Friday, September 21, 2018

Gatlinburg Family Adventure - Ripley's Aquarium, The Old Mill & Sugarland Cellars

If you've been following my blog then you may of seen that my husband surprised me with a weekend getaway to Gatlinburg, TN this past weekend. If not, then you should check out Day 1 of our trip to the Chimney Tops, The Island, Crave Putt Putt and more!

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Below you will find what we did on Day 2 and 3 of our trip. Feel free to leave a comment below of what you thought of the attractions we visited!

DAY 2
The second day we woke up and walked to Ripley's Aquarium. We decided to go to the Aquarium shortly after it opened so it wouldn't be as packed and I'm glad we did because when we were done, there was a long line for tickets. 

On the way to the aquarium, most of the shops were closed still so we posed with all the fall decorations and cool things we found on the strip.

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Here is what happens will you explain to your kids that this is what the old bathrooms use to look like and tell them to act like they are going potty...

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Ripley's Aquarium
If you haven't been, you should check it out. I have been to a few different aquariums and this is one of my favorites. The kids really enjoyed it and so did my husband and I. 

If you buy tickets online, it's cheaper. I also saw coupons in one of the coupon books making it the same price as online. My youngest was free and my husband got a teacher discount (ID & pay stub needed). 

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The aquarium had some cool animal exhibits and interactions like touching a horseshoe crab, a jelly fish, and a sting ray. It also had a 4 story play area, a glass bottom boat (we didn't do), a ship wrecked area, and a President Lincoln area.

If you haven't been to an aquarium before, you walk through and look at all the fish and sea creatures while reading fun facts about them. It took us about 2 hours to go through the aquarium and the was stopping to let the kids play and take pictures. 

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We all got to pet a horseshoe crab and a jelly fish which was pretty awesome! You could also attempt to pet a stingray at the end of the aquarium. If you time it right, you can also catch a diver feeding the stingrays which was neat to see.

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One of the last exhibits is the penguins. My daughter asked throughout most of the aquarium when we would get to see penguins so she was pretty excited. You can climb through a tunnel and take a photo in the middle of the exhibit to which is pretty cool and all of the penguins have name bands on their wings which was kind of funny. 

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After the aquarium we caught a bite to eat at Tom & Earl's Back Alley Grill. We were stopped talking about where to eat and happened to see it through the alley so decided to try it out and it didn't disappoint. It was a nice, smaller restaurant with decent size portions. I loved their signs such as the one pictured below. 


After lunch we checked out some of the shops, hit up the taste testings at a few of the wineries and the Ole' Smoky Whiskey Brewery - DO NOT try the Mango Habanero whiskey unless you want your mouth to be on fire.

We also walked into a fudge shop just in time to watch the worker make it. The fudge was personally a little to dry for me but the show was great and the kids loved their free sample!

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Sugarland Cellars
We saw that rain was about to hit so we headed back toward our hotel and stopped in at Sugarland Cellars. We taste tested one wine at the Sugarland tasting room in the middle of the strip close to the distillery and it was just alright but decided to check it out anyway and I'm glad we did. Not only were we able to wait out the rain but we got a free wine tasting and tour.

Sugarland Cellars has a free tasting of four wines and you can share with your spouse so you can try more. They also have a free winery tour, a lounge area and a shop. The bartender was super friendly and knowledgeable. The tour wasn't anything special, maybe five to ten minutes but I did learn how wine was made and some fun bear stories. 

Sugarland Cellars is located at the end of the strip right before you enter the national park. It is worth a stop if you like wine and have some time to waste!

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After the wine tasting and the rain passed, we hit up the pool for a swim then got ready for dinner. We were originally going to try a restaurant called Calhoun's but the wait was to long so we once again stumbled along another restaurant called Smoky Mountain Brewery. This was a very laid back restaurant/sports bar. It was very good and had a variety of items from chicken to pizza. 


Taffy Making
After dinner we walked down to the candy shop to see if they were making taffy (they weren't earlier) because I wanted the kids to see how it was made and they were! As soon as we got there a worker started pounding the taffy and stuck it on the machine and flavored it. We were able to watch the whole process. The kids even got to sample the taffy. Fresh taffy is so much better and easier to chew!
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We thought about going to the arcade around the corner but the kids were getting fussy so we headed back to the hotel an let them watch TV as they fell asleep - which they never do but it's vacation so it's okay right?!


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Day 3 
The Old Mill District
On our way home we stopped in Pigeon Forge to show the kids the Old Mill. It ended up working out perfect because it was raining and most of the Old Mill has a covered walkway. 

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trolley

We started at Old Mill Farmhouse Kitchen. They had free samples of their products set up throughout the store so needless to say we sampled several items. They have several unique flavors of vinegar and olive oils. If you stop in, make sure to try the Pear Vinegar, Apple Pie Dip and the broccoli cheese soup.

Next we stopped in the Old Mill Candy Kitchen and let the kids pick out some taffy.  I was excited because we finally found taffy in barrels. Most of the taffy is now placed in small bags or behind the counter at the candy stores. 

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We checked out some shops and made our way to the Mill Bridge Winery. This winery wasn't there five years ago and my husband saw a Cider tasting sign so we had to go in. You could taste 4 wines for free and the wines weren't to bad. 

The Cider tasting cost money but it was good and they had some different flavors than we've seen before. 

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After the Old Mill, we headed to the Apple Barn for lunch. The Apple Barn is a family farm style restaurant located in Sevierville, TNWhile there we checked out the Christmas store and did a free tasting at the Apple Barn Winery. I honestly can't say which tasting was my favorite as I liked and disliked wines at all the places so you will have to taste test for yourself.

As you can tell we had a fun filled weekend getaway full of free tastings, paid tasting, good food and entertainment. Some other things on our list that we didn't get to do was Ober Gatlinburg, hiking in the national park, and getting an Old Time Photo. 

Overall we had a blast if you can't tell by the pictures and the kids slept almost the whole way home. Thank you to my wonderful husband for surprising me with this weekend getaway!

If you haven't already, check out Day 1 of our getaway.
Hint: Creekin, The Island, Putt Putt & More!

Let me know in the comments below what your favorite attraction was!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Gatlinburg Family Adventure - Chimney Tops, The Island & Crave Putt Putt

This past weekend my family made a last minute trip to Gatlinburg, TN. I had mentioned packing up and just going the previous week but we had prior obligations. Mid week my husband surprised me with an envelope. In the envelope there was a paper that said " Congratulations you won a weekend in Gatlinburg...". My husband had already booked a hotel so we packed up our bags and left. 


Last time we were in Gatlinburg together, I was eight weeks pregnant with my daughter and sick most of the time. Here we are five years later with three toddlers, taking on the challenge of vacationing and not losing a kid and guess what, we survived! The kids were champs!

Before we left for Gatlinburg I researched things to do and see. Needless to say, most places don't have a lot to do for kids under the age of five. One of the positive things is that kids three and under are usually free so that worked in our favor since I have two that fall into that age range.

I also found out that if we went the next weekend teachers (my husband is a teacher) and a guest were free at all the Ripley's Attractions and Wonderworks so we were tempted to switch weekends and skip our prior plans but it called for rain so we stuck to the original plan - mental note made for the future, plan in advance to save $$$.

When researching for things to do, I somehow missed that the weekend we visited was a car show weekend so Pigeon Forge was packed. The streets were lined for miles of old, antique cars on both sides. It added an extra thirty minutes to our trip but at least we got to look at colorful cars and play eye spy as we drove through Pigeon Forge.

Anyways, we had a busy, yet fun weekend in Gatlinburg. Check out what we did below!

DAY 1

Chimney Tops
Our first stop was the Chimney Tops. We packed lunch before we left home and had a picnic at the Chimney Tops. After we ate, we let the kids play in the creek and lets just say they all got soaked and the water was freezing. If you can't tell by this first picture, my kids were super excited to play in the creek.

Chimney Tops is located in Gatlinburg's National Park. There are picnic tables, charcoal grills and bathrooms. It is free to check out and play in the creek. Depending on when you go, you may be able to slip and slide down some of the rocks, just be carful and watch out for bears.

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Since our hotel room wasn't ready yet, we decided to walk part of the strip. Our hotel was the perfect location so we walked everywhere in Gatlinburg, including to the Aquarium.

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Ole' Smoky Moonshine
Mommy and Daddy taste tested some Moonshine at Ole' Smoky Moonshine. The taste testings are now $5 for 13 samples but you get the $5 back in store credit which is nice. One of their newest moonshines is a Dill Pickle Moonshine and lets just say, I'm personally not a fan but hey, maybe you will be!



After we taste tested the moonshine, we moved on to taste test the jams and salsa at Ole' Smoky Moonshine for free while listening to a live band playing in the courtyard. 

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The Island 
In the evening we checked out The Island in Pigeon Forge. The Island was a new experience for us as it wasn't there five years ago when we last visited. We had dinner at Margaritaville, watched the water light show and checked out the shops. 

The light show was cool and the kids liked it but it was shorter than I expected. The water moves to the beat of the music for at least two songs every 30 minutes.

We watched two shows, one when we arrived and one when we were leaving. The music and show was different both times which was a plus!

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The Island had a bunch of cool shops from taste testings to ice cream to toys and clothes. They also had some different types of restaurants, a ferris wheel and some rides and activities for kids. 

I also found one of the best tasting fudge shops at The Island. It's called Big Rock Candy Kitchen. Their fudge is super smooth and not grindy. They also had unique flavors like carmel apple and blue raspberry. I'm picky when it comes to fudge, but there fudge was pretty good and needles to say we bought some. 

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It is free to park and walk around at The Island. The water show is also free, you just have to pay for any restaurant, activity or items you want to buy. I would call this the boardwalk of Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge. There is also a free tram that will take you to and from the parking lot. 

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Crave Putt Putt
After The Island we hit up The Crave putt putt golf coarse. Ages three and under are free so we only paid for one child and helped them since this was their first time putt putt golfing and they had no idea what they were doing. 

Crave was a nice putt putt coarse. They have an indoor and outdoor 19 hole coarse along with a candy shop, ice cream shop and mini bowling. They also have a spin wheel challenge on each coarse for the adults/older kids to try to keep them interested. A spin wheel challenge example is putt this hole on one foot.

Crave is decked out in life size candy from rock candy to a gumball machine to lollipops and a candy castle. I personally thought Crave was a little overpriced to golf but they do have a BOGO coupon so you can play two games for the price of one. Who knows maybe you could pass as a three year old and play for free.

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Day 1 of our weekend getaway was a very long but a fun filled day as we drove to Gatlinburg, played in the creek at the Chimney Tops, taste testing at Ole' Smoky Moonshine, checked out The Island and played putt putt golf at Crave. 

Check out what we did on Day 2 & 3 of our adventure. 
Here's a hint: fish, sharks, candy and wine, oh my!

I'd love to know your thoughts on these attractions in the comments below!
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