This post is WAY overdue! This summer was a bit of a whirlwind and although I kept trying to get to this post, I never did. If you follow me on social media you know that I took the exam to become a licensed real estate agent in Florida days before leaving on our trip to Tennessee. After Tennessee we were only in Miami for a day to unpack and pack again to leave to the keys for the remainder of summer.
Our time in the keys will of course get it’s own post but it was actually a busy summer between working (I am still doing taxes!) while trying to build my Real Estate Business and trying to enjoy beautiful Key Largo. Sadly, my blog did fall to the backburner. As I have said various times though, this is something I enjoy doing and something I want to continue to try and make time for.
Many of us from Miami tend to travel to the Smoky Mountains over the winter and given that we do not get cold weather here, it’s understandable! That being said, I was stunned be how beautiful Tennessee is in the summer and I highly recommend trying to visit during that time of the year sometime!
We started our trip with a stop in Savannah, GA. Savannah is one of my FAVORITE cities! I have to admit that I do have a little bit of an emotional attachment with it. My dad does not like to travel so as a kid, we never really went anywhere other than Caribbean cruises or Disney. Nothing against Caribbean cruises or Disney, I love them both, but there is a whole world out there and even as a child, I wanted to see it. I was actually very into history and I loved (still do) historical fictions. The year my grandfather passed away my mom wanted to take a trip somewhere special with my grandmother. I was about 11 years old at the time and it was the first time I had the opportunity to head north and out of Florida. Savannah was the peak of the trip and we had a wonderful time. I think most who have been will agree that it is a beautiful, historic and picturesque city. The carriage ride tour is a definite must as well as visiting River street where there are restaurants, shops, bars, even a super cute bier garden! Our stop there was short and sweet! If I am being completely honest, since I let so much time go by I don’t remember specific details about where we ate and while usually I would have shared all of that, it just was not meant to happen this time!
Again, since so much time did go by, I am going to focus on the highlights of this trip. I’ll start with lodging.
Holiday Inn and Suites Pigeon Forge Convention Center
Yes. We stayed at the Holiday Inn! It’s not the four seasons, however, it was not bad at all! In fact, for our purposes it was great! The whole reason we took this trip was because Natalia’s dance team had their national competition in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee at the convention center. A bridge was recently built behind the Holiday Inn allowing you to walk to the convention center from the hotel which was super convenient. It’s clean and we reserved a suite which was spacious. Honestly, it was perfect and if you are looking for a hotel rather than a cabin in the area, i totally recommend!
Piggy-backing off of the lodging, the next highlight I must share is the Casual Pint! This is a restaurant/bar located within the Holiday Inn and it is kind of awesome. I am sure we will visit Pigeon Forge again sometime and I would definitely come here even if I was not staying at the Holiday Inn. It’s completely random given that it’s within a Holiday Inn. It’s a cute trendy-ish place with a ton of craft and some local beers on tap. The food is actually very good. Everyone’s favorite was the beer cheese pretzel! One of the best I’ve ever had! They had live music at night and trivia one of the times we were there in the afternoon. It’s also extremely cheap by Miami standards, but I guess everything in Tennessee was!
Another favorite is Smoky Mountain Brewery! Peter and I had visited many years ago and while we could not remember the name, we did remember enjoying the food and beer on tap. Fortunately, we also remembered where it was- and thanks to my blog, I should always be able to find the name now! This is located in Gatlinburg. They have decent food and fun beer flights. They will also usually carry a seasonal beer. While we did not have it this trip, one of our favorites is the one they have during Christmas time!
If you’ve ever visited this area, you know the Moonshine tastings are a must! #wheninrome
The idea of moonshine scares most, but before you discard the idea, you need to be aware that they have all types of flavors! Yes, they will have the moonshine that totally burns your throat BUT they will also have moonshine that tastes like a sweet cocktail and some that taste like after dinner drinks. You won’t know what you like unless you try them! It’s also just a super fun experience! The two popular ones are Ole Smoky Distillery and Sugarlands Moonshine. There is an Ole Smoky Distillery at the Island in Pigeon Forge (which is fun, however, we did not make it to this trip) but I recommend doing the tastings in Gatlinburg. For those who don’t know, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are neighboring towns.
First of all, Gatlinburg has Ole Smoky and Sugarlands walking distance from each other which gives you the opportunity to try both. I find the Ole Smoky Distillery in Gatlinburg is more authentic and they also offer tours showing how the moonshine is made.
We also prefer the taste of Sugarlands as well as the experience. At Sugarlands you do the tasting at a round table and I find it’s just more social. Nonetheless, you will find hilarious hosts at both!
Moving on to the adventures of this trip and why it is so worth coming in the summer! We did not do any major hiking, however, everything was so beautiful that we did have an impromptu stop where we explored the national park a bit. It was beautiful! If we’d had more time I would have liked to have planned a more structured hike. Next time! If you are in the area during a time of the year when the temperature allows, I would definitely recommend looking into this and planning for it.
Another favorite was Dolly Parton’s Dollywood! This place actually really surprised us! We were expecting a LegoLand… not that there is anything wrong with LegoLand (click this link for my review on it: LegoLand Florida). Dollywood is somewhere between LegoLand and Disney/Universal, however, it’s actually closer to a Disney/Universal than it is to LegoLand if that makes sense. We were also there over the summer when I assume it’s quite busy, and I have to say the lines were not very long AT ALL.
The park is clean and well organized. It also has some pretty amazing thrill rides! The kids actually went on their very first upside down roller coasters! I definitely recommend checking out if you visit, especially if you have kids. Flying Eagle, Tennessee Tornado, and Lightning Rod were some of our favorites!
Rafting in the Smokies Excursion
I saved the BEST for last! We reserved an excursion that I would say was one of the most memorable activities we did on this trip! To be honest, I did not know what I was getting myself into, specifically on the first activity on the excursion.
The package we purchased included a ropes course (I did not know what this was), zip lining, and river rafting! We started with the ropes course. We had mixed reviews on this as a group. It was not my favorite and I was happy to be done with it! That being said it was different and it was an adventure! I learned that I might be afraid of heights. The ropes course consisted of obstacles, on ropes, up on wooden poles. Again, not my idea of fun but some in the group enjoyed the strategizing and problem solving behind completing the ropes course as well as the adventure!
Next we did zip lining! While there was fear to overcome (I’d never zip lined before) this was so much fun! I had never realized that in order to zip line you do need to throw yourself and trust that the rope will hold you. While this seems like common sense, its not something I’d ever really considered. I did wish I had tried the zip lining before the ropes so I would have known the sensation of falling and hanging from the ropes but this was how our adventures were scheduled! I definitely recommend you try this out! It’s beautiful, its fun and its an adventure!
The last part was my BUCKET LIST moment! We had the opportunity to go white water river rafting! I did not take my phone with me to take photos for fear of it getting damaged or lost with the water and as my friend told me while we were there- it was KILLING me! This was so beautiful and I definitely wish I’d had the photos for my memories and to share with you all. I definitely had to take mental pictures!
We did have to do the lower river since the kids were not old enough to do the upper river which is more adventurous. Nonetheless, it was an amazing experience and we do go through some rapids that were a blast! The kids really enjoyed this too. If we are ever back in the summer when the kids are older, I definitely want to try the upper river!
If you will be in the area in the summer and you are interested in trying this out, visit this link: Rafting in the Smokies.
The girls place FIRST at the Dance Competition!
The highlight of the trip and of course the cherry on top was that the girls were awarded FIRST place int he dance competition in their division! This was a huge surprise and I will explain why….
They spent all competition season competing with their jazz dance, ‘Shake the Room’. We learned in May that their lyrical dance ‘When you Believe’ would be competing at the national competition. It was questionable since they were still in the process of learning the dance and it had not hit the stage at any local competitions. The dance was not perfected since they’d just learned it.
Bath dances placed in the initial competition but when you believe surprisingly placed higher and thus was the one to go to the finals. This was already a HUGE surprise! Then at the finals they took home the first place trophy! We are so proud!
I shared in my post on last year’s dance competition why these travels and events mean so much to me! You can check out that post at this link: Daytona Beach and why I want my kids in Competitive Activities. This trip just solidified my feelings and I am so happy we were able to experience Tennessee in the summer with our dance family!
Thanks for Visiting!