We arrived Saturday afternoon driving in from Nashville. There are two families--10 people, kids aged 4,10,11,13,15,17.
The trip was four hours but went fast as we swapped cars and visited and had fun. When we got into town we were able to check into our cabin--a VRBO cabin that has been excellent. It is right by Ober Gatlinburg so the view is fantastic--we can watch the trams go by our window. One of my favorite parts of the trip was watching the kids see the video game room for the first time--what an awesome surprise for them. It looks like a complete arcade. It's an older cabin but spacious and well laid out, perfect for our families and it was a really great deal.
The plan for Saturday was to go in and grocery shop upon arrival while the husbands took the kids to Ripleys but at that point we were so tired we thought we would eat out. I had read on here about Old Mill and Best Italian so I really wanted to do either of those but we needed a place that was easy/quick. I decided we could do Pancake Pantry, drop the family off at Ripleys and the wives could grocery shop while the family did Ripleys. Unfortunately, Pancake Pantry was closed. We ended up walking the strip and settling on the first "no-wait" place we could find. Unfortunatley, It was Blaine's and we were not impressed. slow service and not great food. By the time dinner was over the kids wanted to skip Ripleys and get back to the cabin.
I was sad that we "wasted" an eat out night there. The kids went back with the dads and we headed off to grocery shop. We planned on going to Walmart but drove by Food City and decided to shop there. It was more expensive than Walmart but do-able. We loaded up, went back, unpacked and went to bed.
Day two: Woke up, hoping the rain would go away and when we decided it was going to continue we headed off anyway to white water raft the upper Pigeon. What a wondrous experience. We rafted the upper pigeon. It rained, drizzled, the sun shone big and bright--we had a full range of weather and we all had a blast. Our guides were wonderful, the water was up and moving fast. (My husband took our three year old on his own adventure--they rode the tram, bought some taffee and some ice cream and then took a big nap.) AFter the float we headed home via wal-mart to pick up a few things, put kabobs and shrimp on the grill and hung out and played games and watched a movie.
Day three: Today was our day to go to Ober Gatlinburg. I was a little worried about this place because I hate amusement parks and it was supposed to be rainy today. We tried to take one vehicle over and send it back and forth for both groups to save on the parking fare but they won't let you do that. We sucked it up and drove up, bought the $20 wrist bands. Immediately after getting into the park and getting on the chair lifts it started to drizzle so they shut down the alpine slides.
No worries, we rode to the very top and saw the gorgeous views and went on down to the bottom. All day long it rained off and on, making it so that we were all able to only go on the alpine slides once or twice. Having said that, I should still say we had an absoulte blast. Today was my youngest's birthday and he kept saying over and over " I love this place mommy. This is the best birthday ever." The older kids had a great day too. WE all loved the "water rides"--I ususally don't like that kind of thing too much but these are just so fun--not too wet, very fast and two people in a boat. The wrist band was worth every penny--the birthday boy got to ride and ride and ride and when the rain got too bad we went inside and the wristbands allowed him to play free puttputt with his dad. The people all working the rides were lots of fun and nice and not "crabby amusement park people." By 2 p.m. we almost had the entire park to ourselves. I liked that the park was small enough that the big kids could pair up and go off and I didn't worry about them. I do think if it had been a hot day with crowds we would not had near the fun that we did.
We finally came home, hot tubbed, dryed off and had a birthday fiesta--cooked some fajitas on the grill, broke the pinata and had ice cream cake. The dads took the older kids off to finally see Ripleys (the one vacation wish of my oldest son) and the moms stayed, played cards and put the birthday boy to bed.
I can't believe our vacation is more than half over and we have yet to do so many of the things we want to do. Our friends are from Springfield, MO and have never been to North Carolina and really want to go to the Biltmore so we think we will take a drive there tomorrow--they will go to the Biltmore and we will take the kids to Chimney rocks or Graveyard fields--any suggestions? On the way home we want to go through Cherokee and do the Mingo Falls hike--should be interesting getting the four year old to it but with four adults I think it will be fine.
Friday the plan, so far, is to do picnicking at Cades Cove, the apple barn, the christmas store and the adults are doing a date night to Old Mill.
Saturday we will drive home.
We have learned a few lessons
1. plan one big thing a day because it just takes awhile to get two families out the door and ready to go and we need the downtime at the cabin
2. make a good grocery list at home--don't forget things like Pam spray and baking powder and aluminum foil, ziplock, etc.
3. don't rely on weather reports--if it is raining it could be sunshining in just minutes--just take it all in and have a backup plan.
If you have any suggestions or thoughts for the rest of the week please let me know. I'll post another trip report with photos later.