Our family takes a lot of mini vacations. We are always running here and there for a day trip or a long weekend. Mini vacations let us play hard for a few days before my husband has to get back to the daily grind. These long (or short) weekends are also really budget friendly, too. This past weekend, my daughter had her regional gymnastics meet in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Pigeon Forge isn’t a place we’ve visited as a family before and while it is not on our current bucket list of places we wanted to go, we decided to make it a mini vacation. We only live about 7 hours from there and decided to head up the day before her meet to do some exploring.
Our family enjoys off the beaten path fun, especially on short vacations. We didn’t have the time to visit the top attractions, like Dollywood, but that’s okay because it saved us money too. On the way, I did a little Pinterest searching to see what looked fun for our family. The first stop we made was to a general store called Goats On The Roof. This place is so cool and was the highlight of our mini trip. At Goats On The Roof, there are literally goats on the roof. You can buy feed for them, 55 cents a cone, and hand feed them or send the food up to the roof. Sending the food up to the roof is pretty cool. You put the food in a little tin that is attached to a track. Then you pedal a bike to move the can up and down. The goats can hear the food coming because as soon as my daughter started pedaling, they came a running. It’s so funny because they stick there heads out of the railing as far as they can get it to be the goat that gets the food. There is some fighting between the goats and it’s really funny. At 55 cents a cone, we spent quite a bit of time but barely any cash for some good old fashion family fun. There is a fun general store here where you can buy fresh baked goods, ice cream cones and some great smelling fudge. They had some really cute t-shirts as well, looking back I wished I had gotten one. If you go, don’t make that mistake – get the shirt. You can also mine for gems here which seems to be a popular thing to do in Pigeon Forge. But our favorite thing of the weekend was riding The Coaster at Goats On The Roof. This alpine coaster zips you around a mountain at almost 30 miles an hour on a mile long track. I haven’t laughed that hard in years. It is scary, silly fun. But don’t worry, you control the speed of your car so if you have little children it’s great for them as well. But of course my thrill seeking daughter had to go as fast as she could. We didn’t buy the picture that’s for sale at the end of the ride, but let me tell you – my picture was so funny the sales girl actually laughed out loud at me. Yes, it’s that much fun! The price is somewhat steep, but since we weren’t doing many costly activities we decided to spring for it. The price per adult is $15.00 for one ride and for children ages 7-12 it is $12.00 and for children 3-6 it’s $5.00. If you want to ride it again the same day it’s just an additional $5.00 per ride so be sure to save those tickets. We actually did come back later in the day to ride it one more time.
After Goats on The Roof, we checked into our hotel. I’m somewhat of a hotel snob but by the time our gymnastics schedule was released a lot of the places I would have preferred to stay at had been booked. After putting it off, I finally booked a room at the Best Western Plaza Inn. To my surprise, the hotel/motel was actually pretty nice. The room was oddly large with lots of unnecessary open space. We had a jetted tub in the bathroom, a fireplace in the bedroom and a mini fridge and microwave. The complimentary breakfast in the morning had a wide variety and my picky eaters all found things they liked. While we didn’t swim, the pool areas (2 outdoor, 1 indoor) looked very clean and fun. The front desk staff was very friendly and gave us great suggestions for dining out and our room was very clean. I’d actually be very happy staying here again.
Next up it was time for lunch and we went with the suggestion of the Pottery House in the Old Mill District. This was the best meal we had all weekend. I would assume it is a very popular place because we had to wait about 30 minutes at 2:30 p.m. which is pretty late for lunch. They take your name and phone number to text you when your table is ready so you can look around the shops which is a nice feature. The restaurant has a very country feel to it both in looks and the menu. You can find classic home cooked meal staples like country fried steak, meatloaf and pork chops with all the fixins. My husband got the roasted chicken breast on a bed of rice with cooked broccoli and he won best meal at the table. I enjoyed the chicken and almond quiche with a spinach and strawberry salad and my daughter had a cheeseburger with hot chips. Everything was great and rang up just under $40.00. After lunch, we finished walking around the Old Mill District. If you’re 21+, stop in the distillery and do a tasting for some grown up fun!
The Apple Barn is another off the beaten path place we stopped at while in Pigeon Forge. It’s like a country strip mall of apple products. There were apple decorations, apple games, homemade baked goods, ice cream, apple wines and a candy store. We grabbed a 99 cent cup of Apple Cider and it was delicious! The hand pies also looked great, but we had just eaten and were too full to try one. Down in the wine shop, you can do a wine tasting of 4 apple wines for free – so don’t forget your i.d.
The last stop we made was to what is known as The Island of Pigeon Forge. This is a fun shopping area with restaurants like Margaritaville, Mellow Mushroom and Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. The Island is home to The Great Smokey Mountain Wheel, which is a 200 feet tall ferris wheel that boasts great views of the Smokey Mountains. At night, it lights up in neon lights and is a really cool photo op but of course my phone was dead. The coolest thing at The Island, in my opinion, is the fountain show that plays every 30 minutes. The fountains light up and dance to 14 different pieces of music throughout the day. There are rocking chairs set up all around the fountain which makes it a perfect place to sit and snack on your cinnabon and watch the show. Bonus points, this is another free activity we all enjoyed. We all loved the fountain show and clapped our hearts out after each song, yep – we are those people!
After the gymnastics meet on the way home the next day, we were recounting all of the fun we had during our mini vacation. My daughter threw her head back in pure joy and exclaimed how much she loves doing fun things with us and it just melted my heart. By the way, she did great at her regional meet, placing 8th out of her age division – which is awesome!! Do you like to take mini vacations? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.