15. June 2010 21:28
It’s hard to miss a 30,000-square-foot ship-shaped structure replicating half of the original Titanic vessel along Pigeon Forge’s main parkway. The eye-catching size of the museum grabbed my attention immediately and easily held it throughout my tour.
Right after entering, I was handed a Titanic boarding pass with the biography of one of the actual passengers on the ship. My guide told me that I would learn the fate of my assigned passenger at the end of the museum, which gave the tour a personnel touch.
Just opened this year, the museum brought the experience of the ship to life with scaled replicas of the third class rooms, first class rooms and the Grand Staircase Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio walked down in the movie Titanic. Photos, interactive exhibits and over 400 artifacts told engaging stories from the fateful night.
To recreate the frigid experience felt by those not so lucky as to board a lifeboat, one exhibit kept the air temperature at 32 degrees. The exhibit also kept some water at 28 degrees to simulate the feel of the ocean that night. After only a minute my hand began to hurt acutely. The horror of the thousands that perished that way became all too real.
At the end of the tour, I was happy at least that my assigned passenger had survived against all odds. It was a reminder that stories both heartbreaking and inspiring came from the tragedy of the Titanic’s sinking.
Pigeon Forge Titanic Museum
I had breakfast at the Old Mill Restaurant
Future pepper shakers at the Old Mill Pottery
15. June 2010 21:16
As I watched the door of the small office room in anticipation, I could feel my level of nervousness rising.
So far on the trip, all attractions seemed to be leading up to this upcoming interview with the legendary Dolly Parton. I’d not only been to Dollywood’s Dolly Parton Museum, but also encountered mentions of her everywhere from numerous random people telling me they thought she was the greatest person alive to a media event where she gave out her 25 millionth book to a child as part of her Imagination Library program.
But now the hour had come and five travel writers and I waited in a small conference room with one seat empty and ready for Dolly’s arrival. I had my questions written out just in case I blanked, which still did not calm my worries of stumbling over my words. After hearing from someone at the table that Michael Phelps used to make himself yawn to relax before a race, I attempted to do the same in desperation.
Finally, Dolly arrived with an easy smile and familiar voice. She answered each of our questions without missing a beat with humor, sincerity, wisdom and references to the importance of her spirituality.
After she announced that she had to “go pee,” Dolly humbly thanked everybody and left the room. Her departure left everyone in the room clearly star struck, including me, for quite awhile after. Even now, I still feel the need to watch some Steel Magnolias or Nine to Five in honor of such an unforgettable 30 minutes.
Dolly Parton at a media event before my interview
Dolly Parton singing at the Pigeon Forge Imagination Library media event
I also toured Wonderworks with its many intriguing mind puzzlers
13. June 2010 08:37
Naturally, I started my Dollywood vacation experience in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. with a tour of the famous Dollywood theme park. Celebrating its 25th anniversary his year, Dollywood continues to go above and beyond your typical roller coaster fest with a wide variety of attractions for all ages.
A stroll through an amusement park could have been absolute torture with a hot June sun beating down, but since the park’s design integrates the surrounding mountains and trees into the attractions, the walk is a shaded one. In fact, the park’s replicated turn-of-the-century buildings give the impression you are walking through an old mountain town.
The town comes complete with a blacksmith, glass blower, grist mill and wagon maker. All the demonstrators at the park happily engaged visitors in conversation, including the wagon maker who explained his process before jokingly sending us to the blacksmith to make a noise complaint against him.
I also watched one of the many stellar shows playing at Dollywood called Sha-Kon-A-Hey! Land of Blue Smoke. Just started in May 2009, the show features songs written by Dolly Parton while telling the history of the Smoky Mountains. After watching the show’s simulated blue smoke fill up the stage at the show, I saw the real mist move along the mountaintops from my Dollywoods Vacations cabin. My view of the sunset mountain scenery reminded me that the natural spectacle always beats the manmade special effects.
My Dollywood Vacations cabin's sunset view
The Dollywood show Sha-Kon-A-Hey!
Wagon making demonstration in Dollywood