Trip to Tennessee - I need advice

We were thinking of taking my In-Laws on a trip to Nashville in late November. In my ignorance I promised them “everything” including Graceland and Dollywood. Then I checked out where those places were and discovered that they are each more than a three hours drive away, and in different directions!

So, considering that the folks are in their 80’s am I being realistic thinking that I can take two day trips to Memphis and to Pigeon Forge (Dollywood). And would those trips be worthwhile?

Anything you can tell me about Nashville & Grand Ol’ Opry or Memphis & Graceland or Dollywood and the Smoky Mountains in November would be greatly appreciated!

Wow, that is a buttload of driving. Nashville to the Smokies is probably a good 4 hour drive. Pigeon Forge and surrounding areas are a tourist trap. The traffic is very. very. slow. for most of the year. The fall leaf season will probably be past peak so the crowds may have quieted down some by then. The uppermost roads in the Smokies close sometime in late November or early December because it snows at those elevations and they don’t want people to get into accidents. Be sure to check the Park’s website to see which roads are open. If you can stand the crawling traffic and the countless souvenir shops that you have to endure on the way to the national park, the Smokies are a great place to spend a day or more. There is plenty to see from the car even if your in-laws can’t do a lot of hiking.

I’ve never been to Dollywood or Memphis, so I can’t comment on those.

Are they Elvis fans at all? My in-laws were, and they loved Graceland. If you have to choose between the trips, I would choose Memphis over Dollywood for that age group. Now if they were 8 year olds…

What kind of things do they like? There are lots of Middle TN dopers who can make some suggestions.

Do yourself a favor and stay home!

You could always spend one night in Memphis and the Smokies during the trip.

I live 30 minutes from Pigeon Forge, and yeah it’s a tourist trap, but I doubt the traffic will be that bad during the day during the week. I haven’t been to Dollywood since I was a kid, so I can’t help you there.

Find a site that lists things to do in Pigeon Forge and see is any of it interests you, because I live nearby and it doesn’t interest me. There is a lot of shopping and some shows ranging from Chinese acrobats to country music.

The mountains are nice though. For 80 year olds, I suggest Cades Cove, which is an 11 mile loop where you can see deer, turkeys, possibly a bear or coyote, rustic cabins, and take a hayride or a ride in a carriage. There are nice photos to be taken, and you don’t even have to get out of the car if you don’t want to. However, it’s about an hour from Pigeon Forge, but if you go to through Gatlinburg and hang a right to get to Cades Cove, it’s a nice drive through the mountains.

I don’t think they close the roads until it actually snows, and even then they may let 4-wheel drives through until it gets bad. But it won’t snow in november, and you won’t miss much unless you want to hike, fish or drive to North Carolina.

I know a couple who live near the smokies and get up early once a month and drive to Memphis, eat at their favorite restaurant, and drive home, but I sure couldn’t/wouldn’t do it.

irspariah - I hear you! :slight_smile:

Brynda - they like Country music (I don’t know what to call the genre of Country they like, but it’s not Garth or Shania, it’s not classic like Patsy or Hank and it’s not anything good either but I do think they like Elvis). They definitely want to go to the Grand Ol’ Opry. They would be slightly interested in scenery and history. They are good sports and somewhat mobile (no walkers or wheelchairs), however I know they can’t spend an entire day on their feet, so we have to pick our spots.

Nashville’s replica of the Parthenon is pretty cool.

Ok, Country Music Hall of Fame sounds like a good idea, then, as well as the Grand Ol’ Opry. I hear that the General Jackson cruise is fun, and will not be too strenuous. In terms of history, there is also the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson’s home) and some Civil War sites. Are they the bar type? There are several bars downtown where one can hear live music.

In Memphis, Graceland is fun. I bet they will find it interesting. We also went to a music museum (blues, maybe?) just off Beale Street that was worth the trip. I wish we had had time to go to the National Civil Rights Museum (

The Gaylord Resort Hotel puts on a Christmas Spectacular starting on Nov 14th. The place is huge with multiple shows, decorations, eating places. It would fill an entire afternoon (and evening with a show there) or evening on the Gen Jackson. Opryland for another day.

for elderly folks, the Grand 'ol Opry is the best bet. even if they don’t like country music, it is still an experience to behold.
this is a great place to visit, as well.

i would definitely skip memphis. i was born there and spent most of my life there. it has turned into a murder capital of the country. my 80+ y. o. mother was assaulted and robbed inside a kroger grocery store in a supposedly “good” part of town. she’s had shoot-outs in her front yard, cars stolen, and property destroyed. we left memphis after two friends were murdered in separate incidents. we won’t even go back there to visit. if your family likes country music, nashville is your best bet. memphis is more blues/rock, with very little country music. graceland is just a tacky old house. they have probably seen all there is to see about graceland on tv. the smoky mountains are beautiful–i haven’t been to dollywood in over 10 years, so i can’t help you there. they might enjoy all the touristy stuff around gatlinburg. i think they have a few theaters there which makes it kinda like branson for the older folks.

oh–i just remembered. it’s been years, so help me out vols–they used to have a casino across the park in cherokee, n.c. is it still there? the elderly LOVE casinos!

If they like touring old mansions, there’s Belmont, the civil-war era home of a fascinating, resourceful woman, Adelicia Acklen.

Opryland Resort has had a neat exhibit every year called ICE! - room after room of themed ice sculptures (parkas provided). Might be too much walking though.

Durn it! Had something else, forgot what it was!

Consider confining your trip to East Tennessee.

[li]Pigeon Forge[/li][li]Dollywood[/li][li]The Oak Ridge Nuclear Laboratory.[/li][li]Rock City[/li][li]Ruby Falls Cavens[/li][li]The Tennessee State Aquarium[/li][li]Some of Chattanooga’s many fine museums (they have a LOT!)[/li][/ol]

Harrah’s Cherokee is still there. There are TV ads for it here in K-town ALL the time.

I’ve spent a lot of time in east TN, and while Chattanooga has some reasonable attractions, none of them seem unique. Like, the aquarium could be anywhere, even though it has a tank or two representing the Tennessee River. And the museums… well if they’re in their 80s, they probably don’t want to be tramping round too much.

The Grand Old Opry, however, is an institution (even if it’s not the original, IIRC) with a great tradition, and is a great experience all round, whoever’s playing. Worth the drive, IMO.

If you do want to stick to the Chattanooga area, though, try the occasional Mountain Opry on Signal Mountain - that really is keeping it real, bluegrass style. And the tour through the Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant is pretty impressive too.

I’d skip the Gatlinburg area…Pigeon Forge/Dollywood is tacky touristy hell. Worse than Panama City Beach in the 1970’s. Fall color will be pretty much done by then anyway.

If they like casinos, do the Mempho run, and pop down to Tunica, MS. Lots of casinos there. Graceland isn’t really my thing, but for an Elvis fan I suppose it’s like going to Mecca. I’ve heard Memphis has a decent zoo, but I haven’t been.

Point of interest only to lawyers–Overland Park is in Memphis, and was the subject of a big environmental case. Think the end result was I-40 makes a huge bend around it.

Memphis also has a riverwalk thingy…think there’s a museum on Mud Island.

Forrest Park is in Memphis. The general is buried there. That might be of some historical interest, but last time I was there, that part of town was kinda…not a good place for octogenarians.

Pigeon Forge is indeed tacky tourist stuff. But some people are into that. Gatlinburg is also tacky tourist stuff, with beautiful mountains around it. I second Cades Cove as a possibility – it’s a 10-mile loop around a beautiful valley with various stops showing various aspects of settler life, and pretty good chance of seeing wildlife.

There’s not much to see at the Oak Ridge Nuclear Laboratory itself, but there’s a Science and Energy Museum in town that’s worth a couple hours, if you’re into that kind of thing.
But a day trip to the Smokies from Nashville would be a long long day. If they do want to see Dollywood, I’d plan on staying overnight somewhere.

“Point of interest only to lawyers–Overland Park is in Memphis, and was the subject of a big environmental case. Think the end result was I-40 makes a huge bend around it.”

it’s Overton Park–that’s where the zoo is located.

I’ve never been to Dollywood, but I can say that I loved seeing Graceland even though I’m not particularly an Elvis fan (though I do enjoy his songs any time I hear them by happenstance…maybe I should re-consider the fact that I don’t own any Elvis music for myself).