Walking on Sunshine- Katrina and the Waves
Uptown Funk- Bruno Mars
(Because music is the perfect backdrop for everything...click on the links above to listen)
It's Here! Summer! Well, the kids are officially out of school now and a few weeks ago, we headed south. Adam had a residency for his doctorate to do in Atlanta so two of the kids and I went along for the ride. I figured he had to pay for a hotel anyway, so we might as well tag along and hang out in the sun while he attended his sessions and did his school work. We booked a hotel with a pool in downtown Atlanta, so I was so excited for some relaxation and a suntan. Of course, I figured I would end up burnt to a crisp since I hadn't been out in the sun for what seemed like forever. The forecast said it was supposed to be about 88 all week, so we were plunging head first into the summer season. I thought I would recap our trip, so come along if you like!
We left in the afternoon on Monday, May, 23 and drove from St. Clairsville to Lexington, KY. There, we had dinner and spent the night at the home of one of Adam's best friends who we hadn't seen in about a year. It was a short but long overdue visit. After leaving Lexington, we drove a short distance to Knoxville, Tennessee to have lunch with another of Adam's friends. They had been best friends in school and hadn't seen each other in about 15 years. It was great to meet him and see Adam catching up and sharing memories of his childhood. If we had done nothing else but make these two stops to visit old friends, the trip was worth it already. Why do we lose touch with those who once meant so much to us? Anyway...
Since we couldn't check into our hotel in Atlanta until Wednesday, we had a whole day to figure out something fun we wanted to do. Well, guess where we ended up? Pigeon Forge. Old habits die hard. It's our favorite place to vacation and we were only about 45 minutes away after we had lunch in Knoxville, so we stopped to stay in the Ol' Smokies. We never get sick of it. Our family usually requires two hotel rooms so our options are always limited (along with our funds), but this time there were only the four of us. We ended up getting a great deal on a room at the Dollywood Dream More Resort, which just opened last June. It was beautiful. Our room had a king-sized bed and a set of bunk beds in it, great for parents with two or three children. The pool was awesome; they had a pool party with music and games and a campfire with S'Mores for the kids afterwards. In case you are contemplating a visit there, there are two options for food. One is a buffet that is rather pricey offering food that is a little too fancy for our taste, but we got to eat outside near the pool so the atmosphere was nice. The other is a little shop that offers pizza, ice cream and Starbucks. We got a pastry there for breakfast before we left and wished we would have opted for the pizza the night before. If you are going to Dollywood, this would be a great place to stay as they offer transportation to the park and back and probably package deals on hotel and park tickets. Of course, we had to stop by the Three Bears Store before we left...it is the best store down there and they have awesome samples. I think once we sampled food for about thirty minutes. I'll do a future post with tons of tips on vacationing in the Smoky Mountains since it is such a popular destination. Here are a few pictures of the short time we spent there before moving on.
On Wednesday morning, May 25, we headed out towards Atlanta. Before we left Pigeon Forge though, I had a make a pit stop at the Urgent Care right by our hotel. The kids didn't mind the detour since Adam took them on some go-carts while I waited for a doctor. I had been battling a tough case of bronchitis for weeks and had a particularly bad night, unable to breathe or quit coughing. They gave me two shots in the bum and some antibiotics and we were once again on our way. We took the scenic route for much of the trip that day, driving through the beautiful mountains. Some of the pictures above are actually of our trek from Gatlinburg, through Smoky Mountain National Park, and into North Carolina on the way to Atlanta.
As we neared the Atlanta metro area, the change in landscape and traffic was drastic. I'm definitely not a city girl. Before heading into downtown, we stopped off to get groceries at Publix so we wouldn't have to solely rely on expensive hotel food. We also didn't really want to drive anywhere during the day while Adam was in class, so we wanted to have plenty of snacks available. After driving through some really rough parts of town (notice the sign in one of the pictures below that says "No Valuables Left in the Car") and past about 200 homeless people (so heart-wrenching), we arrived at our hotel. The conference was located at the Hyatt Regency Downtown, so that is where we stayed. It was a beautiful, 22-story fancy, schmancy place that catered to the business class and, needless to say, was not very kid-friendly. In order for us to use the luggage cart, we had to also use the bellboy service and our only option was valet parking at $24 a day. So far, I was way out of my league, but I figured once we got our stuff to our room and got acclimated to the place, we would be ok. That first night (exhausted after driving all day) we sat in our "four-star" hotel room, ate peanut butter sandwiches and crashed. Here are a few pics in the car and of our hotel.
The next few days, Adam attended his seminars for Walden University. There were about 2000 Walden students there, so it was pretty crowded (especially the elevators). Caroline, Dawson and I hung out at the pool. It was sunny and gorgeous for three whole days with no rain. We went down to the pool between 10-11 am usually and stayed out until about 3:30 pm. Our pool had some really nice sectional seating with tables in the middle. Thanks to Hawaiian Tropic's new 30 spf sunscreen tanning lotion, I did not burn like I thought I would and being out in the sun felt SO GOOD. The pool was refreshing and the kids had a great time playing with other kids whose parents were also attending the conference. We saved money by eating peanut butter and chips for lunch, although we did find out that there was a food court (a little sketchy at times) connected to the hotel by a catwalk leading to a "mall." We walked there a few times for Dairy Queen and Chick-Fil-A in the afternoons.
On Friday evening, we ate dinner at Chick-Fil-A and then drove to the Georgia Aquarium. To retrieve our car from valet, we had to pay the parking attendant to go get our car and then pay him again when we brought it back. Did I mention I'm not a city girl? We thought it was well worth it considering the rave reviews we had heard about the Georgia Aquarium being ranked the #1 aquarium in the country. We were so excited and chose this as the only activity we did in Atlanta...well, we were ultimately very disappointed. First off, it was overly expensive to get in (almost $30 for adults and children and only if you go after 4pm, otherwise it is about $40) and the parking ($9.00) was far from the entrance. To make a long story short, it was the worst aquarium I have ever visited. My husband hated it even more than I did. The displays were not very impressive. They did have beluga whales and a few whale sharks, which I had never seen before, but other than that offered nothing new or extraordinary compared to other aquariums. Their underwater tunnel was nothing compared to the one we visited last year in Gatlinburg (Ripley's), and the hands-on stingray area was lame in comparison. Ripley's had tons of different types of sharks, a massive sea turtle, and so much more than the GA. Adam had been to the aquarium in Chattanooga, TN and said it was way better as well. To be fair, they did have dolphins and a dolphin show, which Ripley's did not have; however, with the thousand people in line for the short, 15-minute show, we opted out. It only took us about an hour and a half to view everything there and we were ready to go. I forgot to mention that there was also an anime convention called MoMo Con going on while we were there and everywhere we turned there was someone (adults mind you) dressed up like some sort of bizarre character. Weapons, horns, capes, tales, wigs...you name it. It was weird but oddly entertaining and a humorous distraction from the $150 we had just spent to be a part of it. Perhaps if we had never been to another aquarium or didn't have such high expectations, we would have enjoyed it more. Georgia Aquarium...two thumbs down. Sorry.
Our last night in Atlanta, we walked a few blocks from the hotel and ate at Hard Rock Cafe. It was a nice evening but, like everything else in the city, quite expensive. Anyway, here are a few pictures from the aquarium and the rest of our trip.
Overall, our trip to Atlanta was really fun although it definitely solidified a few things about myself that I already sort of knew. I don't like life in the city for any extended period of time. I could never live in the city or be a business woman who frequents the city often. I hate the traffic. I don't like paying people to do things that I can do for myself, and I don't think a hamburger should cost $14. I know that tons of people love it but it is just not my cup of tea. Compared to some other major U.S. cities I have been to (Miami, NYC, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbus, Cleveland, DC), I liked Atlanta the least. I had been there once before so it wasn't a surprise to me and it didn't damper our fun. It still had some pretty sights and it was definitely hot.
When we left Atlanta on Sunday, we drove straight home to Ohio. We made some great memories on our trip and the kids got to have some new experiences. I love road trips and it is always fun to go away...each time it gives me a new appreciation for walking in my front door at the end. Join me for our next adventure; it is going to be epic. 8 people, 10 states, 10-days. Read about our New England road trip in July. Until next time...
Hello and WELCOME to my site! My name is Amanda Yates and I am a 41 year-old mom of six children from a blended family. I am a middle school teacher and a passionate follower of Christ. In my "free" time, I love finding and decorating my home with country antiques, organizing, studying scripture, and making every attempt to get my life "just right." I am blessed beyond measure!
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