Posted in: Exploring Tennessee, Food, Rest Stop/Welcome Center/Visitor Center, Sightseeing

Word’s Largest Gas Station

We’re big fans of Buc-ee’s. They always have snacks, decent gas prices, and clean bathrooms. If you have never been to one, I suggest you stop at one on your travels. We even wait a little longer to stop so that we can go to a Buc-ee’s instead of another gas station. They pride themselves in their restrooms, and I have to say we’ve never been disappointed.

When we heard the largest Buc-ee’s was opening up right before our vacation and it was on the way, of course, we had to stop!

It looked like the other Buc-ee’s, but it was larger with a lot more store space and gas pumps. We found some fun souvenirs (a keychain $4.98, a Halloween cup $20, gifts, a buc-ee phone holder $9.98).

It can be a little tricky maneuvering with so many people coming in and out. The signs have you driving through the parking lot to get to the gas pumps, but if you take the next exit on the roundabout, it leads to the backside of the pumps. It had less traffic when we did it that way. There is a lot of parking along the sides of the building for when you want to go explore the store. The far side of the complex looked like it was still under construction, so it may get easier to drive when the other road is completely open.

It was fun to see and I enjoyed seeing the mural. It was busy, but it had also been opened only about a month when we went there. It is close to the highway, but it is not directly off of it.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Tennessee, Food, Sightseeing

Pirates Voyage Show

Do you love pirates? Acrobatics? Dinner and a show?

We went to the Pirates Voyage dinner show in Pigeon Forge. We had the evening show, but it was still pretty crowded. They have a bar, a small gift shop, and a face painting area pre-show. Our kids are too old to want face painting, but we did see some cute designs.

The set was pretty cool and is broken up into the blue (Sapphire) and red (Crimson) side.

Your dinner comes with a bowl of creamy vegetable soup, water/soft drink/tea/coffee, a biscuit, a piece of fried chicken, half a baked potato, a piece of corn (not a whole cob, more like 1/4 or 1/2), a slice of ham. Dessert is a warm apple turnover. The food was okay, but there was not a lot of it.

There were trained animals (2 parrots, a dog, and a sea lion), fire elements, fog, pirates, mermaids, and lots of acrobatics and sword fighting. Really, the star of the show was Salty, the sea lion.

The show was about 2 hours long. It was cute and I think would be a hit with any little kids who love pirates. It was entertaining for us adults too, but I think younger kids would probably get the most enjoyment from it.

Posted in: Exploring Tennessee, Hiking, Parks, Sightseeing

Gatlinburg SkyPark

There had been some changes since the last time we were in the Gatlinburg area, including the addition of the SkyPark.

There are two ticket options: a one way (it’s an up & down) ticket, or a SkyPass (allows you to go up multiple times in 1 day). We did the one way ticket since you can walk over the bridge as many times as you want once you’re up there. The only limiting factor is the amount of times you can ride the lift up.

Reaching the top, you are greeted with a shop area (SkyCenter) to the right, a fountain and stairs to the bridge straight(ish) ahead, and a picnic area to the left. We explored the bridge first. It is mostly a wooden bridge, the kind that sways if you bounce on it or walk toward the sides instead of in the middle. There is a section with glass panels so you can look down. On the other side of the bridge, is a small seating area, some signs pointing out parts of the view, and a small gift shop. NOTE: If you want a SkyBridge ornament, you need to buy it here. They do not sell it in the main shop area.

We decided to take the trail over to the tower to take in more of the views. There were benches scattered along the trail, along with fans. We appreciated the breeze when we reached the fans as it was pretty hot and humid the day we went.

We sat in the upstairs of the SkyCenter and enjoyed the air-conditioning and the great views. They sold souvenirs, drinks, and snacks. There is a pressed penny machine, but it wasn’t working when we were there, so Nick wasn’t able to get one for his collection.

It was a neat experience and the views were great. However, if you have mobility issues, the bridge might be challenging as it does sway. I think it is more of a one and done type of experience.

Posted in: Exploring Tennessee, Sightseeing

Vacation Time: Making Knives

We were a little late this year with our summer vacation. Between the kids’ summer classes and Will starting a summer job, we didn’t go on vacation until end of July/beginning of August. This year we went down to the Great Smoky Mountains. The boys had been when they were younger, but didn’t remember much. We had a few things planned, including a birthday/Theastmas dinner for our first night there. There are so many attractions and things to do in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area.

One of the favorite things we did was visit Iron Mountain Metal Craft in Pigeon Forge. This place is located near The Mill and offers items for sale, as well as blacksmithing lessons. The owner was on the show Forged In Fire and we had the chance to talk to him for a minute before our lesson. There are four options for the lessons: nail (for kids 1-12), pony shoe, horseshoe, railroad spike. The railroad spike looked really cool, but we figured we should start easy for our first time. We chose to make the pony shoe knife. Our instructor held the hot metal, inserting it into the forge, and instructed us where and how to use the hammer. We went through a few rounds of working out the blade shape. After a final heating, he cooled them down in water.

Now, they weren’t the most attractive things but this is where the polishing comes in. We moved over to the polishers where they shaped the blade more, giving it more of an edge. Will and Ben chose one finish (it dips down on the top), and Nick and I chose the other (straight across on the top). The knives came with their own sheaths as well. Mine is pictured below: I think I hammered pretty evenly, but didn’t get the nail holes to close like in the display. It was still lots of fun though.

I would recommend checking them out if you are in the area. We would totally do it again.

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Buc-ee's Sevierville, TN