I was lucky enough to spend three days in the Smokies with my family last month. We lived the high-life at Wilderness at the Smokies, known for its incredible water parks. We saw Dolly at Dollywood and rode the rides. We ate delicious food, did some hands-on science adventures, and explored Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was delightful family time…here’s how you too can make an extended weekend of it!
RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo
Begin your Sevierville vacation at RainForest Adventures, with 600 live animals representing species from rain forests around the world. Some of our favorite parts of the zoo included the talking parrots, the pythons and the lemurs (missing Zabumafu!) Be sure to visit the internet site for a coupon.
Grab lunch and pre-register at Wilderness at the Smokies
When you finish at the zoo, grab some lunch then head to Wilderness at the Smokies. You can’t check in until 4pm, but you can pre-register at noon, don your suit and have a blast in the waterpark. The only question is, which one will you try first. Wild WaterDome Indoor Park? Lake Wilderness Outdoor Waterpark? or Salamander Springs Outdoor Waterpark? Maybe all three!
Check-in to your room, then head to the Apple Barn Complex
At 4pm you can check into your room. Grab a shower then jump in the car. Only a few minutes down the road is the Apple Barn Complex. Have dinner at Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. This rustic farmhouse restaurant serves dinner southern-style. We were seated with delicious apple fritters and apple butter, and a sample of the AMAZING apple julip. I had the chicken livers, hubs had country-fried steak and the boys had their usual fries and grilled cheese. There was more food than we could possibly eat, and we took to-go boxes back to the room (thankful for the fridge, microwave and stove top back at Wilderness.)
Don’t leave without visiting the other businesses here. You’ll find fun at the Apple Barn Winery, The Creamery and the Apple Barn General Store. Take a wine tasting at the Winery, and the kids will enjoy one of 50 flavors at The Creamery. Grab a loaf of their famous apple cinnamon bread for a snack tomorrow morning. The General Store is a neat place to pick up souvenirs for those back home.
Breakfast at Flapjacks Pancake Cabin
The waterpark doesn’t open until 9am, so there is plenty of time for breakfast off-site. Head to Flapjacks for pancakes, eggs, bacon and more. My boys were head-over-heels for the kids’ pancake breakfast that looked like a bear.
We were lucky enough to visit Dollywood on the opening day of the 30th anniversary, and Dolly herself was there! Dolly shared news of the Festival of Nations, lasting through April 20th. Rhythm of the Dance (Irish dancers) and Argentinian team Los Pampas Gouchos were my favorites! In addition to Festival of Nations, don’t miss other exciting festivals like Showcase of Stars (with Dolly and Kenny each performing this year!) Dolly’s Barbeque and Bluegrass, Great American Summer, and much more.
Besides the shows and shops at Dollywood, we also enjoyed the rides. There was plenty to do with your young boys. We spent most of our time at the Country Fair on a plethora rides that they could both enjoy, and of course the boys LOVED the steam train….Dollywood Express. Owens Farm is also another area with tons of fun for littles ones. My big guy is only 41″ tall and there were still 33 rides that he could enjoy. That’s enough to fill an entire day!
The kids will love eating at Red’s Drive In (and Rockin’ Roadway nearby was their favorite ride!) My favorite eatery was Granny Ogle’s Ham n Beans. Sweet tea and a cast iron pan of cornbread met us at the table. We had pulled chicken, pinto beans, collards and slaw…followed by a warm berry cobler served in a mug with a scoop of ice cream on top! So southern…sooo good!
Back at Wilderness with the ‘All Stay’ Adventure Pass
After Dollywood, head back to Wilderness for some fun in the waterparks, but don’t forget the other excitement there, too! The ‘All Stay’ Adventure Pass will allow the kids a ton of fun at 50% savings. I HIGHLY recommend it. For as low as $20, the kids get unlimited access to the following adventures for your entire stay:
- Tree Top Towers – a three-story ropes course above the arcade/Adventure park area!
- Mount Wild – a super tall climbing wall
- Daredevils Drop – a rise and drop amusement ride
- Moonshine Run – 9 holes of black light ‘glow int he dark’ mini golf
- Copperhead – a laser obstacle course
- Cubs Climbing Den – the largest climbing playhouse in East Tennessee, and
- Howlin’ Hound Dog Alley – a super fun mini-bowling alley
After you’ve had your fun and worked up an appetite, head to the Thirsty Miner for dinner. It’s right inside the waterpark/arcade area of the hotel. This is one of seven eating/snack areas…and our favorite. Kids eat free with every adult entree. We chowed down at the buffet. I will forever remember this place because my World’s Pickiest Eater filled his plate and then went back for seconds! Maybe it was the good food, the water play, or just a growth spurt (probably a little of each,) but he at his weight in salad, fries, grapes, oranges, corn, broccoli…and cake and ice cream.
Courthouse Donuts with Dolly
It’s check-out day..if you get out early you can score a free Starbucks. It’s worth a little hassle, if you ask me. Take your brew and packed car, then head to Courthouse Donuts. I have never ever ever in my life had donuts like these…they are unique and delicious!! Fresh donuts are made right before your eyes. Then, you pick an icing, a topping, and a sauce. It is heaven. We took a dozen so that we could test them…you know, research, y’all. I think my favorite was a glaze, with butterfinger topping and peanut butter sauce. Hubs liked the vanilla icing, oreo topping and vanilla sauce…and the vanilla icing, coconut topping and blueberry sauce. You can get an “average” donut like our picky-eater…topped with chocolate sauce and sprinkles….but there is nothing average about it! Wish we could talk them into moving to Atlanta, but I don’t think my waistband could handle it.
One other mention…self-serve coffee in real (big) mugs. I want to hug them just for that. Brilliant!
Across the street is a bronze statue of Dolly with her beloved guitar. Be sure to grab a selfie and tag #Sevierville!
Grab a picnic for your Cades Cove adventure
Healthy Balance Meals is just down the street. They make terrific healthy meals to eat there or take with you. It’s the perfect place to grab a picnic for your trip to Cades Cove. The boys picked PB&J. Hubs had the chicken salad with housemade Chicken Salad on romaine, strawberries, craisins, and veggies. I picked Strawberry Spinach Chicken Salad with organic spinach, fresh strawberries, mandarin oranges, craisins, and feta, served with Poppyseed dressing. We grabbed a few waters and hit the road. Here’s a tip: Call and order your meal the day before and they will have it waiting for you!
Now you’re off! Off to Cades Cove in the southern part of the county. It might take you an hour or so to get there, but it is worth it! Cades Cove was most definately my favorite part of our weekend adventure. I loved it so much that I will follow up with a dedicated post shortly. In the mean time, here’s the scoop. It is an 11 mile one-way drive, with multiple historic stops along the way. You’ll see cabins of the first non-native people to live here…their churches and farms. There are hikes, waterfalls, wild flowers and breathtaking views. We spent 4-5 hours there and barely scratched the surface. I hope to go back in a few months just to visit the cove…it’s remarkable!
Mountainside Roller Coaster and WonderWorks
For your final bout of fun, head back into Pigeon Forge. You’ll pass several roadside options for taking a roller coaster ride in the mountains. While the little one slept, Daddy and Cooper took a ride and had a BLAST! They rode together (Cooper is 6) and Dad was able to control the speed with a hand break. It was affordable and tons of fun for them!! Another “highly recommend” stop.
Your final stop is at WonderWorks, an indoor amusement park unlike any other! It’s a hands-on heaven for kiddos. We posed as an astronaut, played shuffleboard with our hands and shadows, laid on a bed of nails (yes, really!!)…all the while above us was a glow-in-the-dark ropes course! We played in the Imagination lab with life-size LightBrights, learned about natural disasters with hands-on experiements, and saw wild and wacky works of art. If you have kiddos that can stay up late, be sure to see the magic show! Young kids like my 2.5 yr old have a limited number of things they can do, but he loved the bubbles and gears. This is an ideal stop with your tweens and teens!!
If you’re looking for the ultimate guide to this area, check out WHAT TO DO IN DOLLYWOOD & PIGEON FORGE, TN from Really, Are You Serious? or 35 BEST THINGS TO DO IN SEVIERVILLE, TN from The Travel Voice By Becky
Disclosure: Thank you to Sevierville, Tn for hosting my family and me for a weekend. Special thanks also to Wilderness at the Smokies and Dollywood. While we appreciate their hospitality, the opinions here are all my own! #keepingitreal