Category Archives: Experience Review

Arkansas Places to Visit: Beatles Park & Parachute Inn Restaurant

 

Y’all, Summer vacation is here!!! Okay, technically, as homeschoolers, we school year round, but we do take breaks as needed. Right now, a break is needed. lol We’ll be back at it in about a week. Hopefully. Maybe. Even when we are doing lessons in the summer, it’s a lighter load and more spread out. My mom is a public school teacher, so we also like to take advantage of her time off in the summer to spend more time with Nana. Recently my oldest four children spent a few days with my parents so that the oldest three could attend a summer farm program near their home, and our second daughter got to experience two days of Camp Nana and Camp Pawpaw. (Let’s just say, she wasn’t in a hurry to come home.)

When it was time for my kids to return to the real world (AKA home), my mom and I decided to meet up in the little town of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. Now many, if not most of you, have probably never heard of this tiny little map dot town, but it’s near where I grew up. Walnut Ridge is a small town located in Lawrence County, Arkansas with a whopping population of about 4,700. There were a few spots around town on my list of places to visit in Arkansas though, despite growing up just a few miles down the road. I’m a big fan of exploring towns big and small. There’s always something fun and interesting nearby to see, no matter where you live. Rural Arkansas is no exception.

(This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links will not affect your pricing but I will receive a percentage, which benefits my family and keeps this blog growing. 🙂 )

kids in front of beatles park monument

That day we got to check off two of the items on my list of places and things to see in Arkansas. Our first stop was Beatles Park. My 7 year-old son recently discovered The Beatles through a book called The Beatles (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers) and was very intrigued. (On a side note, there is an entire series of the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers books along with a series for artists  and inventors and scientists. I knew he’d enjoy seeing Beatles Park.

In 1964 the famous band made a couple of brief stops at the Walnut Ridge airport and caused quite a stir in the small, rural town. In September of 2011, a monument downtown,  designed to look like the cover of their Abbey Road album, was unveiled commemorating the 1964 event and a downtown street was renamed Abbey Road. In 2012, a guitar-shaped plaza was built downtown.

beatles-park-walnut-ridge-arkansas1791

We were only able to make a quick stop for pictures and to stretch our legs, but the kids had a lot of fun posing for pictures and learning that the Beatles had actually been in Walnut Ridge!

Our next stop was the airport for lunch. We went for lunch on a plane! However, we weren’t eating your typical airplane food.

parachute-inn-restaurant-walnut-ridge-arkansas1747

The Parachute Inn Restaurant is a fun, quirky place with Southern home-style cooking. They offer a lunch buffet but also have a full menu to choose from. Now here’s the fun part – you get to dine in a reconfigured Southwest Airlines Boeing 737! They do have regular restaurant seating just inside the door, but you’ll want to take the small step up to the left. Trust me. The seats have been adjusted and tables added to make dining booths, and the kids can hang out in the cockpit while you wait for your food. (You can check them out on Facebook for more details on their menu and directions.) This would be a fun stop on a road trip for sure!

parachute-inn-restaurant-walnut-ridge-arkansas2305

parachute-inn-restaurant-walnut-ridge-arkansas1788

We lucked out; arriving right at 11 a.m. for an early lunch meant we had the whole plane to ourselves and the chicken didn’t even go out on the buffet until right after our drinks arrived! It was perfect timing! (Now don’t let the lack of a crowd worry you. They started getting busier at the end of our meal, as the lunch rush started.)

Be sure to add the Parachute Inn Restaurant to your next trip through Northeast Arkansas!

Hours:
Tue-Thur 8am-2pm
Friday 8am-8pm
Sat 11am- 8pm

10 Sky Watch
Walnut Ridge,Arkansas
72476USA
Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Experience Review, Reviews, travel

Tennessee Safari Park

tennessee-safari-park-zoo

 

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!

wildebeest

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!

llama waiting to be fed

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.

spotted deer lying in grass

 

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, Experience Review, field trip, out and about, Reviews, travel

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.

ripleys-guinness-world-records-museum-1118

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.

ripleys-guinness-world-records-museum-1124
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. 😀

ripleys-guinness-world-records-museum-1155

ripleys-guinness-world-records-museum-1158

 

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

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, Experience Review, field trip, out and about, Reviews, travel

Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze

ripleys-marvelous-mirror-maze-header

 

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. 😀

ripleys-marvelous-mirror-maze-1298

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.

ripleys-marvelous-mirror-maze-1300

ripleys-marvelous-mirror-maze-1299

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

ripleys-marvelous-mirror-maze-1301

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under entertainment, Experience Review, out and about, Reviews, travel

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.
ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-1027
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!

ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-1078

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.
ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-1008
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!

ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-9057
ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-0997
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.

ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-9072

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.

ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-1049

ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-1037

ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-1047

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

ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-1019

ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-1013

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?)

ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-1060

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!

ripleys-aquarium-of-the-smoky-mountains-1090

 

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.

1 Comment

Filed under entertainment, Experience Review, field trip, out and about, Reviews, travel