Our Smoky Mountain Winter Vacation

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I’ve heard it said many times – I need a vacation after my vacation.  I finally understand.  A vacation with 2 young kids is far from relaxing.  Fun – but exhausting.  It doesn’t help that added onto a 5 hour drive with 2 young kids and 2 dogs, that I was sick and that we learned both kids get carsick.  I feel a little refreshed after 10 hours of sleep last night but could still use that 2nd “vacation” to recover!

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That all being said – we packed the car (see above) and drove up to Gatlinburg, TN for a long President’s Day weekend in search of snow.  Although skeptical when planning this trip that we would see snow, we were pleasantly surprised that sure enough, Friday night it started with flurries and Saturday AM we had the big fluffy snowflakes coming down while we played in the snow at Ober Gatlinburg.  Thanks to many friends and family – we were all able to pull together appropriate snow clothes to play in the tiny Cubbies Snow Zone.  To the adult eye – it was a tiny fenced in area – but to LL it was all the snow she needed to have a blast!  We made snowballs and snow angels, caught snow on our tongues and rolled around.  LM seems to enjoy himself too and the snow boots provided just the right amount of traction to practice his standing!  Out of the many other activities offered at Ober (skiing, tubing, ice skating, animal encounters, scenic chair lift) the biggest hit for LL was the carousel.

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The next day, Steven went back to Ober to check out the ski slopes, after many years off of skis – he settled for east coast skiing and I believe enjoyed himself!

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Grandma and I took the little ones to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.  It was smaller than the GA Aquarium and the Tennessee Aquarium (in Chattanooga), but provided a little over an hour of entertainment – which was a perfect amount of time for the kiddos.

Highlights were the Shark Lagoon:

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The Penguin Playhouse:

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And the Discovery Center:

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Gatlinburg offers all sorts of other Ripley’s attractions, but this one seemed to be the one catered most towards little ones.  I would recommend stopping by if in the area!

Like most of our trips, we usually choose to use a website like VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) to find more unique, specific lodging.  For this trip we choose a cabin called Panoramic View and if you look at the top of this post – that was our panoramic view from the wraparound decks of our cabin.  Features also included pet-friendly (to bring our doggies along!), a pool table/game room, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 5 tv’s with cable and dvd players, gas fireplace, and a hot tub.  It was located within the Arts and Crafts District of Gatlinburg.  After seeing how busy downtown Gatlinburg (the strip) was – I was very happy with this area as it was 3 miles from downtown but housed hundreds of local shops and restaurants.  Read more about it here: Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community.

Our favorite shop was Tim Weberding Woodworking.  We like to pick up an item, usually something to display in our house, from all of our trips.  We also always pick up an ornament for our Christmas tree.  This shop was filled with unique bowls, boxes, and decor all hand-crafted from wood.  It was hard to narrow it down – but here is the piece (hard to tell but it is a bowl) we choose that is now on display in our family room:

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One last little fun/touristy side trip for LL – was some Gem Mining!  For a small fortune, you get a bucket full of sand filled with “treasures”, you scoop sand into a strainer, strain it in the moving water, and check out your finds.  They then walk you through all the types of stones you find and try and sell you on cutting the stones into gems and making into jewelry (I was hoping they would pay US for our finds!).  We passed on that part and walked with our bag of “gems”.  I think we’ll have a Pinterest project coming up to figure out just what to do with them!

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It was a short trip, but overall a good one.  Nice to get away, show the kids a new part of the country.  The Smokies are beautiful!  Would I recommend?  Yes.  Would we go back?  Yes, but probably next time in the spring or fall to see the leaves coming/changing.  And also to take advantage of the hiking (that was one thing that we/the dogs missed this trip!)

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