Last week the kids and I had the opportunity to visit the Smoky Mountains (specifically Pigeon Forge) with my parents and nephews. My Dad was kind enough to come to West TN to pick us up so that I wasn’t on the road alone with both kids during the 7ish hour trip.
We headed East on Friday morning and met my brother about lunch time to pick up his boys before making the last bit of the journey. When we got into Pigeon Forge Friday afternoon, we checked into the hotel and took the kids to the indoor pool to enjoy a swim after being cooped up in the car for several hours. Little wasn’t wild about the pool (as I expected), but she enjoyed sitting on the steps with her Bebe and watching her cousins swim and wrestle around in the water (the boys are 12 and 8 years old).
Saturday was M’s day (M is the 12 year old) since that was the only day he was going to be with us (for some reason he thought it would be more fun to spend the week at the beach with his best friend than to spend the weekend with his grandparents and aunt). We ended up at a place called WonderWorks which is a kind of hands-on museum/interactive attraction. It has all kinds of “exhibits” that range from a climbing wall to stacking blocks with robotic arms, computer quizzes (anything from weather to space travel), a bubble lab, and a lot more. It was quite interesting (although quite busy since it was a rainy day), and the kids (all four of them) really enjoyed it, and so did the adults. Boo’s favorite part was pushing all the buttons he could reach, and Little really liked the bubble lab and the computerized painting station. We swam some more Saturday, and Little was brave enough to get in the water with me, although she held on very, very tightly the whole time.
Sunday we spent the day at Dollywood. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ride anything! Aunt L and Uncle J met us for the day, and Little and Boo really liked getting to spend some time with them (we hadn’t seen them since Christmas). Little rode the kiddie coaster with Aunt L and L (her 8 year old cousin), and Little and Boo both rode the Rockin’ Roadway cars and loved it. After the kiddie coaster, Little wasn’t too sure about the other kids’ rides, but Boo rode the Piggy Parade and Lucky Ducky (both just go around in a circle). After those two Little said, “I think there’s some other rides that go around in a circle that Boo can ride.” As in, “I’m not going to ride them, but Boo seems to be having fun!” It was a fun day wandering around the park, watching the kids enjoy themselves, and spending time with my brother and SIL. And I got to eat chili-cheese ribbon fries…yum!
Monday we loaded up and went into Gatlinburg to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. I had heard a lot of good things about the aquarium but had never visited. When we first walked in there was a HUGE tank of fish, and it would have been worth admission just to see Little and Boo’s faces when they saw that! We spent about 4 hours winding our way through the tanks of fish, lizards, and frogs. There is a section of “valves” that have wheels the kids can turn and my two would have spent hours right there. Little, although very hesitant in the beginning, really liked the “moving sidewalk” that carries you through a huge course of tunnel tanks containing sharks, schools of fish, stingrays, and various other sea creatures. It was really neat to see the sharks and HUGE stingrays swimming over and alongside of you. Little’s favorite parts were the ginormous stingrays (both in the tunnel tanks and the stingray tank) and a statue of a blue marlin with a fish impaled on it’s spear.
Monday afternoon/evening we swam again and Little went as far as sitting on the side of the pool and “jumping” into my arms. I was very proud of how brave she was in the pool because she has always been pretty terrified of water that is over her head! Boo on the other hand thought he could swim on his own and was constantly trying to get away from whoever held him. I let go of him a couple of times and let him go under thinking it would show him that he needed to be held, but he wasn’t buying it. He came up spitting and sputtering and was ready to go again. That boy is fearless.
Tuesday morning we went on a trolley ride and then Grandad took Little and L mini golfing and to the arcade while Bebe, Boo, and I did a little shopping. Boo ate up the trolley ride (he was very excited to ride the “choo choo”), and Little loved mini golf. I’m told she uses a croquet swing instead of a golf swing, but it must be effective since she shot a hole-in-one on one hole. Then we loaded everyone up and headed back to my parents’ house for Tuesday night before Grandad brought me and the kids home on Wednesday.
We had a few rough times (Little and Boo were tired, clingy, and missing their Daddy by the end of the trip), but it was definitely worth it. It is so much fun to see the looks of discovery on the kids faces when they experience something new and the looks of delight when they are having a great time with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. It would have been better if Matt could have joined us, but we all had a great time!