Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa at Grand National

We’ve found our favorite hotel in this part of Alabama — the almost word-salad level name that is the RSA’s (Retirement Systems of Alabama ) Marriott closest to Auburn. I’ve come to really enjoy the RSA properties, and they regularly get very good ratings. Their Marriott portfolio includes:

Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center
Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa
Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel
The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa
Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spasort & Spa
Montgomery Marriott Prattville Hotel & Conference Center at Capitol Hill
Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa
…and this one at Auburn/Opelika

Hmmm…lots of blue and orange here…
The rooms are pretty monochromatic. They’re comfortable and we enjoyed the balcony view of the lake and pool
The pool is super fun and a nice size — our boys completely loved it.

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Here are some fun things going on in the area:

It really is the loveliest village on the Plains, so just visiting Auburn‘s campus is always going to be fab

The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is small, but often hosts interesting exhibits. For example, Creative Cadences: Works by Roger and Greg Brown (the Brown brothers grew up in Alabama) is showing through November 3.

Coach Dye has a Japanese Maple tree farm and nursery, with 5k+ trees for sale.

Try: Toomer’s always, Mrs Story’s Dairy Bar, and Acre, which is supposed to be amazing.

The Gogue Performing Arts Center opens this fall, and *wow!* Renee Fleming will be on stage September 24.

Staying With Dolly, And Trying To See Bioluminescent Bugs In Parks

When in Rome…well, never mind. That won’t really work here.

But when in Sevierville, Tennessee with the intention of taking the kids to ride roller coasters at Dollywood…

Get a lodge if you’re feeling all mountain-ish, or stay at Dollywood (because generally otherwise, the options are Fairfield and lower).

We pick the Dollywood Dreammore Resort, and just as how it’s a plus to stay on-site at Disney (the last three times, we’ve stayed at WDW’s Coronado Springs Resort, and although I’ve dreamed about the Grand Floridian, the fact remains we are only at the hotel for a swim or sleep, so CS is really a great choice) for extended park hours, transportation, and other convenience factors, and the same is true here for the Dollywood amusement park. There’s the ‘TimeSaver’ which works as a scheduled line pass, a shuttle that has its own entry/exit point at the park, early park entrance on Saturdays, and package delivery.
Dollywood Dreammore Resort, Sevierville TN

And there’s a lot of Ms Parton here (which, especially after knowing about her Imagination Library which sends new books monthly to kids for free, I’m okay with an abundance of Dolly actually). Photographs, an encased bedazzled guitar…um, a whole hallway of backlit album covers…
Dollywood Dreammore Resort, Sevierville TN

There are other touches, like little Dolly messages in the elevators. Otherwise, though, it’s a (as Expedia classified it) 4*, 307-room hotel with valet, free self-parking, and free wifi.

Dollywood Dreammore Resort, Sevierville TN

There are activities the hotel puts on for children each day, but we mostly take advantage of the pools. There is a restaurant, a lounge, and a counter with things like sandwiches — but we mostly eat off-property. This area doesn’t have a great deal of non-chain, interesting restaurants, so while we’ve tried local pizza and local Thai and local whatever, we best like the little Chinatown Restaurant with weird parking and off-menu specials written in what I think is Mandarin (the chongqing chicken and war bar = excellent).

Dollywood Dreammore Resort, Sevierville TN

In the past, we’ve had rooms here wherein the bunk beds are in the same room as the larger bed. This time, though, ‘our’ bedroom was in its own space, and…

Dollywood Dreammore Resort, Sevierville TN

The bunkbeds were in their own area, separated from the main space by a wall. And this thrilled the boys more than sleeping in bunkbeds: they had their own tv.

Dollywood Dreammore Resort, Sevierville TN

I didn’t see a way to program the television to only show certain channels (in hotels, we only let HGTV or Food Network be on, unless some sports game is playing), so the boys kept it on HG until it was bedtime.

Knoxville is only 35 or 40 minutes away from Sevierville, and many times we choose to stay there instead (often at the downtown Marriott or Hilton), which is great because there is *so* much to do right in the middle of the city within walking distance.

Some time soon, I’d like us to think about going up in a hot air balloon ride over the GRSM.  We did not get a spot in this year’s park lottery to be able to get access to the viewing area for the synchronous fireflies (going on right now), but we’re going to try again next year. We also want to try to get over to see the dismalites at Dismals Canyon in NW Alabama.