Back to the Smokies

When we got home from our beach vacation (which Matt had to miss due to his first nursing clinicals), the first thing he said was "I need a vacation". His summer term was just about to end and I was just about to go back to school, so we would have to find a place fast!

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!

Our favorite house feature...the "chacutsie", as Larkyn called it, between the kitchen and living room.

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).

That night was ROUGH putting them to bed for some reason, but we all made it out of bed the next morning for Dollywood!  I used a highly reliable and scientific method to gauge whether or not we should go to Dollywood: Facebook. People love it, and now I know why. Clean, adorably Southern-themed, the nicest staff ever, and just fun things to do and ride all over the place. Of course, we paid about $100 in food and a few souvenirs, but we all know that happens at amusement parks.

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. 

Larkyn was in heaven, riding ride after ride. She switched between Matt and I riding with her, since most of the rides required an adult for her height. There was one section of 4 rides that little man could try.

I'll admit that I haven't been on rides in years, and probably not a roller coaster in like 15 years. Oy! That whole gravity thing is interesting when you grow up. The swings are her favorite and were always mine too, but looking down was not smart.

I was dying to get into the National Park (I don't think the rest of the family was, but I made them). You can't go to Gatlinburg without actually entering the park, come on!  I picked the Gatlinburg Trail, a simple path with water access.

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.

As we (literally) soaked up our last night in the hot tub, Matt quietly said "Hey, there's a bear" and I didn't believe him. Yep, there he/she was! Just casually walking down our driveway, eating grass. The bear didn't seem to notice us or didn't care that we were freaking out. But it was definitely the most exciting part of the trip.

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?

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