Thursday, April 26, 2012

Field Trip ideas: Great Smoky Mountains

Recently my family and I were blessed with a small trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, where we stayed in Sevierville, TN. My parents and all my crew packed up and moved into Cabin #4 in Oak Haven Resort for three blissful nights.

When you plan your trip, don't be afraid to ask for the best rate.  Also, consider going in the off season for even better deals.  We unintentionally went the same weekend as the Rod Run, which is a Car Show in Pigeon Forge, TN.  Traffic got bad in Pigeon Forge Friday night, and by Saturday it was backed up into Sevierville.  However, this did not create an issue for us since we had already done all our major outings at this point.  So, you need to be mindful of the events going on during your stay.

One day we drove to Cades Cove, located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This is an 11 mile, one-way loop.  It is absolutely gorgeous and you are sure to see several types of wildlife if you go early in the morning.  HOWEVER, when traveling through Cades Cove with younger children, I highly recommend having a portable potty seat with you.  Many times when you get inside the loop, traffic backs up and comes to a crawl, not making it possible to get to those necessary bathroom trips quickly.  Or, like us, no traffic, but at the particular stop you are at, the only bathrooms are of the outhouse style and the smell deters the child from even getting close to the building!  So glad for the minivan and the potty seat I stuck under one of the seats for emergencies!

Also, while visiting Cades Cove, I highly recommend packing a picnic lunch.  Not only is it a smart idea since you have little control over how long the loop will actually take, but there are so many beautiful views you will want an excuse to just sit out there and soak in all of God's beautiful creations.

After hitting most of the stops within the Cades Cove Loop, we were ready for a new adventure.  The mountain roads keep you traveling around 25 mph, so you have plenty of time to decide what the next attraction shall be before you actually get close to being there.  Since it was a closer stop than our original choice of going to Cherokee, the adults decided to take the kids to the Riply's Aquarium in Gatlinburg, TN.  All homeschoolers should take note, All the Riply's attractions in the area give homeschoolers a very substantial discounted rate!  All six of us were able to get in for well under 50% off!  Riply's Aquarium is voted #1 Aquarium in the US.  My children loved it, and I loved both the aquarium and the price that I paid!

Since we were already in Gatlinburg and had paid to park, we decided to go ahead and finish up everything we planned to do there before we started back to the cabin.  My 4 year old wanted to ride the skylift.  So, the men and the kids took off up the side of the mountain.

As a last stop before the cabin for the evening, we had old time family pictures made, which is a family tradition for us each time we visit the mountains.  It was a splurge, but it's a memory I will treasure.

The next day the kids were ready to just hang out at the cabin, do a little nature hiking, and hit the play grounds.

 The men and the kids went to the Riply's Old McDonald's Farm Putt-Putt Golf, while my mom and I went shopping in the outlet mall in the same parking lot.  The homeschool discount worked there, too! 

When planning your trip, I would suggest calling ahead to confirm discount pricing, and ask any other attractions you may want to visit if they offer homeschooling discounts.  You may be required to show your homeschooling ID at the time you purchase your tickets.

**For more information on the Riply's Homeschool Rates, click here.**

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