Finding that my Baby Boy Still Needs Me While Visiting Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a 145 foot high underground waterfall.  To get to Ruby Falls, you take an elevator  below ground and walk through the caves with a tour guide.  Doesn’t sound too bad, right?  If you don’t like enclosed spaces, definitely avoid this attraction.  It isn’t very tight, except in one or two spots, but you are definitely underground.  In a cave.

My seven year old son would be the first to tell you how awful it is.

He would know because as soon as we got out of the elevator he had what most therapists would call a full-blown panic attack.

Seriously.

After you get out of the elevator, you take a tourist picture with the cave structures in the background and then continue on to wait for the guide and the rest of the group.  He was distracted by the fun elevator ride and the picture taking process but when we were waiting for the guide, he had time to look around and realize that we were underground.

In a dark and creepy cave.

The panic set in and he was not to be consoled.  Luckily, we were able to calm him down before the rest of the group was finished with the photo extravaganza.  We also had a wonderful guide that was a complete goofball and got Big S to laugh and forget (sort of) that we were in a cave.  I used his signals to decide that he could make it through the tour so we decided to go spelunking on.

It wasn’t quite the cave tour I was expecting and I can’t really tell you much about the visit because I was trying to make sure that my son was doing well.  I do remember the feeling I had when I realized that this was the same boy who recently told me that I could stop checking on him when he is playing in the backyard.  At the beginning of the summer, this same boy told me that he wanted to make his own lunch while he is home for the summer because “he knows what he likes and can make it himself.”  This is the same boy who argued with me at a rest stop because he didn’t think he needed to go in the women’s restroom anymore.  He is seven after all and will be fine using the men’s room according to him.  I relented then but as I wandered through the cave with his still small hand gripping mine like a vice, I was reminded that this boy still needs me even though he is starting to show more and more signs of his own independence.

Once we got to Ruby Falls, he was acting like we do this sort of thing all the time but he never let go of my hand.

When you get to the waterfall, you are warned that it will be dark.  They have the lights set on a timer so that each group moves on in a timely manner.  When the lights come on (complete with a clap on, clap off motion from our tour guide) so does some soothing new age type music.  There is a short show of lights that change color behind the waterfall.  It has a cheesy and glitzy quality about it but there is something awe-inspiring the first moment the lights go on and this is what you see…

In case you were wondering, we made it out of the cave in one piece and my son declared the adventure a success.

Broad Street Grille Champagne Brunch – Chattanooga, TN

When we travel, breakfast is usually a simple box of cereal or a free complimentary breakfast in the hotel (the kind with the make your own waffles!). Occasionally we will go out for breakfast, but most of the time we make lunch or dinner our big meal.

We were invited to eat brunch at Broad Street Grille,  The Chattanoogan’s restaurant.

This is not your typical Sunday brunch, my friends.

This award-winning Champagne Brunch has everything from the waffles and bacon that you would expect at most Sunday brunches to stuffed French toast, Southern Eggs Benedict with Fried Green Tomatoes, and hashbrown casserole. In addition to a myriad of delicious breakfast foods, there was also a fully stocked salad bar, braised pork shoulder, potatoes, salmon, chicken and more. There are fruits and an array of different cheeses.

There is also a dessert bar with cakes, bars, and the most delicious banana pudding I have ever had. Seriously. And of course no brunch would be complete without mimosas, which are unlimited!

If you have a gluten issue, everything is clearly marked if it is gluten free. My husband adheres to a strict gluten free (and beyond) regimen and often has a problem finding something to eat that fits within his dietary restrictions when we are at a restaurant. This brunch had plenty of options for him.

If you are in Chattanooga, I highly recommend the Champagne Brunch even if you aren’t staying at The Chattanoogan. The Chattanoogan is one of the last stops on the electric trolley if you are coming from Downtown Chattanooga.

The Champagne Brunch is offered Sundays from 11am to 2pm. Reservations are recommended. Adults can brunch for $21.95 and children can brunch for $11.95. Children under 6 eat free off of the kid’s menu.

Stop by Wanderlust and Lipstick for Wanderfood Wednesday. Have a snack ready though…the pictures of food will make your mouth water.

Disclosure: Thank you to The Chattanoogan for hosting us and inviting us to brunch.

Nashville with Kids – Gaylord Opryland

At the risk of showing my age, I have to share something. Every time I visit a Gaylord property, I can’t help but think about the movie, Bio-Dome. You know the one I am talking about, right? Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin find their way into a biodome when they are trying to prove to their scantily clad girlfriends that they are environmentally correct. They end up getting stuck in the biodome for a year. I can’t help but think of the movie anytime I visit a Gaylord biodome.

The last time I visited the Gaylord Opryland Hotel was about ten years ago. We were right outside of Nashville visiting family and they told us that we just had to see the Gaylord Opryland Hotel all decorated for the holidays. I remember wandering through the hotel looking at the beautiful Christmas decorations and twinkling lights. I remember thinking the property was ridiculously huge and couldn’t get over the fact that there was a river complete with a boat tour.

A few months ago, I headed up to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel for the Blissdom conference. In between sessions and socializing, I toured the property and explored the different things that the Gaylord Opryland Hotel had to offer.

Accommodations

The Opryland is set up in several different sections: Magnolia; Delta; Garden Conservatory, and Cascades. Each section is set up with rivers, ponds, waterfalls and more. We stayed in the Cascades in a typical two bed hotel room with a bathroom. I liked that there was a small sink area with a mirror outside of the bathroom. I was sharing the room with an old friend so it was nice to be able to have both areas so that we could get ready in the morning in a timely manner.

Our room and bathroom were clean and it was proof positive that the hotel seems to regularly deep clean the rooms. When we arrived, all of our furniture was moved about two feet away from the wall. We left it there and assumed that when housekeeping came by they would fix it. Nope! We called down to the front desk and they got a kick out of it. The women laughed at our story and sent someone up to fix it right away. Once the furniture was moved back to its proper place, our room was quite spacious.

Dining Options

There are a lot of dining options throughout the hotel. You could park your car and not get into it again until it was time to leave if you wanted to. I was pleasantly surprised by the options in all of the different price points. We ate breakfast once at the Cascades American Café. We had a pricey dinner at Solario, a Mexican restaurant. The first day we were there, we ate at Stax Burgers, a build your own burger place. This meal was the most reasonably priced. For only $10, I got a huge cheeseburger and french fries. There is a pizza place, a steakhouse, an Irish pub, a sushi bar, and more.

Activities for the Family

The Gaylord Opryland has two outdoor pools and one indoor pool to keep the kids occupied during your down time. There is a small arcade and lots of gardens to explore. You can grab a treat at Christie Cookie or Haagen Dazs Ice Cream. There is a water show set to music in the Delta Atrium. You can find the Dreamworks characters hanging out during certain parts of the year. SNOW! and ICE! are held during the winter and during spring break, you can celebrate with the Dreamworks friends. During select days in the summertime, you can build Princess Fiona’s Cookie Castle or have breakfast with the Shrek characters.  If you attend Summer Fun with Shrek & Friends, you can join in the Madagascar Crack-a-Lackin’ Pool Party, train at the Kung Fu Panda Academy of Awesomeness, watch a movie from the pool, and more. Head to the Delta Atrium and take a ride on a riverboat. This is one thing we really wanted to do but just never found the time.

Things to Know Before You Go

Parking is pricey. You will pay $18 per day to park in their lot and $26 per day for overnight valet parking.

There is a shuttle service but it isn’t included. Shuttle service from the airport is $40 per person for a roundtrip fare. There is also shuttle service to and from various attractions around Nashville. Most of the services begin at $20.

I felt like the Gaylord Opryland is in a pretty central location so it would serve as a good base for your Nashville family vacation.

The Dreamworks characters are not always visiting the Gaylord Opryland. If you are planning a Dreamworks experience, be sure you check the schedule of events and plan your trip around those dates.

I have now visited the Gaylord Opryland and the Gaylord Palms. I am hoping to visit the Gaylord National this summer while we are in Maryland. Have you visited a Gaylord property? Which one?

The Prettiest Place I Know

Winding along the road, I spotted a few leaves that had started to change colors.  We saw the little church.  There is the Sonic Drive In advertising happy hour prices for slushes and sodas.  We passed the small grocery store where the townspeople linger in aisles asking each other about their families and what they are going to do with the roast in the buggy (because it is called a buggy here).  We drove a little bit farther and the high school was to our left with its octagonal pod-like buildings letting us know that we were almost there.  We pulled past the big white fence and I remembered that somewhere nearby or behind that fence was the enormous home of a celebrity couple, a married actress and singer.  A few black and brown dogs ran across the road in front of us following after their owner who was using a walking stick to help him up the road.

Using her whiniest voice, I heard my four year old daughter ask, “Are we there yet?”

“Not yet, but almost,” I said towards the backseat.

She was not amused.  We had been telling her that we were almost there for the past 15 minutes.  “But how much is almost?” she asked drawing out each syllable.

“Just a few more minutes,” I answered with an exasperated voice.  We got in the car the day before at 4:00 in the afternoon and we didn’t arrive in Nashville, Tennessee until midnight that night.  This morning, we woke up, got ready and ate our complimentary breakfast.  We loaded up in the car to make the 45 minute drive from Nashville to my husband’s grandparent’s home in Ashland City, Tennessee.  My daughter decided that she had had enough of sitting in the car and the meltdown ensued.

Daddy J saw the bend coming up and turned around.

“We are almost there.  Count to ten and we will be there.  It is worth the wait,” he said as his voice sounded more excited and a little bit breathy, “It is the prettiest place I know.”

As we turned into the driveway, my daughter made a sound like the one that she makes when she sees a Disney princess or a special homemade treat on the kitchen counter.

“Daddy! It IS the prettiest place you know,” she exclaimed in that same breathy, amazed voice as my husband.

And it is.  The log cabin is situated on a hill and as you pull into the long driveway, you can see the front porch with its two swings attached to the overhang.  Bright red flowers dot the garden beds near the stairs.  It is just a short walk from the Cumberland River in one direction and in the other is a forest complete with a creek bed, logs to climb over and an abandoned red truck missing its bed.  We still aren’t sure how the truck got there in the middle of the woods in the first place but we are positive it has been there for a long while.

The expansive backyard is large enough to play a game of soccer, baseball or freeze tag.  There is a 12×12 cement basketball court off to one side with an old, rusty basketball goal that has been there since before I started joining my husband on these trips.  There is a beautiful shade tree that has orange and yellow leaves as it prepares for winter.  The rocky driveway is a perfect place to play that game that grandpa made many years ago.

It is a box made out of plywood with a round piece of plastic PVC pipe in the middle.  Land a large washer inside the pipe and you earn three points.  Land a washer inside the box but outside of the pipe and you earn one point.  Whoever gets to 21 first (or eleven if you are playing with 4 year olds) wins.  This game has been around for as long as I have been visiting the cabin.  Kids and adults alike have spent many summers, Thanksgivings, and other holidays throwing washers painted in their team colors into the box.

Every year we say we are going to get back up to the house more often but we have not made as many trips as we would like.   We made this last minute trip for personal reasons…reasons that prompted a quick trip where we spent more time in the car than we did visiting.

Next time, we aren’t going to wait for the next three day weekend or holiday not already delegated to another relative to make the trip.  We are just going to throw a few bags in the car, pack the cooler, and begin to drive towards that beautiful cabin in the woods on the Cumberland River that is as special as the family that lives inside it.

Please stop by Mara’s over at Mother of All Trips to see what she is dreaming about. Do you have a Monday dream? Be sure to link up!

Wilderness at the Smokies – Sevierville, TN – Part Two – Smokies Surfrider

This summer we had the opportunity to spend two fun filled days at Wilderness at the Smokies in Sevierville, Tennessee.  We had such a great time!  One of my favorite memories of this trip was the look on my son’s face when he realized he was tall enough to ride the Smokies Surfrider

The waterpark writes the height of the rides for the little ones on their hand.  My son looked at his hand, looked at the height on the sign, looked at his hand again.  Then he turned to me with eyes so wide, questioning me.  I gave him a big smile and he immediately got in line. 

With the little guys, they start at the bottom of the surfrider.  The lifeguard holds on to the board, Big S hopped on, and she let it go.  I love the look of determination with a smattering of fear!

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And up he went!

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It was hilarious because Big S didn’t weigh enough so he just kept going right up and over.  No surfing here! 

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See our other posts from our Wilderness at the Smokies trip: a video of our adventure and Wilderness at the Smokies – Sevierville, TN – Part One – Salamander Springs.  You can read my full review of the hotel and the waterparks on Trekaroo.

Visit Trekaroo for Spotlight Thursday to see where others are traveling!

Disclosure: We were guests of Wilderness at the Smokies for two nights.  Water park admission is included with every hotel stay because you must be guests of the hotel to visit the water park.  While on this trip, we paid for everything else including our meals and the gas to get there.  My reviews are based solely on my experiences and opinion with no outside influence.

More Smoky Mountain Pictures

Last week for Photo Friday, I posted a few picture I had taken on a recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains and mentioned that the blue misty “smoke”  always seemed to be there no matter when we visited.  Your comments and questions prompted me to do a little bit more research on where the misty smoke comes from.  The National Park Service website does discuss how the views of the Smokies have been degraded by pollution. 

A Wikipedia entry states “The name “Smoky” comes from the natural fog that often hangs over the range and presents as large smoke plumes from a distance. This fog, which is most common in the morning and after rainfall, is the result of warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico cooling rapidly in the higher elevations of Southern Appalachia.” 

I always told my high school students never to use Wikipedia as a source, but I couldn’t find much else during a quick search on the Internet.  This particular entry references a book by Rose Houk called Great Smoky Mountains National Park: A Natural History Guide (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993), page 198, so I decided to share it.

I also dug back into the picture archives to find a few more pictures from our trips to the Smoky Mountains!

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Stop by Delicious Baby for more Photo Friday entries!

The Great Smoky Mountains

Everytime we drive through the Smokies, I am amazed by the misty “smoke” that inspired the mountain’s name.  It is always there, whether we are driving through the mountains in the morning, afternoon, or evening. 

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This post is part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.  Stop by to see other beautiful travel pictures!

Wilderness at the Smokies – Sevierville, TN – Part One – Salamander Springs

Last week, I shared my video of our experience at Wilderness at the Smokies!  Today I am going to go into a little bit more detail on our visit.  We got to visit Wilderness at the Smokies for two nights as part of the Trekaroo Superoo program.  If you have followed this site for awhile, you will know how much we love Trekaroo.  Trekaroo is kind of like a Trip Advisor for families!  You can do a search for a city or area and get reviews by families just like you and me for hundreds of hotels and activities!  If you haven’t already, definitely stop by and check it out!

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The Wilderness at the Smokies visit was so great for us as a family!  We spent an evening and a day splashing in the water at the three different water parks.  We have visited waterparks all over the country.  This waterpark resort is definitely not the biggest, but it isn’t the smallest either!  Our favorite of the three water parks, Salamander Springs, is what I am going to share with you today!  To see my full review of Wilderness at the Smokies on Trekaroo, head to my Trekaroo Passport.

When we first arrived at the hotel, we were so bummed when we realized that we were staying across the street from the large indoor water park.  Once we checked in, we had a chance to look out one of the windows where we spied Salamander Springs!  Salamander Springs is full of water slides, pools, hot tubs, and play structures great for kids of all ages but in particular, the younger kids.  My three year old was able to go down all the slides on her own.  They splashed around the pools and loved exploring the huge play structure.  The structure had slides, tunnels to crawl through, steps to climb, and a bucket that dropped gallons and gallons of water on unsuspecting children every few minutes! 

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Even the itty bitty toddlers can have a great time splashing around.  There is a small section set aside just for your youngest children with a little pool, slide and swings.  It is manned by its own lifeguard.

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The best part about staying next to Salamander Springs was that when our kids got tired of being in the sun and water, we took them upstairs to our room for a snack, rest and some tv time.  When we were all rested, we were ready to head back downstairs. 

I loved the fact that there were plenty of lifeguards watching and interacting with all of the children.  I also loved being able to sit in a chair while my kids romped around into the water.  I did not feel the need to have to follow them around as they played like I did at some of the bigger parks.

Disclosure: We were guests of Wilderness at the Smokies for two nights.  Water park admission is included with every hotel stay because you must be guests of the hotel to visit the water park.  While on this trip, we paid for everything else including our meals and the gas to get there.  My reviews are based solely on my experiences and opinion with no outside influence.

Next up – Part Two – Wild Water Dome Indoor Water Park.

Stop by Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday to learn about other places to travel!

Sevierville Hotel Review

My First Video!

I got this handy little Flip Mino HD as a prize for completing a ton of reviews on Trekaroo.  It was during a promotion that they were doing last year.  Since then, I have used it a handful of times but haven’t really done anything with the video.  As a matter of fact, when I went to download video from this last trip and there were 38 clips on it!  I have been inspired by the videos I have seen around the web so I thought that I would give it a try. 

It is definitely not greatness but I did learn a lot!  Most importantly, I need to pay attention to the screen (and not the subject!) when I record video.  This video is just a little sneak peek of what my posts next week will be about!  Enjoy!

Disclosure: We were guests of Wilderness at the Smokies for two nights.  Water park admission is included with every hotel stay because you must be guests of the hotel to visit the water park.  While on this trip, we paid for everything else including our meals and the gas to get there.  My reviews are based solely on my experiences and opinion with no outside influence.

Stop by Photo Friday at Delicious Baby to see where other travelers are today!

Lost Sea Adventure – Sweetwater, Tennessee

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On this road trip, we vowed to slow down.  If we saw something that made us want to stop the car, we would.  The Lost Sea Adventure was exactly one of those things…we were in the middle of Tennessee.  What on earth could the Lost Sea Adventure be?

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We were not disappointed!  This roadside attraction has a large cavern and an underground lake that you can take a boatride on.  The cave has quite a history!  We decided to skip the cave tour because it is 1.5 hours and you must go on a tour.  Even though we weren’t on a time crunch, we did have a timeframe that we wanted to stick to.  Instead, we headed over to the Old Sweetwater Village.  We visited the store and stopped by the Blacksmith Shop. 

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While at the General Store, we purchased a bag of dirt for five dollars.  We took it over to Red Ruby’s Gem Mine were the kids got to sift through the dirt and see what they found!  Both kids got several large stones and tons of little ones.  With a purchase of the bag of dirt, the kids got a little card with pictures of the gems they might find all labeled.  Big S spent almost an hour looking at his stones and comparing them to the pictures.

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The Lost Sea Adventure is located about 5-7 minutes off of the interstate and is worth the drive if nothing else but the walk around the village to stretch your legs and the relatively clean restrooms.  There is also a small shop where you can get snacks and ice cream.

The Lost Sea Adventure is located at 140 Lost Sea Road in Sweetwater, Tennessee.

Stop by Spotlight Thursday at Trekaroo to see where other travelers are now!
Sweetwater Family Vacation