Saturday we packed up the car, made a pit stop to grab my mom, and headed to TN towards Dollywood. It’s been on my list for a long time and Wyatt is finally tall enough to ride most of the rides. In fact, at 42″, he can ride all but the tallest rollercoasters in the park. 

Riding the tram from parking

The weather was next to perfect: neither too hot to be enjoyable nor too cold to want to go on the water rides. We arrived right as the gates were opening.

The park is in a big circle and we headed clockwise to see what kind of trouble we could find. I love rollercoasters, but the hubby and my mom are less enthusiastic so I was prepared to skip most things and just enjoy what Wyatt could ride. 

The park put a lot of effort as thought into things beyond just the rides. Each section had lots of things to do and look at. I’m sure it all cost a fortune.

The park itself is really nice. Everything was sparkling clean and the employees were really nice and friendly. Wyatt was in a hard in between stage: too big to enjoy the little kiddie rides and while tall enough to ride most of the big rollercoasters he was too little to enjoy them. Even with that we found plenty to do. 

The park is broken into sections and each was well decorated. I enjoyed the ambience of each although the 1950s styled section was my favorite. If I could live in any other era it would be the 50s with the sock hops, wonderful music, cool cars and relative prosperity. I was really good at taking pictures in the first section we hit, but after that the phone was placed in protection from water as we did a lot of water rides in the heat of the afternoon. Then I forgot all about it. 

We missed out on the entire central aspect of the park and I think Wyatt would have found plenty to do there, but it was getting late and everyone was tired and ready to leave. 

The day was really enjoyable. We rode plenty of rides with Wyatts favorite being the raft water ride although he was a bit too small to get much of the water spray.

There would only be two complaints I would raise about the park. First, the food was ridiculously expensive. It was bad enough to shell out $67 per ticket but all the lunches were $11 a pop. For chicken nuggets. A regular sized hot dog was $6! For a hot dog! I hate feeling ripped off. Second, the entrances to the rides were really difficult to find. We ended up waking around the outside of many rides just trying to figure out where to enter. 

Wyatt rode this coaster which was pretty insane. He was tall enough and even though he saw how tall it went (one of the largest coasters they have) he said he wanted to go. We ended up in the very front car. I felt bad because even though I warned him it was faster and taller than anything he had done before, I realized later that this wasn’t even in his realm of possibility. He just didn’t understand having never experienced anything like it. He was terrified the entire time and I basically just held on to him and covered his eyes. Near the end of the ride the cars go into a small shed where fire works are. Fire lights up and the car gets blown backwards along the track. It was a lot of fun but he shrieked the entire time. Afterward he announced to everyone “I am never, ever riding that ride again. Ever!” He never cried though. It did make him more cautious going forward with rides.

I’d love to go back. Everyone was whooped when we left and Sunday was spent recuperating at home. Wyatt played play dough for a solid 8 hours. Next time I hope to get him on more rides as I was a bit sad walking past some of the coasters and not being able to go on. Dusty and I snuck away one time to ride the Mystery Mine coaster while my Mom took Wyatt on a different one, but other than that we stuck together. 

Having been to Disney, Cedar Park, Six Flags in Ohio and Kennywood I’d say in comparison this one is like a mini Disney with all the scenery and then beautifully built rides. It wasn’t just steel coaster after steel coaster. There were a few really big steel coasters to go on for adrenaline junkies but most of the rides were more toned down and fun. Much more my style. I would recommend it for anyone in the area. 


Things I Learned Travelling as a Mom

I’ve traveled a lot in my life both within and outside the US. I love to travel although I also love returning home. Anyone who is Type A could use a little travel in their life to learn to let go. So much is out of your control when you travel and if you don’t learn to loosen up a little, you’ll end up having a stroke.

Travelling alone is great. Nobody to worry about but yourself, you can get the prime territory everywhere you go. Taking a trip with your four year old son changes things.

  1. The window seat no longer exists. Or rather it no longer exists without a big blonde head in the way. This is true on the airplane, trolley, busses and pretty much anywhere a view is possible.
  2. You will spend only fleeting moments doing what you find interesting. The aviary, pretty vistas, bookshops and the like will all be looked at wistfully as you walk on by. Seriously the pleasure in getting to see or do what you want is completely overshadowed by the constant nagging of the bored toddler attached to you. The times you deem it worthwhile enough to still do will be seldom and carefully doled out.
  3. On the other hand, be prepared to spend inordinate amounts of time looking at things that you have no interest in. The amphibian and reptile house, play grounds and candy stores will all become time vortexes.
  4. No decent restaurant posts their kids menu online. Choosing a place to eat becomes a battle of finding food you want to spend your vacation money on while not wasting it with things your toddler won’t eat. Researching online is useless as most of the better places don’t post the kid options. This is likely in an attempt to discourage families from dining, but you have to eat somewhere. When I travel, I try my best to avoid any restaurant I can eat at at home which means trying new things and places.
  5. Everything is more expensive. Keeping the kiddo entertained costs money. He isn’t appeased by a day sitting reading a book and waking around town looking at buildings isn’t going to last for long. Thankfully the park and beach are free, so we only actually bought entry to the zoo and amusement park.
  6. Tired is no longer a strong enough adjective. Exhausted is better, but still falls short of how bone achingly worn out you become not only being out and about, but having to carry the toddler and all the gear that goes along with him. Relaxing, taking a nap and zoning out in the hotel to TV are things you only can dream about.
  7. If you think you have packed enough, you are wrong. Traveling with a small suitcase and a carry on used to be sufficient for a week long excursion. Not any more. Not only did the kiddo have his on suitcase, but he took up my entire carry on bag and part of my suitcase as well. For as small as they are, they sure do require a lot of stuff.
  8. You will go home and thank your parents.  Remember when your mom and dad took you to an amusement park and watched while you rode the same ride 30 times in a row? Back before there were smartphones and Facebook? Yeah, well they were really excited and filled with joy to see how happy you were the first 6 times. After that? They were bored. Very, very bored. Thank them. Thank them a lot.

But you know what else I learned on my first trip as a mom?

It was more fun, I smiled bigger and felt happier and more filled with joy watching Wyatt explore the city, ride the same ride 30 times in a row and say hello to a Komodo Dragon than I’ve had out there on my own.

Having a kid means that the world no longer revolves around you. It isn’t about you any more. It’s a about them. It’s about opening their eyes to the world and the people/animals/plants that inhabit it. It doesn’t matter if I get a window seat because watching his amazement at being above the clouds is so much better. The aviary? It will still exist once he is grown and showing his own kids the world. For now, I’m happy to watch the light dance in his eyes as he spies a bright blue frog behind the glass.