Travel: Dream More - Part I

Dolly Parton's Dream More Resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We watched as they built it. Once completed in July 2015, we drove around the property, thinking how nice it would be to spend a night in the family-oriented haven. Later we prayed for the locals and land when the November 2016 fires took homes and businesses, left fourteen people dead and came dangerously close to the resort and Dollywood.  

As we turn in the gates of Dream More, nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, our level of excitement rises. We wonder about the name and anticipate many surprises in the resort.

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We're given a warm, friendly welcome at the entrance, and know this is a place where dreams could begin. Across a walkway is a wide porch with rockers. Folks sit and listen to the bubbling brook and take in the serenity of the mountains.

This beautiful resort wasn't the first dream Dolly Parton had though. No, far from it. First she dreamed of becoming a country music singer and left home for Nashville the day after she graduated high school. Dreams. If Dolly teaches us one thing it's to never let go of them.

James and I check in, excited about spending Memorial Day weekend here celebrating his birthday. One of the first things we notice is the butterfly theme throughout the hotel and later in the park.

Decorated in an elegant country decor, many guests rooms have a set of bunk beds built in to accommodate families. 

Even the tissue paper is pressed with the DM and butterfly symbols.

Ready for a hearty breakfast the next morning, we head to the buffet stationed right behind the Song and Hearth Orchard sliding door.

One chef prepares waffles and pancakes while the other takes orders for omletes. 

The fresh mountain air and a breakfast with every imaginable item starts our day off right. 

On our way out we notice an interesting wreath and stop to investigate.

While we're standing there, a server points out the unique scene behind the bar. Do you see it? A picture of two barns, one on either side of the TV. "How did they make it?" I ask.

Yes, it's made from Mason jar lids!

She takes a jar from the shelf and sits it on the counter. "They cut one large picture into small pieces and inserted each one in a jar of oil."

I examine the jar, intrigued at the creativity. Someone had a vision and went to work making it happen. 

We walk around the hotel before heading out for the day. In the main lobby, we notice the areas built into the stairwells. They're reading nooks. Dolly Parton had a dream for improved literacy. Her program, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, sends more than 10 million books a year to children in the U.S., Canada, the UK and Australia from birth until they start kindergarten. The resort is a kid-friendly place and in the mornings and evenings you'll see many about the place or curled in the nooks enjoying a book while adults visit in the sitting area. 

Notice the reading nook in each stairway.

 The view from the main lobby.

The view from the main lobby.

As you walk this hallway, the picture changes. The wall doesn't move, it's the way the planks are designed that allows you to see a different scene from each end.

 The decor on the opposite wall.

The decor on the opposite wall.

Dolly Parton realized her dream of becoming a country music star. With her all- inclusive sales topping 100 million, she's the most honored female country performer of all time. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999. 

 Wall of albums

Wall of albums

We discover a glass enclosed display. Inside, the Chestnut "Dream Box" holds Dolly's memories and her wishes for the future and even more exciting, a song she wrote entitled, "My Place in History." Only she knows its melody and content until it's opened on her 100th birthday, January 19, 2046. The plank of wood is from her first stage,  the front porch of her Tennessee Mountain Home.

Every fifteen minutes a bus stops at the resort headed to Dollywood Theme Park and Dollywood's Splash Country.

You may be thinking this place is way too expensive, why read on. Wait! The hotel rates are reasonably priced compared to other resorts, AND they offer many packages, each offering discounts. The deal we got included the breakfast buffet each morning, a $16.95/person/day savings. In addition, parking is free, a perk almost unheard of at a resort, another $15-$20/per day saved. We also bought tickets to Dollywood for one day that included the next day free, going as early as we liked both days. The bus taking us there was free, saving us the cost of parking. And, guests receive front row and center reserved seating for the indoor shows, something we loved. The kids and young at heart will enjoy the expedited access to popular rides. 

We're dropped off at a separate gate than the general public and there's no waiting line.

Dolly Parton had a dream for a park that would employ many locals. So in 1986 she bought an interest in the park and it became Dollywood. 

We see four shows and have a barbecue meal. Yum! The roasted corn!

There's plenty to do at Dollywood besides the shows and rides. You can visit the Tennessee Mountain Home lag cabin. Or shop. Stores deliver your purchases right to your room at no extra charge. We liked that.

There's over a dozen crafts displays and shops.

 We bought a bag of fresh-ground white meal from the grist mill.

We bought a bag of fresh-ground white meal from the grist mill.

 Interesting to watch, and you can purchase a piece in the shop next door. 

Interesting to watch, and you can purchase a piece in the shop next door. 

 The pottery shop.

The pottery shop.

 Bats and wooden crafts in this store.

Bats and wooden crafts in this store.

 Woodcarving shop

Woodcarving shop

Ride the Dollywood Express, a coal-fired  steam engine that takes you on a five-mile excursion through the foothills. The ride is included in the park admission price.

There's rides for the adventurous and kiddie rides. Play games, visit a one room school house or click pictures of the church. When you're ready to eat, try Aunt Granny's Buffet named after Dolly Parton who helped raise some of her younger siblings. They called her Aunt Granny. All this besides the fireworks show at dusk many evenings.

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Yes, Dolly Parton dreamed of a park for folks to enjoy rides and shows, a water park and different festivals throughout the year. Another dream come true and Dollywood is one of America's favorites.

Tired, we head back to the hotel. But there's much more. Watch for part two of Dream More on July 24 when we explore the beautiful grounds and find more surprises.