Have you been on vacation during the pandemic? My husband and I went on an anniversary trip to St. Augustine in June and recently returned from Our Pandemic Trip to Dollywood. We’ve been to Dollywood several times before and were excited to return.
The Perilous Trip and the Craggy Cabin
I lived in East Tennessee until I was 13 years old, then moved to the flat terain of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Nowadays, the weavy roads give me anxiety. The Lord definitely has a sense of humor and used our vacation to remind me how much I depend on Him. Early in the trip, our middle daughter was nauseous and had to throw up in a bag. Everything went well after that until we missed our turn and found ourselves on a mountain near Cosby, Tennessee. It was a ten mile trek up and down a mountain road with no yellow lines. Then, the road turned into gravel. At that moment, I thought I was going to lose my marbles. We had to turn around and go back the way we came. I was sweating with heart palpatations, but managed to survive. I heard later that people travel up that mountain to see elk. I can believe that. My husband and my daughter’s boyfriend made jokes and kept things light. We arrived at our destination without further incident.
When the reservationist gave us the map to our cabin, I knew I was in trouble. The hairpin turns and steep incline made me wonder what I done to deserve such a fate. Our cabin was named Little Lost Bear. I can see how the little bear became lost. Throughout the trip, I was okay (sort of) going down the mountain, but felt dread in my heart before returning to the cabin at night. Everyone patiently endured my whining at the end of each evening. The gorgeous cabin slept nine and had a hot tub. I would recomend it to anyone who wants to live like the Grinch on Mount Crumpit. If you’re like me, and prefer flatlands, request a cabin in the valley when you book your reservation for a trip to Dollywood.
Dollywood did a great job of keeping us safe during the pandemic. Masks were required and strictly enforced. Our temperatures were taken at the entrance to the park. Luckily, crowds and long lines were nonexistant. My kids rode each ride over and over with very little waiting. I rode three of the big roller coasters but was too afraid to ride the new wooden one, The Lightening Rod. My husband loved it and said it was his favorite roller coaster ever.
We asked our three youngest daughters to pose beside the calico horse, just like they did in our 2014 trip to Dollywood. Don’t you just love nostagia?
Nearly Everything Was Open
Nearly everything was open in Dollywood. The buffet restaurant was converted to family style and the theaters and museums were closed. However, there were live shows scheduled outside throughout the park. I took a picture of the park schedule and stopped to watch the shows that interested me. There were also a few “mask free” areas throughout the park where you could rest your feet and take off the mask. We ate at Reds Drive-In our first day in Dollywood. The condiments were seperatly packaged for each guest, along with lettuce, tomato, and onions for our burgers.
My children and my husband rode the roller coasters many times during our trip to Dollywood. Everything was open. We also rode everything in Wildwood, the new section. It was nice because it had not-so-scary, but more grown up rides (for bigger kids) than the Country Fair. Of course we rode the River Rampage, Rockin’ Roadway, and the Cinderella Train (there is a video below).
Gatlinburg was crowded and many people were not wearing masks. We took some pictures and went to a cheesy attraction called World of Illusions. In regard to the quality of that attraction, it was exactly what I thought it would be. It was the textbook description of a tourist trap, but we knew what we were getting into so everyone thought it was funny, especially my oldest daughter. As a capstone to our tourist experience, my husband and I had the kids take a picture of us on a grass couch and bought matching airbrushed Smokey Mountain shirts.
Restaurants in Pigeon Forge
For our meals in town, we ate at Mel’s Diner, Sunliner Diner, and Cicis Pizza. All of the places we wanted to eat were in Pigeon Forge. My stepbrother and his wife met us the first night, then we ate at Mel’s Diner the second night. The Sunliner Diner had amazing, huge portions. Mel’s Diner was small but really good. The windows were painted with beautiful mountain-themed murals. The waitress said my husband was the only person she’d ever seen that actually finished the nachos. Cicis was good, as usual.
We used the iPhone GPS on the way home to make sure we didn’t miss any turns. Unfortunately, it took us through one more windy road, the Foothills Parkway. It really wasn’t that bad. It was scenic, yet safe. We even stopped to take a picture at the overlook. I had a good time in the mountains, but it was great to get back home to the straight, flat, South Carolina Lowcountry. Yesterday I went to the beach with my kids and their friends. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.
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