Dollywood 11/20/2014

Dollywood was one of the last major theme parks that I always wanted to go to just never had the time to fit it in before. Well since the park is open into January it makes a great trip driving down from Ohio when most of the parks up north have already closed down for the year. Another chance to ride some more coasters and get that theme park fix! So let’s check out Dollywood!

Warning garbage kills bears!
Warning garbage kills bears!
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We’re here!
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In November Dollywood transforms into a Christmas wonderland and is known for one of the best Christmas events in the industry.
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The entrance with the Palace Theater all lit up already.
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For the first of two days at Dollywood we arrived at night time so the sun was beginning to set and the lights were starting to come on.
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Uh oh I spot a coaster!

Since the sun was setting on the first night we got there a lot of coaster pictures from this day will be dark so I’ll save talking about them until later in this post when I have pictures of all the rides during the day.

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Mystery Mine was the ride I knew the least about and I was definitely excited to see what it was all about.
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Wild Eagle lit up red and green for Christmas.
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New for this year is Firechaser Express, so we checked that out right away.
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Some more of the entrance plaza and the station lit up at night.
You can prevent Forest Fires!
You can prevent Forest Fires!
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Wild Eagle as seen from the Firechaser Express platform.
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Posing with the massive eagle at the entrance of Wild Eagle!
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Wild Eagle’s station looks like you’re entering a hotel. It’s probably the best looking coaster station I’ve ever seen.
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Ready to soar on wings?
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The floor of the station even has that outdoor carpet that is super nice to walk on.
Next stop was Tennessee Tornado.
Next stop was Tennessee Tornado.
Everywhere else in the park the Christmas lights are displayed neat and nice not here....
Everywhere else in the park the Christmas lights are displayed neat and nice not here….
...because a tornado came through and threw them everywhere!
…because a tornado came through and threw them everywhere!
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Look out random lights placed everywhere!
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The Tornado was one of the top scream machines in 99.
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Let’s go for a ride shall we?
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After the Tornado was Blazing Fury, Dollywood’s version of Silver Dollar City’s Fire in the Hole.

Blazing Fury was fun and smoother than the original over at Silver Dollar City, but I still love the splash ending that Silver Dollar City’s version still has in which they yell Fire in the Hole!

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Hmm let’s check this out.
Outside of Blazing Fury was a model train display.
The detail was very good on this display.
It was very neat to see, since when I was little I was a big fan of trains.
It was very neat to see, since when I was little I was a big fan of trains.
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Rudolph characters were doing meet and greets inside the Holly Jolly Junction.
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Dollywood sure does an impressive job with it’s lights.
The centerpiece is a giant Christmas tree on the lake.
The centerpiece is a giant Christmas tree on the lake.
Even more impressive light displays.
Even more impressive light displays.
This Ferris wheel of poinsettias was really neat as well.
This Ferris wheel of poinsettias was really neat as well.
It wouldn't be Dollywood if there was no Dolly at all.
It wouldn’t be Dollywood if there was no Dolly at all.
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We wandered into this show because we had rode all the coasters already and figured to check it out. Turns out some of Dolly’s family performs in this show.
The show wasn't bad, it told the story of Dolly growing up and everything they went through. Though it did seem to go really really long! We didn't realize we wandered into a 50 minute long show.
The show wasn’t bad, it told the story of Dolly growing up and everything they went through. Though it did seem to go really really long! We didn’t realize we wandered into a 50 minute long show.
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Outside of the show is Dolly’s tour bus, which we still never came back to check the inside out when it’s open during the day. It was closed already for the day at this point.
It was time for some epic night rides on this bad boy!
It was time for some epic night rides on this bad boy!
And of course we also returned to the Eagle as well.
And of course we also returned to the Eagle as well.

After Dollywood closed for the night, we ventured to the Island. The Island is a rather new entertainment area in Pigeon Forge full of retail shops, restaurants, and attractions such as a giant Ferris wheel.

The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel sure is impressive.
The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel sure is impressive.
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Most of the shops had closed for the night already, though their light display was also pretty good.

 Dollywood the next day didn’t open until 2 pm and since the Pigeon Forge area is quickly becoming the alpine coaster capital of the world we decided to check the alpine coasters out in the morning.

First up for the morning was the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster.
First up for the morning was the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster.
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The starting area for the coaster.
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After we got our tickets we were ready to go!
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The coaster goes up and into the mountain, it’s a long climb up. Takes about 5 minutes to get to the top, but don’t worry you don’t have to walk it. You’re pulled up slowly but surely to the very top by a cable.
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Alpine coasters are known for their sense of speed and…
...their tight turns.
…their tight turns.
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Combine both of those and it makes for a great experience. As long as there is no one in front of you going slow. Otherwise go full speed, it’s a lot of fun and very thrilling as well.
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Part of the cable system that pulls the cars up to the top.
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A wider look at the track for the coaster. Definitely a great long ride.

 The other alpine coaster was located in Gatlinburg so naturally we made the trek down to Gatlinburg next.

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We first visited Ole Smoky Moonshine and saw some moonshine being made!
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There’s moonshine in those barrels.
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No Smoking!
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Moonshine!
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And of course we had to try some. The orange one wasn’t bad.
Outside the moonshine place a band was getting ready to entertain guests.
Outside the moonshine place a band was getting ready to entertain guests.
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And now we’ve arrived at the second alpine coaster. Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster.
Our car is waiting for us.
Our cart is waiting for us.
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Ready to ride. Not as impressive looking tickets as the other one.
And after a quick safety talk and check off we go!
And after a quick safety talk and check off we go!
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It’s the same concept as the other one, slowly pulled to the top.
There's not many chances to grab pictures of this one either since it's up in the mountain. Though it's the same type of concept just a little shorter than the other one.
There’s not many chances to grab pictures of this one either since it’s up in the mountain. Though it’s the same type of concept just a little shorter than the other one.
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And here comes Holly.
Posing real quick for a picture before heading back to Dollywood.
Posing real quick for a picture before heading back to Dollywood.

 Since our first visit to Dollywood occurred basically at night, I was definitely excited to see it in the daylight.

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There was much more of a crowd going into the park today then vs the previous day. Though it was a Friday as compared to a Thursday the previous day.
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The sled from the front this time.
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Which way first?
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On the trail by Thunderhead there’s a bunch of gravestones, not sure what these are for. We quickly read a plaque and sounded like they were people that had the land originally, though not entirely sure on that.
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Here’s your tree life lesson for the day.
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And there it is, Thunderhead!
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In case you needed any clarification.
Who wants to go for a ride?
Who wants to go for a ride?
A train climbs the lift.
A train climbs the lift.
Thunderhead is one of the most twisted GCI coasters out there, and definitely one of the better ones. Who am I kidding? All of GCI's coasters are great!
Thunderhead is one of the most twisted GCI coasters out there, and definitely one of the better ones. Who am I kidding? All of GCI’s coasters are great!
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One of the features of Thunderhead is that it flies in and out of it’s structure multiple times throughout the course.
One of the many curves of this coaster seen from the queue.
One of the many curves of this coaster seen from the queue.

 Thunderhead is awesome! Definitely one of the gems of Dollywood, it’s easily one of GCI’s best coasters and some people argue it is their best. Personally I still think Prowler at World’s of Fun tops it but they are very close in terms of fun. Definitely a coaster not to miss at Dollywood.

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Next up was Mystery Mine.
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Who wants to go mining?
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Some of the track of Mystery Mine.
From the platform of Mystery Mine you can see a good majority of the outside section.
From the platform of Mystery Mine you can see a good majority of the outside section.
Hey look there's Thunderhead!
Hey look there’s Thunderhead!
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Mystery Mine is a themed coaster with indoor and outdoor sections. Definitely a one of a kind experience.
Mystery Mine has a finale in which you do an inversion and then hang for a little bit.
Mystery Mine has a finale in which you do an inversion and then hang for a little bit.
Before coming down into the brakes.
Before coming down into the brakes.

Mystery Mine is a unique coaster, while the actual coaster part isn’t too good, its bumpy and head banging, the themed aspects of the coaster are excellent. This type of coaster is called a Euro Fighter and while I’ve heard mostly all Euro Fighters are bumpy and headache causing, this one is tame enough that it’s enjoyable due to the added theme. Plus that finale is killer! Definitely check it out while at Dollywood, just don’t expect to ride it over and over.

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River Battle was all empty. 🙁 There was no water to be found.
What's that up there... a plane?
What’s that up there… a plane?
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It’s the Eagle of course!
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Wild Eagle makes it’s maneuvers gracefully.
Close up shots of the Eagle in flight.
Close up shots of the Eagle in flight.
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Who’s ready to soar?
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The vertical loop is one of the best elements of a winged coaster.
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Posing for a picture with the eggs definitely a Dollywood staple.

 After checking out Wild Eagle from afar, let’s go for a ride shall we?

Love how the sun flare reflects off the wing in this photo.
Love how the sun flare reflects off the wing in this photo.
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Time to enter the oh so nice station again.
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Wild Eagle’s lift climbs a mountain before descending over the other side and into it’s flurry of inversions.
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This is the sight you see from the station.
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As I mentioned earlier, the floor has that outdoor carpet and here’s a look at it in the daylight.
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The station is awesome looking on the inside as well with all the wood work and what not.
Here we go!
Here we go!
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Since Wild Eagle climbs the mountain it’s very hard to get pictures of it in motion except from down low by Mystery Mine. So here’s the train flying into the final brakes.
Wanna go again?
Wanna go again?

Wow! Wild Eagle surpassed my expectations. To be fair my expectations were pretty low as I had already ridden the other two wing coasters in the US X-Flight and Gatekeeper and wasn’t really impressed by either. Wild Eagle does it right! This ride totally gives me hope that the wing coaster concept can be really good if executed right. The mountain views on this thing make it truly one of a kind. Watching the Smoky Mountains flip upside down as you’re soaring on the wing truly does make you feel like an eagle. Now while this coaster is good a night, it might be the rare exception of being a ride that’s better in the day just for the views of those mountains. Don’t miss Wild Eagle!!!

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Hey what’s that new ride over there?
That'd be Firechaser Express of course!
That’d be Firechaser Express of course!
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Firechaser Express also navigates a mountain, but it’s definitely not as massive as Wild Eagle.
They're looking for volunteers.
They’re looking for volunteers.
Here's where we sign up too. Ironically at the rides entrance. haha The story behind the ride is you're signing up to be a volunteer firefighter and it's your job to prevent the fires.
Here’s where we sign up too. Ironically at the rides entrance. haha The story behind the ride is you’re signing up to be a volunteer firefighter and it’s your job to prevent the fires.
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Let’s check it out.
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Under the entrance you walk past a waterfall in which the coaster goes over. Very nice details.
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The ride begins with a launch out of the station.
Goes through a quick turn before...
Goes through a quick turn before…
..climbing a traditional lift hill.
..climbing a traditional lift hill.
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The most unique aspect of this ride includes a scene in which the train pulls into a garage full of fireworks.
Of course things go awry, and the garage erupts in flames and the train launches out backwards
Of course things go awry, and the garage erupts in flames, the track rotates, and the train launches out backwards!
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So the finale is a few turns taken backwards before returning to the station.
Look how much fun that guy is having.
Look how much fun that guy is having.

Firechaser Express is a great family coaster and an awesome addition to Dollywood. The coaster has enough in it for thrill seekers to enjoy it but it’s not too scary so the little ones can still have fun too. Definitely the perfect definition of a family coaster.

No one has seen any funnel clouds have they?
No one has seen any funnel clouds have they?
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The reason I ask is there’s a Tornado in the area. 😛
Tennessee Tornado was Dollywood's first major coaster to be added, before building bigger and bigger thrills as they've done in recent years.
Tennessee Tornado was Dollywood’s first major coaster to be added, before building bigger and bigger thrills as they’ve done in recent years.
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It’s also the first coaster to take advantage of the truly unique terrain that Dollywood has.
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Tennessee Tornado is also an Arrow Dynamics coaster which most of them have not aged well. However this one is pretty damn good.
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However it’s not shaped like a traditional Arrow coaster with the loops being more gradual and not as tight. Definitely makes for a smoother ride.
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It’s a short ride but it’s definitely good coaster.
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The detail outside the station is even more visible during the day.
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As if a tornado came through the area and left a mess of the area.

 Tennessee Tornado was a coaster I would have easily brushed off at best an OK coaster, surprisingly it was very good. Arrow coasters have generally not aged well, but this one is still a great coaster, and fits in perfect with the rest of Dollywood’s great collection.

After riding Tennessee Tornado we wandered upon the massive Blad Eagle habitat that Dollywood has.
After riding Tennessee Tornado we wandered upon the massive Blad Eagle habitat that Dollywood has.
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We even got to hear the eagles calling each other which was a very neat sound to hear.
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Did you know?
Holly posing with a holly bush. :P haha
Holly posing with a holly bush. 😛 haha
Mountain Slidewinder?!? Heard this was a great ride, let's go for a ride!
Mountain Slidewinder?!? Heard this was a great ride, let’s go for a ride!
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Bummer. 🙁 Though it’ll be open when I return in March!
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Some cats were patrolling the area, not sure if they were strays or what not. Though I am sure there was probably no mice in the area.
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Dollywood like Silver Dollar City is also known for it’s craftsmen that can be watched doing multiple projects including one like this, glass blowing.
In case you didn't know Dolly grew up in this area.
In case you didn’t know Dolly grew up in this area.
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You can’t go to Dollywood without getting a ride on the genuine steam engine train!
And ain't she a beauty?
And ain’t she a beauty?
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Final preparations were taking place before we could depart.
Don't forget to wave to all the people!
Don’t forget to wave to all the people!
As the train winds around the turn she lefts off a little steam.
As the train winds around the turn she lefts off a little steam.
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The sun begins to set in these hills.
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And on Wild Eagle. 
Next up we checked out the carousel...
Next up we checked out the carousel…
...and I rode an ostrich.
…and I rode an ostrich.
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See ya later train.
This is neat, over by the train was old wheels set up as tables. What a neat way to recycle.
This is neat, over by the train was old wheels set up as tables. What a neat way to recycle.

Before we ended the night we decided to check out some of Dollywood’s Christmas shows. First up was the highly acclaimed Dollywood’s Christmas Carol.

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And thus begins a Dollywood’s retelling of A Christmas Carol.
The star of our show Ebenzer Scrooge and some pretty awesome effects for the ghosts.
The star of our show Ebenzer Scrooge and some pretty awesome effects for the ghosts.
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It wouldn’t be Dollywood without Dolly Parton herself starring as the ghost of Christmas past. She even appears in a flurry of her signature butterflies.
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The production quality is top notch as the three Christmas spirits teach Scrooge the real meaning of Christmas.
Scrooge learns the error of his ways and changes for the better.
Scrooge learns the error of his ways and changes for the better.
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The cast of a Dollywood’s Christmas Carol!
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Plus don’t forget Dolly herself.

Dollywood’s Christmas Carol was one of the best theme park shows I’ve ever seen. The production quality is top notch and definitely the type of show you’d expect to see on Broadway. Don’t miss it!

If you're ever at Dollywood or Silver Dollar City do not miss the cinnamon bread! Yum!
If you’re ever at Dollywood or Silver Dollar City do not miss the cinnamon bread! Yum!
Holly decides to pose with a sign just for her.
Holly decides to pose with a sign just for her.
Inside Bumble is greeting children.
Inside Bumble is greeting children.
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The final show we saw was called The Night Before Christmas. The show was about a family who was spread out through multiple parts of the country trying to all make it to Christmas dinner.
The news starts with multiple family members phoning home to say unfortunately they won't make it home for Christmas.
The news starts with multiple family members phoning home to say unfortunately they won’t make it home for Christmas.
It is with this that one little girl decides to wish that her family can be together on Christmas.
It is with this that one little girl decides to wish that her family can be together on Christmas.
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With a little help a mysterious old man starts performing little miracles.
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He keeps showing up everywhere.
Lastly he gives a message that one selfless wish can do a whole lot of magic.
Lastly he gives a message that one selfless wish can do a whole lot of magic.
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Who was that old man you ask? Well some people call him “Nick”. 😛
St. Nick that is!
St. Nick that is!

Another great show at Dollywood, a park that is definitely well known for their top notch shows.

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And with that I simply say “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas is definitely the best theme park Christmas event I’ve ever been to. If you’re looking to go to a theme park during Christmas season, this would be the place to choose!

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