My head is pre-emptively hanging in shame. One of my favorite days EVER happened because of the Duggar family.
I first heard of Pigeon Forge while watching a rerun of TLC’s “Nineteen Kids & Counting” (Is it still 19? It changes every year, I can’t keep up), which- like a hot dog eating contest- I can’t stop watching because it alternately fascinates and horrifies me. On the show, all 21 Duggars filed into their massive tour bus like a modern-day von Trapp family and headed for the hills of Tennessee. After meeting the mayor of Pigeon Forge and checking in to a sweet-ass mountain lodge, they went zorbing (more later) and hit Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park. Sweet baby Jesus, YES.
So when the Mr. & I headed to Memphis to celebrate New Year’s with Mr. M’s brother, I conveniently planned a side-trip to Pigeon Forge. It had guilty pleasure written all over it.
Day # 10,480: It was freezing. And I was SO ready to go balls-out zorbing in the Smoky Mountains. What is zorbing, you might ask? At its core, it’s a human hamster ball.
We first became aware of this spectacle while in Rotorua, New Zealand, when we saw giant plastic balls bouncing down a big hill and had to pull over for a closer look.
I deeply regretted not getting inside one and trying it for myself. Especially because at the time, the only places in the world you could zorb were New Zealand… and Pigeon Forge, TN. (Worldwide zorbing sites have expanded to include Guam, if that’s any easier for you to get to.)
So you see why- despite my stomach being no less nervous about flipping around in a run-away hamster ball- I simply HAD to zorb. Mr. M’s grandmother had recently gifted me some Christmas $$, and I instantly knew there could be no finer purpose for it than this.
After a quick change into my swimsuit (I opted for the ‘zydro’ ride, where you’re thrown into the ball with some water to optimize downhill sloshing) and a very deep breath, I was ready. Zorb Smoky Mountains was slow that day, so a small crowd had gathered to watch the crazy girl do it. And it was AMAZING. I went for the zig-zag path, got soaking wet, and flipped head over heels. Mr. M and several onlookers confirmed that I screamed the entire way down. A-ma-zing. Although I did realize why the wet zydro ride isn’t too popular in the dead of winter… it was unbelievably cold!!
Feeling smug and ballsy, I was off to another Duggar-endorsed fun-tivity that I never dreamed I’d one day get to experience: Dollywood.
I am zorbing-head-over-heels in love with Dolly Parton and kind of imagined her waiting at the front gates of Dollywood to greet me. (Spoiler alert: No.) Even better? The whole park was done up in Smoky Mountain Christmas theme. Picturing me jumping and squealing like a 5-yr old girl is entirely accurate.
I stomped and clapped along with an Appalachian jug band spinning Christmas tunes. We took a frigid ride on a coal-fired steam train that circled the park (It was seriously frigid… despite being gloved, two of my fingers turned white & numb, and I was a little bummed that my love of Dolly might cost me my hand).
We visited a log cabin rendition of Dolly’s childhood home in the Appalachians and watched a Christmas light show synchronized to music. As we exited the Christmas in the Smokies musical spectacular, we saw a very hefty couple on matching Rascal scooters and were inspired to feast on funnel cakes & hot cocoa. It. Was. Dolly. MAGIC.
We don’t have Cracker Barrels in California or New York City, so they’re a bit of a novelty. Yes, they’re kitschy… but I love the rocking chairs on the porch and the little wooden games on each table and the same mounted deer head that’s in the same exact spot in every Cracker Barrel I’ve ever visited. Plus, I can get dinner (hash brown casserole, greens, biscuits, and a chocolate milk!) for $4. Score!
So thank you, Duggars. For a stunning day filled with guilty pleasures. Regardless of what I may think about your creationism and aggressive breeding policy, we’re most definitely on the same page about Pigeon Forge.
Details of the Day:
Lodging: Pigeon Forge, like Myrtle Beach and the Las Vegas strip, is most decidedly a tourist destination. I know this, you know this… and hotels know this and charge a buttload. We stayed at a Four Points in Knoxville for a fraction of the price. And got free wifi, a beautiful drive through the Tennessee countryside, and a look at the 1982 World’s Fair Sunsphere.
Insider Tip: If you’re planning on doing the zydro wet ride, bring your own towel! I was in the mini locker room drying myself off with a paper towel.