For four days in the Smoky Mountains, Margaritaville Island in Pigeon Forge, TN was our home. More specifically, the Margaritaville Island Hotel–you know, one of Jimmy Buffett‘s places. If you’ve never checked out a Jimmy Buffett place: Margaritaville Cafe, Margaritaville Hotel, Margaritaville Casino, or Cheeseburger in Paradise, you should. He can really put you in that 5 o’clock-somewhere-frame-of-mind. My husband has even bought a pair of Margaritaville Boat Shoes and I hear Jimmy Buffett may be opening retirement homes next. I’ll need to check that out!
The Margaritaville Island Hotel was awesome. Our room was tastefully decorated and had a comfy king-sized bed, fireplace, hot tub, and frozen concoction maker. The front desk actually had concoction mixes and recipes available for sale . We didn’t actually get around to making any concoctions, but the recipes looked good, like the Blackberry Moonshine Margarita. Each room also has a copy of Jimmy Buffett’s book, “Tales From Margaritaville“, which I made a dent in reading while relaxing in our hot tub. Our balcony overlooked the Little Pigeon River and came complete with a blue heron who hung out there every evening.Outside of the hotel, there were a lot of options for eating, shopping and entertainment. We really didn’t need to leave the Island for anything. Aside from Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, we stopped in at Dick’s Last Resort which is where your food is served with an attitude and they are known for their “crappy hour”. The atmosphere was hilarious, and came with free, insulting hats made by the servers.
We ventured in to Bootleggers Winery because of the sign below the bar that says, “High Class My Ass”. They were hosting tastings of their wines which had names like Mountain Muscat and Scuppernong. It sounded like a place with a sense of humor. After sampling 10 varieties, we took a bottle of tasty Strawberry Wine back to our room. If you are a fan of sweet wines, this one is for you.
Right next door was the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery which is where we then sampled the shines. The first flavor was Ole Smoky White Lightnin’ Moonshine which almost convinced me I could grow hair on my chest. I know where they get the name White Lightnin’–it was burning hot on the way down. We had other flavors like Blackberry and Raspberry (this is about the time I decided the Island was a really fun place!), and my favorite wound up being Snow Cream Moonshine which would have been incredible poured over vanilla ice cream or in coffee. Our server also gave us some pretty novel ideas of how to incorporate shine into our everyday life!
Whew! After all that moonshine, we intended to take a break from the sampling and do some shopping around for a while. We came across a store called the Village Idiot which was a MUST SEE on my list just because of the name. They had really unique gift ideas (did a little Christmas shopping) and some cute clothing. Next, we discovered what would become our favorite shop on the Island, The Beef Jerky Outlet.
If you have ever met my husband, you know he LOVES beef jerky. This shop let us sample any flavor we wanted to try, which was right on time after all the wine and moonshine samples. We tried some Slap Ya Mama, Teriyaki Smoked Beef, Blazin’ Cajun (which WAS Blazin’), and Prime Rib. We ended up buying 2 lbs of the Prime Rib and getting another 1/2 lb free of Blazin’ Cajun, which we took hiking with us the next day. We also picked up a Wild Game Sample Pack which has jerky made from 9 different animals including Alligator, Ostrich, and Kangaroo. I wonder what special occasion we’ll break those out for?
Beyond the eating, shopping, and sampling, there are other activities too. You can take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, which is an incredibly large ferris wheel with gondola seats, or there’s the Island Ropes Course, which had ziplines. You could also go in a Mirror Maze, Bungee Jump, or pan for Gems at the Island Miner’s Gems, which really looked pretty fun. The Miner’s Gems hostess assured us EVERYONE finds a gem, so I’ll be giving that a whirl next trip.
We also spent a few hours at the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, which was very entertaining and educational. We did the VIP tour, which gained us access to the interactive exhibits, audio tour, and participation in “The Heist” (which we solved). The museum features a tour through American crime history beginning in the pirate days, includes mobster times, and continues through modern day crime and crime scene investigation. They had a huge collection of crime related artifacts (think OJ Simpson’s white bronco and Ted Bundy’s VW Beetle) and lots of other fun, interactive activities. I learned there that I am a very accurate aim with a machine gun.
After all the activity of the Island, you can always find a rocking chair to sit in to watch the Dancing Fountains, or you can find a chair, poolside and have a frozen concoction. Regardless of your age or idea of fun, there’s a little something of everything for everyone at Margaritaville Island!