One of the things that makes the Smokies such a great destination is all of the different attractions, entertainment and activities from which to choose. There is something new to do every day during your vacation. While I could spend an entire week playing at Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country, that isn’t always an option. Now that Dollywood is preparing for Harvest Festival and Smoky Mountain Christmas, the park is closed Tuesday through Thursday until Dollywood’s Harvest Festival begins on Sept 25. That just means it’s a great time to explore other area attractions on days the park isn’t open.
Have you ever wanted to see a mermaid or maybe a stampede of buffalo? Well, Dolly Parton’s Dinner Theaters have that and SO MUCH MORE.
Growing up, I think every little kid dressed up as a pirate or pretended to be a mermaid while splashing around in the swimming pool (or at least I did). Opening last year, Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show is our newest dinner theater, and it brings all of this childhood imagination to life. During your “voyage,” Captain Blackbeard and Calico Jack lead the Sapphire and Crimson crews as they battle on land, on deck and in water. This theatrical show is full of incredible aerial and diving stunts, singing mermaids and even sea lions, not to mention the four-course meal complete with a delicious peach turnover.
Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction is actually our first dinner show and one of the first of its kind when it opened in 1987. Thirty-three years later, the show still is entertaining guests. I saw the show for the first time during a 5th grade field trip, and I enjoy it just as much now as I did then. Dolly Parton’s Stampede is filled with friendly competition, thrilling horse-riding stunts, spectacular special effects, incredible musical productions and so much more. The costumes alone in this show are amazing. And of course, Southern hospitality is at the heart of this show and its four-course feast that even includes a whole rotisserie chicken!
Cloggers, dog tricks and fightin’ cousins make up the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud. BUT I am going to be honest with you, my favorite part of this show is the food. The dinner served is ALL YOU CAN EAT. That’s all you can eat fried chicken, pit-pulled barbeque, mashed potatoes, corn in the cob and so much more. Aside from the food, this show is jam-packed with singing, dancing, incredible stunts and family-friendly comedy. This show truly feels like you are in the middle of a hillbilly family feud. Between the cute dogs and endless fried chicken, you really can’t go wrong. One of our Dollywood Insiders called it a “MUST-SEE.”
Tanger Outlets is an incredible option if shopping is one way you like to spend your time or if you’re looking for thing to do this fall. The shopping area has dozens of stores with something for everyone in your family, including Kate Spade New York, Coach, Nike, Disney, Old Navy, Alex & Ani, Kirkland’s, Simply Southern–the list really goes on and on.
This is honestly one of my favorite attractions in the area. From the moment you see the large ship-shaped building from the parkway, you know this is going to be an incredible experience. I love history, and I love the movie Titanic, so this really is the best of both worlds. Each guest is given a card with a passenger’s information and history on it. At the end of the tour, you learn the fate of your passenger, really humanizing the entire experience. Throughout the museum, you gaze upon hundreds of artifacts, letters and even photographs taken of the ship by a photographer who departed the ship during one of its stops. If you have not visited, it is definitely on my don’t-miss list.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Other than Dollywood, this is probably the area attraction I have visited the most. Ripley’s Aquarium really immerses you in the wonder of the underwater world. Shark Lagoon quite literally allows you to travel under the sea as you wind your way through an underwater tunnel. In Shark Lagoon, you come face-to-face with eels, stingrays, sea turtles and, of course, very big sharks. I really love to watch the penguins swim and waddle around in Penguin Playhouse, while my sister really enjoys touching the stingrays at Stingray Bay. This, like Titanic, is one of those attractions that is not only fun but also really educational and interesting.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country. Millions of people visit the park every year, and it isn’t hard to see why. There are a number of hiking trials to choose from depending on your skill level and what you want to see.
Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa
This beautiful resort is almost an attraction in itself. There is so much to do that you really don’t even need to leave if you don’t want to. The Swimming Hole, the incredible outdoor pool, is a great spot to spend the day playing and splashing. Poolside dining even lets you enjoy your favorite lunch foods, snacks and drinks without ever leaving the pool area. Camp DW keeps kids entertained with nightly bedtime stories and s’mores as well as movie nights and live entertainment. Song & Hearth: A Southern Eatery offers delicious Southern food served family style for breakfast, dinner and Sunday Brunch. I recommend the mac and cheese!
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins
Growing up, we took several family vacations to the mountains where we stayed in a cabin. And growing up, my parents emphasized that the cabin was part of the vacation fun. At Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins, that is absolutely true! If you have a day or two without big plans during your Smoky Mountain vacation, there is plenty to do in your cabin! Many of our cabins have game rooms, large screen TVs, hot tubs and community pools. Sometimes it’s nice to have a relaxing day without any specific plans.
Sevier County is full of fun, family-friendly attractions and you are sure to find a few to keep your family entertained during your next Smoky Mountain vacation!