Day 3 – Saturday
We arise (me early, her not so much), have breakfast and head into town to start at the Ripley’s Aquarium. If you’ve not had the pleasure of seeing this aquarium you’re truly missing something special. We first bee-line right to the penguins (DD’s favorite creature in all the world). This new part of the exhibit is nothing short of amazing as DD enjoyed being right next to them with little glass between them. She was bummed that they’ll only let people have ‘personal time’ with the penguins on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
We head back into the aquarium and see all the sea life and take our time; we’ve got all day.
After a couple hours we walk for lunch; a place I’ve been promising for quite some time…funnel cakes. Now, I know that funnel cakes aren’t SP approved, but don’t judge me! LOL These are the best funnel cakes I’ve ever eaten and was worth every calorie. Soon we were back out walking and DD’s flip-flop breaks and she needs a new pair. Don’t ask me how people walk around all day in those, but to each their own. After a $6 investment in some clearance flip-flops we’re moving again. Gatlinburg has changed over the years…they’re now the ‘discount purse’ capital of the world. I’ve never seen so many stores have cheap, knockoff purses, but DD enjoyed looking around at them. Soon though the cheap flip-flops are not working and I show her some “nice” flip-flops, but they would be out of her pocket. She slowly concedes to the purchase and we’re moving again. She states that she wants go up in the Space Needle and I say “sure” against my fear of heights. I’m trying to be more adventurous with life because you never know when it’ll end. I’m slow to make my way to the railing, but eventually do. The whole time DD is teasing me about hanging by the elevator. The views were great, but I was glad to be down from there.
Next up was “moonshine” tasting at the Ole Smokey Distillery. DD sits out front and listens to some music while I’m inside ‘sampling.’
After wandering some more stores we head to No Ways Jose’s Cantina for an dinner; food was good. Arriving back at the hotel we both jump on our laptops to catch up with the rest of the world and kick our heels up. Bedtime comes for DD without asking; aaaah the active life.
Day 4 – Sunday
Awaken and breakfast. Today brings something that DD wants to do, but I’m a bit skeptical; Titanic: The Exhibit in Pigeon Forge.
I’m thinking “why in the heck would people pay $25 each in Gatlinburg for seeing a façade.” Well, I’m here to tell you it was one of my favorite things we did. From the ACTUAL artifacts to them having pools of saltwater at 28* (temp of the water that fateful night) that you can stick your arm in for as long as you can stand; I last about 15 seconds, DD about 3. I encourage you to make this a stop if you’re in the area. Afterwards a quick snack at Corky’s BBQ we drop the car off and use the trolley to head back into Gatlinburg for the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum. We wander around a few stores and ‘kill’ time until around 4 for an early dinner at The Pancake Pantry. We’ve heard that it’s expensive, but worth it. We walk up to the doors at 4:15 only to find them locked! Drat! Backup plan; Dick’s Last Resort. As we were trying to avoid places we could eat at home. DD is so picky that I ask what they have for a child’s menu for her. The girl at the desk states no problem and come on in. Once seated the waiter asks if we can take a joke and we’re going to have some fun. He starts reviewing the menu on chalkboards on the wall and I ask for a kids menu for her; she’s just turned 14. He states kids menus are for 12 and under and she can just eat chicken fingers from the adult menu. As he walks away I ask DD “do you want chicken fingers?” Her reply is “no” and I tell her that we’re leaving then. On our way out the door the waiter says “thanks for coming in,” I tell him “thanks for NOTHING” as we walk out the door. Next door is a Mellow Mushroom, a favorite of ours, and we go in there. We have a wonderful meal and then head back out to wander the streets some more. Once we arrive back at our hotel we walk out front to play Ripley’s Davy Crockett mini golf; I win by 1 stroke.
Bedtime comes too quickly, as is the end of vacation.
Day 5 – Monday
Today we head back into the mountains to see some scenery.
I promise no strenuous hikes and a short day of it so we can get back to town for gift purchases and yesterday’s pancakes. We hit one of the overlook and get out of the car to windy conditions and considerably cooler temps than back in town. DD is even shivering at one point.
We push on to our destination; Clingman’s Dome. Once we arrive in the parking lot we jump out and grab our cameras; completely forgetting the CamelBak. We’d packed no snacks as the ‘walk’ is only half a mile; a half mile straight up hill! We stop to rest various times as the air is thinner than she’s used to and her inhaler is in the car. I promise her we can rest at every bench (spaced a tenth of a mile apart) if we keep moving up. We finally make it to the look out and are a bit disappointed to see that the CLOUDS are obstructing our views of multiple states.
We get some decent photos and start making our way back down the hill; this taking it’s own time as well. We realize that we’ve got no snacks and we’re starving. The gift shop has some natural granola bars and DD decides she will attempt to eat one; I devour another. We drive straight back to the hotel to ditch the car and head in to town for the pancakes finally. We were seated promptly and mull over the menu. I decide on pecan ‘cakes and she opts for chocolate chip. A side of bacon and 2 drinks set us back $25, but still very worthwhile.
After lunch DD is TIRED of walking and I offer her to sit in the courtyard area and be my ‘gift drop zone’ while I’m moving about. She agrees and I set off to various places. After picking up the gifts we start looking at the skies as they look stormy. We opt to walk over to the pay shuttle area rather than wait for the free trolley. We no sooner arrive at the trolley stop (covered) and it starts to mist which then turns into a downpour for about 10 minutes. The rain stops and we finally get a trolley back to our hotel. We ask about a nice place to have dinner that we can drive to as to avoid being held hostage to a trolley schedule. He suggests Bear Creek Grill due to it’s variety of menu options; another great place. Afterwards we planned to play one last round of putt-putt, Hillbilly Golf. In all my trips down to Gatlinburg I’ve never played here. After paying and riding the tram up to the starting point, we begin and it’s packed. After a hurry up and wait game DD comes out victorious by 1-stroke and we wait for the tram ride back down the hill.
As we arrive at the car it starts pouring and we need gas. The station near our hotel is out of regular-unleaded, so a trip over to Pigeon Forge is in order. After filling up I spy a Baskin Robbins across the street. Earlier in the week DD asks what Baskin Robbins is; we don’t have them in our area anymore. I announce that we’ll go show her all about Baskin Robbins before heading back to pack.
Day 6 – Tuesday
Bittersweet day. It’s the end of vacation, but I reflect upon all the great time and memories that we’ve shared. We take an armload of things to the car before having breakfast. After breakfast we gather the remainder of our luggage and head to the car, both of us not looking forward to the long drive home. We hit the highway beyond Pigeon Forge and DD is asleep. We make a quick lunch stop at Cracker Barrel, her least favorite place to eat, but does so anyhow. Back on the road we look out and enjoy the day. Once home we unload the car, have dinner and share stories with DW. I have to say it was one of my favorite trips ever. There will only be a few more of these trips over the next few years before college, so I guess we’d better make the most of them.