A few weekends ago, my boyfriend and I traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for a weekend away. On Friday afternoon of the week before my school started, we were feeling the impending doom of class schedules and study time and John casually suggested we take a trip somewhere. I initially thought he wasn't serious.
We've visited a lot of areas near where we currently live, but we decided to expand our trip to up to four hours travel time. And guess what? Gatlinburg was right at four hours.
Let me tell you, the internet highly undersold this great destination. We weren't expecting much. We made a reservation at a cheap hotel ($57, again not expecting much), ordered tickets for Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, and woke up at 5Am on Saturday to travel.
We stopped on the way there in Abingdon, where I'll be next weekend hosting the Miss Mountain Empire Pageant, and then continued on.
Let me push Gatlinburg here as a great place to travel if you live in SW Virginia. First of all, we paid something like $50 each for museums, but that gave us an "aquarium plus four" (the aquarium itself is around $20 to do just that). But we went to a motion theater ride, ripley's believe it or not, a house of mirrors (which I successfully guided us out of), the aquarium and a mini-golf place (where I got four holes in one including the final "impossible shot", winning me a free game. Luck was on my side!)
If you love food, this is a great place to visit. We ate twice at the pancake pantry. I'm a simpleton so I stuck with buttermilk but John tried a few kinds and really loved it. Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede is Southern Cooking at its best. We also found a great little place called AppleBarn that had delicious apple butter!
As for shopping, they have a great outlet mall there. We got John a totally new wardrobe for $200 at Tommy Hilfiger. The associate remarked "It's like Wal-Mart in here" and it truly was.
The Dixie Stampede was one of John's favorite things and the show they put on was great. How they feed 1600 people twice a night, I have no idea, but we had great seats and service. Highly recommend this!
Now, for the best part. I consider myself an aquarium aficionado. I've been to many cities around the world and explored their aquariums, and up til now the best one in my memory has been Boston for their excellent sea jelly assortment. However, Ripley's was promised as the best in America and it did not disappoint! They have an AMAZING collection of deadly animals there, a huge octopus who came out and gave us a full show, and an incredible moving escalator under a HUGE tank, easily the biggest I've ever seen. Just standing on the moving walkway takes a good ten minutes... we stepped off a few times after sighting neat animals. The only thing they were missing was penguins, but this was definitely more of an underwater life place. However, it's worth it! Great family destination.
Another great museum was WonderWorks. It's like a giant play area. I spent about thirty minutes blowing bubbles.
There's also a great Thai restaurant there, we gorged on this trip!
I've included a few pictures from the trip. We're planning to go back in March or April once Dollywood opens. We had a blast!