DISCLAIMER: I was provided with complimentary tickets and lodging in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.
When I was planning our recent trip to The Smokies, I knew it had to be extra special, as this would probably be the last vacation we would take as a complete family, since we would be dropping Kaylee off in Knoxville, for her freshman year of college at the end of our trip.
I knew we wanted to stay in a relaxed atmosphere, a place with lots of amenities and something fun for the little one. I Googled, I scoured all the review sites, I compared and I finally found a place that had everything we wanted, the room to spread out that we needed and was within close proximity to all the fun stuff in the Smokies. Say "Hello" to the RiverStone Resort, in Pigeon Forge, TN.
I gave you a little bit of background info on RiverStone, but I had to share some of the pictures I took while we were there, to show the full extent of how nice this place really is. Imagine waking up to this beautiful, expansive golf course, every morning and sipping coffee, while sitting on your private patio.
... Coffee that was made by your amazing husband, in your fully furnished kitchen. Yep, you read that correctly, my husband actually cooks and makes the coffee, while we're on vacation. (and when we're at home too, I can't make a decent pot of coffee to save my life)
At home, the kids are usually in a hurry to get to work or go hang out with their friends, so it was really nice to be able to sit down and have a meal with everybody actually sitting at a table.
Our condo at RiverStone was the epitome of luxury. From the two person jetted tub in the master suite to the huuuuge walk-in closet, this place screamed upscale. Every little detail was covered, from the fixtures in the kitchen to the complimentary soaps and lotions, you can tell they go to a lot of trouble to make sure each guest has the best experience possible.
After a home cooked breakfast, you could go exploring on the strip, or you could just walk right out your door and have a leisurely ride down the lazy river or take the kids to work off some of their extra energy at the on-site playground or have a picnic at the park-like setting at the bottom of the hill.
What if it's raining? No worries. RiverStone has a beautiful indoor pool and a really fun family game room on-site. This was number one on Micah's list of things to do. Me, not so much, but I went anyway and I am really glad I did. I got to see the kids making some really great memories with Dad... and Micah won a few prizes from the crane game.
After spending way too many quarters on the crane game, we decided to strike out on an adventure. Since we only had a couple of days left with Kaylee, before taking her to Knoxville, we decided to try to pack in as many fun things as possible.
So we did what any family would do... we explored a top secret lab that had been picked up from its original location and dropped right in the heart of Pigeon Forge, TN.
Wonderworks is 35,000 sq ft of pure "edu-tainment". What was once a top secret lab, located in the Bermuda Triangle, is now a huge center full of family fun and tons of things to explore. As soon as you walk in to WonderWorks, you can tell it's like nowhere you've ever been before...
After going thought the inversion tunnel, you are ready to begin your adventure in one of the six wonder zones, each full of different experiences and exhibits.
In the natural disaster zone you can experience the earthquake cafe, where you can see what it feels like to be in a real earthquake or if that's not your thing, you can play around with a real working Tesla coil that spits out over 1000,000 volts of electricity.
In the physical challenges lab you can explore all kinds of tactile and sensory goodies, like a bed of nails and my personal fave, the bubble lab.
Micah really enjoyed the space and exploration lab. There was a replica shuttle to play in and a flight simulator, so you can practice your piloting skills.
WonderWorks is a great way to spend the day. It is perfect for the older kids as well as the little ones. It is filled with tons of great info and really cool facts and would make an amazing homeschool field trip, just make sure you come early enough to get it all done. With the laser tag and rope course, you could easily spend all day there. (which we did)
After WonderWorks, everyone was exhausted, so we went back to our condo and spent the rest of the night relaxing, in preparation for our next day's adventure to the Ripley's Aquarium, which is by far one of my favorite things to do in the Smokies.
With every kind of aquatic life you can think of, the Ripley's Aquarium is a great way to spend the day making tons of new memories with your family. (and you can throw a little bit of learning in there too, each exhibit has lots of cool facts and tidbits about the animals)
We have had the opportunity to experience the aquarium several times and it never gets old. Each time we go, I learn something I didn't know before. The staff at the aquarium is so friendly and knowledgeable and will take the time to answer any questions you may have.
There are tons of different exhibits at the aquarium, but my favorite is always the sharks (and the penguins). They are really beautiful creatures, despite their bad reputation as being blood thirsty killers.
In addition to the animals, the aquarium also has a little area for kids to play, learn animal facts and even try on a costume or two.
We learned a lot about the animals and had lots of laughs at the aquarium and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Smokies. If you can only afford to do one thing, make it the Ripley's Aquarium, you will definitely not be disappointed.
Ripley's also has several other attractions in the Smokies, such as mini golf, a 5d motion theater, a haunted house, a mirror maze and the Ripley's Odditorium, which is full of all kinds of gross and amazing oddities from around the world. We didn't get to do them all this time, but we have in the past and really enjoyed them all.
For me, a visit to the Smokies means family fun and making new memories and this trip was no different. We got to stay in an amazing condo, we got to experience the best of The Smokies' entertainment and we got to make a lifetime of new memories, before we sent our little baby bird off to college. What more could one ask for?!
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