We’ve been doing lots of work in the south so this our second attempt at going to Dollywood. We booked a room, finished up our work in Louisville, KY, and headed on over to Pigeon Forge. By the time we realized that the weather said it would rain the whole time we were there, it was too late to cancel without penalty, so we soldiered on.
The first afternoon it rained so we stocked up on groceries, stopped in a shop that promised live alligators (there was one sleeping in a cage in the back but the crabs surprised us), and hung out in the room. My oldest wanted to swim but it was raining so I wouldn’t let him. How stupid did I feel when we drove out and saw people in the swimming pool … in the rain .. Lol
The next morning, we woke up, checked the weather, and realized it was gonna rain all day. In the past, we’d have donned some ponchos and headed out to Dollywood. Since the kids are so young, we thought we’d be responsible and choose an indoor activity. Our solution? The Ripley’s Aquarium.
Its not that big but it was good enough for my two preschoolers to spend about 5 hours there. There are tanks, touch pools, a playground/climbing structure, and shows spread out over the day. There’s also a glass-bottom-boat ride for $10 per person that we didn’t get on.
While our oldest was playing on the playground something good happened. There was a rope bridge that he wanted to cross and he was half way along when he started looking a little shaky. An older girl started to get on the bridge but saw him and stopped. Normally older kids run past him but this girl saw his hesitancy and helped out. She encouraged him to continue and when he reached her end, she helped him down. I was on the ground and they were up in the air. I mouthed “thank you” and gave her a thumbs up. A bit later, I noticed she was watching out for him. When he went to cross the bridge again, she went over and stopped another older girl from crossing, encouraged him, and asked the other girl to help him get down … and she did. It made my heart smile.
The best part about visiting the Ripley’s Aquarium was finding out that the parking behind the building was only $6 for the whole day! Most lots in Gatlingburg are $10 so this was a find. We parked, visited the aquarium, walked over to grab lunch at the NY Pizza spot in the Mountain Mall, and then walked back and visited the aquarium again.
It was a fun day. As Black people visiting the hills of Tennessee, we worry. Upon arrival, we were happy and excited to see many other Black families. I hadn’t yet read this article about Black activism in the Appalachian mountains so I was surprised. We did see lots of Confederate flags and a few Trump shirts/hats but people were nice and no one denied us service or yelled at us. We did see a business sign that gave us pause so we didn’t support that business but everything else was fine.
I still haven’t made it to Dollywood, so I’m sure we’ll be back. I look forward to it.