Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gatlinburg! (way delayed, but now, with pictures!)

I met an old friend for a weekend of fun in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge! We made the most of the 1.5 days I was really there. It was anything but our first time, so we maximized by going straight to all the things we wanted (including trying some new things). We hit Dolly Wood (both mornings), Adventure Quest (new to both of us), the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride (she'd done it once before, but it was new to me), Dixie Stampede, Blaine's (our fav Gatlinburg restaurant), and even a little of the Smokey Mountain Nat'l Park.

One of the many gorgeous fall trees in the Nat'l forest

My friend and I have decided that it's much easier to explain Gatlinburg to people from NC/SC/VA. It's Myrtle Beach in the mountains. And that pretty much gets the idea across. It's a strip of road with wall-to-wall tourist kitsch shops, go-cart and fair-type rides, putt-putt, and cheap family-friendly restaurants. Just add tons of chapels and Bible bookstores. For all the peeps from other parts of the country, there doesn't seem to be a point of reference (or, because we're not from those parts, we have no idea what it would be!).

It's basically what you'd get if you started planning an arcade and suddenly found out that you had an entire small town to fill instead of a small corner room. So... it has things that I can't imagine finding anywhere else (except maybe a fair, and I just can't imagine a fair where everything is so over-the-top, well-done, and permanent). This explains three of our stops - Adventure Quest, Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride, and Wonder Works.

See! Upside down!

We had been to Wonder Works before, but wanted to go back because we had so much fun the first time. It is definitely designed for kids (at least, not for 28 year olds!), but we had a blast. It's all interactive learning activities, like Discovery Place in Charlotte (I know, another regional point of reference!). There was a climbing wall, an earth-quake simulator, a pulley experiment where you haul yourself up (easier on the seat with 3 pulleys than the one with only one), a sound room that demonstrates how the brain gives a 3-d sensation to sound, with only 2 ears. Basically, a ton of interactive, fun stuff for your inner child! Oh! and the entire thing was built to look like a mansion had fallen, upside-down, onto another house. I love that they even had a little upside-down UPS drop box.

What could be more fun than making giant bubbles?!

Adventure Quest only opened four months ago, and it caught our eye because the facade was that of a castle, and it had a mirror maze! They only sold passes for everything, so we got one - it included the mirror maze, an Entrapment/ANTM*-style laser security system to try to sneak through, and pirate-themed mini-golf. Rock! Honestly, if they had been separate tickets, we probably would have only done the mirror maze, but we had fun in all of them. The maze was worth it on its own though. Seriously fun. I could spend hours going through it. We went through once, and then turned around and did it backwards. By we, I really mean my friend did all of the finding, and I followed. I couldn't tell where the mirrors were until I just about hit my nose on them. It was very disorienting (in a good way). They also had great music playing, so I had my own personal dance party as we walked through. I like to think that some one's day was improved by that bit of hilarity.

That's right, a castle!

Black light Pirate Mini golf - need I say more?!

The Jurassic Adventure was pure kooky. It was very fake. But we had so much fun! I think it was the good company. We completely psyched ourselves up over it, and started screaming like little girls every time we sat still in the dark in it. We were even talking about the animatronics that were coming toward us as if they might really catch us. I categorize it as something we made fun, more than something that is inherently fun or scary.

Yeah, these were the animatronics. Scary!

Dixie Stampede is one of our must-do's each Gatlinburg trip. It's fun, the food is good, and it's easy. By now, we know all of the songs, and pretty much sing along, and we cheer for every event as if they will ever let the score come out to other than a near-tie. And we talk to our neighbors as if we've known each other all our lives, and give them tips about how to cheat in the final flag relay race. My friend loves the horses, and i love the fact that the dancers seriously look like Barbies when their dresses light up.

And of course, there's Dolly Wood! It's the thing to do in Pigeon Forge! It's country at it's best! People are nice, music is wholesome, and there are a ton of roller coasters! AND there's a birds of prey refuge/rehabilitation center. Basically, perfect family fun. So what if we don't have a family (well, we're not orphans, but we haven't started our won families yet)?!

*I am appalled that the blogger spell-check doesn't recognize the abbreviation ANTM! Best guilty pleasure ever! And yes, we were tempted to pose our way through it.