And onward we go! Thankfully not over any major bridges after this one leaving Evansville.
The plan was to head to the hotel first, so I could get checked in, drop my stuff off, etc. and then go hit the town for the rest of the day. Alas, I did not plan on being stuck trying to get through Pigeon Forge for over an hour. It's a 4-mile stretch. So frustrating. I just wanted to pick up the cars and go. I understand there's a traffic light every .25 mile but here's the thing. If you actually pay attention to the lights changing, and don't block the intersections so crossing cars can't get through, and don't slow down to look at everything you pass... magical things will happen, and we'll all make it through in a matter of minutes, not hours!
Sorry... I may have been slipping into a bit of PTRR (post-traumatic road rage) there...
So, by the time I got to the hotel and got settled it was almost 6:00. I knew I was going to have to drop a bunch of my planned stops from the list. However, the two things that could NOT be missed were the aquarium, and Hillbilly Golf. It had been YEARS since I'd visited Gatlinburg, but I feel like I grew up there we went so much as kids, so planning my route of attack was easy. The aquarium was next door to my hotel, so it was stop #1.
Speaking of my hotel, the view from my balcony was not too shabby!
Maybe I'm a bit biased, being that the Georgia Aquarium is my favorite (doesn't hurt that it's in ATL), but when I saw a billboard that this aquarium had been voted #1 in the country by visitors on TripAdvisor, or some site like that, I was like WAIT, WHAT?! It's a nice aquarium, but given what I know about Georgia Aquarium, this kind of shocked me. So I thought, "Maybe they've added on to it since the last time I was here." Paid for my ticket, and in I went!
After spending a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng time, and a loooooooooooooot of pictures in the Shark Lagoon (sharks are pretty special to me & my family), I made my way through the rest of the aquarium, and found myself at the gift shop. I was like "Wait... did I miss something?" I swear it seemed bigger years ago. I circled back to make sure I didn't miss a hallway somewhere and sure enough, that was it. Not saying it wasn't fun, it just shocked me I got through it so fast. I'm still convinced I missed a turn somewhere. But anyway - I wandered around the gift shop for a while, picked out my obligatory souvenirs, and proceeded to stop #2: SHOPPING.
Sidenote: Georgia Aquarium, still the best. Not up for debate.
Here are some of my pictures from the aquarium (seriously, if I had uploaded all of the shark pictures I took, you'd spend the rest of your day clicking through... or maybe just delete me from your life).
So, to the shops I went!
Found some good laughs along the way (click to make larger)
How I ever rode this, even with Daddy holding my hand, I have no idea...
And of COURSE, had to get an airbrushed shirt!
After nabbing a few finds here and there, I passed one of those aqua massage places, and decided to stop and try it. After a night of dancing, my legs were definitely making me aware that I am not as young as I used to be. Plus, I've been having a lot of migraines/tension headaches from stress, so I thought this might help. Overall opinion: good for minor aches/pains/soreness, not very effective for major tension (like I have in my neck/shoulders). But my legs felt great when I got done. I hit a few more shops, then decided I was ready for dinner. My review of the restaurant I ended up at (Loco Burro on the Parkway): I asked for a to-go box and my check when my meal FINALLY came out. I could rant and rave, but that sums it up pretty accurately. A couple next to me ended up leaving, having never even been asked what they wanted to drink after sitting there for about 15-20 minutes. So I'd highly recommend you go elsewhere to eat if you're ever in town. The only good part was my jackass stool, which you'll see in the Gatlinburg gallery below. I decided to head back to my room (it was after 10:00 at this point), and try and salvage my evening by relaxing, and then getting a decent night's sleep.
Day 3! The main mission of the day was Hillbilly Golf. Easily my favorite memory of Gatlinburg, going there as kids, and even as an adult years later. SO much fun. Mini golf in general is usually very enjoyable, but Hillbilly Golf is a whole 'nother level. You ride a tram up the hill, then play your way back down. Through farm equipment obstacles, nonetheless. I was notoriously the worst at this (not just Hillbilly Golf, any course we played) growing up, so I prepared myself for a horrible scorecard. Made it through the first 6 or so holes with a decent score (I think I was 1 over par), and caught up to a family of 6 that was nice enough to let me play through. They said "Ok, show us how it's done!" I joked with them that I was not their source for play techniques, lined my ball up, hit it... and HOLE IN ONE!!! Hahaha, apparently I perform well under pressure. Got cocky, bragged about it on social media, and two holes later... got a 4 on a par 2. It's a long way to fall from the top, people. Final score: 1 under par. I'm framing my scorecard.
Up next was the Hollywood Wax Museum. Most of the story is in the pictures in the gallery below, but I will tell you this - if you've got the time, go! Many of the figures don't look like the celebrity, but there a lot of good ones in there. And even though I was by myself, I felt like I was there with a big group, because everyone was laughing at people's silly poses for pictures and taking pictures for other people, etc. A lot of fun. Now for the funny-to-everyone-but- me part. I paid the extra $9 for the All-Access pass. This gave you access to the other attractions associated with the museum, plus access to the third floor with observatory deck. That's exactly how it was described to me. The outside of the building is the Empire State Building, with King Kong on the side of it. So on the deck, you're right up next to his face.
Now, maybe I should preface the next part of this story by telling (or reminding) you that I am absolutely terrified of heights. I get weak in the knees & dizzy. So I'm thinking "the third floor with observatory deck" might have a few more statues, plus the deck. I get on the elevator, punch my access code in, the doors open, and: BOOM, YOU ARE OUTSIDE IN OPEN AIR WITH AN OPEN RAILING TO THE FALL TO YOUR DEATH DOWN BELOW. There was a crowd of people waiting to go back downstairs, so I stepped out and let them on to the elevator, the doors shut behind me, and I glued myself to the wall, punching the crap out of the elevator button to call it back. To try and distract myself while I waited, I snapped a couple pictures out at the mountain (sometimes it helps me to look out, instead of down). That didn't help. I started sweating. WHAT WAS TAKING SO LONG?! I was desperately trying to grip the walls with my fingers. Alas, they would not sink in. Just as I thought I might have a panic attack, or faint, the doors finally opened and I ran in to safety. In actuality, this probably all only took maybe a minute or two, but it felt like half an hour. I paid $9 to scare the living crap out of myself.
Needless to say, that was enough excitement for me, and after a brief stint in the gift shop (WIZARD OF OZ!!!!), I headed to lunch, and then on to my next stop.
Here are the pictures from all of those adventures!
Leg two, done!