Carlton Landing Vacation

July 30, 2015

Disclaimer: I was given a free night stay in return for an honest review. All opinions, photos, thoughts and silly remarks are my own.

Carlton Landing vacation

Earlier this month I loaded up the kids and my sister-in-law and headed east. I had the opportunity to visit a hidden vacation gem deep in eastern Oklahoma and not one to look a gift horse in the mouth I said “hells to the yeah I’ll stay at a posh lake side community for funzies”. I don’t know if those were the exact words I used but I’m pretty sure I used the word “posh” after checking out the Carlton Landing website.

One point of import about this mini vacation was that I had my 15 year old cousin visiting us. His parents were on a cruise so I gladly let him stay the week with us while they had a little r&r. Thankfully, he is a really good kid. He played with Addison and Harry and was super easy going. He was happy to go along for the ride be it visiting my parents in west Texas, delivering Meals on Wheels or visiting Carlton Landing at Lake Eufaula with us. One thing I didn’t think to expect was the new dynamic of parenting a teenager who you are not used to parenting. It gave me a glimpse into teenage boy life. But more on that in a later post.

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

Back to the Carlton Landing review.

When you turn off the highway you are greated with a beautiful entry way and long winding road leading you to the community. We even passed a handful of pigs in a pen. Since Carlton Landing is all about sustainable living I must assume that these hogs are being fattened up for one of the community dinners that the vacationers and home owners partake in each week. That’l do pig.

carlton landing review

When we checked in we were treated with a Made in Oklahoma gift basket which was a nice touch. We stayed in the Freedom Cottage. It is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath cottage and perfect for a family of 4 or 5. Even 6 people could make it work because one of the upstairs bedrooms has two twin beds. Freedom Cottage was precious. In fact, all of the houses and cottages were adorable. My sister-in-law and I decided that for the next 24 hours we would pretend we were in New Hampshire while we were on the property. Everything was so picturesque, it wasn’t hard to think that we were on the east coast instead of east Oklahoma. The town of Eufaula is only a few minutes away so we left the property once to get dinner and grab breakfast groceries. I forgot that I have been to Eufaula once before when we stayed at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park. While that was a fun trip, Carlton Landing is just a tad (ahem) more upscale than Yogi’s.

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

The swimming pool and boat dock were both just a short walk away from our cottage. The boat dock has a canoe, kayaks, paddle boards which are free and only for Carlton Landing guests. You can opt in to the boat club which allows you to rent a motor boat. This was the first time we have been paddle boarding and Addison was a big fan. Mostly because you can easily fall or flip off the board. Harry loved just floating in the lake.

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

What to know before you go

1. The AT&T cell service is almost nonexistent. We discovered that we could get one or two bars while at the dock and at the overlook…if you stood on the third rock from the left. This could be either a great thing or a really bad thing. Unplugging from Facebook and all the noise of social media and texting can be something that the entire family needs every now and then. We’re all so focused on our screens that we forget to look up and see the beauty around us and the people we love. On the other hand, not being able to call out to friends, family or check in with work can be worrisome if you are staying for more than a couple of days. The cottages do have wifi although ours wasn’t working. We were only there one night so I didn’t take the time to call the rental manager to find out what the problem was. Instead, I used it as a good excuse to force the boys to have some screen-free time.

2. Stop at the grocery store on your way in. These vacation rentals have fully equipped kitchens with the intent of cooking in with your family every night. I was told that every Friday there is a “community dinner” where all the homeowners and vacationers are invited to the main pavilion for family style dinner. Their chef cooks a gourmet, farm to table dinner for everyone. It’s not a pot luck and it’s not free so you have to make a reservation and bring your appetite.

They do have a general store but the selection of groceries is limited. The general store is best for picking up a quick, drink, snack or sandwich. There is also a food truck for lunch called Buds on the Lake. We ate one lunch at Buds and there isn’t a menu. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. The owner/chef makes one or two items. The day we were there we had wild boar cheeseburger with bacon and spicy mayo spread. It was very tasty and thankfully everyone was happy with the one selection.

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

3. There is a lot of new construction taking place. Houses are going up left and right. This is a good thing for the realtors and people looking to buy but some vacationers may find the construction trucks and workers distracting. I have to admit that they did a good job of keeping the noise down and the debris picked up. Before we left we drove around to look at the new houses. The developers have done a great job of designing streets and neighborhoods that feel very intimate. I also love the way not all of them are the same. The houses all had a Cape Cod type feel but some of them were on wide streets, some along board walks, some nestled in trees, some backed up to grassy common areas and others were squeezed together to give a communal feel.

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

 

carlton landing review

carlton landing review

 

4. Bring a book and be prepared to do a lot of relaxing. I absolutely love laid back vacations. I could read a book all day long. Dear Husband, on the other hand, starts to get antsy if there is too much down time. Carlton Landing is the perfect spot to get away from the rat race of work and everyday responsibilities. However, if you are someone who needs a lot of activities and love to be on the go, even on vacation, then this may take some getting used to. Yes, there is the lake and boating activities but one can only kayak and water ski for so long. A fast paced life is left behind the moment you turn off of the highway.

I was in love with Carlton Landing the moment I saw the quaint houses and multiple paint colors. I can picture myself sitting on a screened in porch reading and writing all day long. Talk about a writers retreat. Holy cow!

How about you? What kind of vacation do you love? Laid back or go go go? Have you heard of or been to Carlton Landing? I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Tennessee Vacation

July 18, 2015

At the beginning of the summer we took a family vaycay to Dollywood. I am totally sold on the Dollywood experience and can’t wait to go back. Dolly Parton is my new favorite person. We stayed in Pigeon Forge and while Dollywood was the highlight of the trip, there were a lot of other fun times to be had in Pigeon Forge. 

Our Tennessee vacation started off a little rocky. We flew in to Birmingham, AL and stayed that night at the Holiday Inn by the airport. We had booked standard rooms because we knew it would be too late to drive on to our final destination. Well, in true Seinfeld style, they knew how to take the reservation, they just didn’t know how to hold the reservation. Turns out they only had rooms with king size beds left. We are a family of four and the family we were traveling with is a family of five. 9 people, 2 beds. You do the math. We settled in to our king bed rooms and tried to make the best of it. There was a comfy chair with an ottoman in which I made a bed for Harry. It was adventure sleeping for him and he was happy as a clam. Dear Husband, Addison and I snuggled up together in bed. Jump to the wee hours and Harry wakes me up because he has wet the bed chair. Take that Holiday Inn. You can’t keep our reservation? Fine, I’ll just have my 5 year old accidentally pee on your chair. I got him cleaned up and put him in bed next in-between Addison and Dear Husband and I curled up at the foot of the bed. This was hillbilly sleepin’ for sure and as I drifted off to sleep, Addison’s toes tickling my cheek, I thought what a poetically ironic way to start our vacation in the Appalachian hills of Tennessee.

The next day we got on the highway with a stop in Chattanooga for bbq. Yelp led us to Sugars Ribs and that is where our trip took a turn. As we were leaving and posing to take this pic, 9 to 5 started playing over the restaurant’s speaker system. Dolly sent her blessing on us and from then on everything went our way.

tennessee vacation

 

 We rented a house from VRBO.com. Renting a house is the way to go. All the kids had a place to hang out and play while the adults could relax and not worry about loud kids disturbing vacationers in the room next door. Because we had a full kitchen we were able to buy groceries and saved tons of money by eating breakfast and lunch at the house.

Tennessee vacation

Tennessee vacation

Tennessee vacation

I had no idea what to expect from Pigeon Forge. I thought it was going to be a quiet little town with quaint shopping. Nope. Pigeon Forge is Branson’s kissing cousin. The main street is lined with hokey attractions, go-carts, multiple mini-golf courses, kitchey souvenir shops and the traffic on the weekend is a bear. We figured “when in Rome”, so we went all in. We saw three mini-golf attractions and picked the one with the biggest and best waterfall.

Tennessee vacation

 

Tennessee vacation

 

There were two alpine slides (a one or two person cart that pulls you up to the top of the hill then you zip down a twisty-turny track to the bottom) on the road that led back to our house. I remember seeing those rides in Branson when I was a kid and always wanted to do it. I knew that Addison would love it and have fun memories. Sure enough, he loved it and begged to go again. We felt that one time was enough and would leave him with a fun memory. Thank goodness we all didn’t die on this ride. While I’m sure it was perfectly safe (maybe), it felt like I was going to go flying off the track and crack my head open. I wish I had a better pic but I couldn’t pry my hands off the brake long enough to take one.

Tennessee vacation

 

How many days since a fatal accident? Who cares?! I’m in it to win it.

When it came time for dinner we discovered the Old Mill District. Thank goodness for this cute little area in the heart of corn-cob-pipe-ville. Old Mill had two delicious restaurants, a creamery, distillery and pottery store. The creamery made all of their ice-cream in house and had amazing flavors like sweet tea, whiskey-caramel ribbon, lemon almond, strawberry wine plus all the classic favorites. The distillery made their own moonshine and had a tasting area where you could sample the various flavors while the kids looked at souvenirs. We settled on coffee flavored moonshine. Sweet Jesus with a bathtub in the backwoods, this moonshine was amazing. They had flavors like blackberry, french toast, chocolate and lemonade. Or if you just wanted a classic burn you could go with the original. 

Tennessee vacation

This is Dear Husbands “I’m super serious about this ice-cream” face.

Tennessee vacation

 

Sweet Tea and Sprinkle Sprinkle. Bless.

Tennessee vacation 

The samples were served in communion cups. We blessed each other and said a prayer then down the hatch.

Tennessee vacation

 

This pic may be a little blurry because I may or may not have had 10 communion shots of Moonshine.

Tennessee vacation

I’m in love with this pottery sink. If only it wasn’t $300 all of my bathroom sinks would now look like this.

Tennessee vacation

“Waa laa!” Keeping it real with hillbilly French.

Stay tuned for the highlight of our Pigeon Forge adventures…Dixie Stampede.

Slide the City Discount Code

July 14, 2015

This Slide the City Discount Code is for Oklahoma City ONLY

Enter Code: SLIDEwithStephanie5

to receive 5% discount on tickets

Register HERE

slide the city discount code

Read on to enter to win tickets for a family of 4!

You remember the awesomeness of Color Me Rad, right? 

Well, the Color Me Rad think tank came up with a super fun event for the summer. Because, let’s face it, running through clouds of color may be fun, but not in 100 degree heat.

So what is Slide the City? It’s a 1000 foot slip ‘n slide. Check out the official Slide the City video. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How awesome is that? I’ll take a giant slip ‘n slide over running a 5k in the heat any day. The OKC event is July 25th so don’t delay. Make sure to use the code SLIDEwithStephanie5 in order to get 5% off of your tickets.

You can also enter to win a family four (4) pack for the triple slide. The will receive 4 tickets to ride the slide 3 times during your scheduled session.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Peach Custard

July 9, 2015

There are times when Facebook serves a purpose. Peach custard serves a purpose. Then there are days that I hate the face place, like when the Supreme Court comes out with a ruling and the interwebz blows up with hateful opinions. It is times like those that I completely agree with the sentiment “I love mankind, it’s people who I can’t stand.”

I love mankind

We can do better than that. We can do Peach Custard. Facebook really pulled through for me this week with this delicious video on how to make a cherry custard desert. I didn’t have cherries, or a cherry pitter but I did have peaches that were a day or two from turning mushy. There’s nothing more sad than a mushy peach. Well, maybe those Sara McLachlan animal abuse videos. Those are more sad than a mushy peach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Well now, doesn’t that look deliciously easy? I knew I needed to make this but I didn’t have cherries and I didn’t want to make a special trip to the store. Peaches! I had peaches. So peach it shall be. I followed the recipe in the video but substituted 4 cups of peaches for cherries. The other thing that was different was that the video said to bake for 45 minutes. Mine took one hour and 15 minutes. Make sure you test the center. Nobody wants a runny custard.

If you’re looking for more ways to use your abundance of peaches, check out my recipe for grilled peaches. Outdoor cooking + seasonal fruit = summer bliss.

peach custard

 

peach custard

peach custard

 

Peach Custard
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced
  2. butter
  3. sugar
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 1/2 cup sugar
  6. 3/4 cup flour
  7. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  8. 1/2 tsp almond extract
  9. 1 cup milk
  10. 2 Tbs butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Cover bottom and sides of pie dish with butter. Sprinkle 2 Tbs. sugar over dish and shake dish until butter is coated with sugar.
  2. Pour peaches into pie dish. Set aside.
  3. Combine eggs and sugar in mixer. Add flour, combine. Add vanilla, almond, milk and butter. Mix until well combined.
  4. Pour over fruit. Place dish on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until center is no longer runny.
Adapted from Cherry Clafoutis from Home Cooking Adventure
Adapted from Cherry Clafoutis from Home Cooking Adventure
Hugs, Kisses and Snot http://hugskissesandsnot.com/

The Golden Rule of Communication

July 8, 2015

Communication

Today I have the pleasure of guest posting on another blog. True Agape blog is all about marriage, love and relationships. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert in any of those things (are any of us, really?) but I do know how I want to be treated and talked to and I’ve turned those feelings and experiences into advice about communication in marriage.

Marriage is a tricky subject to write about. The concept of loving your spouse may be a easy but the execution of it can sometimes be hard. We all bring different baggage into a relationship that can muddy the waters and make what should be an easy task, difficult. I can’t assume what works for me will work like a charm for another couple and I’ve learned to never assume everything is just peachy in someone’s relationship. Couples do an amazing job of hiding their problems until one day everything blows up and the rest of us watch their marriage crash and burn and wonder when things got so bad.

There is no such thing as a quick fix or magic recipe when it comes to relationships and I don’t want readers to think that my little post will keep every couple in bliss. It won’t. Advice you find on sites like True Agape are meant to be a little boost here and there. In the marathon of marriage these little posts are like the cheerleaders along the route, the water station or shady spot. They give you encouragement, advice, and hope but they can’t run the race for you. The hard work of putting one foot in front of the other when you want to give up is all up to you and your spouse. The joy of being apart of something special belongs to you.

All that being said, hop on over to True Agape to see read my ramblings about communication.

Grilled Peaches

July 3, 2015

grilled peaches

You’ve heard phrase necessity is the mother of invention. That is exactly what happened up in here last night. I can’t claim to have invented the idea of grilled peaches but I did come up with this delicious method off the cuff because I needed something for dinner. 

Dinner time rolled around and in the back of my head I knew all I had was chicken breasts. I had known this all day but didn’t want to drag myself and the boys to the store just for a few items. I needed something else to eat besides chicken but all I had in the fridge in the way of possible side items were peaches. Ding! Lightbulb. 

Grilled Peaches

It helps if you have a cast iron griddle for your grill. You can find these in the camping section of Target or Walmart, or in the cooking gadgets aisle where you will find cast iron skillets and dutch ovens. Side note tangent: Walmart sell a brand of dutch ovens called Lodge. They are just as heavy and quality of Le Creuset but a fraction of the cost. I love that I can have a collection of cast iron cookery without having to save up or pray that I win one of Pioneer Woman’s giveaways.

Discovering this griddle in the depths of my cabinets has changed my grilling life. Butter. On the grill. Do I need to say anything else?

 If you don’t have a cast iron griddle, don’t worry. Aluminum foil will work in a jiff. But if you do a lot of grilling you might want to seriously think about this. Here, let me help you:

grilled peaches

Back to the grilled peaches. The secret is in this magic concoction:

4 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 Tbs. honey
juice from half a lemon

Cut two peaches in half and remove pits. 

Heat grill and add 1 Tbs butter to griddle. Place peaches cut side down in the butter. Close lid and grill for about 5 minutes.

Add another Tbs of butter to griddle. Turn peaches over and carefully spoon brown sugar mixture onto each peach. Close lid and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or until peaches are slightly soft when inserted with a fork or squeezed with the grill tongs. 

If you do use a griddle, make sure to clean it off while it is still hot. Trying to get hardened brown sugar off of the surface can be a real pain.

grilled peaches

grilled peaches

grilled peaches

grilled peaches

 

Summer Fashion

June 26, 2015

Recently I discovered something amazing. Hanes men’s undershirts. This all came about a few months ago when we were visiting my parents for a weekend and I forgot my jammies. Dear Husband’s undershirt would do just fine. It was so soft and comfortable, no wonder he likes to wear them every day.

I had recently bought him new undershirts in two styles so he could decide which he liked better. Comfort fit and slim fit. He wasn’t a fan of the slim fit but I was. It was a cotton blend so it was really soft, slightly stretchy and light. All of his slim fits went into my pj drawer. But I wanted more for day time use so I headed to the mens underthings aisle at Target for a package of Hanes v-neck slim fit t-shirts. At 5 shirts for $20 I could have a sea of white shirts in my closet.

 little boys

 

I am in love with these comfy tees and have made them a part of my summer fashion uniform. Add a scarf, bracelets and a maxi skirt and you’re ready for date night. Combine the simple white tee with shorts, sandals and your favorite necklace and earrings and you’re ready to shuttle kids around town in comfort and style.

 summer fashion

summer fashion

As much as I love this white tee-shirt (that goes with everything) I need a little variety but still demand comfort. Also a part of my summer fashion uniform are soft tees with cool super cool graphics. I got this Scissortail tee shirt from Bigfoot Creative in Norman, OK. They have super hip, original designs that celebrate Oklahoma. Their online store has a limited selection but their Main St. store has so much more. If you get a chance, check them out.

summer fashion

 

Bigfoot also does custom work and helped create this design for my Oklahoma Women Bloggers sisterhood. This shirt is quickly becoming my favorite. The style is a little more feminine than a regular tee but it’s still really comfortable. I can’t wait to wear it with pride to the Arkansas Women Bloggers University (which you don’t have to be an Arkansas Blogger to attend and have an amazing time)

summer fashion

What makes up your summer fashion uniform?

 

 

A White Privileged Mom in the Suburbs

June 22, 2015

It’s happened again. A senseless act of hate, terror and racism took the lives of too many and brought our country to its knees. The bloggers have lit up the internet, the cable news outlets are spinning this way and that, the talking heads are trying to make sense of evil. But here’s the thing, you can’t make sense of evil. Evils main goal is do harm where harm should not be, to confuse us when we should know better and to shred our hearts. Evil’s goal is to separate us from rational thought and turn us against each other.

Are we going to let evil get the best of us? When evil thinks it has the upper hand the thing to do is look it in the face and challenge it. Recently in our country evil has been taking the form of racism. Are we going to continue to let racism get the best of us? Charleston has brought us to our our knees and quite frankly, on our knees, is where we should be. But not to ask God “why”? We know why. Racism is still alive in this country and many Americans turn a blind eye or pretend that it’s really not that bad or that we have come so far. Guess what…evil=hate=racism. There is no greater than or less than, racism is a product of hate is a product of evil. Or better yet, racism is a product of one group insisting they are better and more important than another which facilitates hate which is the child of evil. Don’t try to tell me that this recent act of terror was just a product of one sick, twisted mind. While his mind is most certainly sick and may be beyond repair; one isn’t born with racism, it is a learned behavior. Mental illness may be at play here but that is not an excuse. Timothy McVeigh had a sick and twisted mind but we did not excuse his act of terrorism in Oklahoma City as a result of mental illness. 

The time for asking “why” is long past. Now is the time to ask ourselves what we will do to stop this cancer that has been eating away at us for so long. I have listened to interviews and read blogs and the prevailing response seems to be to take a stand for what you know to be right. We cannot shrug our shoulders and say how sad and then go on our merry way. We must do something. But what is that something? 

What am I to do? How am I to react? What is my response? I have been asking myself what the answer to these questions are and what does this mean to me as a white privileged mom living in the suburbs. Life has been handed to me on a silver platter. I will probably never know what it means to be looked upon with hate and disgust because of my heritage. I will probably never have to fear for my life because of the color of my skin. I will probably always see the police officers in my town as a friend and not a foe. What then, as a white privileged mom in the suburbs, is my role in the Charleston response? Yes, I can pray for Charleston, the victims families and stand in solidarity with a hashtag but my response can’t stop at prayer. It is time to take a hard, hard look at ourselves, our history and the type of people we want to be. As hard as it is, we must look into the darkness that resides in our country and within our own hearts and call it out.

Responding to Charleston means teaching my children lessons that they can take with them their entire lives. Lessons that will shape how they respond to injustice in the world. Apathy towards racism and injustice can be harmful and is a slippery slope to condoning violence towards others. “If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.” We can talk all we want but until we show our kids that we won’t tolerate racial injustice we are just a bunch of clanging gongs, which are really noisy and annoying. Each year in school our kids learn about Martin Luther King. Each year the lesson becomes a little more mature. 4th grade is an amazing time to have real conversations with kids. Their minds are ripe for learning and their self awareness is stretching beyond themselves. They are beginning to learn about the world, our history, where we are headed and they begin asking questions. I love it when I see kids begin to use their critical thinking skills, when they recognize that there are no simple answers to hard questions. This year we had serious discussions about racism, what happened to black americans in the 1960s during the Civil Rights movements and what Dr. King really stood for. Our 10 year old son asked if black people still had bad things happen to them because they were black, if there was still racism in our country. He has not witnessed it in his school (even though his school has a diverse population) and he doesn’t have access to social media so he assumed it no longer happened. He was genuinely surprised when we told him that there is, indeed, racism in our country. His naivety was a combination of sweet, sad and hopeful. I cherished his sweet innocence and felt the need to protect him from the ugliness of the world. I was also a little saddened to know that it would not be long before this innocence was broken and he would have to face these ugly truths. 

Meeting darkness and injustice face to face is where we as parents can make a difference. Yes, it is our job to protect them from all that is evil and unjust but it is also our job to give them the tools to know how to handle it when they are faced with it. This is the time, while they are still young, while they still listen to us and still heed our warnings when we have to sow the seeds of acceptance and love and teach rejection of injustice. Before they begin to rebel away from us for the sake of rebelling and independence we must show them how to stand up for what is right. So when they do have to make tough decisions, when they are faced with  whether or not to ignore hateful words or say no more to those perpetrating hate and violence, they will know in their hearts what to do. They will know because we have shown them the evil and taught them to make the right decision even when it’s hard. They will know what to do because they will have seen our example when we say no more violence, no more symbols of hate, no more words that dehumanize.

As a white privileged mom in the suburbs it is my job to teach compassion and reject racial injustice. It’s up to us as parents to take hold of our future and steer it towards what is right. If we don’t take this responsibility seriously, evil will gladly take up the role of parenting our children. In the grand scheme of things I do believe that there is an arch towards justice and that love will win but it takes more than time. It takes us. It takes parents facing the darkness, making tough choices, doing the right thing even if it makes us uncomfortable.

If we don’t, then who will?

Rise and Shine Appearance

June 17, 2015

If you’re here because you saw me on Rise and Shine and thought you would just pop online to check me out, bless you. If I could reach through the computer screen and hug you, I would. Truly. I have no way of knowing how many people saw my Rise & Shine segment so the thought of maybe just one person seeing and finding me online is outstanding. Well, I know of at least one person who saw the show…Dear Husband. But that doesn’t count because he is married to me so he has to watch it.

Truth be told, this is my second attempt at this segment. I was supposed to be on the show a few weeks ago but I got a flat tire on the way there. It was a real bummer. Thankfully, the show’s producer was merciful and scheduled today’s appearance.

Here are links to the recipes I talked about on the show…

I’m really in love with the banana ice cream because it is so easy to make and it feels like an indulgence. I made a batch for the day I was supposed to be on the show the first time, but that went home with the road side assistance fella. This batch I made fresh yesterday and it was the perfect snack right before t-ball practice (that ended up being rained out.)

So, if you’re new and found me through Rise and Shine, welcome. Please stick around, find me on Facebook and share my blog with your friends. If you are a regular…I love you. 

Five tips to make your Dollywood Vacation soar

June 12, 2015

Disclaimer: I received free park tickets in exchange for this post. However, all opinions, thoughts, photos, Dolly freak outs, amazements, thrill ride screams are my own.

Dollywood Vacation

  

I need to let you know one thing before we get to the nitty gritty: Dollywood is legit.

We decided that a Dollywood vacation was in order this year. I find it fascinating that a wildly successful singer/songwriter/actress built a huge theme park to celebrate her humble beginnings and the part of the country where she grew up. I had to know more.

Dolly Parton

We went with another family (Dear Husband’s cousin and her sweet family) who had the same curiosity level about Dolly Parton and her name sake theme park. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I went into this with low expectations due to the standard that Disney has set for all things customer service and theme parks. I’m here to tell you that Dolly wants her fans to have an amazing experience and she delivers.

Dollywood Vacation

 The Dollywood Express is a working coal powered steam engine that runs every hour. The sound of the steam, whistle and engine as very loud hence the little plugged ears.

The park is beautiful and set in the middle of the hills of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. They have done a wonderful job preserving the trees and natural surroundings so that there is plenty of shade and natural landscaping. The design of the park has captured what you would imagine a quaint, picturesque Smokey Mountain life to be like (with a little bit of an income and health insurance to make life comfortable and clean)

Dollywood Vacation Tip #1: Purchase Premier Parking

Purchase Premier Parking. Premier Parking is just a short walk away from the park. It has it’s own entrance and ticket sales booth so you don’t have to deal with long lines if you are buying your tickets when you get there. Yes, it is $10 more than regular parking but you will be so happy you made this wise choice at the end of the day when everybody else and their dog is waiting in line to get a shuttle to the parking lots for the schmucks. Parking shuttles is one thing Disney had on Dollywood. Disney has a fleet of parking shuttles that would transport the population of China in a matter of minutes. We parked in regular parking the first day and Premier Parking the second day. No contest. In fact, we were kicking ourselves for not doing it the first day. The wait for the parking shuttle was long and it felt like one came along every 30 minutes when actually it was probably only about 10 minutes in-between each shuttle. At the end of the day when your feet are on fire, you’re exhausted and the kids tired whine is at an 11 (when the dial only goes to 10); standing under a crowded pavilion with all the other cranky adults and screaming toddlers will test your patience. Plus, the extra cost will pay for itself if you take my advice in tip #3.

Dollywood Vacation Tip #2: Start Your First Park Day at 3:00 p.m.

Start your park day at 3:00 pm. Thankfully we found this little tip on the Dollywood website. If you enter the park after 3:00 pm you can use the same tickets the next day. That is like getting half a day for free! We showed up a little after 3:00 and our ticket taker, Gary, made sure we knew that we could use those same tickets the next day.

Dollywood Vacation

 

Dollywood Vacation Tip #3: Pack a lunch in a cooler and leave it in the car.

Plan to eat one meal in the park and one meal at your car. Dollywood does not allow you to bring food into the park however, you can leave the park and come back. This is where the premier parking comes in handy. You can easily get to your car, have a tailgate lunch and be back to the fun and games in less than an hour. I have a hard time spending a lot of money on amusement park food but I have to admit everything I ate in the park was really tasty. If you eat one meal at your car you have more than paid for the premier parking fee. 

Halfway in-between our breakfast and our tail-gate lunch we were out of steam and needed a pick me up to get us through the next ride. Thank Dolly’s rhinestones we happened upon Grist Mill for cinnamon bread. Holy baked goods this cinnamon bread with apple butter was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth. Do not miss the freshly baked goods in Grist Mill.

Dollywood Vacation Tip #4: Take your time and plan when you will get wet.

If you are able to, I would suggest spending two and a half days at Dollywood (the half day being the day you arrived after 3:00). We spent one and half days and there were things that I really wanted to do that we didn’t have time for. It wasn’t until 6:00 that I realized they had a leather shop that could put my name on a belt. Turns out the leather smith leaves at 6:00. No name belt for me. We also missed seeing Dolly’s tour bus and museum with all of the amazing tiny, sparkly outfits. 

There is so much to see on top of the rides. We discovered the glass blowing demonstration and the kids were mesmerized for 20 minutes. All of his creations were available for sale in the glass shop just steps away (of course) and I wanted to purchase something but decided to do it later so I wouldn’t have to carry something breakable around all day. Well, by the time we made our way back by the glass shop at the end of the day I was ready to chew my arm off and decided to forgo the glass shop in search of food. No glass pumpkin for me. Dang it.

Dollywood vacation

ummmmmm….that says Glory Hole. Am I the only one seeing that?

Dollywood Vacation

There are 5 rides where you have the opportunity to get wet. Unless you want to spend the entire day in wet undies I would suggest doing most of the wet rides towards the end of the day. Dear Husband rode the River Rampage with the kids and described his level of wetness as “sitting in a bathtub”. A few of the really wet rides have body blow driers that help but they can’t penetrate wet tennis shoes, socks and undies. While your outerwear may eventually dry off, everything down under will stay nice and moist the rest of the day.

dollywood vacation

Dollywood Vacation

 

dollywood vacation

 

dollywood vacation

 

Dollywood Vacation Tip #5: Ride the Wild Eagle roller coaster.

If you are a fan of roller coasters, even just a little, consider riding the Wild Eagle. Unlike the wooden roller coasters that look like they will break apart into a million tiny splinters any second and make your head feel like its full of mexican jumping beans, the Wild Eagle is super smooth. I rode this ride with our friend and his son and we all would have ridden it again that day. Addison was having a fun time riding some of the more tame roller coasters and I regret not making him ride this with me. He would have loved it. It has four inversions and goes 61 miles an hour and is a huge rush.

Dollywood Vacation

Before Wild Eagle

Dollywood vacation

 After Wild Eagle

Dollywood vacation summary: Awesome-sauce

We rented a cabin up in the mountains just minutes away from the park. This worked out perfectly for the nine of us since the kids could hang out and play with out everyone being on top of each other in a hotel room situation. The adults could hang out and talk after the kids went to bed and not worry about having to be quiet. Eating out felt like a treat since we could eat several of our meals at the cabin and not have to spend every meal in a restaurant and pay way too much for yet another chicken strip dinner. We only had one little snafu. At the very end of the day Addison backed out of riding the Thunderhead roller coaster and then discovered that he didn’t have time to both ride another ride and get something to eat (which he sorely needed as he gets hangry when he is hungry). Per his usual style he moped and lamented his bad luck the rest of the evening. Too little time and too much to do; its a unforgiving master.

Going on vacation with another family who has kids that get along with our kids made our trip 10 times better. Not that I don’t love being on vacation with just my little family, I do. But having playmates who all get along is priceless. Being with adults who you actually enjoy spending 24 hours a day with for 5 straight days was the icing on the cake. When things went our way that could have taken a turn for the worse, the adults would look at each other, give a wink, and say Dolly. We jokingly decided that Dolly was watching over us and became the patron saint of our vacation. On our last drive up the mountain to our house in the rental car Here You Come Again started playing on the shuffle. Just as we pulled into the driveway the song ended. Dear Husband and I just looked at each other and we didn’t have to say it. Dolly.

There is only one way to end a Dollywood vacation…