Sunday, October 12, 2014

Gatlinburg Family Trip!

For Fall Break this year, 2014, we decided on our first family getaway that was just the 4 of us. No grandparents. No friends. Just us. We.had.a.blast.

Day 1
We left on Sunday morning and made the drive to east Tennessee. We stopped in Nashville and picked up CPK to go (California Pizza Kitchen) because we don't have a CPK in Memphis (awful, right?!), and we took it to the Lipscomb University campus which was close by. We had a nice picnic lunch and the kids ran around before getting back in the car for a few more hours. We, unfortunately, hit some traffic related to an accident outside of Knoxville that delayed our arrival about 45 minutes, but we still made it to Pigeon Forge in time for dinner. We ate a terrible-for-you country dinner at Mama's Farmhouse. Dee-lish. Then we made our way on to Gatlinburg and our hotel. We stayed at the Westgate Smoky Mountains Resort. All the rooms were suites with full kitchens and built of logs to look like cabins. And the trash outside had to be in protective bins to keep bears out. I loved it. :)  Getting the kids to sleep was a nightmare because putting them in the same bed is always a bad idea. They either play or fuss with each other and don't go to sleep until we separate them and put one in our bedroom and threaten the other. Sigh...

Day 2
We were up early (and east TN is an hour ahead on EST) to be at Dollywood when it opened. We learned from a trip to CA a couple years back that waiting to do something like a full day at a theme park at the end of your trip is a bad idea due to overtired kids, so planned it first. Dollywood was fantastic! It was so quaint and all decorated for Fall. The setting was beautiful, nestled in the Smoky Mountains. There was no line for the kids rides, which we did all morning. We were progressing to some bigger rides when rain interrupted our day and it got cold. We learned that the extend a rain check in these situations and allow you to come back free another day, so we took that and left. We had driven through Pigeon Forge on our way in Sunday, so we decided to drive through downtown Gatlinburg to see what was there. We stopped at an outdoors store where Luke climbed a rock wall, or at least 3 feet of a rock wall before he decided it was not for him. Then we headed on back to our hotel.

Lacey fell asleep on our way back and so we rested before rallying for dinner. Dinner was at a Mexican place in Gatlinburg across from the Aquarium. Ripley's Aquarium was fantastic. Much better than I expected and Luke loved it. Allen got some great pictures that I'll post below. By the time we were done with the aquarium, it looked like it was going to rain, and was getting late, so we headed back to the hotel for bed.

Day 3
Waterpark day! We purposely chose this hotel because it had a full kitchen and because it had an awesome indoor waterpark, Wild Bear Falls. It was only 60-something outside, but they had the heater on inside and the water in the area for smaller kids was bath temperature and felt great. The lazy river was also semi-heated.  Luke was 4" too short for the biggest slides, but he had fun playing on the huge water play set with all the features. The kids had a blast. We ate lunch there and played some more before calling it quits around 2:00. We went back our room to shower and rest before heading to the Dixie Stampede.

The Dixie Stampede was so much fun! The pre-show was amazing! Three guys with a banjo, bass, and guitar who were all world-class musicians gave an excellent show. Then we were ushered to our seats for the real show. The kids LOVED it. Especially Luke. Dinner was delicious, but there were NO utencils. What?! I was not cool with that. They brought each person a full rotisserie chicken with no way to eat it but your hands!! Regardless, the meal was so tasty and the entertainment was cheesy, but like I said, the kids loved it and it was a must-do when visiting Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area.

Day 4
We decided to chill a bit and went to the outlets for a couple hours in the morning. The kids were hungry and frustrated with shopping, so we went to The Island in Pigeon Forge, which is basically a small fun park with rides, lots of great restaurants, and an arcade. We ate pizza for lunch and then Luke and Allen went to the arcade for a short time while I let Lacey do a couple rides.

After that we used our rain checks to go back to Dollywood. Luke and I rode a couple roller coasters, one of which included a 45 minute wait and I was unsure that Luke could quite handle such a big coaster. He insisted on riding, and he was tall enough, so we waited and he was a great sport. The roller coaster was so fun and he loved it! Allen was a great sport, too, and spent the time Luke and I were off doing our rides with Lacey and kiddie rides.

By the end of that, we were exhausted and so decided to go back to our hotel to eat. There was a restaurant that looked really good and so we gave it a go. It was a bit of a bust. A really expensive bust. And Lacey was overtired and her behavior was getting out of control, so she and I sat in the car and waited for Luke and Allen to be finished. It was time to head back up to our room for showers, packing, and bed.

Day 5
Headed home! We ate breakfast in our room, as we had all week, packed up, and headed out. The trip home was fairly uneventful and Lacey finally fell asleep about 2:30. We made it home by 5:00. By the time bedtime came around, I'd made and cleaned up dinner, unpacked suitcases and I'd done 3 loads of laundry. Total exhaustion settled in from such an eventful week! What a blast we had!!

Here are some pictures:

Ripley's Aquarium


Luke tried climbing a rock wall and only got a few feet up before deciding 
that heights were not for him. 

Waterpark Fun!

Can't wait for next year's Fall Break!