Tournament semifinal: Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas vs. Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival

March 31, 2011, 8:51 AM · Here we are. We're down to the last four events in our 2011 Theme Park Insider Tournament. (I'd say that they were the "final" ones, but a certain organization has that phrase trademarked.)

So let's start by congratulating Dollywood, Walt Disney World and the Universal Studios theme parks for getting this far. Every event in this year's tournament is a great event, but these have proven themselves the best of the best, as evident by your votes in their support.

But while all of these events are excellent, only one can be the best. The former grammar teacher in me insists upon that… ;^)

So which will it be? Let's make our next cut today, by choosing between Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas and Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World.

Over the course of the tournament, you've have many opportunities to talk about these events, and you have another today, in the comments. But before you comment or vote, I'd like you to forget about the themes of these events and instead focus on their execution. Which park has done the best job of creating something that provides a unique experience that gets you excited to visit every year, as opposed to all the other Christmas events or food festivals out there?

The vote is open until noon Eastern (9am Pacific) on Friday. At that time, we'll open the polls for our second semifinal, the sibling rivalry battle for which many of you have been waiting: Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights vs. Universal Studios Florida's Halloween Horror Nights.

Replies (11)

March 31, 2011 at 9:22 AM · I usually follow this bracket on paper, but this year it's been tough because there wasn't a particular rigidiy to how the events were matched up. My bracket is busted, because I had Horror Nights vs. Horror Nights in the finals. At least I have one right.
March 31, 2011 at 9:24 AM · Based on what Robert says about focusing on execution of the event I'm voting for Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas! No building goes without lights, no restaurant, shop, etc is left without decorations inside, menu's get dressed up and EVERY light is stapled to point the same exact direction. If that is not great execution of a event where you have more than 4 million lights I don't know what is!
March 31, 2011 at 9:29 AM · Yeah, without ongoing ride ratings to seed a bracket (since we don't do reader ratings of events), I tried to match up events in ways I thought made sense for round one.

And with 20 events, I needed to throw in some byes, too, which further screwed up any attempt to make a fixed bracket.

As a result, I felt it best to go with an NHL-style reseed after each round, so that the match-ups would make as much sense as possible. But, yeah, that takes some of the fun out of it when you can't create your own bracket at the beginning of the tournament.

Lesson learned for me. We'll do things differently next time.

March 31, 2011 at 7:40 PM · I've never been to Smoky Mountain Christmas, but I've seen pictures and videos, and it does appear to be one of the best Christmas overlays in any park. However, it is just an overlay with some timely shows and of course Santa. However, F&W is a completely unique experience that is unlike anything that any other park in the world undertakes. It brings hundreds of chefs from around the world in a multitude of different events and experiences that is so expansive that even the locals have difficulty getting their fill.
March 31, 2011 at 8:44 PM · How could Food and Wine be tanking? Its seriously the best event in ANY theme park.

Who doesn't like food?

March 31, 2011 at 9:36 PM · Voting for Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas again. They start putting up Christmas lights in July just to get ready for this event! It is just spectacular!
April 1, 2011 at 4:44 AM · Dolly is the best at all she does. This festival is also the best.
April 1, 2011 at 5:00 AM · Dollywoods Christmas event is over the top. In my view it is the best Christmas event you are ever going to find. The lights are so well done and the shows are all great. We go every year and spend several days. You can not do it all in one day. Dollywood works so hard to make this special. If you love Christmas, you are going to love this event! Take a look at this one example of the shows.
April 1, 2011 at 8:34 AM · Voted for Smoky Mountain Christmas the event is a family tradition for us. It is our families official kickoff to the Christmas season!
April 4, 2011 at 10:38 AM · Had to vote for our favorite Park... Dollywood! We buy season passes every year because it is such a fun place to visit while camping in the Smoky Mountains. This park stays up to date with attractions, family oriented & really cares about its guests. We enjoy the Smoky Mtn Christmas every year at Dollywood. Even in the cooler weather you can ride rides, walk around and see the lights and just have a great time all day! We camp in our travel trailer in Pigeon Forge & usually stay for 7-10 every other month. While there it is a must to visit Dollywood at least 2-3 days out of our stay and sometimes more! Love it!!! :)
April 4, 2011 at 12:02 PM · Christmas would not be Christmas without my seeing Dollywod's Smoky Mountain Christmas. It is so inspiring!!!

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