Planning a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains? There are so many great things to do there that it would seriously take several return trips before you would even begin to chip away at all the possibilities available to families, couples, and friends. We live about 4 hours from the majestic Great Smoky Mountains; however, we call it home. Home is where the heart is, and I can honestly say that my heart lies in the Smokies. Loading up in the car for a quick weekend getaway is nothing for our family. We love the adventure and memories we create each time we travel 441.
I want to make the most of every trip, so I take the time to create a travel itinerary. Even if you are going for a weekend night, take the time to research what you want memories you want to return home with. What is it that you have been wanting to see and do? The probability of you returning home from the Great Smoky Mountains with a bad experience is nearly impossible. With so much available, all you have to do is spend a little time researching and you will return a happy person.
We took our recent trip the night before New Year’s Eve, so we had one thing on our mind-family fun and adventure. After all it was the end of 2016, and we wanted to go out with a bang.
Over the past couple of years, I have noticed in the area the creation of these roller coasters that flow seamlessly through the beautiful landscape of the Smoky Mountains. They call these things mountain alpine coasters, and they are so much fun! You have several options in the area, and we decided to go with The Coaster at Goats on the Roof in Pigeon Forge. With a one mile track promising speeds up to 30 mph, we knew this would be perfect for us! The only issue we could possibly think of having was being cold. After all it is winter, and we are in the mountains. I gotta tell you, DO NOT let that stop you! Whether it is cold or not, the mountain alpine coasters can always be enjoyed no matter the season. We bundled up and loaded up on the cart. The ride up was slow and gentle. There is even time to take a selfie:)
Once you get to the top, it is all downhill. Here is where the control of speed comes in. With a braking system in place, riders can control the speed they want to have. This is what makes this ride perfect for all ages. It glided beautifully down the mountain, taking the turns smoothly while providing the rider thrill of a coaster. It is definitely something you do not want to miss when in Pigeon Forge!
After we took our thrilling ride on the mountain alpine coaster, we headed over to one of our favorite spots in Pigeon Forge, The Island. This is such a fun place to visit and has to be added to your MUSTS when visiting Pigeon Forge. Between the fabulous restaurants to the adventures waiting for thrill seekers, this place has something for everyone. On our recent trip we checked out some of the places here where memories can be created.
The 7D Dark Ride Adventure was a blast! So you might be asking “What is 7D?” If so, you are not alone! We asked the same thing. 7D is one of the newest technologies available in virtual reality. Have you ever been to an amusement park or attraction that features a 4D theater? The 7D is the next step up. It is a Simulator Platform that moves to what is happening on the screen. With 3D glasses and an interactive gun, participants engage with a short movie that takes them right into the heart of the action that allows them to feel different special effects as they happen onscreen. This is what makes this dark ride so much fun because it is even more “real” and exhilarating. With drops that give you that roller coaster feeling and bumps as you go over the rough terrain of the movie, this ride is intense and exciting. You ARE apart of the movie in a new and engaging way. We LOVED fighting the robotics los banditos, and it is even better when you are first. of course, I do not know what that is like, but my son does. We highly recommend checking this out when you are Pigeon Forge. They offer a wide variety of movies to appeal to all audiences.
Our next stop at The Island was Arcade City. You know, back in the day I was known for being the Ms. Pac-Man Queen! Well, at least in the Fayetteville area where I grew up. I remember good ole’ days when I would save up my allowance and heading down to the local arcade to indulge myself. With the invention of gaming systems that you can have in your home, arcades seemed to become a thing of the past. I get it. It is nice to not spend those quarters over and over on a machine just hoping to get the high score; however, there is nothing more frustrating than getting that high score and coming in the next day and finding that some “clown” came in and beat it! The invention of the home gaming systems really does have a leg up on that; however, they do not have that nostalgia. Going to an arcade with friends and family was such fun. EVERYONE got involved, at least in my family. Mom loved Centipede. Dad was into Galaga. My sister loved Donkey Kong. Me? Well, you know I was the Queen of Ms. Pac-Man:)
Arcade City brings back that excitement from an era long ago. From Skee Ball to a giant-sized Connect Four, Arcade City offers a great assortment of video games for both young and old. One of the things that I really love about this place is that all your money and TICKETS are loaded to a card. You simply swipe your card and each game you want to play and any tickets you win are automatically saved to your card. I can’t tell you how exciting that is. We have been to a famous little place that features arcade games and pizza. One of the most frustrating things is carrying those tickets around and then having to count them. It is just such a laborious process, and one I frankly don’t have time for! With a re-loadable card, everything is conveniently kept for you until you want to cash it in. We had hours of fun in Arcade City, and even walked away with some fun prizes.
Next on your list of must do’s at The Island was The Escape Game. This is one of the newest games popping up all over the United States. This interactive escape room experience is some serious fun! My family chose to complete The Gold Rush room. There were supposed to be five of us working to escape in 60 minutes; however, two of our guests ended up backing out at the last-minute. They were having a hard time with the idea of being “locked” in a room for 60 minutes trying to escape. The good news is that is NOT the case at all. Players are NOT locked in a room and are free to exit at any time. You stay in constant contact with your assigned “guide” through the use of a tv monitor.
Now I can’t give you all the details and you are not allowed to take pictures from inside, so you are just going to have to trust me when I say this is one of funniest things I have done in a long time! (BTW, the image above is from their Facebook page.) The goal of this experience is to make it out of the “quest” within 60 minutes, and believe me it is harder than it looks. The Gold Rush is designed for 2 to 6 players, and the goal is simple–find where Clyde stashed his gold before the mob does by finding clues and solving puzzles. What I loved about this experience is that players work together as a team and that you are really challenged. I truly saw a different side of one of my children in this game. I knew he was smart, but boy did it really shine through that evening. I wish I could say we found the gold before the time ran out, but alas, that was not our fate! We are already looking forward to our return visit to participate in another one of these games. Even our reluctant guests that sat in the lobby waiting for us are eager to get in on the fun next time.
Believe it or not, my family still managed to do even more on our one night getaway. We had tickets to The Comedy Barn Theater. We did not know what to expect. My husband kept saying I think it is going to be a little like Hee-Haw. Now I am assuming some of you do not even know what Hee-Haw was. Hee-Haw was a show that ran for nearly 20 years. It featured comedy skits , sometimes a little too risqué, and lots of great country musicians.
I am happy to say that The Comedy Barn was so much better than Hee-Haw ever was. Appealing to audiences of all ages, this theater show is clean and family friendly. It is hard to find a show that truly captures the attention of everyone, and The Comedy Barn does a great job. It is definitely something you will want to put on your list of MUSTS, You will laugh!
As you return home, it is so worth the drive through The Great Smoky Mountains. You have got to be sure to stop at Newfound Gap. Located 5,046 feet above sea level, this is the right spot to take a snapshot of the beauty surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains. The pictures that we take truly do not do this place justice. This trip we got to experience snow falling the closer we got to Newfound Gap, which is typical. The weather is much cooler than the surrounding areas and receives much more snow, an average of 69 inches of snow falls at the gap.
Although the wildfires may have gone through the area back in late November, the area is strong. Much of the damage caused can been seen when driving through, but they have not let that keep them down. The Great Smoky Mountains are #SmokyStrong! Take some time to schedule a quick getaway to the area or even a week-long adventure. There is so much to do and see there. Maybe you will discover for yourself why we call this one of our homes away from home.