I confess, when I heard of Dollywood, the only things that came to mind were lots of country music and rednecks. It sounded like Wallyworld of the National Lampoon Vacation movie- corny. When I bought the tickets at the AAA place ( I thought, okay, train ride for Logan, some roller-coasters for us at the cost of the Great Smokey Mountain Train  ride- a day for everyone. The cashier at the AAA office told me it was great, and people were so genuine (read- not jaded like in Florida). A few other people along our journey have said the same thing (friendly, genuine- NICE) So I wasn’t quite sure what we would be up against, but atleast the natives would be friendly.

We bought an umbrella stroller (I had forgotten ours) for Sydney at Walmart on the way back to Pigeon Forge , and the turn off from the main drag took us down a side road and another (not too well marked- Disney World this was not), and finally into the park. Inside the park, guitars and banjos were strumming- the early morning singers were out.

The first show/ride we were at (Yogi’s Wild Ride) Sydney was too small for, so my husband took the other kids, and I wandered around the shops with Sydney in the stroller. She fell in love with the Clifford toys- I found a small one at 3.99, which she clung to for the rest of the day and the remainder of the trip. We headed towards the railroad when they emerged from the simulator ride (telling me Logan was a hair too short and they had to sit in the non-action seats- I found out later he’s only 3/4 an inch below the 42 inch requirement for big kid rides.

We headed for the railroad via the market place, where huge woks sat over burners with Philly beef, peppers, onions and mushroom sauteing, sausage, peppers and onions in another- my mouth was watering already. The train was packed full, so we dived into the funfair carnival area. One of the workers told us to hit those rides first, as they got crowded in the afternoon. I took Logan and Sierra on the swings- metal swings hung by chains that flew around and made me so nervous, I didn’t believe I’d make a rollercoaster. Then Randal took Logan and Sierra on the scrambler- poor Sydney, who was dying to ride a pig (those were her words- though goodness knows where they came from), had yet to have a ride, so after, we went over to the kiddie section, where the three kids (Sierra squeezed) rode ducks in a circle and flying honey bees- lo and behold, there were also flying pigs! They weren’t running though, so she never did get to ride a pig! I took the kids on the Veggie Tales roller coaster- they loved it! And then we managed to squeeze a train ride aboard  a 69 year old steam engine (we even saw them shoveling the coal into the engine!) around the mountain. Afterwards we hit Miss Lilly’s for a country fried steak/chicken, beans and cornbread lunch. Miss Lilly entertained us with songs an tossing bread rolls to the kids who yelled “cockadoddle doo!” The kids loved it.

My husband was the first to decide it time to hit the rollercosters.Dollywood has gotten it right when setting up their coasters. They placed a wet&dry kiddie area near the rollercoasters, thus enabling all ages to enjoy themselves, so while Randal took Sierra on the Mystery Mine, I watch the kids as they crawled up and around a playground of slides, walls and wooden forts, and when I went with Sierra on Thunderhead,  the wooden one (my favorite), Randal let Logan and Sydney roll down the water slope (yes, really) okay, so I wasn’t too happy about the kids rolling in the water- read yet another change of clothes, but I did get some roller coasters under my belt, and yes, I have missed the thrill- the heart racing, the screaming at the top of your lungs… wait a minute, that’s how I am when Sydney is about to perform some high jump antics at home!

The rollercoasters had 15 min wait times posted, but were five in reality, which went quickly, as Sierra noted “everyone is talking to us!” Friendly Tennessee! The longest ride we went on was the rapids ride 45 min wait- which did seem to breeze through as well, and even Sydney could go on that one- She and Sierra got washed over by a huge wave near the end (ut oh- more clothing changes!)  We drove vintage cars on a track, ate icecream and strawberries, watched the iron monger, and the copper turner work their magic, saw eagles up close, played with magnetic toys at the kid fest area and left the park at eight, weary and with sore feet. (check times and events at ) We could have spent another day there easily, as there were so many shows and rides that we hadn’t touched on- and lots of food- ham and beans anyone?

As we drove back to Knoxville, a storm broke overhead- thunder shook the mountains, and lightening struck all around- our last show on a perfect day.

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