Disclosure: Most of my trip was sponsored by various sponsors. My thoughts and opinions are my own.
This past month we enjoyed a family vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We decided to drive because it saves money and we enjoy the scenery and it allows us to make fun stops along the way. We partnered with Kia for this road-trip and got the chance to drive the awesome Kia Sedona. The first thing we noticed about the Kia Sedona when they dropped it off was much room it had. There were 5 of us and we had no problem fitting everyone’s things into the van. Everyone had plenty of room to stretch out and were comfortable for the 14 hour (total) road trip.
The Kia Sedona has a ton of cool features that make road trips a lot easier for the driver too. The navigation system is super easy to use and has a big, easy to read screen. Maybe one of the coolest features is the cruise control. It’s not your normal cruise control. It can sense how far you are from the car in front of you and if you get too close (you can change how close it gets) it automatically slows down for you. Then when the car in front of you is gone, it goes back to your set speed! No more having to reset your cruise control if you get into a little traffic! It also has blind spot warning so if a car is your blind spot and you turn on your blinker, it gives you a warning. Between the heated and cooled seats, XM radio and all the other bell and whistles, the Kia Sedona was a joy to drive.
During our Travel Gatlinburg trip, we knew we wanted to stay in a cabin so we chose the Gatlinburg Falls Parkview Resort. If you click the link above you can read our review complete with video. The resort is amazing. If you have never been to the Smokey Mountains before you are in for a real treat. The views are breath taking and there is so much to do.
One of our most favorite things that we did is white water rafting with the NOC. We had originally signed up for the Pigeon River Rafting: Lower Pigeon Gorge. Which is essentially a float trip. No rapids, nothing strenuous. When we got there our guide pulled us aside and explained exactly what each trip entailed and answered all our questions. Afterwards we decided to go on the Upper Pigeon Gorge. It has very mild rapids and even with the health limitations of my husband it was easy for him to do. We had 2 teenage girls, my teenage son, a husband with health issues and me. We were able to do the rapids easily. I’m so glad our guide took the time to explain everything to us. The scenery on the river is amazing. It was raining for some of our trip and the rain really doesn’t affect your trip. So don’t worry about the weather and just enjoy the beautiful river. Our guide was awesome and after watching all of the other rafts from other groups in front of us I knew we had made the right decision to go with NOC. Our guide really knew the river and we got to do some pretty cool tricks that the other rafters quickly tried to copy.
If you love theme parks then you definitely want to check out Dollywood. Dollywood isn’t just a theme park but an experience. It’s owned by Dolly Parton and really showcases what the Smokey Mountains are all about. There are rides for all ages and plenty of thrills for the adventurous person. I love the fact that they have misters all around the park to keep you cool on those hot days.
Oh my cow the food is amazing. Just thinking about it is making me hungry. You can stop many of the indoor establishments like the bakery which smells amazing but I urge you to really check out the outside vendors. You will see many of them cooking on large skillets or big cast iron pans, which kinda makes me think of camping. We got a chance to try the Bacon, Ranch & Cheese Tator Swirls which are to die for.
Make sure you check out all the scenery like pottery making, lot’s of shows and more. I fell in love with this beautiful church at the park.
They also have an amazing Eagle Sanctuary where you can see the majestic Bald Eagles as well as many other large bird species. They also have a water park where we hoped to have visited but the Smokey Mountain Rain just didn’t give us the chance so we hope to check that out next time. Check their website for double park savings.
If you’re the curious type, you should check out the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They have 8 different attractions and they have a U-Pick ‘em combo that will help you save money. Our favorite was the Ripley’s Aquarium. When we drove up I think we were all amazed at how big it was. You enter in the aquarium on the 2nd floor. They have exhibits that wind their way down to a more hands on experience. They have an area where you can touch horseshoe crabs! They have an attendant there that explains the right way to touch them so don’t worry. They also had an area where you could touch sting rays, but we weren’t able to touch any as they didn’t come close enough for us to touch them. Another “hands on” exhibit is where you can stick your hand in a tank with feeder fish in it. The fish will come up and actually “clean” your hand for you. Don’t worry, it just feels like someone is tickling your hand! There is one HUGE tank in the middle of the building with all kinds of fish swimming around. The cool part is they have a moving sidewalk that goes UNDER the aquarium so you a unique view with sharks swimming around you! This place is pretty big so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to go through.
My husband loves the Odditorium. It’s the only place in Gatlinburg where you’ll find shrunken heads, a 12ft tall Transformer sculpture made of scrap car parts, an authentic vampire killing kit, one-of-a-kind artwork, tons of hands-on interactives, and a wicked spinning vortex tunnel! I found it very interesting to see different cultures from around the world as well.
It’s been a long time since I went putt-putting. Ripley’s has 2 mini golf courses that are a ton of fun. I went in expecting to be in last place but ended up in getting first place at the Davy Crockett course and my daughter actually won a free game! These were the only ones we go to visit this trip except for the mirror maze which we were a little disappointed in. We did the Ripley’s maze in TX which was so much fun and this was nothing like it and we probably would not do it again.
Our next adventure took us to somewhere I never thought I would find myself. Flyaway Indoor Skydiving in Pigeon Forge. Flyaway Indoor Skydiving can give you the experience of flying without the fear of jumping from a plane or falling out of the sky. Let’s just say I was so scared to do this but I decided to face my fears. When you get there, you sit through a safety video to address important information on what you will be experiencing. You then suit up with all the necessary gear as you’re led into the room. Our instructor was amazing. Indoor sky diving is A LOT harder than you think but our instructor was so patient and really worked with us to make sure we had a great experience. It takes some practice to position your arms and legs just right and learn how to make yourself go forwards and backwards if you want. I recommend going more than once to really get to experience it so that you can practice more. The more you practice the better you get. I wouldn’t recommend anyone with back issues to try this.
I have been saving this post because Fall break is coming soon and this is the perfect time to book your vacation now for your family!