If you’re taken aback by the upside down house that rests beside the Pigeon River in Pigeon Forge, you wouldn’t be the first. WonderWorks, a combination arcade/science museum, is one of handful of Pigeon Forge attractions that not only stand out because of their rave reviews, but because of their outward appearance.

Constructed to look like it landed upside down in Pigeon Forge, WonderWorks is arguably the most unique building in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s located right next door to the new Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud. WonderWorks bills itself as an amusement park for the mind, featuring over 150 interactive exhibits. It’s 55,000 square feet of fun for the whole family… And don’t forget to stick around for Terry Evanswoods’ thrilling magic show, sure to delight the mind and play tricks on the eyes.

Take your time and enjoy WonderWorks for all it’s worth. It’s a go-at-your-own-pace attraction where you can try out every single exhibit as many times as you want! Get your fill of each of the exhibits while you’re there, there are no limits. It’s a great place for families looking to keep their kids enthralled and entertained for hours! On average, people can spend two hours just going through all the exhibits once. Feel hurricane winds, the shaking of what an earthquake feels like, flip upside-down on a bicycle-like contraption, see how hard you can throw a baseball, design a own virtual roller coaster and then ride it, try laying on a bed of nails, and more! WonderWorks is a must-stop in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Inversion TunnelA word to the wise, it can get crowded, so pick a good time to go when you do. Try early mornings or late after dinner. I would avoid Fridays and Saturdays unless you’re prepared to deal with an influx of people.

A few more tips:

  • Don’t eat anything too heavy beforehand. There are rides that spin and flip, so try to eat after you go on any of the rides.
  • There are a lot of photo opportunities at WonderWorks (bed of nails, spacesuit), so pack your camera.

Terry Evanswood’s “The Wonders of Magic at WonderWorks” is rated as a 5-star attraction on Trip Advisor and was voted No. 1 of 62 Pigeon Forge attractions. They advise guests to: “Discover the Wonders of Magic at WonderWorks. Prepare to be dazzled by one of the world’s greatest magicians. Terry Evanswood, don’t miss this opportunity to participate in one of this areas true greats. His show is so amazing you will be asking yourself, “How did he do that?”

If you have tips that you would like to share about Wonder Works in Pigeon Forge, TN then please post a comment below!



100 Music Road
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

When Ripley’s announced they were going to put an aquarium in Gatlinburg, there were two questions that everybody asked:  Where? & When?  Well, they built it in the center of town, right off River Road at traffic light 5.  It is impossible to miss this complex that has become as much a part of the scenery of Gatlinburg as the Aerial Tramway to Ober Gatlinburg.  Opening in late in 2000, this attraction is more than a decade old and has become one of the most visited family attractions in the Smokies.

With an aquarium, you expect to see tanks full of fish.  Ripley’s has designed an aquarium that allows you to roam from tank to tank, making sure that you are able to see fish in as natural an environment as possible.  The aquarium boasts over 10,000 aquatic animals, some of which you can even hold and touch.  This is a world class aquarium, bringing you salt water animals from all over the world.  As you walk from tank to tank you explore places as diverse as the Amazon Rain Forest, the Pacific Ocean and coral reefs.  Each exhibit has been painstakingly designed to give you a sense of being close to the action – of being in the water with the fish.

Two of the exhibits are hands-on.  The Discovery Center lets you explore different aspects of the seas and get even closer to some of the fish you have been seeing.  Included in this area is a flowing water exhibit that allows you to pick up and handle a horseshoe crab, one of the oldest and most unchanged animals on the planet.  Being able to reach into the shallow water and touch these oddities of the undersea world is both unique and exciting.  As you near the exit of the aquarium, you will find yourself at Touch-a-Ray Bay.  This location lets you gets hands on with small rays and shark in a safe environment.  Divers and aquarium staff are on hand to teach you about the animals you are touching and make sure that everyone gets a chance to get hands on.

Ripley's Aquarium of the SmokiesOne of the most unique features of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a trip through the underwater tunnel which brings you through the world of a coral reef with a huge mixture of animals.  You stand on a moving walkway that passes through this amazing world.  Sharks soar past, inches from your head.  Sea turtles glide gracefully through the water and all this time you are moving slowly through a tunnel enjoying the amazing scenery and the spectacle around you.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a must do activity in the Smoky Mountains.  Thousands of visitors go through their exhibits each season, making this one of the most visited attractions in the area.  A well designed and maintained attraction with an experience that will stick with you for years to come.  Make the aquarium a stop for you and your loved ones on your next trip to Gatlinburg.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
88 River Rd
Gatlinburg, TN

Panther Creek State Park

One of the many great state parks in Tennessee, Panther Creek State Park is located in Morristown, TN in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains.  This park is made up of more than 1,400 acres and houses many opportunities for outdoor activities and lots of fun.  Water sports, camping, boating and little history thrown in to boot make this an extraordinary park to visit while you are in the Smoky Mountains on vacation.  Or maybe, you live in the area and you have never ventured out to the numerous state parks in the area – what are you waiting for?

Panther Creek and Panther Springs have an interesting story behind their names.  Supposedly, the area was originally scouted by one Colonel Bradley of Virginia.  While he and his men were exploring the area, he spied a panther or a mountain lion near the spring.  He took careful aim and shot the animal which fell into the spring.  Thus he named the creek and the spring after the animal that he shot on the banks of the river.

Panther Creek State Park borders the Cherokee Reservoir.  This man made body of water was created by an impoundment of the Holston River on its way to its confluence with the French Broad River – where the Tennessee River is formed.  The Cherokee Reservoir provides a wonderful playground on the placid water.  Panther Creek State Park is about 35 miles from Knoxville and about 45 miles north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Panther Creek State ParkWhen you get to Panther Creek State Park you will find that many of the activities focus around Cherokee Lake.  Boating, boat rentals, a bait shop and more are located right on the shore of the lake.  While you are there, you might as well spend the night in one of the 50 campsites that are located around the lake.  The campsites are full service with electrical hookups, grills, picnic tables and more.  Many people come to Cherokee Lake looking to hook into a big fish.  Bluegill, catfish, crappie, bass and bream can be found in the cool waters of the lake.  Or maybe you want to go for a swim.  The campground has a swimming pool on premises with a high dive and a wading area for the little kids in your family.

If you are looking for a change of pace or just a great weekend excursion to the foothills of the Smokies, Panther Creek State Park has a lot to offer those looking for a day of fun around the lake or for a week long getaway.  Fish, camp, swim, boat and basically get outdoors spending plenty of time in the fun and the sun at Panther Creek.

North Carolina State Parks

North Carolina chooses to celebrate the land and the landscape of the mountains in the state parks that surround the Smoky Mountains.  From the peak of Mount Mitchell to the slowly flowing New River, the state parks of the state of North Carolina provide days of recreational opportunities for thousands of visitors each year.  Whether you are wanting a simple day playing in the mountains or a strenuous hike to the top of a miraculous rock formation, check out the state parks of NC to find all that your travel needs desire.

Blue Valley Experimental Forest – This experimental forest was established in 1964.  The purpose of this forest is to study the eastern white pine and other hardwood trees.  Through the research that goes on in this forest, the understanding of the eastern white pine and hardwood trees in the mountains and foothills of North Carolina has increased and researchers have been able to help keep these forests vibrant and healthy.

Chimney Rock State Park – Chimney Rock’s main feature is the 315 foot spire of rock that just from the landscape and shares its name with the park itself.  Once a privately owned park, the family that owned Chimney rock developed the stairway and elevator that give visitors access to the top of the spire and also hiking trails to other geological formations in the park itself, including the 404 foot Hickory Nut Falls.

Elk Knob State Park – This is one of the newest additions to the North Carolina State Park system.  Right now it has just the basics:  a park office, a contact station, a maintenance facility, picnic areas and a hiking trail.  The hiking trail provides a glorious walk to the apex of Elk Knob.

Grandfather Mountain – Grandfather Mountain was added to the state park system in North Carolina in 2008.  The acquisition of this property helps to continue the vision of the Horton family (the family that owned the area known as Grandfather Mountain and turned it into the destination that it is today).  On top of the mountain you will find hiking trails, a swinging bridge and breathtaking views of the mountains around Grandfather Mountain.  Add to that the events that take place on Grandfather Mountain each year, like the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and you have a destination that could monopolize your vacation for days at a time.

Mount Jefferson State Park – Mount Jefferson rises more than 1,600 feet above the surrounding area on the Ashe Plateau.  From the peak you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains and of course the Ashe Plateau which spreads out in front of the peak.  The lush forest on Mount Jefferson bring one of the widest ranges of plant and wild life that is to be found in the Southern Appalachians.

Mount Mitchell State Park – Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River.  Rising 6,684 feet above sea level, Mount Mitchell dominates the skyline.  Though Mount Mitchell is often shrouded in mist and mystery, a hike to the top of the mountain provides the visitor with an amazing view of the surrounding valleys and mountains for miles around.

New River State Park – Camping, picnicking, fishing and best of all canoeing and flat water kayaking are just a few of the reasons to visit the New River State Park.  Beautiful scenery and a pastoral landscape surround what may be the oldest river in the United States.  You can drive through this beautiful area, taking in the natural beauty or you can jump in a canoe or kayak and float gentle down this slow moving river form one of the four river access points.

Capitol Theatre

Downtown Maryville, TN was once the thriving center of the community.  Over time, like almost all downtown areas in small towns, the  area that used to be jumping with activity fell out of favor as commerce in general moved toward other areas of the city.  One thing in downtown Maryville remained the same however, the beauty the quaintness and of course, the Capitol Theatre.

The Capitol Theatre was built in 1934.  It took over the location that had been the home of JC Penny before this point.  The Capitol was the largest of three possible locations to see movies in downtown Maryville.  Seating 1000 people, the Captiol was a jumping place up until the time it closed in the 1970s, as the downtown area felt the effects of commercial businesses moving.  From the 30s through the 70s, people flocked to this theater.  Showing both motion pictures and live performances, the Capitol Theatre was THE place to go for decades.  Closing in the 1970s, the building went through a lot of tenants over the years, in more recent years, the Capitol has seen a bit of renovation and is returning to its former glory.

Now, the Capitol Theatre is a special events venue.  From wedding receptions to corporate engagements, the Capitol can now be rented out to cover all of your party and event needs.  The Capitol Theatre offers lots of amenities that you will not find at other places:

  • stage
  • retractable silver screen
  • dance floor
  • catering kitchen
  • flexible seating
In addition the staff at the theater can help you plan you revent and fins an additional need syou might have while you are getting your gala or reception ready.  The Capitol Theatre has now become the place to have your event.  The Capitol Theatre is also helping to revitalize the downtown area of Maryville.  Surrounded by unique shopping experiences and restaurants, the Capitol has changed with the times but it has also kept that same feel that it had back when it was founded.
Capitol Theatre
127 West Broadway Ave
Maryville, TN

Three Rivers Rambler

The Three Rivers Rambler is a train excursion that runs along to the Tennessee River.  This 90 minute train ride starts from the waterfront near downtown Knoxville and takes you on a ride through the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.  You will pass a lot of the history that has formed not only Knoxville but parts of the country as well.  The end of the trip is a visit to the Three Rivers Trestle.  The Rambler runs on selected weekends and has become a huge draw for the Neyland Drive area of Knoxville,

The Trains

Depending on when you decide to take a ride on the Rambler, you might be pulled by Lindy – the 1925 steam engine or the slightly older 1890 steam engine that they are unveiling in the summer of 2012.  There are also times that they use diesel engines to pull the coach cars. These give you an entirely different feel to your train ride as the power of the diesel engines pulls you down the track.  While you are onboard the Rambler, you will be sitting in one of the two coach cars that date back to 1932.  The various cars of the train are connected and allow you to roam to the open air section fo the train or to the merchandise cars where they sell soft drinks and water; this is also where the restrooms are located.

Three Rivers RamblerThe Trip

The 90 minute ride on the Rambler takes you from the waterfront on Neyland Drive past downtown through the foothills of the Smokies and past lush pastoral landscapes and lots of history.  As you progress north from the boarding station, you will pass the farmlands that were the first settlements in the area, quarries that actually supplied some of the stone that helped to build Washington DC and many other points of interest.  While you travel along, feel free to ask questions of the staff members on board.  They are very knowledgeable and they have been asked your questions before.  They know the route and will be glad to share their knowledge with you.

The Trestle

The highlight of the trip is a visit to the Three Rivers Trestle.  The Rambler takes you to the point where the Tennessee River really begins.  The French Broad, after winding its way out of the mountains, and the Holston combine to form the Tennessee River.  The Tennessee then continues on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. You actually get to see the point where this new river, the Tennessee, is formed.  A highlight that lets you see a stretch of river that powers homes, moves the economy along and of course provides hours of recreation.

The Three Rivers Rambler offers a different way to experience the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.  You can sit back and enjoy the hour and a half ride through the outskirts of Knoxville, TN while you learn about the history of the city, the area and the country.  You also get to view the start of the one of the largest waterways in our country.  Try the Three Rivers Rambler out as a day trip the next time you visit the Smokies.

Three Rivers Rambler
2560 University Commons Way
Knoxville, TN 37919

Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum

If you are interested in the lapidary arts you might want to take a ride into Franklin, NC and visit the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum.  Due to the history of the area, it is no wonder that a museum has been established to show off the gems and the mining industry that brought Franklin to life.  Inside you are going to find not only information on the history of the area but examples of the gems that they found in the mountains.  Of course, the fact that the museum is housed in the old jail house means that you are walking into history as you learn about history.

Drive around downtown Franklin and you are going to see typical, small town USA downtown.  This downtown has been revitalized in the past with the influx of tourism dollars into the area and especially into Franklin itself.  Look up and down the narrow streets, take in the beauty of what Franklin looked like at the turn of the century.  On Phillips Street you will see the old jail house.  If you find the jailhouse, you have found the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum.  They have been in this location since 1974 and they are not only celebrating their love of all things gem mining but they are also keeping up the Old Macon County Jail.

Franklin Gem & Mineral MuseumThe Franklin Gem and Mineral Society started in 1971.  The rockhounds of the area had a close kinship from many hours spent digging for gems in the mountains.  It was no wonder that informal get-togethers turned into monthly meetings.  In fact, by 1972 there were almost 175 people on the roles of the club.  In 1972 they also opened the museum.  This museum was a growing collection of the lapidary dreams of the rockhounds of Macon County.  With the move into the jailhouse, they were able to expand the collection and improve on the exhibits.  The club stills hosts this free museum and it is one of the highlights of any visit to downtown Franklin, NC.

Stepping though the door of the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum brings into the world of rocks, gems and fossils.  From the North Carolina Room that focuses on those minerals and rocks pulled from the local mountains.  You can also cool those minerals and gems pulled from around the world in the World Room.  There are also rooms dedicated to fossils, artifacts and much more.  Learn about the industry that caused the founding of Franklin.  The Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum celebrates that industry it is a great way to spend the afternoon.

Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum
25 Phillips St
Franklin, NC

University of Tennessee Football

Go Vols!

Looking for some fun in the Smokies on a football weekend.  Plan your visit for a home game weekend and get those tickets early.  plan to sit with over 100,000 of your closest friends and cheer on the UT Volunteers (or their opposition) at one of the best football venues in one of the best football towns in the SEC.

Now, UT and other college football communities get a bad reputation for their over-zealousness but if you are coming through town on a Friday afternoon before a home game, there is something that you are going to notice:  lots of ORANGE.  The fan base in and around Knoxville is incredible.  They support their time and the town gets decked with orange from one end to the other.  Bank tellers, fast food restaurants and anything that doesn’t move gets festooned with orange.  As the approach of kickoff draws nigh, the town empties as people gather at the stadium or at their homes to watch the Vols take to the field.

The stadium itself is something to behold.  Neyland Stadium is named after General Robert Neyland,  Neyland was former athletic director and coach of the Vols.  The stadium was founded in 1921 and it is s till on that same location, though it has grown considerably over time.  In 1962, the stadium was renamed Neyland Stadium and it is currently one of the largest college football stadiums in the country.  Attendance has been tracked since 1964 and since that point, it has averaged 68,925 fans per game.  The largest crowd to ever fill the stadium was on September 18,2004 when 109,061 people arrived to watch the Vols beat Florida, 30-28.  Right now, Neyland Stadium is the third largest college stadium behind Michigan Stadium and Beaver Stadium.  Sitting in this large outdoor venue is one of the most exciting ways to take in a college football game.

Tips for going to UT Home game

  • Come Early and Expect to Leave Late
  • No Outside food, snacks or drinks
  • No alcoholic Beverages.
  • Gates open 2 hours before kickoff and not before
  • Bring your RV and tailgate before the game
  • All attendees must have a ticket regardless of age to enter the stadium
  • Parking is free in downtown Knoxville but your are going to have to walk or you are going to have to ride Knoxville Area Transit (KAT) buses to get tot he stadium

Prohibited items

  • Cans, bottles or coolers
  • Radios without headsets
  • Open Umbrellas
  • Video Cameras
  • Stadium seats with arms
  • Large bags of any kind
  • Weapons of any kind (this includes pocket knives)
  • Artificial noisemakers
  • Smoking
  • Strollers

Next time you come to the Smokies during football season why don’t you plan to go to a home game at Neyland stadium?  Sit in one of the biggest football stadiums in the country, watch a great team and experience the fun of SEC football in the Smoky Mountains.

Dillsboro Chocolate Factory

When you are roaming through the streets of downtown Dillsboro, you are going to notice a smell in the air.  The smell of chocolate. If you follow the fragrance through the air you will eventually end up at the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory.  In this beautiful building, you will find a world filled with chocolate, candy and other goodies along with a great selection of gifts.  They are constantly making their own candies and confectioneries, that are served up fresh everyday and some of the best fudge that you will ever taste.

One of the most interesting things that the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory has to offer is the Shooter.  This is a chocolate toasting cup (yes, you read the correctly, the cup itself is chocolate), filled with a chocolate ganache that has been infused with a a touch of alcohol.  Now, this is literally just a dab of liquor as there is less then 3% alcohol in these wonderful creations.  They come in flavors ranging from apple martini to Irish creme so you will certainly be able to find a favorite.  If you are still having a hard time wrapping your head around the concept, imagine an open faced truffle.

dcf2Along with their shooters, they have tons of chocolate creations.  From truffles ti brio to bark to fudge, their are more varieties of chocolate in this shop then you will find in more stores twice its size.  You can find those items from the past that were favorites of yours as a child to new creations that are fresh from their research and development department.  For instance, they have an Aztec  “Spicy” Turtle.  This creation is just the right blend of pecans, caramel and dark chocolate with just a bit of spice to make it interesting.  Or maybe you are in the mood for something a little strange, like – Dark Peanut Butter Ritz Crackers.  These are honest to goodness Ritz crackers that have had a layer of peanut butter spread on them and then dipped in wonderful dark chocolate.  The slight bitter of the dark chocolate with the sweet of the peanut butter and the savory cracker is a treat that you will not believe.

Along with the chocolate madness, they have candy galore.  Jelly Bellies, jawbreakers, jujubees and much more, there is a flavor or style of candy for everybody in your group.  Whether you have that unusual person that loves licorice or the person that can’t turn down a bag of chocolate covered coffee beans, this is an awesome candy store that has a little bit of everything.  Almost all of it is homemade and made fresh on a daily basis.

Along with the the sweets they have a gift shop that you won’t believe featuring gifts that celebrate the Smokies and of course, gifts to warm the heart.  They are located right near downtown Dillsboro.  Roam the streets and stop in for some treats.  Sit down and enjoy the smells and sounds of a candy factory, take some fudge home to the neighbors and have a great time while you visit the North Carolina side of the Smokies.

Dillsboro Chocolate Factory
28 Church Street
Dillsboro, NC

Harrisburg Covered Bridge

There has been a covered bridge in the Harrisburg Community of Sevier County since the mid 1800s.  The bridge was used by the locals to cross the East Prong of the Little Pigeon River and connected the two separate parts of the community.

Originally, the Harrisburg Covered Bridge was named the McNutts Bridge but in 1875, the bridge was washed away during a storm and was completely destroyed.  Later that same year, a Sevier County Court established a committee to oversee the construction of a replacement bridge.  $50 was raised privately and $25 was donated by the county.  The people of the Harrisburg community donated all of the lumber that was needed and the labor.  The people of Harrisburg built the bridge and made sure they would be able to get back and forth to town easily and that they would be able to further grow their part of the county.

While other covered bridges around the country were being torn down, the people of Sevier County kept the Harrisburg Covered Bridge up and going.  IN the 1950s, the bridge was renovated, but by the 1970s the bridge had fallen into disrepair and was nearing the end of its life.  At this point in the bridges history, the Great Smokies Chapter and the Daughters of the American Revolution raised the money to keep the bridge up and to make sure that it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, you can still go visit the Harrisburg Bridge, take some pictures and drive through a bridge that has been around since 1875.  The bridge is 83 feet long, 14 feet wide and has 11-1/2 feet of clearance.  A true wonder of not only architecture but also of a people that wanted to keep their history alive.  Pencil the Harrisburg Covered Bridge into your next trip to the Smokies.  Drive a a little out of the way.  Head down Dolly Parton Parkway and follow it to Old State Highway 35.  Once you turn left on 35, follow the signs, the bridge is just a few miles down the road.  Get out and take some pictures and spend some time in real, living history.