Pigeon Forge? This city's name popped up while looking for the Titanic Museum. My little man had seen the Titanic movie and fell in love with the ship and the story. One day on Groupon a highlighted ad popped up about the museum and I had to show my son the info. Well, that put everything else into motion. He wanted to go in the worse way. So, we started looking into how to get him there. We had talked about going for a day on a previous trip down to Gulf Shores. A family friend told us that Pigeon Forge is like Wisconsin Dells on crack and we should plan on spending at least a couple of days in the area. My wife did some digging and had talked with family and asked if anyone else was interested in going. Her sister decided she was in for the adventure. So, the hunt for an AirBnB was on. My brother-in-law found a really cool place up in the mountains about 20 minutes outside of Pigeon Forge up in the Great Smokey Mountains National Forest area right above Gatlinburg. We booked the house and set our date for June 29th. On the 27th we packed up the kiddos and headed out for Indianapolis figuring that might be a good spot to stop and spend the night. We had a rather uneventful trip to Indianapolis and stopped at our hotel. We went in around 5 PM and found out our room was accidentally booked for the following night and the hotels in the surrounding areas were booked full because of national baseball leagues being held in town. So weighed out our odds and talked with the kids about just running the rest of the way into Tennessee. The kids were good with making the push and heading down for another 5 hours. We filled up with gas and back on the road we went and started looking for a hotel. We targeted Knoxville and figured we could check the city out. We decided on a cheap hotel in Knoxville assuming we would only be sleeping at night and out during the day. We made it to Days Inn in Knoxville TN about 11 PM. My wife took the reservations and went up to the main lobby. She got a rude attitude from the guy. Not friendly at all. We got 2 rooms and they were very "special". You get what you pay for sometimes. The place was sketchy and looked rough in every corner. But we were there and were going to make the best out of the situation.
So, we got up in the morning and found a place online in downtown Knoxville that was supposed to have amazing crepes (The French Market Creperie downtown) We got there and the line was out the door so we thought we would go try another place - after all we are downtown and there should be a ton of places. I pulled up Google maps and found a place a block away called Tupelo Honey that sounded great and was in the Market Square area we had looked up the night before online. They were full and about a 1-hour wait. We tried a place Cafe 4 but they had a 45-minute wait. They took our number and said they would text when our table was ready. We walked up into Market Square and checked out the stores. Nothing too exciting to be honest. The square has a cool vibe and is fun to check out. We tried one other restaurant, Stock and Barrel, and decided to walk one block over to Gay Street. We spotted a place called The Black Horse Pub with tablets outside so, we grabbed a table and got our breakfast. Across the street, we noticed the Cruze Farm Ice Cream Shop. This place is so cool, like going back to the '50s with some amazing ice cream, fresh milk, and candy. We wandered around downtown for a while and decided we would go see the grounds where the World Fair was held in 1982. (Another spot we saw on Google.) It is about 4 blocks from Market Square. The Sun Spear is located here and it is pretty cool looking. We were hoping to go up in the tower and check out the views but of course, it was closed. We wandered around the park instead. They have a large amphitheater and a splash pad. The kids were not super interested and the heat was cranking up. On our way out we spotted the Knoxville Museum of Art. A good place to get out of the heat and let the kids check out the art. They really didn't seem super impressed. But the a/c was appreciated. The kids wanted to go swimming so we looked online and found a local swimming hole that was an old quarry. We mentioned it to the young lady that worked at the museum and she recommended a different quarry that was not a college hangout called Mead's Quarry Lake and we headed there. On our way, we found a local farmer's market that was right next to an old car shop that was turned into a bar called South Side Garage. We had to stop in and check it out. We all had a drink and walked around the market. After purchasing some soap, we got back into the car to finish our journey to the quarry. We pulled up to a large parking lot and we got lucky and someone out front was leaving so we stole the parking spot. You get out and you can see a small building that looks like an old train station stop. This building has restrooms/changing rooms. From this spot, there is a trail that takes you down to another set of small shack-style buildings. Here you can rent tubes, kayaks, and paddleboards. We got 2 paddleboards for our family. You take them down the trail to the base of the quarry. This place has some crazy 100' shear walls that are beautiful. Paddling out the water we wandered over to a very small style cave entrance on the cliff wall. You really can't get in but it is still cool to see and you really begin to understand how tall the walls are once you get close to them. It was a fantastic day hanging out with our family enjoying just a little "us" time. Hunger pains kicked in and it was time to go find some food. We headed back to the Knoxville Market and got some dinner at Tupelo Honey. This might be some of the best chicken I have ever had. It reminded me of my grandmother's chicken that is a simple recipe but just never tastes the same as when she made it. I have to admit I really enjoyed the outdoor seating and food. People-watching here is a blast. We also had an older gentleman playing with violin just outside of the seating area in the market. After filling our faces with great food, we headed back to our dive hotel to get some sleep and get ready to head into Pigeon Forge in the morning.
Day 3 - Got up in the morning and tried the room coffee. Big mistake! Worst crap I have ever tried. Packed up the kids and said goodbye to our fancy hotel. I have some videos of that for you to check out. I would not stop back in this dump again. We were on the road for about an hour to get to our next destination which was called The Island where we meet up with the rest of our pack. The first stop was to get some lunch and Margaritaville was the choice. We found out after we ate there that Paula Deen's restaurant across the street which we were hoping to get back to try but never made it. The Island is pretty cool with a number of shops, rides for the kids and plenty of places to eat. The Ole Smokey Whiskey Shop stood out so we had to stop in and sample, of course. After a purchase of 6 bottles between us, we headed over to more of the kid's rides. This place is a huge tourist trap area but still worth checking out. They also had a large dancing water show in the middle of the market area that is synced in with the music. Super cool to watch. Time to leave and get to our house for the week. We drove out of Pigeon Forge about 20 minutes through some absolutely beautiful national park areas on a constant climb up the mountainside. Most of the roads seem to run along with the river or waterways which are always twisting and turning. A motorcyclist's dream run. It felt like we were getting to the top of the mountain and we pulled into our drive to this 3-story beautiful log cabin with stunning views from the wrap-around porch. We unpacked again and we got everyone in their rooms and the Instacart lady showed up with our food order. We pulled out some burgers and got the grilled fired up. It was an electric grill but we made it work. After dinner we made a few drinks and headed down to the second porch with the same amazing view but now add a hot tub. We sat and caught up on what was happening in our lives. A fantastic night with amazing views and great conversations. Needless to say, it didn't take long for everyone to poop out and head for bed.
Got up the next morning grabbed some good coffee and headed back to the porch to look at the mountains. As I walked into the bathroom downstairs the few millipedes I noticed the night before turned into about 100 millipedes covering the floor. It was crazy. The cabin we rented from Vtrips was at 1014 High Mountain Way, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. We checked the guest book and found out the millipedes are a common thing and there were a number of complaints about it. For the price to lease this cabin. You would think they would have tried to take care of this. Or at least call us back and address the concern. We dealt with millipedes constantly in the house. I am talking crazy amounts. See the photo above that was the first night and I have some video for you to check out below in the morning. Anyway, the kids wanted to get some swimming in and it was hot out. The crew made breakfast with bacon on the grill and headed to the pool that is a small drive down the mountain to a shared pool for the homeowners of the Black Bear Falls Lodge Homes Community. Great, little pool with a small pavilion with a restroom and changing area. Time to take off to the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge. This place was so much fun to go and see from the inside out. They cover everything from the beginning of the ships' build to the sinking, and recovery of some of the pieces that are on display. As we got to the end of the tour, we had a gentleman walk past us that looked like the captain. In the next room we discovered this same gentleman speaking about going down to the site of the sunken ship. It was Lowell Lytle, the author of the book, "Diving Into the Deep". He resides in Flordia and only comes to the museum twice a year! He has a commanding voice which makes you want to listen to all of his stories. We all commented we could have listened to him talk for hours. Lowell had his Captain's dress uniform on. He is an impressive sight to see. He was talking with the kids and told them about diving down to the Titanic and when they brought up a window some rust fell off the pane. Lowell asked the dive team if he could keep these pieces. He was smart enough to get them encapsulated. He then asked Aidan to come up and he let him hold onto a piece of the Titanic. It was cool to watch my little man. I think Aidan thought he was giving him the piece. His eyes got pretty big. Then Lowell told him nicely “Now you don't get to keep that”. Lowell then allowed us to take a couple of pictures of him with the little man. It was a great experience. Then we went out and grabbed some fun photos outside. Aidan thanked us for taking him and said he loved it. We headed back to the house to make some dinner. My brother-in-law's birthday was the following day so we decided to go down to the local grocery store and get some more food and a cake for him. There is a Food City grocery store pretty close. Great little grocery store with a load of choices and good prices. We bought more than what we need but that's how it always works. We made dinner, had some drink, hit the hot tub, vacuumed up millipedes, and back to sleep.
This morning we again cleaned up millipedes then proceeded to make some breakfast and get ready to go check out Anakeesta Adventure Park. This place was very cool. You start off by going to their building located in Gatlinburg which has a chair lift to take you up the mountain to their village filled with shopping, food, and drinks. We got on the chair lift and took the slow ride up. It was very hot so I think the ride felt longer than what it was. We watched people getting on and off. There are always your special people who either were super slow or brought strollers and extra crap to make getting on the lift a pain. But that is all part of the fun, right? We got to the top and this place is incredible. The building look like a Swiss Alps community. The Brick walkway takes you to the different locations on the mountain top. There is a large restaurant/bar right as you get of the lift. We stopped in and got some nice cold drinks and checked out the amazing view on the patio. Back on the walkway we made it about 500' and my son spotted the mountain sled ride and he was sold. I recommend buying these tickets online before you get here. It will save you some major time. After getting tickets we headed down the trail to do the treetop sky-walk. They have 880' of suspended bridges that you walk through on this trail that are up at least 60'+. It really is a cool experience even with the large amount of people there. The trail takes you from the back of the park back around to the front entrance area. Put this on your to-do list. The trail lights up and night and I am sure it is a sight to behold. We walked back up the trail to get back to the side of the park for the kid's rope course area. The kids had a blast running through all the ropes. Next to the ropes course is the vista garden which is beautiful. In the middle of the garden is a 6-story viewing tower that looks like something out of an Olympics ad. The views are stunning and well worth the hike to the top. Once on top, you will find the glass floors for a killer view straight down to the gardens. We had some storms roll in and heard thunder. The park closed down the lift. Next option to get down in an open air truck. . I would recommend this spot! It has amazing views and some good fun for everyone. We were was a little drained after the day up on the mountain. Back to the house, make some dinner, hit the hot tub, clean up a few hundred millipedes and back to bed.
Got up in the morning and cleaned up a few hundred more millipedes. Had some coffee and the ladies had plans for going into Gatlinburg to do some shopping. We decided the boys would be more interested in going to see Mother Nature at her finest. I found a local trail in the National Park called Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. So, my brother-in-law loaded up his 2 little men, myself and my little man. This place is breathtaking. We got in a little way and the road narrows down to a one-way road. The first place we stopped at was Noah Ogle Cabin. There is good parking and a trail that runs down to the cabin and barn. Incredible to think how long ago this place was built and how good of shape it is still in. As we walked through the buildings, we spotted a huge spider up on the fireplace chimney. The we walked around and enjoyed the sights from a couple of trails. The kids got a big kick out of it. As we headed up the road, we found Rainbow Falls Trail. We walked up a little way but the trail to the falls was over 3.6 miles. But as we walked up the trail we came on this creek/river area with huge stones all over the place. We took the kids and went right into the creek. It was really a neat spot. After sticking around for about 30 minuntes we got back to the truck and continued on the trail. We came up to Marker 1 overlooks, which were amazing. We stopped at the parking spot for Grotto Falls and decided to make the journey which was a 3 mile trail. About ½ mile away we had some crying and it was time to carry them to the finish line. But it was well worth it. It was crazy hot but as you come up to the falls the temp change was like we found a/c. The water temp was very cold. Grotto Falls was beautiful and the kids again were happy to play in the water. We hung out for a half hour and then decided we needed to head back down the trail. Going downhill was a lot easier and the kids all did great. This trail was amazing and we could have easily spent the entire day exploring. We passed up at least 6 different spots on the way back home. Put this on your to-do list if you love nature at all. That evening we had plans for the Dolly Parton Stampede Dinner show in Pigeon Forge. My daughter said this was her favorite part of the trip. It was a highlight I think for everyone. I could go on and on about this show: how they serve so many people and do it so efficiently is a show in itself. Our dinner consisted of a whole small chicken, mashed potatoes, a slice of pork loin, corn on the cob, a biscuit and they finish off with a hot apple turnover. The chicken was very good. The show itself is so good. It is held in a small arena with a backdrop of 3D rocks and an LED sky with awesome graphics popping out at you the whole time. Then they bring out the horses, ponies, and pigs for the show. It really keeps everyone entertained the whole time. Another spot I have to recommend going to. After the show, it was back home and the ladies showed us their purchases and told us about the Gatlinburg adventure. We had some wine and moonshine, got in the hot tub, Cleaned up another crapload of millipede, and off to bed.
Up in the morning to clean up more millipedes and get some coffee, cooked up some breakfast and headed back to Gatlinburg to go see Ripley's Aquarium. Took us a little while to find parking when we went to Anakeesta but the ladies found the parking ramp in town and that seems to be the best bet. $8 all-day parking and you don't have to drive all over the town to find a spot. I was sold! I know I am saying this a lot but another really cool place. It was laid out very well and the number of fish species they had here was unreal, and you get a great view of everything. The tanks are huge. They start you high and walk you down floor by floor until you are actually walking through underwater tunnels that are so fun. As part of the ticket price, you can go to 2 other Ripley's locations in town. We went to Ripley's museum next. They have so many crazy things to check out - 3 floors of oddities for everyone to enjoy. We took the kids to Ripley's store and let them play laser tag. We did a little walking around Gatlinburg and had lunch at Landsharks. Everyone was dragging by the end of the day. Back at the house for our last night. We planned on being on the road by 6 AM so, dinner, wine, hot tub, Millipedes and into bed.
This trip was a hell of a lot of fun. There are not many places I am excited to go back to but this area is definitely one of them. That says a lot since there is not blue water and white sand.