Category Archives: entertainment

Tennessee Safari Park

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We’ve said for years we’d like to visit a drive-thru zoo, but we never got around to actually doing it. Until our vacation this past Fall! We headed out on our family vacation to Gatlinburg, TN several hours earlier than originally planned, and when we passed a sign advertising the Tennessee Safari Park my husband, who is normally Mr. By-the-Book-Has-to-have-a-Plan, surprised us all by stopping!

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There is a billboard advertising the Tennessee Safari Park in the city where we grew up, and now we do a lot of our shopping, so I was somewhat familiar with it, but had never researched to see what they actually had to offer or how close it was too us. Had I done so, we’d have visited much sooner! The Tennessee Safari Park is located in Alamo, TN (about 30 minutes northwest of Jackson, TN), which is an easy drive from Northeast Arkansas.

The zoo today includes over 700 animals of over 100 different species. What started as a family homestead of cash crops and livestock in 1858 is now a nearly 200 acre zoo and conservational breeding center.

 

The park now features a drive-thru zoo and a walk-thru petting zoo. Buckets of feed can be purchased at the park entrance, which I highly recommend. We had a blast feeding the animals. There was lots and lots of laughter in our car! We got an up-close encounter with llamas, camels, Axis Deer, Fallow Deer, Common Elands, zebras, emus, and more!

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A few things we learned:
Bison are even more beautiful in person.
Llamas are hilarious.
We really don’t like ostriches. Really. And my husband thought it was hilarious to roll down MY window every time one came near us.

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When we finished the drive-thru portion, we parked our van and made our way over to the petting zoo. Unfortunately we were there on a pretty warm day, so many of the animals in the petting zoo area were in their shelters to get away from the sun, but that certainly didn’t stop our kids from having a good time. The water sprinklers set up were a nice touch on a hot day too.

 Tennessee Safari Park gets 12 thumbs up from our crew (two for each person that can give thumbs up at this point)! Our experience was well worth the time and money.


 

Want to plan a trip for yourself?

Hours:
Monday – Saturday:

Gates open at 10:00am
Last car in at 4:30pm

Park closes at 5:00pm

Sunday:

Gates open at 12:00pm
Last car in at 4:30pm

Park closes at 5:00pm

Ticket Pricing
$12 / adult
$8 / children
*Group and field trip rates are available*

Tennessee Safari Park
637 Conley Road
Alamo, TN 38001
731.696.4423

For more information, visit: http://www.tennesseesafaripark.com/

Or visit them on Facebook.

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Ripley’s Guinness World Records Museum

sign for Guinness World Records Museum in Gatlinburg TN

 

Ripley’s Guinness World Records Museum was another fun stop on our recent vacation to Gatlinburg, TN. This museum may be small, but my husband and boys agreed it was one of their favorite activities of the week.

We received complimentary tickets to this attraction in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

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Located just a couple of doors down the street from Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze, the Ripley’s Guinness World Records Museum is full of fun exhibits telling about amazing world records and cool facts.

For instance, did you know that the Tulip poplar is the largest tree in the Smoky Mountains? Some of about 8 ft. in diameter can be found near the Ramsey Cascades!

We also learned about the world’s largest rubber band ball, the largest bubblegum bubble blown, the most backward free throws in one minute, and a ton more.

The entry level was a pretty quick walk through, and we were a bit unprepared for the flight of stairs with our big double stroller. However, with myself and my husband, it wasn’t a huge problem. For others with little ones, I’d recommend leaving the stroller in the car and using a sling or carrier. The bottom level of the museum was well worth that small bit of effort though!

The part we really loved at Ripley’s Guinness World Records Museum? The bottom floor of the museum is filled with over 20 interactive games and challenges that allow you to test your own skills at some fun world record activities! No, the results aren’t actually recognized by Guinness World Records, but we sure had a blast trying.

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This interactive area is where we spent most of our time. My boys competed against each other (okay, and myself, and their dad 🙂 ) at speed drumming, soccer, hopscotch, and even breaking concrete blocks! That last one proved to be hilarious. 😀

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The kids also did some speed boxing, started their own rubber band balls, and a whole lot more. Needless to say, we had some happy and exhausted kiddos when we left. The Ripley’s Guinness World Records Museum provided an afternoon of family-friendly fun.

Located at:
631 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Open 365 Days a Year:
Sunday – Thursday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Tickets:
Adult: $12.99
Child: $7.99

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Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze

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My husband and I wanted to window shop and visit some of the different stores in Downtown Gatlinburg, but we knew to do that with our kids, it would be best to break it up a bit with fun activities for them.

The first activity we chose was Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze.

We did receive complimentary admission to this attraction in exchange for a review, but all opinions are mine.

I had never experienced a mirror maze before this, so I wasn’t sure what to expect but hoped the kids would enjoy it. That they did! Lots of mirrors, LED lights, and fun music! One kiddo was not so sure about walking into the Infinity Room which features mirrors on the floor, but once we assured him he wasn’t going to fall through, he was good! Then a mini dance party ensued, and his daddy had us all laughing. 😀

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Overall, I wasn’t super impressed, but I wasn’t terribly disappointed either. Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze is a small attraction, but my kids had fun, and that was the whole reason we went into the maze in the first place.

My only regret with the Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze, is that I let my husband lead us through it. You see, he has a really crazy accurate sense of direction. For example, he drove from a small town in West Virginia that he’d never been in before renting his car there that morning, to our house in Arkansas, in less than 12 hours, taking a different route than the one he took to get to WV – no wrong turns, no GPS, and no map. Yeah. I’ve also seen him drive a Jeep into the woods on one side of a park he’s never been to, drive through the woods to the other side, and then take us straight back to the campsite where we started as if he lived there. Needless to say, a mirror maze is not exactly a challenge for him. He pretty much led us straight from the entrance to the exit. Party pooper, that’s what he is. However, had I been leading, we probably would have been lost in there for for a while. The dead ends and rotating mirrors definitely had me confused. And if I’m going to be totally honest, the rotating mirrors freaked me out a little because well, have you ever taken five kids 6 and under in a mirror maze? Haha! I felt like I was herding cats through there. And two of them were being carried! It was entertaining for sure! I’m betting the other families we ran into inside the maze got a good laugh out of watching us!

This is a smaller mirror maze, and to me that made it more suitable for my smaller kids. It’s certainly not a big attraction (the “marvelous” in the title may be a bit of a stretch 🙂 ), but it was a good place to take a break and have a few minutes of good, clean, family fun before supper.

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Though I don’t feel it’s worth the single ticket prices (Adults: $9.99 at the door or $8.99 online, Kids: $7.99), it could be worth including it in one of Ripley’s multi-attraction combo passes.

Located at:
623 Parkway

Gatlinburg, TN

OPEN 365 DAYS A YEAR
Sunday – Thursday 10:00am – 11:00pm
Friday & Saturday 10:00am – 12:00am

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Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies


Last month our family was blessed with a much-needed break from the real world as we traveled to Gatlinburg, TN for a week of family time and relaxation. It was wonderful. We truly didn’t want to leave.

While we were in Gatlinburg, we got the chance to visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, which happens to be right in the midst of Downtown Gatlinburg.
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We received complimentary admission in exchange of this review. However, all thoughts and opinions are mine.

Sidenote: Having never visited Gatlinburg before, I was surprised at how many shops and businesses were packed into one street. I’m not sure what I was expecting – maybe a bit more spread out across town like Branson, MO? Anyway, it was really cool to see a large Aquarium sticking up in the middle of all that!

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We were a bit worried about parking at first. There is ample parking spaces, but there’s no way our big van would fit in the parking garage. There’s a large parking lot just down the street though, so it wasn’t a big deal at all.

Anywho, back to our trip to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies!
Lots of oceanlife, hands on learning areas, 2 play areas, a snackbar/restaurant, a Pearl Harbor exhibit, and more! Yes, you can see all that in one building, in Gatlinburg, TN. Yes, sharks and penguins in the mountains!

The main level exhibits start just a few feet from the front door, and they did not disappoint! Beautiful, exotic fish and amphibians, a waterfall, many types of jellyfish, seahorses, crabs, and other sea life. I really enjoyed moving from display to display as my boys told me things they already knew about many of the species and my oldest read some of the information provided about others we weren’t familiar with.
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I could have watched the jellyfish for hours. They are just amazing creatures – as long as they are in an aquarium that is. 😀

There are so many fun and interesting things to see an do at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, you will have to check it out for yourself. I’m certain with 5 kids in tow I missed some things. However, one exhibit I found to be very unique was the aquarium filtration and monitoring systems are visible to guests and explained through fun, interactive displays!

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The most impressive feature of Ripley’s Aquarium for our family is the Shark Lagoon exhibit. With a moving sidewalk, you can ride through the 340 feet long tunnel as sharks, giant stingrays, sawfish, tarpon, and other sea life swim around and above you. (Our crew had to go through multiple times.) We happened to reach this area just in time for the sharks’ lunchtime! That was awesome. My boys are still talking about it.

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Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has two playground structures for the kids to climb and slide to their hearts’ content while parents can sit on benches nearby and rest their feet, feed babies, etc. Much to this mama-of-five’s joy, the two structures, which are beside one another, have entrances on separate levels of the building and are NOT connected. So don’t worry – your little one can’t enter on the ground level and escape on the second level. 😀 My kids had a great time playing though.

Throughout the aquarium, I was very impressed by the hands-on and interactivity elements of so many exhibits. From touching crabs, rays, and jellyfish, to being under and inside tanks and exhibits, my children loved every minute of the experience and learned a lot.

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The newest exhibit at Ripley’s Aquarium is the Pearl Harbor Exhibit, a one of a kind exhibit, combining both history and aquatic life!

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Again, more interactivity! I was pleasantly surprised at how much my boys really enjoyed the Pearl Harbor exhibit – playing, reading, learning, observing, and asking questions! The Pearl Harbor exhibit is brand new this year, and just like Ripley’s Aquarium’s other exhibits, this one has something for everyone. Visitors of all ages were enjoying it the day we were there.

As a homeschool family, I was also excited to learn that Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies offers special programs for homeschool students! Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to attend one on this trip, but if you would like to learn more, they have information on their web site HERE. They also offer several other unique experiences for all visitors. (Swimming with a stingray, anyone?)

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Overall, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was one of the highlights of our vacation. I’m really glad we chose to visit at the beginning of the week, when our little kids were more well-rested and could enjoy the experience as much as the big kids. Definitely plan to spend at least 2-3 hours on your visit and have exhausted kiddos when you leave! We had a blast splash!

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To order tickets or for more info:
https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/gatlinburg

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is located at:
88 River Rd, Gatlinburg,TN 37738

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is open 365 days a year, but hours of operation vary by season. That info can be found HERE.

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Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo at ASU

Our local homeschool group was recently invited to attend the Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo at the ASU Farm. It had been a few years since I and my oldest two sons had visited the petting zoo, so I was excited to take them back and take their sisters for the first time. We were not disappointed. 🙂
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The Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo has been located in the old beef barn on the Arkansas State University Campus in Jonesboro, Arkansas since 2006. It is free and open twice each year – once in the Spring and once in the Fall. Group tours are done during the week, and Saturday it is open to the public. (That’s also a good time to check out the ASU Regional Farmers’ Market.)

We love field trips! (What homeschool family doesn’t?) This field trip was extra fun because it fell on a day my husband was already scheduled to be off work, so Daddy got to tag along for the fun.

First we headed into the barn to visit with the animals. Some of the animals are contained in gated barn stalls, and others, like the funny pot-bellied pig, wander around freely, plopping down here and there for a head scratch.

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The petting zoo is home to an array of farm animals – sheep, goats, pigs, cows, and even an alpaca! Students from Arkansas State were stationed throughout the barn to assist with holding some of the animals, answer questions, and help ease the fears of some of the younger children. (Obviously there were no fears from my crew though. lol)

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The kids also got the chance to hold chicks and visit up close with a lamb and a rabbit. The fluffy bunny and the little chirping chicks were the favorites of my girls. My boys were more fond of the big steer.

After everyone had a chance to hold a chick and pet all the other animals, our group loaded up into a trailer for a hay ride around the farm. We were accompanied on the hay ride by a few of the university students to tell us about the ASU Farm. While it is a teaching facility, it is also a working farm, raising livestock for meats, wool, and growing hay. They explained what went on in each building we passed and told us some facts about the other livestock we saw on the farm. They did a great job of involving the kids and asking and answering questions.

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After the hayride, several families walked across the street to play and visit in the ASU Display Garden of the Craighead County Master Gardeners. I wish now I had taken photos there. It is a beautiful garden with plenty of open space for the kids to run and play and a picnic area too.

If you would like more information about the farm, upcoming petting zoo dates, or to schedule a time for your group to attend the Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo:

Arkansas State College of Agriculture & Technology Website

PettingZoo@astate.edu
870.972.2087

 

 

 

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Super Why Live: You’ve got the power! {review}

 

Last Sunday was a big day for my boys. After church we enjoyed lunch with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law. When lunch was finished, we headed to Memphis (an easy 1 1/2 hour drive from our home in Northeast Arkansas) to see Super Why Live: You’ve Got the Power! Thankfully the drive gave the little ones a chance to get a nap in before the show. It had been over 10 years since I had been to the Orpheum theater, but it was just as beautiful as I remembered. Even though it is located in the heart of downtown Memphis, a the corner of Beale Street and Main, parking was not an issue. We quickly found a spot just across the street from the theater.

Having never taken my kids to a live show of this kind, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the show or from my boys. (My youngest is only 18 months old after all.) It was a great experience though! I was impressed on both accounts. The lights, fun music, aerial stunts, and of course seeing their favorite Super Why characters was more than enough to get both of my kiddos excited and keep them entertained for the duration of the show. If only we had video of Stanton dancing and head bobbing! Kids (and parents and grandparents) of all ages could be seen in the audience, and the show offered something for everyone. I had lots of fun watching the show myself, and even more fun watching my boys enjoy it. I was also pleased that there was a short intermission break. This gave us a chance to grab a snack at the concession stand and let the kids stretch their legs for a minute or two.  It also allowed this pregnant mommy a chance for a quick potty break. 🙂 Then it was back to more singing, dancing, and searching for super letters (large red letters, projected to different areas of the theater) with Super Why and the gang from Storybrook Village. We also learned the answer to the question, who has the greatest super power? By the end of the show, my youngest was starting to get restless, but he stayed interested in the show, and we avoided a meltdown. Overall, it was a great family outing!

If you have some big Super Why fans in your house, I definitely recommend checking out one of the upcoming shows on their tour. My little Lincoln was still talking about the show yesterday!

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: Mommy the Zookeeper was provided promotional tickets in order to write the above review.  However, all statements are 100% mine. Your opinions may differ.

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