Pigeon Forge Winterfest in Tennessee to open with veteran dedication of 5 million lights

Not sure where to spend the winter this year? Head over to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for their 22nd annual Pigeon Forge Winterfest. The four month long event will go from November 8, 2011 until February 26, 2012. This year, with the opening day of the festival being near Veteran’s Day, the event will open with a special parade dedicated to veterans as well as a ceremony in Patriot Park that will feature 5 million Winterfest lights.

The origin of Pigeon Forge Winterfest comes from the goal of the town to create activity and tourism in the area during their off-season. Luckily, the festival helps to bring many people to the area during this time and having an off-season is not a problem for Pigeon Forge any longer.

Some of the highlights that event attendees can expect include:

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas
November 5-Decemeber 30

Not only will this event feature 4 million twinkling lights, it will also be the opening day for “Christmas on Ice” held in Dolly Parton’s Celebrity Theatre. The show will feature the Ice Theater of New York, the country’s leading ice dancing group, as well as singers who will sing Christmas song favorites.

The Titanic Museum Attraction
November 8-December 31

This event marks the actual ship’s centennial throughout 2012. There will be real snow every Friday and Saturday from November 25 to December 12. Attendees can also enjoy an ice carving competition, taking place on January 14, where people will be able to see the artists working with small hand tools as well as chainsaws.

Wilderness Wildlife Week
January 7-January 14

This week is sponsored by the city and includes educational programs about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other topics pertaining to the outdoors. All activities are free, and include events such as guided hikes, classes, seminars and workshops. Learn about park wildlife, enhance your nature photography skills, or gain knowledge on the sport of fly fishing.

Saddle Up!
February 23-February 26

Also sponsored by the city, this portion of Winterfest is a tribute to the American West. Attendees can expect cowboy poetry, Western music, and an authentic chuckwagon cook-off. Don’t miss this, as Saddle Up! attracts some of Western music’s biggest performers, such as Kent Rollins, Ray Doyle, Saddle Cats, Chuck Pyle, and more.

Dolly Parton’s ‘Pirates Voyage’ replaces ‘Dixie Stampede’ in Myrtle Beach

Pirates and mermaids have taken over Dolly Parton’s popular Western-themed Dixie Stampede theater show in Myrtle Beach, hoisting the Jolly Roger where cowboys had previously performed stunts for 19 years.

The Dixie Stampede dinner show, which is still running in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri, closed its doors in South Carolina last year. After an $11 million renovation that included installing a 15-foot, 750,000-gallon lagoon and three 30-foot pirate galleons, Pirates Voyage will begin tumbling, swimming, singing, dancing and sword fighting for the general public tomorrow. Tickets are $41.99 for adults, $21.99 for children age four to 11, and free for children under the age of four.

Parton says she began thinking of a pirate-themed show five years ago and maintains the idea had nothing to do with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise, but admits the “timing couldn’t be better” for the marauders to take over the show. Parton herself appears in an introductory video, can be seen swimming with the mermaids through the use of computer technology, and (of course) contributed to the soundtrack.

[Photo by Bruce Smith, AP]

25 newly-discovered travel destinations from Wanderfly.com

If you’ve checked out Wanderfly, the new travel planning and booking service that suggests destinations and activities based on your interests, you know they’ve come up with some unique and untouristy destinations. Now they’ve gone beyond the beaten tourist track with 25 newly-discovered travel destinations. Why just see the Great Wall of China when you could see a whole city full of kittens in China (far greater if you ask us!)?! Fan of Dolly Parton? Thousands go to Dollywood, why not relax on a man-made archipelago in the shape of Dolly and Kenny Rogers at Islands in the Stream in Dubai? Can’t get enough of that rascal Charlie Sheen? Intrepid adventurers can get inside his brain and see what all that tiger’s blood does.

The Wanderfly researchers teamed up with Whim Quarterly to unearth these new places and the best activities to do. The new destinations were chosen for their interactive experiences to give travelers the most authentic experience. “We challenge any traveler to find even a single destination that can compare to these unearthed gems,” says Wanderfly co-founder Christy Liu. “Paris? London? Cleveland? With respect to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they all pale in comparison to such places as ObeCity, Funkytown, and Your Mom’s House.”

For more on these exciting new discoveries, visit Wanderfly.com and click the crazy kitten on the home page and then Get Going. But hurry, some of these destinations may only be available on April 1st.

Dollywood wins major theme park award

Dolly Parton visited Orlando, Florida, yesterday to accept the Applause Award on behalf of her theme park, Dollywood.

“I love my music, but when you get a chance to do things like this, where you serve so many people in a different way, it makes me proud of something that so many people can enjoy,” Parton said during the ceremony on the opening day of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo.

The Applause Award is bestowed every other year on one park deemed to exhibit overall excellence.

was recognized for its originality, cleanliness, friendliness of the staff and family values.

“Of course, Walt Disney became successful because he had Mickey Mouse, who has two big ears. So, I figured I could be successful with Dollywood with my two big partners,” Parton said. She then glanced down at her famously large chest before pointing at Pete and Jack Herschend in the audience.

Parton partnered with their company, Herschend Family Entertainment, to open Dollywood in 1986 on the site of the former Silver Dollar City theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.