After a horrendous virus last week had me down for the count, I returned to work for all of two days only to take off Thursday after work for Gatlinburg with my parents and Sophie. Jason had a legislative retreat for new members in Knoxville, so we figured it was a great excuse to have the whole family head that way and make a weekend of it.
We made our way to our cabin on Thursday night, arriving around midnight. We bought a DVD player for the car last week and Sophie watched approximately 999 million episodes of Cat in the Hat on the drive there, staying up the entire time. It snowed quite a bit (by Tennessee standards) and, when we got up Friday morning, Sophie walked outside to see snow.
She was enthralled! All weekend, she kept touching the snow and ice in complete wonder.
The view from our cabin was beautiful, even if the terrain was a little treacherous.
The last time we visited Gatlinburg, Sophie was a newborn and I tucked her into her Bjorn and dragged her with me everywhere. This time, we knew we'd have fun doing more kid-centric activities.
Friday, we spent a few hours at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. It was really entertaining for all of us, but especially Sophie. She especially loved the underwater tunnel (walking under sharks, stingrays, turtles and all kinds of fish) Stingray Bay, the Penguin Encounter, and petting the horseshoe crabs.
|Up close and personal in Stingray Bay|
|Hands-on Discovery Center with Horseshoe Crabs|
We had a quick lunch at a restaurant nearby and by that time, Jason had made it to Gatlinburg from Knoxville to join us. Mom and I snuck off to a local spa for a couple of hours, leaving the men in charge of Sophie. Magical!
On Saturday, we split up with Jason and me taking Sophie to an indoor water park and mom and D2 (my stepdad, Jack) exploring Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We chose Wild Bear Falls for its proximity to our cabin and we were thrilled with the choice. Kids under three are free, so at $18.95 per person, we spent nearly half a day at the park and definitely got our money's worth. I wish I had pictures to show what a ridiculously fun time we had, but we were too busy playing in the water. Sophie must have jumped in the "big kid" pool 200 times, with the smile on her face getting bigger by the minute. She has no fear, which scares us as parents and leaves me in awe of her. Formal swim lessons are definitely in her immediate future. Less than five minutes after we left the water park, we looked in the back seat to see this:
A sign of a good time. After a serious nap, we ventured out to Ober Gatlinburg, just a mile or so from our cabin, to take the Aerial Tramway into downtown. We met my mom and D2 for dinner at a great restaurant, Park Grill, where Sophie happily entertained everyone while we waited for a table. I can't say enough great things about how family-friendly every place we visited was. After dinner, Jason and I had one last cocktail before riding the tram back up the mountain while my parents took care of bedtime duty.
|Ms. Hollywood and Me at Park Grill|
None of us were ready for the weekend to come to an end, so we made one last stop at Flapjack's on our way out of town on Sunday morning. Poor Sophie had to share the backseat with a large suitcase. One day soon, we'll say goodbye to my tiny little hybrid and welcome a larger (but slightly less gas-guzzling vehicle than Jason's very large SUV) second car to our family. Until then, this is how we roll.
|P.S. We did fasten her safety belts before driving away!|