Five years passed in a heartbeat and now we have three teenagers in our house. My youngest son Nate turned 13 this year, which meant it was time for our family’s last “teen birthday trip.”
Sean and I took each of our boys on a separate trip just the three of us for their 13th birthdays. We visited San Francisco with our oldest son, Sam, and we visited Denver with our middle son, Ben.
This time our destination was Pigeon Forge, TN and it did not disappoint. We found a great one cabin for rent in Sevierville (complete with video game tables, air hockey and hot tubs) and Nate declared it the best rental house ever.
We really enjoyed exploring the area and thanks to your awesome suggestions through my newsletter request, we also found some unexpected things to do. Hillbilly Golf at Gatlinburg it was such a big win, we would have gone back for another round if we had the time.
We stopped at the Tennessee visitor center as we crossed the state line and Nate picked up a bunch of brochures there for activities that caught his eye.
First on his list was Smoky Mountain Knife Works (yeah…that wasn’t on my to-do list at all, but it was his trip and his calling) and it ended up being one of his favorite places.
More than just a knife shop, it markets itself as the world’s largest knife exhibition and it is. The showroom is impressive in size, I turned around a few times and had to wander around a bit to find my bearings.
He and Sean had a great time checking out endless knives, tools, flashlights and other really weird weapons. Viking helmets and cosplay gear were also good for a lot of laughs along the way.
Then we went to Hollywood Star Car Museum where we spent some time checking out everything from the original Batmobile to the General Lee, the DeLorean to Herbie and so much more.
I laughed at Grandma’s rocking chair strapped to the Oldsmobile from The Beverly Hillbillies, and my kids briefly looked at the Harley from Terminator and the helicopter from Ghost Rider.
The collection of cars from the Fast and the Furious movies was impressive and seeing Nicholas Cage’s ‘Eleanor’ from Gone in 60 Seconds was also pretty awesome. I’m not much of a car buff these days, but the museum was fun for all of us.
The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster it was on the mountainside near our cabin and Nate couldn’t resist the opportunity to try it out. Sean and I happily let him do it on his own and he loved it.
This is the longest downhill course in the US, at over a mile of course. Riders have speed control (up to 25-30 mph) with the brake controls as well, making it a cool hands-on experience.
I love an interactive museum too Titanic Museum it’s one of the best i’ve seen. The audio guide was excellent and luckily, Nate and I found the kids’ audio to be much more fun than the adults.
I loved the voices and the interesting extra bits of real life that were included. When you enter the museum, you are given a ticket with a passenger’s name and information about their life.
At the end of the tour, you will find out if you survived the trip and if so, how you lived the rest of your life. It made things very real and sparked many conversations for the rest of the trip as well.
It’s not a vacation for our family if a science museum isn’t on the list. Wonder Works turned out to be very cool, although crowded and loud the afternoon we were there.
I didn’t have a good plan and was wearing flip flops the day we were there so unfortunately I wasn’t able to participate in any of the climbing activities. (Note to future visitors, wear tennis shoes for the museum!)
Although, after watching him on the ropes 4 stories high, I wasn’t so sad that I was firmly planted on the ground. I wish I could do this with him though.
Is it even allowed to visit Pigeon Forge and not attend a dinner? Nate chose The Pirate’s Voyage for our night out and booked the tickets. I’ll admit I was a bit wary of them as I wasn’t sure exactly what we were getting with the show.
Turns out I was pleasantly surprised. We were all impressed by the talent of acrobatics, diving and gymnastics. There were several times when a genuine “wow” was warranted.
The food was good, although not particularly memorable. All in all, it made for a really fun night.
Nate is a kid at heart and asked for “all the Asian food and sushi” we could find. While Tennessee may not be a great destination for this, we’ve lucked into some good places along the way.
Roll On In creates great Hibachi bowls, along with sushi burritos and tacos. It’s Asian fusion in a casual, friendly restaurant and we all enjoyed it. The wonton tacos were a favorite.
We had dinner one night at Little Tokyo, where Nate was introduced to Hibachi cooking for the first time. He loved the whole show our chef put on for him.
We had breakfast at Sunliner Diner and it was a trip back in time to the 1950s. Nate was chased as he sat in one of the booths fashioned out of a classic car and later toured the vintage gift ship.
On our last night in Tennessee, Sean and I were craving veggies (yes, sometimes that happens) and Nate wanted a burger. We decided to try Local goat and boy was it a great decision.
We all commented that we wished we had tried it sooner because we would have definitely returned. Our steaks were some of the best restaurant salads I’ve ever had, and every other dish I saw being delivered to a table near us looked mouth-wateringly delicious.
It’s hard to believe that our teenage birthday trips are over. But who knows? Maybe we’ll take our grandkids on a birthday trip someday. What a thought.