With school letting out very early this year for an unseasonably warm winter, the opportunity presented itself to take our family vacation a bit earlier in the year. We chose the week of Memorial Day to go all over Tennessee and then end the trip at Holiwood Nights. Now, this is a lot of driving, and our kids are still pretty small, so we broke up the driving into small chunks. We took off on Friday May 26 as soon as we were off work and drove to Memphis that night. US-63 is a beautiful drive through the Ozarks hills on a winding two-lane road. If you can avoid the motion sickness enough to appreciate it, that is.
We got up Saturday morning to our first destination: The Memphis Zoo. This is a remarkable zoo, very large and well laid out, with lots of highly detailed exhibits. The real draw here, though, is that it’s one of only a handful of zoos in all of the United States that has giant pandas. The pandas, Ya Ya and Le Le, have an elaborate home built with traditional Chinese architectural designs, and it’s a treat to walk through the space. By the time you reach the centre of the exhibit and see the pandas for yourself, you are fully immersed in the environment.
There are a few rides here, but nothing substantial, and in fact, I didn’t see anyone in line for any of them. We had plenty of theme park days on this trip, and updates to this trip report will feature plenty of photos, but for now, enjoy your vicarious journey through one of America’s best zoos.
Cool Egyptian themed entrance.
There's just something enduring about dick-shaped stone monuments.
Plenty of photo ops throughout the zoo.
This is a river cat. Note the stripes on its head but spots on its body. Never seen one before.
Lots of big cats here. My girls are cat fans, so they enjoyed this exhibit.
There were quite a few exhibits that allowed you to see the animals unobstructed, usually relying on slopes at the front of the exhibit to prevent animals from reaching the visitor observation areas rather than glass or metal bars.
Very elaborate habitats.
Cats are cats, no matter the size.
There were a bunch of LEGO statues all over the place.
Some cool topiaries, too.
My kids always like these music playgrounds.
The rides section. Operators were present, but no guests were interested.
The zoo has a lot of komodo dragons--I think abut 6 or 8.
We got to see a tortoise feeding. The keeper was available for questions, and that kid got to feed them! The biggest one weighs 350 pounds!
Day 1 Continued: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream More
We left the Memphis Zoo in the early afternoon to give ourselves plenty of time to get to Pigeon Forge. Storms were coming, and we were already going to be losing an hour going into Eastern Time. This was my kids’ first time in another time zone, and my oldest was very interested in why it was a different time where we were going. Science lesson!
I was very impressed with the wide, well marked roads leading from the Interstate to Pigeon Forge. It’s like they expect there to be lots of traffic and have planned for this eventuality! Branson, take note. One thing that’s not great, though, is the drivers. Wow, do people in Tennessee drive awfully. Compared to the dream that is Los Angeles traffic, Tennessee is downright awful. Unlike California, in which everyone pretty much minds their own business and gets where they’re going, Tennessee drivers are aggressive and vindictive. They will not hesitate to get back at someone they feel has slighted them. It’s like the whole state still holds a grudge for having lost a war or something.
And so as I switched from the middle to the left lane on Veterans Parkway two blocks before the DreamMore entrance, I was immediately tailgated by a man in a heavily modified large red pickup truck. All traffic was moving at the speed limit, and I wasn’t just driving in the lane. I had an imminent left turn to make. This was a montrosity of a vehicle, with an extended cab and extended bed. It had a wraparound graphic of an American flag and on the dashboard and roof, LED lights that alternated similar to a police car’s lights. And so this jackass redneck flashed his police-esque lights at me as he tailgated me for the great crime of getting in the left lane two blocks before I turn left to my destination. I swear, some people just love to stereotype themselves.
We arrived at DreamMore a little after 9, which was a bit too late to get our tickets. We did a bit of exploring around the hotel, but we were mostly very tired from two days of driving and went up to the room. The kids really liked the bunk bed, and we loved all the room amenities. This room had outlets and USB ports everywhere. When traveling with three kids, we have a few electronics, and we could charge them all each night. Also, the toilet paper was embossed. I can safely say this is the only hotel I’ve ever stayed in that had embossed toilet paper.
In short, book this hotel! All the included extras make it very much worth the cost, and it was really very affordable, especially considering this was Memorial Day weekend. I’ll have more to say about DreamMore in the next few installments, as we continued exploring everything the resort has to offer.
Thanks! We're sure glad to be here!
Just inside the main entrance.
And look what was waiting for us in the room!
The kids loved the bunk bed.
OMG! Embossed toilet paper!
Conference area corridor
Another seating area in the lobby
The Pantry serves Starbucks in the morning and pizza later in the day.
Lobby, or "the living room" as they like to call it
Song and Hearth is the very high quality restaurant downstairs. A bit pricey, but absolutely worth it. We ate breakfast here the next day, so stay tuned to this trip report.
There were a bunch of these pithy sayings from Dolly all over the resort.
The corridor carpet was full of butterflies.
They do not miss a single detail! This is the way to experience Dollywood!
The only reason for that truck to be tailgating you is if you where guilty of having a Hillary for president bumper sticker or something. . Ok other then that sounds like you found heaven at DreamMore! It's a tribute to Dolly and all things southern.
Being a Tennessee resident myself, I can confirm we have some sucky and outspoken drivers. Where I am (Nashville) isn't that bad, but East Tennessee? I'll just say I'm not surprised. I have nowhere near the budget to book a room at the DreamMore, but man does it look nice. I've heard nothing but good things about it and would love to stay there at least once. I'm so used to doing day trips and staying at hotels on the strip.
See this is how I want to experience Dollywood! Totally staying @ this place when I do eventually get there (it won't hurt that the other half has an affinity for butterflies borderlining on obsession). I've looked into it before when considering a DW visit, and the place looks really nice, and looking at room rates again (what I did right after I read this update) they're seemingly pretty reasonable for what you get.
I'm assuming we'll get to this with the next update, but they do have trams over to the park, right? Like we wouldn't have to move our car from the resort if we wanted to do the park/waterpark? Can you get trams into Pigeon Forge for touristy stuff there? And since I know there is no booze in the park should I assume no hotel bar either? LOL! There is drinking in Pigeon Forge, yes?
Sorry for all the questions, but a DW trip is near the top of my bucketlist, just have to get a few other trips outta the way first. I think the other half would *LOVE* DW and the surrounding attractions. Can't wait for more!
I haven't noticed the drivers down here being that bad, but then again I'm from Massachusetts where we pride ourselves in being Massholes on the road. Everyone I've seen down here doesn't go 20 over the speed limit, change lanes without blinkers, or play games of chicken at merges/stops.
This is my first time seeing the interior of DreamMore, and WOW. I've literally got chills. It's so BEAUTIFUL! I will absolutely make sure to plan for a stay at the DreamMore whenever I finally get a chance to go to Dollywood someyear. Can't wait for the next part of your report!
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