MARGARITAVILLE ISLAND HOTEL
Pigeon Forge, TN
Review by: Lance Hart
(3/23/15) Today Screamscape takes a look at a great new resort that just opened a few months ago… the Margaritaville Island Hotel built at the very heart of The Island in Pigeon Forge.
While most hotels in Pigeon Forge are just about what you would expect from a generic hotel stay, the Margaritaville Island Hotel strives to be different, offering a very high quality experience while bringing the relaxing and laid back Jimmy Buffet / Margaritaville attitude to the Smoky Mountains. This is presented to you right away as you pull your car up and are met by friendly staff in Hawaiian style shirts to help you unload your car. Walking down the path to the lobby you may catch glimpse of guests hanging out by the outdoor fire-pit… and keep in mind that they do offer S’mores kits in the lobby! Once inside you’ll find a relaxing room with big chairs to hang out in by a huge indoor fireplace, a great little coffee shop with bakery items to the left, and the pathway to the Latitudes bar just ahead, to the right of the front desk. Oh… and if you were wondering, the official Margaritaville restaurant is just across the driveway from the hotel, so you can’t miss it.
While the hotel does have free self-parking, it can be a bit of a walk, so I’d highly recommend using the $10 / night Valet Parking service. The staff is great, and you can call down from your room just before you walk out to have them bring your car up front anytime. Just tell them you want to use it when you check in and they’ll add it onto your account. Margaritaville Island Hotel has several different room options to choose from, which you can see from their official website, but to make the most sense of these options you’ll have to understand a bit more about The Island in Pigeon Forge itself.
While The Island in Pigeon Forge started out as a very different style project before stalling out during the economic downfall and changing owners and developers several times over the years, what they have now built and open is really far better than what was originally planned for the site. The entire property is visually anchored by The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, standing 200 feet tall and covered with a great lighting package that makes it visible throughout most of the Pigeon Forge tourist corridor, day or night. Surrounding the Wheel is a well landscaped entertainment zone that offers retail, dining and unique entertainment offerings.
In addition to a couple of smaller rides, The Island currently also offers Arcade City (a large and well run arcade), the Interactive 7D Adventure ride, as well as Island Mirror Maze (which also offers a Laser Maze and Atomic Rush). There are plenty of small shops to browse throughout The Island (with many more on the way) including stores for sweets, toys, puzzles and even a large Build-A-Bear. For the adults, The Island also offers a brand new location for Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine which can show you how “shine” is made on site, as well as give you an extensive taste test of the various fun flavors and variants they've come up with. It is worth mentioning that Ole Smoky has been cooking up some fun seasonal flavors that are good. During my visit they had a tasty Butterscotch flavor, an Orange creamsicle flavored version and the best of all was an incredible Pumpkin Pie flavored one. New flavors are always in the works, and I’ve heard about previous limited runs of Eggnog and Cinnamon flavors, so you never know what kind of treat you may be in for. (note: Ole Smoky also offers a pretty kick butt BBQ sauce that has become a favorite in my family… so keep your eyes open for that too.)
Restaurants is also a place where The Island shines bright, serving as the local site for popular eateries like Mellow Mushroom, Timberwood Grill, Dick’s Last Resort, Margaritaville (of course!) and coming very soon in 2015 is Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen.
Now picture the Margaritaville Island Hotel built in the heart of this complex with all the rooms built up on the second floor, either overlooking the shopping corridor of The Island, or with a River view to the rear, or a Fountain View on the front side, where your rooms overlook a small lake area full of colorful lit fountains that dance to music throughout the day and into the evening. The hotel also features a rooftop pool and jacuzzi area with rentable cabanas, and nearby there is also a large fitness center.
The rooms styles at the Margaritaville Island Hotel vary by layout as well as view options (see the official website to choose) but each comes with a unique feature I’ve never seen anywhere else… an official Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker in each room. For those who are chomping at the bit to make your own in-rooms Margaritas, I do have an important tip for you. Local laws don’t allow for the sale of hard alcohol in Pigeon Forge itself (other than special rules that allow the local Moonshine places to run as long as they make it on site) so you’ll probably either need to bring a bottle of your favorite tequila from home, or stop by one of the liquor stores in Gatlinburg. There was a card in the room about how you can make a Moonshine based beverage as well if you just want to walk over to Ole Smoky. Either way, you can sit out on the balcony and enjoy your beverage of choice from the comfort of your room… an experience made especially more cool if you have a Fountain View room to provide you with an awesome bit of scenery.
Other fantastic features of the rooms are the attractive stacked-stone fireplaces, comfortable beds and chairs, and perhaps my favorite thing of all was the dual-head rain showers. Seriously… I could have spent an hour in the shower alone. It is also worth mentioning that the complimentary bathroom items provided are also well known brand items and not just generic. Each of the rooms also come with free WiFI, a small wet bar with a fridge and microwave, a Keurig coffee maker, lighten mirrors, hair dryer, alarm clock/iPod dock and a 40” flat screen HDTV. The later has an assortment of plugs and inputs in the wall for if you want to stream content to the TV from your own laptop, tablet or smart-phone, so don’t forget to bring along a spare HDMI cable.
Whatever your needs are, trust me, you will be extremely comfortable at the Margaritaville Island Hotel. In fact, this brought to mind another great realization during my stay here… that there is so much to see and do nearby, you can actually just leave the car and walk to a great number of things. I’m not just talking about Margaritaville next door or the other features of The Island, but you are within easy walking distance of other great entertainment options like the Lumberjack Feud show, the Comedy Barn show, Happy Days Diner, Stages West western wear, TGI Fridays, Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride, along with many other tourist shops and eateries. In the past I always found myself driving up and down the parkway, several times a day on most visits… but on this trip I found that I was perfectly fine relaxing either at the Margaritaville Island Hotel, at The Island, or taking a stroll over for a show in the evening at a nearby theater instead… completely car free.