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"Believe it or Not!"


A month or so ago, John came home from work on a Saturday, asked me if I had any plans for the weekend and I told him that other than Church on Sunday, no, no plans. He then tells me to get dressed (I was having a lazy day.....who am I kidding?! EVERYday is a lazy pajama day LOL) but wouldn't tell me where we're going. He and McKayla leave to go to the store* and then come back a few minutes later with one of the neighbors. John tells me to go pack and proceeds to tell the neighbor where the dogs food is, when we feed them, how much we feed them and when to let them out.

After our neighbor leaves, John helps me pack but still won't tell me where we're going, nor will he tell McKayla, but I can't blame him there b/c she's a blabber mouth LOL. He says we're packing just for the night but that still takes a lot when traveling with a 5 year old and when you don't know where you're going!

We load up in the Kia and head North. I have a pretty good idea of where we're going once we head in that direction but I could still be wrong, so I just keep my mouth shut.

A little while later, I know exactly, without a doubt, where we're going and I'm simply shocked.



You see, my husband HATES traveling more than 30 minutes from home (and sometimes even THAT'S too far) and he also DESPISES traffic and crowds.

So where did he take me you ask?

He takes me to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg!

On Rod Run weekend no less!**

Wow! This dude really DOES love me! Haha

The traffic was atrocious. We creeped and I mean creeped along no faster than 10 mph for an HOUR. We didn't even succeed in making it IN to Pigeon Forge before John was done and turned around. (Rod Run traffic had a lot to do with it, but factor in that it's a Saturday afternoon AND Rod Run and you've got gridlock). We figured maybe we'd have better luck finding a hotel in Sevierville b/c we were pretty sure Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg hotels would be booked solid or cost a small fortune to rent.

Luckily, I remembered that a FB friend worked at a hotel somewhere down there. I posted on her wall that I was in her neck of the woods and to say hi! She commented back asking where we were (turns out we'd passed her hotel) and she told us she had 1 room left! So we booked it down there (traffic heading OUT of Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg was MUCH nicer than going in LOL) and got us a sweet room for an awesome price!

Our room had two Queen size beds with a wall in between the rooms (the bathroom divided the two rooms) and a balcony overlooking the river. Suh-weet! McKayla kept saying "This is the best day of my life!". D'awww. She actually slept in one of the beds all. by. herself, which is a HUGE accomplishment for her away from home. Such a big girl!

View from our balcony.

Sunday morning we woke up and met my friend at Waffle House for breakfast and then went shopping in Pigeon Forge. Sadly, my friend had to go back to work a few hours later, so we had to drop her off but with promises that we'd come back to visit real soon!

After dropping her off, we headed back into Gatlinburg, found us a parking spot (sometimes easier said than done) and went walking around.

I absolutely LOVE Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. I love the hustle and bustle. I love all the cute shops. I love the atmosphere. I love the store layouts and all the gimmicks they use to get people in.

We, McKayla and I, checked out the shops while John took breaks on the benches. I ooh'd and ahh'd over all the cute little trinkets, gigantic purses and souvenirs throughout the shops. I drooled over the craftmanship of the figurines and the gorgeous dresses.

After walking around for a couple hours, we ended up by Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies and thought "Why not!?"

McKayla was really excited to see the Penguin exhibit and it became quite difficult to keep her from running through the entire Aquarium to make it to the Penguins....the very LAST exhibit. But I managed to get a few pictures along the way.

Click to go to the interactive map.

I will go ahead and apologize in advance for these pictures. While I DID actually bring my camera with us on our trip, I conveniently left it IN the Kia while we were walking. Had I known we were going to the Aquarium, I would have brought it and it was too far to walk back to get the camera and then walk back to the Aquarium. 

And in my true fashion, I've included links where I can. I feel it adds more to the "story". :-D

Our first stop was the Amazon Rainforest where we saw:

Freshwater Stingray


More freshwater Stingrays

Green Iguana

Check out his tongue action LOL

Poison Dart Frogs! They're so cute! (They're the tiny blue blips
you can see.)


I think an anableps (four eyed fish).

Another shot of him.

Then we came to the Ocean Realm:



Spotted Garden Eel

Then we had these guys off to the side. I don't think their section had a name or if it did, I didn't notice it.

Next up is the Coral Reef:


A bunch of Seahorses!

Leafy Seadragon

Then the slightly terrifying yet exhilarating Underwater Tunnel at Shark Lagoon where you "ride" a moving sidewalk UNDER the water, with all kinds of sharks and other fish swimming over your head (this is also where NOT having my camera sucked the worst....cell phones just don't cut it under here. :-( ):

Then we came to the Discovery Center where there's ALL kinds of cool things to see and do!

John holding a Horseshoe Crab


A Dogfaced Puffer and Porcupine Puffer. (I want both LOL)


Japanese Spider Crab


Not sure what section these frogs where in, maybe they didn't have a name b/c I couldn't find them on the website. Quite a few of the exhibits are just scattered throughout the Aquarium in smallish tanks here and there. I still had to take pictures tho, they're Bullfrogs in all 3 stages; tadpole, adolescent and then adult. I LOVE frogs (and toads)! :-)

Then there was the Stingray Bay:

We tried to pet the Stingrays at Touch a Ray Bay but none swam close enough for McKayla to reach......that and it was a pretty big ledge and McKayla was afraid she'd fall in....even tho John was holding her. LOL

Finally we get to McKayla's favorite exhibit! Penguin Playhouse!:

And this concludes our virtual tour of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. :-D

Even though McKayla was on overload, running from exhibit to exhibit, I know she enjoyed herself. She really enjoyed the diving tours where there's a diver feeding the fish (or rays) and then someone standing off to the side telling you about each fish. We were lucky enough to make it for both of the dive tours. :-)

After the Aquarium trip, that was pretty much the extent of our Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg fun. We DID go back to Pigeon Forge and raced on the Go Carts (McKayla and Daddy beat me!) and then headed back to the hotel. We goofed off around Pigeon Forge on Sunday but sadly we had to head home.

We all had a great time, even John enjoyed himself and McKayla keeps asking if we can go again. I'm ready to go back too! LOL

Sorry for the wordy post and massive photo dump but hopefully y'all don't mind too much. I really enjoy sharing the pictures, they help tell the story a lot better than I can sometimes. :-)

Anyone catch my title "Believe it or Not!" and the "RIPLEY'S Aquarium" tie in? Haha

*Turns out the "store" trip was actually to go to the neighbors to see if he'd watch the dogs.

**Well, I will say that, if he'd known that it was Rod Run weekend, he would NOT have gone up there. Let's face it, Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg is busy on a GOOD day but you add a bunch of old cars and people there to see it, and what you've got is MILES and MILES of parking lots on the ROADS. It's nightmarish.


  1. What a cool aquarium!! I don't think we went there when I was a kid. I'll have to add it to my list hehe. Sounds like such a great weekend. :D I LOVE all of the pictures. I'm amazed those are cell phone pictures. My cell phone takes really bad pictures lol.

    1. It's a pretty cool place to visit and to be in Gatlinburg, the price ain't bad either! LOL I guess my cell phone doesn't take all that horrible of a picture but I've been spoiled having my fancy dancy camera. :-D


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