This summer we decided to go back to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We had a great time here back when Jacob and Max were the little ones. This time we flew here because we had some airline vouchers that were going to expire. There wasn't a really close airport, the choices were Asheville, NC and Knoxville, TN. We chose Asheville, I think they were about the same distance. It took us about 2 hours to drive to our resort from the airport.
We are staying at Club Chalet. Which has a number of units in the mountains near the Ober Gatlinburg ski resort. Our unit is 8b, which is the bottom half of this building.
The unit is very old and a lot musty for the record. If I had not known what we were in for ahead of time, I would have been grossed out. I had read about it though and seen pictures and it was actually better than I anticipated. It's kind of like we are roughing it in an old mountain cabin.
Here are some pictures of the inside:
|Adequate kitchen and dining area|
It's not really big enough for our bunch, but we don't plan on spending a lot of time in the room anyway.
After we arrived and unpacked I dropped off Kyrie and the four oldest kids at one of the pools and Zach and I drove to Wal-Mart to pick up some groceries and a few other things we needed. That was a mistake. Wal-Mart is quite far from here, especially with all of the tourist traffic in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It took us forever and Kyrie and the kids were stranded at the pool since it was too far to walk back to our room. I think the kids had a good time though.
The nicest thing about this "resort" is the pools. There are three separate pool areas. We checked out two of them. This one is the closest to us and the best for kids. It was really nice.
The play structure was impressive too and the kids definitely had a good time in the play area and the pool.
We wouldn't even have minded being stranded except that my phone was out of batteries so we didn't know how long we would be there and I always start to worry something bad has happened.
Day 2 -
We had planned to go to The Apple Barn in Sevierville for breakfast, but since we did sleep in, we were all pretty hungry by the time we got ready and hit the road. Marc spotted this place quite close to us in Gatlinburg, and it looked cool so we decided to give it a try instead of trekking another 30 minutes to The Apple Barn.
I am glad we stopped here, it was very good! It's funny though, when we got there the place was practically empty and I thought it was because we were so late (9:30am) that we missed the crowd. Turns out we were early! There was a line out the door when we left.
|Gatlinburg (in the evening)|
|Many outrageous buildings adorned Pigeon Forge's roadside|
After breakfast we took a brief driving tour of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. When the kids weren't bickering with each other, they enjoyed seeing all of the sights and planning stuff they wanted to do. Then we stopped at the Sugarlands Welcome Center in the National Park to watch a movie about the Smokey Mountains and learn about the national park. We enjoyed the little museum there that showed some of the plants and animals that inhabit the park.
There is also a nice gift shop that is not priced any higher than any of the area shops. I bought a beautiful Christmas ornament there to commemorate our trip.
|The kids were fascinated by this Turkey's hairy chest|
After that we headed back to the room to get a little rest before heading out the Dollywood for the rest of the day.
We arrived at the park just a little before 3pm because they have a special that if you arrive after 3pm then you can go the next day for free. When we got there it was all sunshine and smiles...
...before this happened...
|The pie cost $130 or about $18 for a slice|
Today, we spent the whole day at Dollywood.
Dollywood has a small park feel, but is quite large. It reminds me a lot of Silver Dollar City (in Branson, MO) to the point where I wonder if the two parks were created by the same people originally. The park works with it's natural surroundings and because of that there are quite a few steep hills to walk up. The abundance of trees hide the rides, so the map is often necessary to figure out where stuff is. Dolly Parton's presence is evident in much of the park, including a Dolly Parton museum, tour bus, a replica of her childhood home, and of course her music is often playing in the park.
We arrived before the park opened and headed straight to some roller coasters. Max went on the Fire Chaser Express this time and really liked it. Zoe skipped it this time.
After that, Kyrie and Jacob went on several of the big coasters while I took the little ones to some of the play areas. They all loved building with the giant Legos.
|Max's Flower Garden (Ever since he was three he's been building flowers out of Lego and Duplo blocks.)|
|I tried to get a picture of Zoe in the crab suit, but she got so mad while she was getting it on, that I couldn't get the picture.|
|The first of MANY penguin pictures. This is Derby. He played with Max for like 10 minutes, following his every move.|
|I didn't include most of the penguin pictures, since this all look pretty much the same.|
|Our gang scurrying across the street to the restaurant|
We met up with Kyrie at lunchtime and ate at No Way Jose's.
|See what happens when the kids pose themselves?|
We started the day at The Village shopping area where we had a doughnut at the Donut Friar (we really need to get home and eat "healthy" food!), and watched some pottery being made at Alewine Pottery. The boys are fascinated by pottery now and want their own pottery wheel. Then we walked around downtown Gatlinburg for a while. We went to Ripley's Believe it or Not Odditoreum which is always a good time. We hadn't been to this one yet, but we've visited the one in Wisconsin Dells and San Antonio. This one had many of the same exhibits, but was still a lot of fun. By the way, all of the Ripley's stuff in Gatlinburg (including the aquarium) has a great homeschooling discount, so if you're a homeschooler make sure you research this ahead of time. (Admission to any Ripley's attraction including the aquarium is $7 per person. Bring your homeschool student IDs.)
After the Odditoreum, it was time for lunch. We ate at The Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant. They have a wide variety of unusual pizzas. It was very good but very slow.
On our way back to the car, we ordered a wooden sign for our vacation house and then headed to Pigeon Forge to pickup the engraved rock that Jacob picked out for his souvenir yesterday. Zach and Zoe fell asleep so I stayed in the car with them while the others did the mirror maze at MagiQuest. They had a lot of fun doing that. It's always overpriced, but also a lot of fun.
Finally, to end our trip with a bang, we went to the Hatfield and McCoy's dinner show. The theater for this show is really cute both inside and out. The show itself wasn't anything special, but it was pretty good. Zach really liked the music and the food was good.
Well, tomorrow morning is our flight home, so this is probably it for the blog for this trip. We had a good time in the Gatlinburg area. Our hotel could have been a lot better, but it was fun staying up in the mountains. I wouldn't recommend Club Chalet, which is a shame because the staff was all real nice and the location is excellent. Unfortunately, the room needed a lot of maintenance now that we have someone staying above us I found out that there is no insulation between the first and second floor. So we hear every step they take and I'm sure that in the middle of the night they'll be hearing Zach every time he wakes up. I definitely can recommend Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge though. There's a ton of fun stuff to do, including quite a few things that we couldn't do because of the babies. My favorite was just the little hike we went on to the waterfall. I know the kids loved pretty much everything - except being in the car! Anyway, I look forward to coming back again someday.