DISCLOSURE: I received a free or discounted press rate for the duration of our stay, however all opinions are my own and not swayed by the free or discounted rate I received.
I can't believe it's already been two weeks since our weekend getaway to the Smokey Mountains. Having lived in Tennessee all my life, going to the mountains was an almost yearly event for our family, when I was a kid. Those long weekends were some of the fondest memories I have and I have been telling hubby we needed to plan a fall trip to the mountains (for about 10 years) and we finally were able to make the dream a reality.
This time of year is amazing in The Smokies, the leaves are beginning to change colors and the air up there is so fresh and clean, it literally has a "feel" to it. I really can't describe it, you have either experienced Fall in The Smokies or you haven't and if the latter is true for you, do yourself a favor and drive up there and see what I am talking about. It really is something you should experience (at least) once in your life and since it's only a day's drive for 2/3 of the country, it's totally "do-able".
As most kids, I thought my parents were kind of "square", wanting to have a "stupid" family vacation every year, but now as an adult, I can see just how hard they tried to make sure I had tons of great childhood memories. When I told my Mom of our upcoming trip, she relayed the stories of all the quarters my Daddy and I would chunk into those machines at the game rooms and the "waste of money" that it was. I told her, "Yes, the skee-ball games were a bit overpriced and the actual value of the prize vs the amount of money you spend was highly unbalanced, but the amount of money you spent was nothing in relation to the value of the memories we made back then." She had never thought of it that way, but I still remember the strip through town, the old miner place where you can pan your own "gold", I remember the Trolley rides through the mountains, the Ripley's museum, I remember the bumper boats, the first time I rode a go cart, the indoor sky diving thingy (that I never mustered up the energy to do), the Taffy place that gave out free samples, the pancake place that served the biggest fluffiest pancakes in the world. I remember all these things, but most importantly, I remember how much fun it was to just get away with my parents and enjoy being a kid.
When I set out to create the "Perfect Weekend Getaway", I knew I had to find an amazing place for us to stay, I instantly thought of Wilderness at the Smokies. I had seen their commercials for years and I had to check it out for myself and it did NOT disappoint! The Wilderness at the Smokies resort is located in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains, in Sevierville, TN. This facility is the largest of its kind in the area and boastsover fifteen different floor plans for every size family & budget. As soon as you pull up to the massive Wilderness facility, you can tell it is unlike anywhere else you have ever stayed...
... and the awesomeness continued when we checked in. The staff was super friendly and courteous and it didn't even take a hundred years, like it can at other places. The concierge even called to check and see if we needed anything the next morning. We were a little late checking in, as we were late leaving Nashville, because hubby didn't realize his driver's license expired in August. Luckily for us, the teller at the SUNTRUST bank was nice enough to remind us... right after she refused to cash hubby's check, (even though she had cashed it two weeks prior and this was our usual branch) and even though I begged her, as we were leaving to go out of town, she refused. So off we went on the great driver's license renewal station hunt. We found the renewal station, no problem, but it only accepted plastic and the balance on our debit card wasn't sufficient... because the teller refused to cash hubby's check. After much deliberation and (possibly) a small meltdown, we (I) had an "a-ha" moment and decided to let hubby sign his check over to me and we cashed it that way, at another Suntrust bank, with obviously kinder tellers. I mean, come on, who doesn't cash a payroll check for a family trying to go on vacation?! She probably kicks kittens and puppies too. Refusing to let this have a further negative impact, we set out, living dangerously driving with an expired DL, two teens and a 3 year old.... We're rebels, it's what we do. After a 3+ hour drive in the car, we were so excited to get there and I think the Smokies were glad we were there too, as we were greeted by a rainbow in the sky. (it hadn't been raining prior). NOTE: Not everyone who stays at Wilderness at the Smokies will receive a "Rainbow Welcome". Your experience may vary.
Wilderness at the Smokies offers everything from a quaint room for a young couple spending their first anniversary together, in the mountains to a full scale two story chalet that sleeps up to 16 people. Our suite even had a full kitchen, equipped with everything you need... All kitchen utensils (place settings for up to 12 people), pots, pans, toaster, coffeemaker, full size refrigerator, microwave, stove, and dishwasher. We went to the grocery store down the road and grabbed a few essentials and hubby cooked breakfast in the room, saving a ton of money on our food budget.
Wilderness at the Smokies resort is home to three water parks, two outdoor, one indoor, all of which are only available to resort guests only.
Obviously, this time of year, the outdoor parks were closed, but the older kids went to the indoor water park. Hubby, Micah and I stayed in the room, because after all the fun stuff we did all day, by the time we got back at around 8:00 every night, we were too beat to go to the water park, but I am told it is an amazing place to flirt with boys.
We had a one bedroom deluxe suite and it was amazing. It was actually two rooms with a connecting door. The left side, claimed by hubby and I (and Micah), had a queen/twin bunk bed, a queen size bed and a twin size pull out sleeper chair. The bunk bed lends itself perfectly to out of town fort making, they even left us an extra sheet, as if they "knew".
My favorite thing about this room is the dividing wall between the two beds and the view from our balcony, it was amazing.
The other side of our suite had a queen size murphy bed and a queen size pullout, along with a beautiful fireplace and the kitchen. This was officially the "teens" room and we only went in there to eat breakfast, but I heard lots of laughter coming from there every evening, so I'm sure it was well enjoyed.
The resort provides free wi-fi for all guests, a safe in each room, a special "family Only" area in the water park for nursing Moms and diaper changes and all areas are handicapped accessible. The resort also offers several restaurants, on site paint-your-own pottery, retail shops, arcades, golf and even a fitness center... I'm tired just thinking about all that. After you get your fill of water park fun, you can dry off and head to Adventure Forest, the newest addition to Wilderness at the Smokies. This DRY FAMILY ADVENTURE CENTER is full of different activities, rides as well as attractions to keep the youngest to oldest entertained and engaged and If, after allll that water park adventuring, you still need something to do, there are tons of family friendly things, all within a few minutes drive or trolley ride away. (I'm lying, traffic is horrible this time of year, it could take an hour or more to get into Gatlinburg, but the views are amazing, so it's not that bad)
The Smokies are a magical place to be any time of year, but especially during the holidays and Wilderness has a ton of great stuff planned. Beginning Thanksgiving weekend, the Wilderness at the Smokies resort combines the magic of the holiday season with the warm summertime fun of its indoor waterpark for a festive yuletide experience that can’t be found anywhere else.
Here's a list of a few of the fun happenings at Wilderness at the Smokies...
• Swimming with Santa – Each Saturday evening, kids of all ages staying at the resort can enjoy a late evening swim with Santa. This unique experience offers a holiday
experience unlike anything else, and Santa’s helpers will be on hand to take photos to capture the memories.
• NEW in 2013: Saturday nights also feature a special storytelling session in Santa’s
Workshop after Mr. Claus has left to go splash and swim in the indoor waterpark. Some of Santa’s elves specializing in telling holiday tales will entertain both young and old with their interactive adventures in storyland.
• Yuletide carolers will serenade guests upon their arrival to Wilderness at the Smokies every Friday and Saturday, as well as on other select days in the holiday season beginning on Thanksgiving Day.
• Mrs. Claus got ahold of Santa’s Workshop and did a complete redesign for this year’s holiday season, including an all-new Seuss-like décor in bright green and red. This
Wilderness wonderland will offer a great place for resort guests to take holiday photos.
• Santa’s Weekend Wilderness Workshop features all new craft activities for children and a new cookie decorating station that will tempt everyone’s taste buds. Kids will love
creating their own special plate to leave treats for Santa on Christmas Eve, and another new activity will let children design their own snowman box to keep or give as a gift to someone on their Christmas list. Snowman ornaments and festive photo frames are some of the other fun holiday crafts to be made in Santa’s Workshop this year, and
several activities are being offered that will appeal to tweens and older kids.
• Wilderness at the Smokies is also a perfect place for children to write their special
letters to Santa. The resort staff will make sure that all the special messages get to Old St. Nick so wishes can be made known.
We had an amazing time on our weekend getaway and are already planning our next trip, (sans children) hopefully in December, for our 12 year wedding anniversary. A weekend getaway is a great way to renew your spirit, have a great time, make memories with the kids and fall in love with your family all over again. I mean, you kind of can't help it, especially when you see how much fun they are having. I honestly, find myself getting a little misty when I look back at all our pictures and all the smiles. All the hassle with the driver's license, the kids griping about being cramped, listening to the girl sing all the way there, the time it took to pack and drive, all of it was worth it, when I think about the memories we made. Even though I never got a formal "Thank You" from the kids, I know they appreciate it and I know they will remember it forever... because I will continually remind them... "Remember when I planned that AMAZING trip to the Smokies?"
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