We looked at Michigan first, because I have been dying to go. No luck. We knew we wanted a rental house, cabin, or cottage, so to speed things up, we just looked straight to Gatlinburg. Not too far away (7ish hours), the best cabin selection, stuff to do, and mountains! Check out last year's Gatlinburg trip here.
I wanted a place with pool access because as much as I like to relax for a few hours in a cabin, keeping kids inside a vacation home or hotel room for any longer than a few hours is torture. We stayed at Twin Cedars' Mountain Patriot and I have zero complaints. We would book there again and recommend it to anyone. Look at the view from our deck and dining room window...
Also, grocery delivery from Smoky Mountain Grocery saved us a lot of room in the car and the annoying task of grocery shopping as you enter the city (along with everyone else). You order on line, they call to confirm, they shop and stock your food. There is a delivery fee, but the groceries were not marked up. Next time, we will order a lot more!
That night, we stayed in and made ourselves comfortable with a lot of Olympics and a lot of s'mores (it was national s'mores day, of course).
If you need an AC break, the gift shop right by the Country Fair area is a perfect indoor play spot.
I wanted to take the kids on the train, but it had the loudest whistle in the history of the world. Trauma.
The photographer didn't offer to try again. Oh well.
The kids were in their element (and later we learned, poison ivy), and having a blast. The lowlight of our trip though, was packing up this fun and the whining and crying that ensued over the muddy shoes. If you go on this trail, watch out for poison ivy and 100% bring a change of clothes and shoes.
More hanging around the house to decompress from hiking drama.
And the aquarium the next day! I was hesitant, thinking this was a strange place in the middle of a mountain range to put an aquarium. Would it really be that fun? YES. The kids loved having everything at eye-level, the selection of animals was fantastic, and the shark tunnel was amazing. Instead of people just going in and standing around, all jeopardizing precious viewing spots, you travel through on a slow people-mover. I want these installed everywhere.
We weren't ready to go home at all, but school started up for the ladies in the house.
Vacations have changed a lot for me, and sometimes that is hard for me to accept. When I travel, I want to LIVE the city--the food, the drinks, the shopping, the landmarks. And 5 and 2 year olds have little patience for that nonsense. Of course, my favorite part is watching them explore new places and experience things that they love. But I am ready for a vacation where we can do some adulting at some point. Any advice?