but some things could have been a little better. The jump suit I was issued was very ratty and military green in color. The younger kids got brightly colored nice jump suits. I found the young "instructor" to be a nice guy but a bit over aggressive in his help. I got two minutes of flying time vs. the promised 3 minutes (having been told it would be 3 minutes of actual flying time, not counting the total time in the chamber with two others). Still, I enjoyed it very much for its unique experience.
- Gorgeous views of the Tennessee Smoky Mountains
There are numerous other attractions here and in nearby Gatlinburg that will take several visits to enjoy. We found out from my wife's sister that we should have spared time to see the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show. I was tempted to take a scenic helicopter ride, but at $10 per person I worried about their maintenance budget. Of course, that was probably a low-ball pull-em-in advertised price.
We look forward to returning to Pigeon Forge.