While on vacation in the mighty Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, we got the chance to check out the Dolly Parton’s Stampede dinner show in Pigeon Forge. While some (Beth) of us had been before, it was the first time for me and the kids. I will admit, I was a bit skeptical in the past. The whole thing sounded maybe a bit hokey, and the price tag was not something you’d go for on a whim, anyway. To be fair, I didn’t grow up going to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, so I don’t have the fond memories of yesteryear to go off of. Now, when you’re up in that area, you’re likely to end up splurging on something(s). Should Dolly Parton’s Stampede be that thing? My answer is yes, and I’m going to tell you why.
(We received discounted tickets for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are our own.)
The Saloon Opening Act
When we first arrived, I was a bit amazed at the size of the building. But then, there were going to be 32 horses, some chickens, even a couple of pigs. Now, ordinarily, zero is the number of horses that I like to have around when I am eating. And while chickens and pigs are welcome on the plate, I don’t really care for them to be in proximity to my meal, either. But I digress. We entered into the main area, which had a bunch of long tables and chairs packed in tight, all surrounding a central dais, just big enough for the three musicians who were playing bluegrass Christmas music. I immediately found myself wondering how they were going to fit any horses in there, much less 32 of them. It turns out that this was just the pre-show waiting area, and the main show took place in a much larger arena. At any rate, the pre-show musicians played some pretty great music, and all three kids enjoyed it. Hungry as I was, even I got caught up in the act, and was a little bit sad when it ended. But suddenly everyone was filing in to the beautifully decorated main arena, in what seemed like a rather haphazard fashion.
The Main Event
They had people posted all around the area, helping everyone find their seats. These were assigned beforehand, and clearly printed on your tickets. Naturally, having carefully looked over the ticket, I missed this completely, until they told me. We were led to our seats, which were toward the back. But their claim is that there isn’t a bad seat in the house, and I support that theory. We were in the second to last row, and yet I could see all the action perfectly. Before we knew it, all 1100 seats in the arena were filled, and things got rolling. Our server came by and took our drink orders, and then the show started. And what a show it was.
We were there for one of the last showings of the Christmas show (and of the season,) so I will spare you most of the details. Suffice to say that I was thoroughly entertained the whole time. It was all family-friendly, but still plenty engaging for all of us. The music and the trick riding both grabbed Beth and me, Skeeter’s incredibly silly antics had Bear rolling, Bug loved the animals (especially the piggies,) and Bean was in Christmas light Heaven. While the show kept to the wholesome side of the street, it never felt hokey. Yes, I admit it, I was wrong about that. It was great. The whole thing could have been just a cheesy cash-grab, but it was finely crafted, and well executed. I left wanting to make sure we could budget this into further trips. So long story short, yes, it was so worth it. I would, and will, do it again.
Wait, what’s that? You want to know about the food? What on earth makes you think that I like to talk about food? Oh, right. Well the food was… how do I put this? AMAZING. They bring you out soup and a biscuit, both of which somehow vanished immediately. Then you get an entire roaster hen, with this fantastic seasoning on it. It was salty, and just a bit peppery*, and delicious. It also vanished somehow. You get a half potato, and a pork chop, and a corn cobbette. Then they clear all of your dishes away, and bring out a flaky, super tasty apple turnover sort of a thing. All of which also vanished, mysteriously. Now, I will say that I could have eaten a little bit more, (and did, since I also skeletonized most of Bug’s hen,) but I don’t hold that against them. First of all, Bean had to share off one of our plates. I was holding him, so I was the lucky one. Second, trying to feed me is a bit like throwing food into an active volcano. It just feels futile, sometimes. Their portions were more than adequate.
*Please note, even if you don’t like peppery foods, this was nothing. Bean was eating it with gusto, and he’s only two. I mean, he won’t even try Wasabi.
So while there are plenty of things that one can splurge on in the area, Dolly Parton’s Stampede needs to be on your list. This may have been my first visit, but it definitely will not be my last. And before you go, make sure to read Beth’s post with tips for Dolly Parton’s Stampede, coming next week.