We've lived in North Carolina for the past six years and have not made a trip back home (AZ/CA) the whole time. We decided that needed to change this year and planned a massive, month-long, cross-country road trip. After months of planning, re-routing, and more planning, the day had finally arrived. On the last day of school the kids had a half day so we left as soon as they got home and dropped off their backpacks. Since we weren't leaving until lunchtime, we planned a short day in the car and only drove to Gatlinburg, TN.
We had different playlists for different parts of the drive but we kicked off the drive with a generic "Road Trip" playlist. Our first stop was McDonald's for lunch because it's no fun driving with hungry kids.
After checking in at our hotel, we headed to downtown Gatlinburg to see what the town had to offer. Even though it's only 3.5 hours away, we've never been before so it was a great way to get a sneak peak of somewhere that we can easily go back and explore again.
Our first stop (not counting the Gatlinburg trolley- which was much cheaper and easier than driving ourselves) was the Gatlinburg Space Needle. We scored heavily discounted tickets by combining their military ticket price with a Mother's Day online discount (40% off!) when we bought our tickets in May. They're good for a full year after purchase so I recommend buying online ahead of time if you're planning to go. Nick loved looking at all the ski lifts and repeatedly asked if we could come back in the winter and go skiing.
The kids loved the bird's eye view of Gatlinburg though they all commented that the Space Needle itself seemed a bit rickety. While I doubt there were any serious safety concerns, it definitely had a "cheap" feel to the tower and even though our tickets allowed for two trips to the top, we only made the trip up once.
As would become a common occurrence on this trip, we tried to get a picture of all the kids together. More often than not, I could get four of them looking at the camera with (usually) open eyes and a pleasant expression, but one would be looking the other way. The promise of doing a "silly picture" was a great incentive for cooperation with good pictures.
The kids thought that it was awesome that we could see our hotel from the Space Needle! And speaking of the hotel, it had a great view of the mountains surrounding Gatlinburg.
After heading back down to the streets of Gatlinburg, we made our way to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co for dinner. We enjoyed shrimp all sorts of ways and had fun with the Forrest Gump trivia. Our waitress was pretty impressed with Nick's knowledge of the movie (it's one of his favorites!).
After dinner, we explored the streets of Gatlinburg to see what there was to do. One of our first stops was the Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler for moonshine tasting (only for the adults). We tried thirteen varieties of Ole Smoky moonshine ranging from the delicious blackberry and peach to the intense burn of the 128 proof blue flame.
Since the kids were so well behaved while we had our samples, we stopped at Kilwin's for a quick ice cream cone to enjoy while we checked out the rest of the town. Once we made it to the far end of town, we caught another trolley and enjoyed the ride back to our hotel for the evening. The kids were all worn out from the end of the school year excitement and exploring Gatlinburg so they were asleep in no time. Even though we didn't make it very far from home, day one of our trip was fun and successful.
Miles Driven Day One: 206
Total Trip Miles: 206