Believe it or not, we were actually going to lay low this Christmas break, but when Tiffany (aka Plumb) was invited to speak at the Winter Xtreme Conference in Gatlinburg this week, we saw it as an opportunity for our two families to take a New Year’s Eve East Tennessee family getaway together.
Yes, you heard me right, BOTH our families. That’s nine in total: 4 adults and 5 kids. And while that may not seem like a lot compared to some of your families, it definitely makes you rethink your transportation, attractions and dining.
So I’m here to share with you what we’ve done (& will be doing) to celebrate New Year’s Eve together in the Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area of East TN this holiday in hopes it might help some of you, either in the future or even to join us here on New Year’s Eve!
Wilderness at the Smokies
Once again, we’re staying at Wilderness at the Smokies. Whenever we head to East TN, it’s the one place our kids want to stay (other than a Dollywood Cabin) because of their indoor waterpark and Adventure Forest. It doesn’t matter what the weather is outside, it’s always comfortable inside WATS and the activities are plentiful.
This trip, we opted for the all-stay pass for the Adventure Forest. That means for just $24.99, our kids can play until their heart’s content on everything from the indoor mini-golf and laser tag, to the ropes course and mini-bowling. We were also able to take advantage of a deal on arcade tokens when we purchased the all-play pass. If you’re going to be here for several days, it definitely makes sense.
— Sami Cone (@TheSamiCone) December 28, 2015
And for New Year’s Eve, they’ll be having their 8th annual NYE Extravaganza, complete with live DJ, balloon drop (multiple from what I hear), face-painting, balloon art and more! The Water Dome will close at 9pm and then re-open at 10pm for resort guests only, so this is the place to be!
It’s hard to imagine a family trip to East TN without a trip to Dollywood, but you may want to rethink visiting during a holiday week. We LOVED their Christmas lights and the weather couldn’t have been better:
However, I overheard the crowds were three times what they expected, which meant CRAZY long lines for everything from the rides to food to the bathrooms. In fact, I waited OVER an hour just to get my famous kettle chips that I love.
— Sami Cone (@TheSamiCone) December 29, 2015
Kudos to the folks at Dollywood for not making us pay to park to keep the lines moving, but they simply didn’t have enough staff on hand to handle the crowds. Still, the kids had fun and we managed to ride a few favorites, like the Firechaser Express and this beauty that Uncle Jeremy even managed to fit on…
Because of the crowds, they extended operating hours for an extra hour, so it was nice to see them adapting to the situation. Plus, who doesn’t love being sent out by Rudolph and snow?!
Dollywood will also be open for New Year’s Eve this year (for the first time ever).
Something else we’ll be doing tomorrow is taking advantage of the EIGHT (yes, I said 8) Ripley’s attractions in the East Tennessee area. As you may have read in my previous Ripley’s Gatlinburg review, the Ripley’s attractions are NOT a “one and done” experience, so we’re excited to experience them again, but this time with the Lee’s. Plus, we hope to visit the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies for the first time too!
While we haven’t done this yet, tonight we’ll experience this 1.5 mile LED drive through light extravaganza. New elements this year include the drive through walls of lights, Favorite Tales light displays and more.
We always find a way to end up at Tanger Outlets multiple times on our trip. They have some good after Christmas sales going on now – plus they’ve decked the halls with over 100,000 new lights this year (they’ll add at least that many more next year as well). Both the boys AND girls wanted matching outfits, so we made stops at Converse, Under Armor, Justice and Reebok.
Other Winterfest in the Smokies fun…
This is a brand new Christmas show in the area and is FANTASTIC! It combines the artwork of Thomas Kinkade with an amazing live show (fantastic singers, musicians, etc.).
Dining recommendations I’ve received:
Tony Gore’s Smoky Mountain BBQ is fantastic (get dessert). So is The Diner (real malts, homemade everything and a rockin’ ’50s theme).Of course, Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant is a must-visit, too, and Flapjack’s is always fun.
As we experience more, I’ll be sure to add to our review, but I didn’t want ANY of you to miss on the fun you could have THIS New Year’s Eve. I hope you’ll be joining us to make your own memories this year!
Disclosure: Some of the above attractions were made available to us for free or at a discount. This in no way influenced my opinion or how I shared it with you. My ultimate priority is always bringing you the best events at the best value for your family!