Rowing my way through Knoxville

Last year we went to Detroit, this year… Nashville! We went by way of Nashville to visit Amy (and see her awesome house in person! It looks great!) and then through Pigeon Forge and Chattanooga. Pigeon Forge was my call… I just love Dolly Parton, and somewhere along the line in planning for the trip got it in my head that we should go to Dollywood. Eventually I realized that an amusement park in the winter wasn’t really going to be too great. Plus I really just wanted an awesome Dolly museum or something. So instead… Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner show! It was fantastic. And cheesy. And absurd. Basically everything I had hoped it would be. Complete with a black-light dancing toy segment, a lumberjack competition and horse tricks.

Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show!

Pigeon Forge itself was absurd. Paired with Gatlinburg, its apparently quite the destination in the Smokey Mountains. Hello tourist trap! Lots of go-kart tracks, dinner shows and bizarre museum-ish things. More “Old Timey Photo” shops than I’ve ever seen. (I was dying to stop at one, but we decided we’d do it in Nashville… but alas! No photo shops there! Oh well, next time.) I could see why Amy politely turned down our invite to join us at the Dixie Stampede… but I had a ton of fun.

Next stop- Chattanooga. It was a nice little town. And apparently the home of Moon Pies! We stopped in the Moon Pie general store, and stocked up. Best little shop ever! The mint moon pies are like thin mints, but better. Chattanooga has a cute little arts area with a nice sculpture garden, and a pretty decent art museum. One of the big draws in town is Lookout Mountain, home of the Ruby Falls cave and Rock City. (Man, are these folks good at monetizing their natural environment!) Ruby Falls is an underwater waterfall in a cave with a pretty impressive tourist structure. Well made paths, lights and an elevator that brings the folks down. We got an awesome almost private tour, since its the off season and there weren’t that many folks going through.

Gnome says- That Way!

After our stop at Ruby Falls, we headed over to the Christmas spectacular at Rock City. The whole place was lit up quite magically. We got there right when it opened, which was great because we didn’t end up stuck in a huge group as we walked along the path. I thought it would be kinda cheesy… don’t get me wrong, there was a pretty high level of cheese… but it was actually really nice and I’m glad we went at night to see it all lit up.

Making sugar maple charcoal

On our way out of Chattanooga we decided to stop by the Jack Daniel’s distillery. It was about an hour out of our way, but it was a free tour, and we didn’t have anything particular set for our next stop, so seemed like a good detour. Again, a pretty awesome almost private tour. Traveling in the off season can be pretty awesome! It was an interesting tour. Oddly enough, they’re in a dry county, so can’t actually sell the product. (Though they do have ‘collectors bottles’ that happened to be filled with whiskey.) Some folks on the tour with us were buying a whole barrel through the “Single Barrel” program that they have at the distillery. I’m assuming they own a bar or something. What else would you do with a whole barrel of whiskey??

Stalking Datsyuk again :-)

Next- Nashville! We stayed right in town, and walked around quite a lot. Swung by the honky-tonks, checked out the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Ryman Theatre (original location of the Grand Ol’ Opry). Had the best BBQ in the world at Jack’s. Bought some boots, saw some hockey. The crowd was about half Wings fans… unfortunately they lost, but it was still a pretty good game.

We drove all the way back from Nashville in one day… man was that a car ride. But it was good to be back home. Vacation is great, but sleeping in my own bed is pretty fantastic, too.