January 5, 2015

Vol Family Road Trip: Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

We woke up Monday morning excited to hit the road for Gatlinburg. Even as a native Tennessean I had never been to Gatlinburg before so I was really excited. The drive from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg was amazing. The leaves were starting to change and it was sunny outside. It was absolutely stunning. We just don't have views like that in the Delta. 

After a stop and go drive in we arrived at Ripley's Believe It or Not Aquarium. We loaded Evie up in the stroller and Emma in the ergo and went in to see the fish. 
Wow! I was NOT prepared for the immensity of this place. It was insane the amount of fish (fish is an understatement, I should really say all manner of sea creatures) and water. I was super impressed. The filtration systems alone just have to be massive. Not to mention the number of species of sea creatures housed there! According to their website they have 10,000 creatures and over 350 different species!
It's all kind of arranged so that you start in the tropical rain forest, meander through the coral reef, the ocean real and the gallery of the seas. Evie was enthralled by all the fish. Some of them were even bigger than she is! 

They even had an exhibit of a mock filtration system set up so you could see what it really took to keep all that sea life healthy!

The other exhibits were cool and visiting the control center was a lot of fun for Evie, but the shark lagoon is amazing. You stand on a 340 foot moving sidewalk and wind your way under the shark lagoon. The ceiling of the path is clear so it literally seems like you are in a shark tank! It was awesome but also freaky. 

There were also some really creepy creatures in the aquarium that I have put into a collection that I call "NOPE". Please enjoy. 

After we played at the aquarium we hit the streets to find somewhere to eat a late lunch! As it turns out Gatlinburg is home to a ton of pancake houses. Who knew? We ended up at one which made Evie a happy camper since she essentially got syrup covered cake (with m-n-ms I might add). 

After a quick stop at a candy shop we walked back to the car and headed back to Pigeon Forge. In Pigeon Forge we stopped at this crazy insane Christmas store. It was HUGE! I got Chris a new ornament. It is a nutcracker dressed in VOLS gear and colors, plus some photo ornaments for the girls. Then we spent a few minutes at the outlet mall before heading back to Knoxville.
After one last dinner with Tricia we headed to be sorry to be leaving the next morning.
It was, of course, raining the next morning so we hit the road damp and ready to be back in the Memphis area as quickly as possible. We made good time and stopped at Demos' for lunch and spent about an hour in the Lebanon outlet mall as well. The highlight of the trip home for me was some random lady asking to hold Emma in a gas station bathroom. Granted I was trying to get her diaper bag zipped after changing her, but still, no. Who asks that?
We had such a fantastic time on this trip. Evie has been completely obsessed with the "GO VOLS" ever since, talks about Smokey and going back to a football game all the time. It was fantastic to spend some time with Tricia and we've been missing her since we left. Hopefully we will get to go back next year and experience it all through toddler (eeep!) eyes!
Thanks for reading along and waiting forever for me to finish!