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Smoky Mountain Christmas - 2021 - Day 4 - Affordable, Family-Friendly Travel

Day 4 itinerary of our affordable, family-friendly travel to the Smoky Mountains!

Groundhog at the cabin
Groundhog at the cabin

We overslept. Dollywood didn’t open until 11am so technically it wasn’t the end of the world. I got up at 10am. I’m still exhausted. Nobody really wanted to get moving so we had FFY breakfast. Fend For Yourself. Anni made peanut butter and jelly and seriously ate half of the container of jelly. Alexi ate candy bars for breakfast. I mean, as a mother of an adult, like, when do you step in and suggest a banana or do you just let them be? Haven’t figured it out yet, this parenting an adult thing. Ed was waiting to get to the park to have the famous cinnamon bread.

Alexi announced to the car that she was looking forward to seeing “Ham”. Who is Ham? We wondered too. She went on to explain that Ham is a female mallard she met last year when we were here that had a speck of ham stuck on its bill. So she named it. Who am I to question it-I name animals all the time including the groundhog, Philamena, that was in the back of the cabin property this morning. I like that even though she is legally an adult she still has a whimsical nature about her. I hope she never loses that. I also hope that when she’s 45 with her family on vacation and names a groundhog (watching one for 5 minutes straight) that the family just goes with it. (Sometimes they humor me; sometimes they call me a weirdo.)

We got here right around Noon. Since my spinal fusion in July 2020 my days of riding rides are over. I do enjoy the shopping and the activities at Dollywood but I’m forever a bag holder. They have been going on rides; I’ve been waiting at the ride exits. It’s pretty boring. I did locate Ham and fed the other ducks. (They have a duck/fish feed machine). We met back up again briefly. Ed and I chatted over cinnamon bread as the girls went on coasters.

Thank goodness the rain has held off. I am freezing again. I have on enough layers but I still went into the General Store and bought myself a scarf and a super cute hat. My mood has improved significantly from earlier today. Seriously, it’s amazing what a $20 hat and $30 scarf will do for you.

Cozy with a new scarf
Scarf from Dollywood

Ed and Anni decided on two more rides. Lex joined me to sit with Ham and her friends. I scrounged up every remaining quarter I had to give to her so she could feed them. She literally had them eating out of her hand. I snapped a few pics and a video. It was so cute watching my tiny adult grin from ear to ear as she fed them. I can say wholeheartedly that I enjoyed watching her as much as she enjoyed hanging out with Ham and friends.

We had a family-style dinner that was included with our tickets. (I’m going to take a second and rave about the cabin package. The Dollywood Christmas Memories package basically gets you park admission for as long as you’re in the cabin, VIP parking, family-style sit down meal, and 8 fast-pass bypass the line thingies per person. It’s useless on me as I can’t use it.)

Anyway, Aunt Granny’s Restaurant in the park is where it’s at. For $23pp, it’s all you can eat (which we never end up using anywhere near that). You pick 2 meats and 4 sides, all brought out family-style. Ham, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, corn casserole and stuffing. Dessert was your choice of caramel apple pie, sugar cookies, cupcakes or blackberry cobbler.

Another random Anni funny: “this ham is from the pigs that didn’t win the race at the Dixie Stampede.”

We were appropriately thawed out, bellies full and getting sleepy at 645pm. We made our way back to the front of the park, stopping in for a huge fudge order for family and a few souvenirs. Thank goodness for remote start on the vehicle. Just that little walk up to our car (and we had close parking) was chilly and I was very thankful for that heated seat and steering wheel.

Barbara's mug
Barbara's mug

Back up the road to the cabin, we did not see any creatures. So far this trip, we’ve seen some unidentified animal that truly looked like a small bobcat (which is entirely possible up here) but I decided it was a Chupacabra instead. And Philamena the groundhog on the cabin property. No bears.

As we wrap up another night, it’s around 9pm. Everyone was either napping or taking a bubble bath. Meanwhile I started packing up a bit, doing dishes, cleaning up. A mother’s work is never done-even on vacation.

Fireworks from the cabin
Fireworks from the cabin


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