Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Scott & Carol Present: A Smoky Mountain Christmas

When you head east from Branson to Dollywood outside of Knoxville, you experience another dose of down to earth holiday cheer. Dollywood has won Golden Tickets for other things but today we are interested in the one they won for Best Christmas Event.

From the illuminated butterfly out front to the lights on the train, it’s a feast for the senses in the Smoky Mountain Christmas. A relative newcomer compared to Silver Dollar City, this is the eighteenth version of their popular Christmas festival. One of the many good things about Christmas in amusement parks is the smells travel farther. The extra greenery evokes memories of real trees from Christmas past and fresh cuts wreaths on the front door.

Lights are everywhere, in keeping with the Hershend tradition. With dedicated employees whose purpose is to unpack the lights, even that is a huge task. The lights begin to appear when school starts, but they aren’t publicly lit until November. A wonderful treat is the way some trees a strung with lights of just one color, so you can easily see its structure in the dark. Even the train shines brightly through the park, because the engine and all of the coaches are covered with lights. Every architectural detail of the buildings is accentuated by lights, and the effect is dazzling. It’s no wonder you hear all the different accents that represent many miles of travel to enjoy Smoky Mountain Christmas.

New this year is the Polar Express simulator attraction at Dollywood. The theater has been refurbished into 4-D capability and a wild ride awaits eager families inside. With Dolly’s old tour bus parked right outside and snowflakes spiraling down to the ground, wide ranging interests are covered right next to each other. The ride makes wish you held on as the train plunges down the mountain and across the lake. You can even smell the aroma of hot chocolate as it is served in the movie. With a newly produced ending, this is a very popular ride. For riders who either are to short to use an action seat, or who want a more sedate ride, benches right down front are built in to accommodate them. This allows everyone to bring back old memories of Christmas through the eyes of a child.

Something slightly more sedate is the “Babes in Toyland” show. This award winning show is another, albeit recent, tradition at Dollywood. The mishaps that occur during the show and the props are spectacular. The finale results in standing ovations on a regular basis but we won’t spoil the secret here. This year guests can get their picture take with the cast members and props. The same spirit from out west is shared with everyone as we heard a cast member say “It’s nice to be able to bring a smile to someone the way the world is right now. We can tell they’re not thinking about anything else, and that’s good.”

And that thought is how we remember Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood. A place where everyone can walk around enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the Christmas season, and forget about how tough things are outside in the world. We all need an escape now and then, and that is what theme parks are made to do. Help us push our problems away as we listen to the wandering carolers, explore Santa’s work shop, or visit the North Pole on the Polar Express. Or, maybe ride a roller coaster!

From Scott & Carol, have a Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year.