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SE Trip Lite- silver2005's Trip to Carowinds and Dollywood


silver2005
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So, I've been thinking about a possible trip this year, and I feel my options are a bit limited due to how parks have been functioning due to covid issues. I feel the best course of action is to do my initially planned SE trip and trimming it down to just Carowinds and Dollywood with a few days in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge thrown in.   There is only a slight possibility I'll throw in KD, but I won't be doing BGW.  I am trying to go on a bit of a budget since I am saving for bigger life things for 2022.  There's also a chance I may do  short trips to CP and/or KK in there as well. 

I'm mostly familiar with the TN portion, but any additional tips on that (since I haven't been down there in a decade) and on Charlotte would be of great help (particularly lodging for both).  The trip will likely be in mid-July.   I'll likely be doing 3 full days in Gatlinburg (1 for the Gatlinburg strip, 1 for GSMNP, and 1 for Dollywood).  I'll be doing Carowinds first. 

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  • silver2005 changed the title to SE Trip Lite- silver2005's Trip to Carowinds and Dollywood

We have made 3 trips to Carowinds. 2016, 18 and 19. Had 2 days at the park for the first two, only one the most recent with fastlane. It was easy to do everything multiple times in one day with fastlane. 

We have stayed at the Hampton Inn Charlotte/South Park at Phillips Place. It's SO WEIRD. South Park is this crazy upscale little area of a few blocks. They still have free parking at this one unlike some city Hampton Inns. We really enjoy it, it's the most memorable Hampton Inn I've stayed at. About 15 minutes from the park and also about 15 minutes to downtown Charlotte. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

As far as Carowinds hotels we have stayed at the Comfort Inn right across the street (it is on the South Carolina side).  It is nothing fancy but it is pretty affordable.

With the Dollywood question, Wednesday would be the best day by far unless the weather didn't cooperate.  I forget, have you been there since Lightning Rod has been there?

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^Dollywood just completed the loop between Thunderhead and Tennessee Tornado the last time I was there.  I've been there 3 times and know enough what I am doing there, even with the new stuff.   I also know what I want to do in G-burg/PF. 

This will be my first time to Carowinds. 

The itinerary as of now is leave for Charlotte on a Sunday, Carowinds on a Monday, travel to Gatlinburg on a Tuesday and wing it the rest of the day there, and spend Wednesday-Friday in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge (one day for tourist-y stuffs, one day for Dollywood, one day for GSMNP).  I am going to try and get in at least 2 alpine coasters as well.  Want to get to at least one restaurant in TN that serves good rainbow trout, too. 

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You should be able to get everything easily done at Carowinds on a Monday.  If you are wanting to do Nighthawk, I'd recommend hitting it early or first thing because it seems slower to load than Firehawk did.  Carowinds has good ops on Fury and Intimidator so you can do those whenever thru the day as you wish.  Copperhead is a little slower to load with less capacity so I'd probably try to hit it early as well.

Of course you'll want to do the Eagles.  Carolina Skytower also gives great views of the park if you choose to do it.  One thing that is unique about Carowinds is one of the states has a higher tax rate than the other so ask about that if you have merch you want to buy.

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Nighthawk does not duel load like Firehawk did. So if its a hot sunny day you are waiting on the brake run staring at hot sun. Try and ride that one at night if the park is open late. When you say Eagles do you mean Mountain Gliders? I rode one like it at Indiana Beach and thought it was terrible. I almost got sick. The park does have cheap hotels right across the street. I have stayed at Best Western and the Motel 6. I prefer Best Westerns but the Motel 6 is likely somewhere around $65 and a nice hotel.

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Yeah, I'll be going cheap in Charlotte since its only 2 nights.  I may go a bit nicer for a hotel in TN.  This isn't a terribly expensive trip if I go super cheap, so I have room to splurge on things including nicer hotels and even go FLP at Carowinds if I want to go nuts.  B) Most of the Gatlinburg/PF stuff I want to do is on the cheap side or even free, I have Platinum from 2020 for Carowinds.  Dollywood is the only big expense outside hotels.  

Would like suggestions for a good Carolina style BBQ joint in Charlotte (outside of Carowinds). ;) May venture downtown depending on what time I get there.   

The target week I have in mind is July 18th-23rd.  

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  • 2 weeks later...
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So apparently, I have to wait to reserve a date for Dollywood since they only go a month or so.  Carowinds I can reserve anytime.  

Kinda sucks with the former since, with me being in the area 3 days, I would like some flexibility due to weather (I understand why I can't though).  Glad I'm likely going in the middle of the week at least. 

At least I'm finding decent hotels in my price range on the G-burg strip. 

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6 hours ago, silver2005 said:

So apparently, I have to wait to reserve a date for Dollywood since they only go a month or so.  Carowinds I can reserve anytime.  

Kinda sucks with the former since, with me being in the area 3 days, I would like some flexibility due to weather (I understand why I can't though).  Glad I'm likely going in the middle of the week at least. 

At least I'm finding decent hotels in my price range on the G-burg strip. 

if you have a season pass you can just reserve Dollywood for 3 days in a row regardless of if you plan on using all 3. That gives you some flexibility.

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^Probably, but the current issue is they aren't offering reservations to the dates I want yet.  I'm going in mid-July and their reservations only go through June.  I'll probably pounce on the day(s) I want when they become available though. 

I'm also planning on bringing a decent camera as well, particularly for the day I spend in GSMNP.  Going to try and get some decent trail walking in.  

If anyone had to narrow down 2-3 alpine coasters, which are the ones to go with?

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think I'm going to book on my next off days.  Still have to wait on Dollywood's calendar to reach the days I want to reserve.  I didn't expect to find hotels in my price range right in the thick of PF and Gatlinburg.  Will definitely have some extra money to splurge a bit.

Also, reminder to future self- get Dollywood's cinnamon bread. 

EDIT: I'm also crossing my fingers regarding Carowinds in hopes they're not in as bad a spot as CP is right now. 

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Trip is all booked.  Got decent hotels in my price range right next to Carowinds and right on the Pigeon Forge strip.   Hitting Carowinds on a Monday, Dollywood on a Thursday.  Going July 11-17.

EDIT: Routing is very convenient- there is one route I can take to Carowinds that goes by Gatlinburg.  Makes navigation easy.  

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I was at Dollywood last weekend.  One thing I would say I noticed more is that coasters weren't always opening with the park.  Lightning Rod in particular seemed to still be having issues off and on.  

One good thing is that Lightning Rod now has a single rider line.  They were also testing a single rider line for Mystery Mine near the exit of the ride so who knows if that will be still be occurring when you are there or not.

I did ride a couple new mountain coasters at Rowdy Bear Pigeon Forge.  They have a deal where you can get 3 rides on the coasters for $30.  So you can ride both coasters they have and then choose whichever one you want for the third ride.  I liked the Laser Gun one a little more than the Powered coaster but both were fun.

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I may try to do Lightning Rod first or as early as possible if I see its open. 

Is Carowinds and/or Dollywood still doing reservations or have they ditched it now that its later in the season (I have reservations for both)?

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Gonna squeeze in a TR for another park before my main trip.  Likely going to the Hartland next Monday.  Sounds like a bad idea on paper (considering its the day after the 4th), but I'm okay with a shorter visit.  

Plus the Runs and Storm Runner are worth the venture.

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Starting to piece together the Gatlinburg part of the trip.

Along with the full day downtown (likely Friday to cool down), I will probably venture there when I travel from Charlotte on Tuesday since its only a few hours away.  Planning on 2-3 alpine coasters on top of the new credits from Carowinds (all) and Dollywood (all newer than Mystery Mine).  Getting up to over 130 credits when all said and done.  Doing a few of the tourist museums, the chair lift, at least one round of putt-putt, finding somewhere that serves rainbow trout, and other shenanigans.  50/50 on the aquarium. 

For GSMNP (Wednesday), I will definitely be doing the Laurel Falls trail and venture up to Clingmans Dome.  Definitely need to sort through all the stuff there as well. Might work in other stops as well (making sure I'm well stocked on empty camera data storage and battery life). 

Dollywood (Thursday) is self explanatory.  Need to get the cinnamon bread this time (yet another reminder to future self).  

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