Sunday, June 22, 2014

Return To Our Vacation Spot Part 4

At the end of yesterday's post we were in the early evening hours of our 2nd full day of our Smoky Mountain vacation in Pigeon Forge. 

As we left the Island resort area we still had some important "must do" things on our list. 

Our next stop was the Walden's Landing shopping area. This is another outdoor mall that's got a lot of places and things that attract visitors and locals both. It has a multi-screen cinema, a miniature golf course, Calhoun's steakhouse, Five Guys restaurant, and several retail stores. 

The last time we were in the Smokies by ourselves (October 2011) we walked through this area. We enjoyed "The Tomb" attraction and ate at Five Guys for the first time. 

The sole reason for going there this time around was to revisit one of our favorite places in Pigeon Forge that specializes in one of our favorite snacks. 

The Smoky Mountain Popcorn store has 150 different types of flavored popcorn. Some of them are amazingly delicious. Their categories include: candied, cheese coated, soda, savory, spicy, and seasonal flavors. 

Each customer is allowed to sample 4 different flavors of their choice. The sample portion is just 5 or 6 kernels but it is enough to decide if you like that flavor or not. 

Paula tried the dill pickle and a couple spicy flavors. I tried some cheesy flavors. We each bought some of our favorites to take back to Kentucky with us. 

As the sunset in the Smokies we still had one more thing we wanted to do. We had decided to visit one of the newest attractions in Pigeon Forge, the Hollywood Wax Museum. 

In an area of the parkway where the attraction buildings are made to look like a legendary ship, and an upside down building, the Hollywood Wax Museum facade stands outs as a real eye catcher. 

With a giant King Kong climbing up a building that looks a lot like one of the original World Trade Center towers on the right and a Hollywood version of Mount Rushmore on the left. The outside of the museum is very impressive. 

Paula and I had debated about going to the attraction and probably would have not if I had not decided to skip plans to go to the Friday night home game of the Tennessee Smokies in nearby Kodak, TN. 

While looking at the wax museum's website in effort to know what to expect for our $20 admission fee I made a tongue-in-cheek remark to Paula. "I hope they didn't spend all their money on the outside". As it turned out there was a little more truth to that statement than we would have liked. 

Here's my close up shot of the Hollywood icons sculpted on the outside of the building. 
The only reason I can think of for Elvis to be included in this display is so that it will appeal to the large southern demographic that visit the area. 

Upon entering the building you by your admission ticket and then go pose for a souvenir picture of your group. Something they try to get you to buy at the end of your visit. It's taken using a set that has a King Kong theme. Here's a picture of the area taken from the second floor of the museum.The picture is taken with the visitors standing inside the ape model's hand. 

On a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate this museum at a 5. It's not awful but it's not great. Many of the wax figures do not look like the celebrity they are supposed to be. Paula's theory is that they used the same basic template to make every statue and then tried to make them look like the star they were supposed to be. 

At the start of your self-guided tour you emerge immediately onto the red carpet where you encounter sculpted versions of some of today's most famous movie starts. 

Bradley Cooper
Angelina Joli
Robert Downey Jr. 

Morgan Freeman
Many of them were made way too thin for them to look realistic. Here's a shot Paula took of me with the Kevin James figure as an example. He's too think; I am not. 

Hulk Hogan looked absolutely deformed and the worst was Lucille Ball. Set up as her "I Love Lucy" character Lucy Richardo doing her classic "Vita Vita Vegimin" commercial, the figure does not anything like the TV icon. 

The best one we thought was the one of Hugh Hefner. It was so realistic that it was a bit creepy. 

There are plenty of opportunities to pose with your favorite stars. Paula spent some time in the bottle with Barbara Eden in a scene from "I Dream Of Jeannie". 

But the best picture of our visit was taken at the Star Trek exhibit. I just so happened to be wearing the appropriate attire to fit right in the transporter scene. Too bad I won't be returning from the away mission.  

The "horror" wing of the museum was pretty good but that's because the characters were either wearing masks or weren't human. 

Overall when it comes to the Hollywood Wax Museum in Pigeon Forge I would have to say "skip it". Take some pictures of the outside and save your money. 

Once we left the wax museum it was time to get some dinner. Paula wanted to try a barbecue place she thought we would like; Bennet's Pit Barbeque.

The place was very busy but we didn't have to wait long for a table. Our waiter, Justin, was a guy in his 30's who obviously worked out. His arms were huge. He was very attentive and friendly. 

We ordered a combo platter of pulled pork, a half rack of ribs and "hogs legs". The hogs legs were like the pork version of a chicken wing. That's the best way I can describe them except for the word "delicious." 

We couldn't finish it all so we took it back to the condo and eventually brought it home to Kentucky with us. 

On the way back to our condo we decided that we wanted some ice cream to eat a little later before we went to bed. It was after 10 o'clock so it was hard to find an ice cream place open. 

We went to several places, including a Ben & Jerry's store in the Tanger outlet mall, before we found a place that was open. 

We sat outside at the picnic table and ate our desert before heading back to Whispering Pines for our last night's rest in the Smokies. 

In any long lasting marriage there are things that couples do often and do well. For Paula and I one of those things is we travel well together. This includes the logistics of packing up and getting ready to head home at the end of each trip. 

Saturday morning was the start of the last day of our short vacation. We packed up our clothes and gifts, loaded them into the car. 

At the start of our trip we were proud of ourselves because of how light we had packed relative to vacations in the past. Everything we took fit in the Impala's trunk with room to spare. 

As we loaded the car we realized just how much we had bought to take home with us. The trunk was full and there was also some stuff in the back seat.  

We made sure we did the things required by condo management before we left the condo for good. We disposed of the trash, and checked out of the resort by 10:30. It was a very nice place to stay. 

After our experiences staying in a condo, last September and this time, I can safely say that we will more than likely be staying in a condo whenever we visit the Smokies in the future. And our first visit to Whispering Pines will probably not be our last. 

We had one more stop before leaving the Smokies and heading home. It was a return to another of our favorite restaurant/retail areas in Pigeon Forge. 

The Apple Barn complex is a microcosmic version of the Smoky Mountain resort area. It has a winery, cider mill, a candy and ice cream shop, two table service restaurants, a store featuring apple themed foods and products, and a counter service cafe featuring apple fritters and coffee.

It also has a special place in our "Smoky Mountain" vacation history. It's where we had breakfast and said "good-bye" to my sisters and their families when they were with us in 2009 for James and Brandi's wedding. It holds a lot of memories. 

First thing we did, on this visit, was have something to eat. 
Our restaurant of choice was "Applewood."

We initially intended to have breakfast but when our waitress handed us the lunch menu we each decided to make it brunch. 

The complementary glass of blended fruit juices, basket of small round apple fritters, and blended preserves are reasons I like this restaurant so much.  

I ordered chicken cordon bleu and Paula ordered meatloaf. We both got mashed potatoes because we knew they would be delicious. They are made from real potatoes which makes all the difference. 

Just like dinner the night before, we couldn't finish our entire meal. We asked for "to go" boxes and took home our leftovers. 

It took us about an hour to take a walking tour of the rest of the shops and stores on the Apple Barn property. This included a rest at the Applewood Grill to share an apple cider slushy and get some fritters to take home to Paula's sister. 

About 1PM CDT we got in the car and headed north east back through Tennessee toward Kentucky. On the return trip, instead of getting on I-75 north we took I-40 east through Knoxville heading toward Chattanooga. 

We came back through Nashville where we stopped at the Opry Mills mall so I could stop at the Lego store. I figured we were in the area, why not? I got a new set based on The Lego Movie. 

We also took some time to get something to eat at the food court. I stood in line to get Paula Hazelnut Mocha coffee from Starbucks while she went shoe shopping. 

Finally we merged onto the all too familiar stretch of I-65 that would take us home. 

So there you have the recollections, pictures and videos of our mid June 2014 three day vacation to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. 

I'm not sure if it will be our only chance to get away this year but I hope not. If it is...well we had a good time. 

Paula didn't get as much physical rest as originally planned. But she did get the mental break she needed. Hopefully she had enjoyed herself and is at least somewhat recharged in mind, body and soul. 

Also, this trip report is a milestone for me as far as social media is concerned. I have used both this blog and my You Tube channel to share our experiences with you. 

This shows that if I put forth the effort I can generate content that is worth sharing on social media. Thanks for being a part of this advance in my online development.   



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