Did you know Dollywood Theme park is only 15 minutes from Gatlinburg, and Southern Serenity, in Pigeon Forge? You can spend a day or two at Dolly’s theme park on your Gatlinburg vacation. If it’s warm enough you can spend all or part of your day at Dollywood’s Splash Country as well. Ticket prices can found here. But I digress – I want to tell you about the parade with an appearance by Dolly Parton herself!
Dolly in the Pigeon Forge parade
That’s right, every year for the last 25 Dolly Parton has a homecoming parade in Pigeon Forge, which also marks the beginning of the Pigeon Forge Springfest celebration
Personally I prefer to spend most of my time in Gatlinburg rather than Pigeon Forge. But if I was here the weekend of this parade I would probably attend.
Pigeon Forge is situated in a large, flat valley of the mountains. This could be a very pretty place, but the retail industry has overrun the area. There are a lot of opportunities to shop, and spend money on carnival-like rides, and shop, and go to the strip mall, and buy one get one free, oh – and did I mention shop? There are a lot of lights and neon, not my cup of tea, but you might like it. If you come to Gatlinburg from the north you have to come in via Pigeon Forge, but just be patient. After stoplight #10 in Pigeon Forge you enter the Foothills Parkway of the Smoky Mountains National Park and it is a beautiful 5 miles to Gatlinburg, and a short ride to the Smoky Mountains National Park entrance.
Aerial view of Pigeon Forge
There are a number of art galleries in Gatlinburg, most of which are on the Arts & Crafts eight-mile loop in Gatlinburg. Two of my favorites are Jim Gray Gallery, which also has a store in Pigeon Forge, and The Paul Murray Gallery.
Paul Murray Gallery
Paul Murray is my absolute favorite Smoky Mountain artist. Paul Murray spent part of his early life in the deep mountains and captures the essence of what the mountain people represent; simplicity and joy. He uses pencil, watercolor, oil and pastels. His art can be very haunting like this pencil sketch of Aunt Emily, but there is no other artist’s work I’ve seen that captures the essence of people as much as Paul Murray’s.
The best part of seeing Paul Murray’s art however is experiencing his ‘gallery’. You’ll find it on Glades Rd. Look for the old house with the dilapidated porch. Don’t be afraid to go in, you’ll experience not only the art, but have a better idea of the simple way of life of these mountain people.
Jim Gray Gallery
Jim Gray gallery is also found on the eight-mile loop that begins on Glades Rd. and is part of the Arts community. In addition to his own work Jim features the art of family members and other artists as well. Jim Gray paints watercolors of a lot of different subjects. Of course my favorites are paintings of the Smoky Mountains.
I love his water colors of the Smokies. He is really able to evoke the feelings you get when you are touring in the park or experiencing a stay in the mountains. There is nothing like waking up to seeing the ‘smoke’ in the mountains, and Jim captures this beautifully.
It seems Dolly Parton is her own brand in the Pigeon Forge area. We saw a show put on by the Dolly brand tonight, Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, and it was a very entertaining dinner show. I’m not a big fan of these shows but it is fun to attend in a group and that is just what I did.
We got there early enough to see the horses in their stalls, listen to the pre-show bluegrass and hillbilly rap music. The food was plentiful and tasted pretty good, considering the number of folks they have to feed.
The talent of the folks who were riding the horses for our entertainment was fabulous. All in all a nice experience. If you like dinner shows this one should be considered.
A friend recently vacationed at Southern Serenity in Gatlinburg, so of course she asked me for restaurant recommendations. Here is the list I sent her of where I would eat in the Gatlinburg area, of course there are soooo many restaurants there is no way I could have been to them all, so this is my current list. Check back in a few years, and I’m sure you’ll see a different list.
Bear Creek Grill – East on Hwy 321(next door to Jackson Mountain Homes check-in) – Delicious Italian and Trout
The Rib Shack – hwy 321 east to Birds Creek rd, right on Pittman Center Rd., Shack is on the left – smoked ribs and chicken. A real experience, and only open Thursday to Saturday 11am-6pm when we were there in May.
Hellbenders – downtown Gburg – outdoor dining and music
Pancake Pantry – downtown Gburg – best pancake place (and there are LOTS of them)
The Atrium – Gburg – get the apple pancake featured in Taste of Home – YUMMY!
Mama’s Farmhouse – Pigeon Forge – Delicious homemade everything from scratch. AYCE and every meal served family style. Make sure to have the banana pudding for dessert (my mouth is watering)
Old Mill Café – Pigeon Forge – everything is homemade, even the plates!
Places I haven’t been to yet, but will go there based on others recommendations:
Wild Plum Tea Room – Glades Rd.
Smoky’s Pub & Grub (Formerly The Ship) – Glades Rd. – Recently acquired as an add-on to the original located at the start of Smoky Mountain National Park. I’ve not been here but heard from locals it is good.
Also check the guest book at Southern Serenity for other recommendations and the binder in the cabin provided by JMH.
If you want to eat in, and there is a full kitchen in the cabin, your best bet for groceries is at the Food City on Hwy 321, only about a mile from the cabin. They offer smaller size goods for travelers needing items for a week or less.