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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Best and Worst Attractions of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

The twin cities of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN are near and dear to my heart.  I have talked about them before here on The Carpetbagger.  I wanted to take some time to really dig into the meat that is the Sodom and Gomorrah of the South.  I wanted to talk about some of the best and worst attractions that these cities have to offer.  Of course in this roadside wonderland best and worst are sometimes the same thing.  

For a look at the many insane mini-golf courses in the area, look HERE.

Also, take a look a Gatlinburg's crown jewel, The Salt and Pepper Museum.

The Guinness World Record Museum

Littering the crowded streets of Gatlinburg are many "museums".  The kind of museum you had no intention of going to but you happen up on them and say "Hey, this looks kinda cool, and hey, they have air conditioning."  They tend to have an outdoor exhibit to wet your appetite and draw you in.  The Guinness World Record Museum has one hell of an eye grabber:  The World's Largest ball of rubber bands!  Which you get to see for free.

Along with a replica of World's Tallest Man Robert Wadlow overlooking. 

I have to be honest, the museum itself isn't as amazing as the Rubber Band Ball.  The museum is oddly lacking in great visuals.  What you will find is a lot of placards with facts on them.   This aside, there are few cool things to see inside.

Like Robin gingerly sliding down a pole.......

Some fat guy that lost a bunch of weight.....

A tattooed lady.....

Elvis's actual boat.....

And last, but not least, this horrifying Possum that I use in my banner.....

Speaking of Elvis........

The Elvis Museum

It appears that the only qualification for an artifact in this museum is that it physically touched Elvis Presley at one point.  This of course means we are treated to quite a few of his shirts.

I can't verify if he ever touched that ivy

And scarves.....

You can feast your eyes on Elvis's gently used toiletries.....

And this super realistic replica of Lisa Marie Presley.....

Basically, if you are obsessed with Elvis this is the place for you.  If you don't care about Elvis's tooth brush, then not so much.

Hill-Billy Village

Disclaimer:  Don't balance a gun on your toe while you point it at your dog.
No trip to Pigeon Forge would be complete without a stop at one of it's original attractions, Hill-Billy Village.  First off, no one is sure why Hill-Billy is hyphenated. 

Now, Hill-Billy village is essentially just a glorified gift shop that sells that same coffee mugs, jellies, and stuffed black bears that ever other gift shop sells.  In addition they have a super classy airbrush t-shirt shop in front.

That outside of the building is adorned with colorful hillbilly cutouts that show hillbillies doing what hillbillies do best: drinking, sleeping and shooting.

And then we have this female hillbilly showing off way too much aureola.

But the main attraction to the Hill-Billy village is the "special attraction" in the back which features a genuine Hillbilly village along with "real" moonshine stills.

Of course it appears as though this exhibit has been left out in the rain for 50 years.  Actually, I'm pretty sure that is exactly what happened.  The cutouts back here are rotting and slowly returning to the earth.

And to top it off, we have a smelly rotten possum skin stretched out on a board.

Pigeon Forge Dinosaurs

Of course the headline attraction in Pigeon Forge is the thoroughly awesome Hollywood Wax Museum.

What you may not know, is that this building was previously the home of a slightly less exciting attraction: The Dinosaur Walk Museum. 

Now, I love the Dinos, but this attraction was insanely short.  There was seriously about ten minutes worth of content.  You could literally stand at the entrance to the museum and see the exit.  That said, they had some pretty cool Dinosaur replicas.

To get your real dinosaur fix in Pigeon Forge head on over to the Jurassic Boat Ride.

The Jurassic Boat ride is either the stupidest or best dark ride I have ever been on, I still haven't decided.  The dark jerky boat ride is loaded with repetitive dinosaur roars, strange made up dinosaurs jumping out of every corner.  My favorite effect is a pterodactyl that flies over your head carrying a kid.   I wish I had my my own video of the inside, but alas, I was so flabbergasted at the time I forgot to document it.  However, Adam The Woo has pretty cool ride through on his Youtube channel. 

The Defunct Carbo's Police Museum

Carbo's Police Museum was another long time attraction that existed in Pigeon Forge.  Its biggest selling point was that it had a nice collection of artifacts related to legendary hardass Southern Sheriff Buford Pusser.  Buford was well known do to the fact that they turned his life story into the movie "Walking Tall", which was later rebooted to feature The Rock. 

Buford was notorious for carrying around a board with him to show that he literally carried "a big stick" (this act would inspire legendary WWF wrestler Hacksaw Jim Duggan).   During his time as Sheriff, Pusser would be stabbed 7 times and shot eight.  He also slapped around a young Jimmy Buffett. 

Buford would battle local moonshine and prostitution rings, which led to the murder of his wife.  Buford himself would die in a mysterious car crash that is often thought to be sabotaged (although some claim he was simply driving drunk).

The Drive By Truckers have an awesome song about the Sheriff called The Buford Stick.

The museum had Buford's stick on display as well as the wreckage of the car he died in. 

Sadly, the museum had a no photography rule, which prevented me from recording these for posterity.

The Museum went out of business a few years back and is now a t-shirt shop.  I like to think they went out of business because they didn't allow photographs.

The Great Smokey Mountain Wheel

Giant freaking Ferris Wheels are in vogue.  With the massive success of the Myrtle Beach's SkyWheel, Pigeon Forge did not want to be left out.   So the Great Smokey Mountain Wheel was raised.

The wheel is accompanied by a small boardwalk area that contains this baffling shooting gallery.

Somehow this gallery manages to not only rip off Disney twice, but also includes a tasteless terrorism joke.

Its a good thing Disney doesn't care about that sort of thing.

Let's head back into Gatlinburg and take a look some more of their museums.


Cooter's is a museum dedicated to the most Southern TV show of all time: The Dukes of Hazzard.  I'll go ahead and kill off my southern cred by admitting that I never watched the show, unless you count that terrible movie with Willie Nelson and Jessica Simpson.

Regardless, the museum is packed full of memorabilia that would be sure to impress any fan of the show.

They also have a TV that plays Dukes of Hazzard non-stop.

And a Dukes of Hazzard themed mini-golf course.....

Of course the big draw is the opportunity to pay money to sit in the General Lee and have your photo taken.

Another draw is the promise of possibly meeting a celebrity, as the cast of the TV show periodically shows up to sign autographs.    When I showed up I found this.

Of course I had no idea who Cletus was, but hell, its always cool to see famous people, right?

My wife actually did watch the show, but she couldn't remember who Cletus was.

Speaking of cars.....

The Star Car Museum

Now, I am no big car guy, but I was pleasantly surprised by this attraction.  First off, it does indeed contain a pretty cool collection of cars used in movies.  This includes the car from the Beverly Hillbilly (with no hyphen) Movie.....

Frank Sinatra's Car......

The Dragula from the Munsters.....

Which inspired the Rob Zombie Song of the Same Name.......

We also have "Kit" from Nightrider......

Complete with the creepiest looking Wax Hasselhoff you could ever imagine.....Just look at him.....

In fact, this museum has some of the most delightfully bad wax figures I have ever seen.....

Just check out the hair on their Tom Cruise.....

And they have TWO terrible Arnolds with their faces blown off....

Come for the cars, stay for the horrifying mannequins.

The World of Illusion

Finally, we have the notorious and controversial World of Illusions in Gatlinburg.  The World of Illusions has been here as long as anyone can remember, to some it is pure nostalgia, to others it is a reviled rip off.  The World of Illusion currently holds a star and a half on Tripadvisor and one star on Yelp.

The museum beckons to you with Mannequins of pop culture figures such as Trinity and Neo from the matrix standing outside.

Doc Brown from Back to the Future.....

Great Scot!
And then there is this random monstrosity....

These figures that draw you in have absolutely nothing to do with what you are about to see inside.

Once you pay your ticket and step in, the first thing you are greeted with his this horrific visage.....

You know you are in for a treat...........

The Museum's theme is "The History of Illusion", which is exactly as vague as it sounds.  The Museum starts out with a few little optical illusions before descending into sheer insanity.  You walk down narrow dark hallways that feel like they are about 2 feet wide and peep through dirty plexiglass at the dioramas showing different examples of Illusions through history.  So what do we have?

 An ancient Egyptian making water pee out of a rock.......

A Magician levitating sideways......

A voodoo witch, that just sort looks like a Halloween mask......

I completely forgot what this exhibit was supposed to portray......

I think that doctor may be a re-purposed Alan Alda from MASH....

Yeah!  He's still wearing the dog tags.

What is completely flabbergasting is the World of Illusions' portrayal of the Grim Reaper, which for some inexplicable reason is Chrles Bronson wearing a Batman outfit.

If you look, you can actually see the Batman symbol on his chest.  Sorry about the huge glare, but it is hard to take a picture through plexiglass in a narrow hallway.

Finally, our tour ends with a pervy superman using his x-ray vision to look at a woman's underwear.  Classy.

I hope everyone enjoyed this journey through these two wonderful cities.  They are always adding and subtracting attractions, and I will forever be on the lookout.

The Carpetbagger

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