Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dollywood, take 2

 A few months ago, back when we were shrouded in ice and snow, Neil and I were talking about our trip to the Smoky Mountains in springtime a few years ago, and thought, boy, we'd love to do that again now that we have another kiddo and the others are older. Last time we'd stayed in a cabin but this time we wanted to camp. So we made all our plans and got things all set, and then we found out that Neil's family was having a reunion later this summer, and we didn't think we could take two vacations, so we decided to give up our Smokies trip. And then Neil's adviser told him last week that he was going out of town for a few weeks and that if we wanted to go on a trip, we should go now because Neil might not be able to take the time off later in the summer for the reunion.

So we went.

Our kids had LOVED Dollywood so much the last time we went that we knew we had to go again!  The park has this great "arrive after 3, next day free" program, so we timed our departure to arrive at the park as close to 3 as possible (we totally nailed it--pulled up and paid our parking fee at 3:02 PM) and then spent a glorious four hours hanging out before the park closed at 7 PM.

It was pretty dang hot when we arrived so Juliet promptly jumped into the splash pad and stuck her face over one of the holes right before a fountain erupted. She looks grumpy in this photo but she was actually quite happy to be leaving dripping footprints everywhere.

Because Luke is so tall for his age, he and Isaac were in the same category for all of the rides. They could ride almost everything in the park except the bigger coasters (we also went just a couple of days prior to Luke's birthday so he was free! That was deliberate). Abigail and Luke are our roller coaster demons and they wanted to ride EVERYTHING possible over and over again. Jules and Isaac were content to do the calmer rides (although we did convince Juliet...finally...on the second day to ride the big super-smooth Wild Eagle coaster, which she then consented to ride three or four more times, but she wouldn't go on the others that Abigail loved).

Anyway, we did a fair amount of parental trading (they have a Parent Swap program but the lines were so short that we usually didn't bother) and sweet Nathan was content to be lugged around with the occasional couple of hours on the kiddie rides. Fortunately the park was designed with families in mind and there is a play space for younger kids next to virtually every big ride. So, for instance, Isaac and Nathan would build with these giant Legos while either Neil or I took the other kids on this FireChaser Express roller coaster with which Luke was absolutely obsessed. Honestly, I was amazed at how good this ride was; I wasn't expecting much given the height requirements, but it was awesome! I enjoyed each of the four times I rode it with Luke. :-) Especially fun that it blasts you backwards for the last half...

At the end of the day, we went for a ride on the coal-powered train. Neil and I thought it was really fun (we were beat after four hours at the park and an eight-hour drive), but the girls were really upset by the end of the ride about how much pollution the train was creating--they made nasty faces at it whenever it passed the next day.

We left the park at closing, drove an hour to our campground--and Juliet threw up twice on the winding mountain roads--and set up camp. It was not particularly well-planned; thanks to the vomit stops we arrived well after dark and set up by flashlights/propane lanterns. The kids were totally wired and Neil and I were exhausted! It was hot enough that we didn't sleep very well, but everyone was up bright and early the next morning and we were back at Dollywood before the gates opened (no more unplanned stops--thanks, Dramamine!).

The second day was really hot! It was also much more crowded, probably since it was a Friday, but the lines were still very short and I think the longest we waited all day was 10 or 15 minutes, tops. We rode every single water ride and were totally soaked most of the day! The kids got especially wet since the parent swap people just kept the kids on the water rides and so they went around once with Neil and then again with me. This caused some blister issues later, thanks to wet shoes, and I was seized with an awful fear that we'd ruined the vacation, but thankfully I had bought a 20-ft length of moleskin and things turned out fine (which was a total miracle since all four of the older kids had 5-6 blisters per foot).

Nathan looooved this ride! It was a favorite with the older kids too, but he was young enough that he believed 100% that he was "dwibing the cah" all by himself.

I have only gone on the super-soaker waterfall ride once in my life when I was like 13 at Cedar Point, so I happily volunteered to stay with Nathan while Neil took the other kids on this. I still can't believe they were gutsy enough to all go, but man, they were excited!!

Can you see Luke and Isaac in the very front seat? They look so teeny!

We rented a double stroller the second day and it was worth every penny. Nathan was super cheerful and happy all day and then he just zonked out about 6 PM for twenty minutes and woke up happy and bouncing again. 

We ended the second day at the County Fair getting our fill of the kiddie rides. I took photos of the little boys while Neil took one for the team and rode the spinning teacups over and over with the older kids. Brave man!

And then at closing time we made our weary way out, having sucked all the marrow out of the day, stopped for a not-very-good restaurant meal (it tasted about 100% better than it actually was because we were so hungry!), and trundled back to our campsite; Luke and Nathan talked nonstop for most of the hour-long drive while the older kids all conked out in the backseat, but by the time we arrived all five of the kids were snoozing away!


Andrea said...

So I haven't looked at a blog in ages...but saw you posted this on FB and had to check it out since we'll be going to the Smokies next week. I was debating on Dollywood, but looks like your kids really enjoyed it! Glad you shared. And where does one buy a long strip of moleskin???

Rachael said...

Just emailed you. Let me know if you didn't get it!

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