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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

The Ultimate Guide to All 47 South Carolina State Parks: Everything You Need to Know

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Are you new to South Carolina and want to start getting outside and exploring our SC State Parks? Are you a local who wants to branch out and try a new park state park near Greenville, SC for camping or hiking? We’ve put this guide together to help with your adventures! From the Upstate to the Coast, we have the details for all 47 South Carolina State Parks.

SC State parks

This article includes:
South Carolina State Parks in the Upstate
South Carolina State Parks in the Midlands
Coastal South Carolina State Parks
South Carolina State Park Passports, Annual Admission Membership Program
South Carolina State Parks Outsiders Incentive Program

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Charleston, SC: Find Shark Teeth and Fossils at this Island with Coastal Expeditions

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Shark teeth and fossils are plentiful on Morris Island outside of Charleston, SC and Coastal Expeditions will make it the highlight of your trip! 

Thank you to Coastal Expeditions for inviting us to go on the Morris Island adventure with them. 

The South Carolina coastline is incredibly diverse with wildlife and ecosystems and because of ancient history (think Ice Age), there are some pretty amazing fossils to be found along the coastline. And you get the chance to do just that with the adventure out to Morris Island with Coastal Expeditions

Shark teeth on Morris Island
Shark teeth that we found

About Coastal Expeditions

If you’ve read some of our Charleston content or bucket list adventures, you’ve read about Coastal Expeditions. They took us out to Bulls Island where we got to experience an otherworldly place with lots of gators. It was amazing and we haven’t stopped recommending it ever since. 

Coastal Expeditions was started in 1992 to help people experience the beauty of the Lowcountry, not just see it. Their knowledge of the environment here is completely unmatched. Our naturalists on both trips blew me away with their extensive knowledge of the lands, people, history, and wildlife. More than that, their deep love of the area is evident and it’s because of that love that they want to share their knowledge in hopes that others will come to love and respect the amazing land that is the Lowcountry. 

Getting on the boat at Shem Creek
Boarding the boat

Coastal Expeditions has a wide range of offerings to help visitors explore Charleston’s wild side from kayak rentals in Shem Creek to the excursion to Bulls Island to guided kayak tours to fossil hunting on Morris Island. You can choose adventures that are more kid-friendly or more adventurous, depending on what you and your family would like to explore. They also offer summer camps and other kid-focused activities. This tour – and any of them -are perfect for homeschoolers.

Both excursions – Bulls Island and Morris Island were kid-friendly but Morris Island was a lot less walking! 

Heading Out to Morris Island 

Our big adventure to Morris Island began at the flagship of Coastal Expeditions at Shem Creek, which is a beautiful area full of restaurants and a park that borders the creek. It’s best known for its amazing sunsets and its local population of dolphins. 

There is parking at Coastal Expeditions but be sure to get there at least 15-20 minutes early if you need extra time to find parking during busier times and use the restroom as there is no bathroom on the boat or at Morris Island. 

Shem Creek
Shem Creek

The boat we had was nice and spacious and Captain Dolph did an excellent job getting us to and from the island. As we were leaving the dock and slowly making our way out of the creek and into the harbor, we got to see some dolphins. I love dolphins and always get super excited to see them.

We also learned a crazy cool fact: these dolphins that live in the estuaries and creeks along the South Carolina coast are actually smaller than Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins and genetically different, so much so that they have been declared a new species. True story. It happened during the summer of 2023 after a decade of research led by Ana Costa, Ph.D. Their name is Tamanend’s bottlenose dolphin

Our excellent naturalist, Jackie, told us that this is just incredible because dolphins are so well-studied and to have discovered a new species is essentially unheard of. Then she said some other names in Latin of wildlife that sounded really smart. Jackie was actually amazing, which I’ll get to in a bit when we explore Morris Island. 

One other thing that we learned when heading out to Morris Island was that The Coastal Expeditions Foundation was instrumental in renourishing Crab Bank, a seabird sanctuary for resting and nesting birds, that was washed away in 2017 by Hurricane Irma. Coastal Expeditions raised funds for this effort of conservation and you can only go to this island in wintertime when the birds aren’t nesting – and search for fossils!

Morris Island Lighthouse
Morris Island Lighthouse

I have come to really appreciate the mission of Coastal Expeditions because they practice what they preach. They are so enthralled and amazed by the beauty in the Lowcountry and use that love and knowledge to share with others in hopes of continuing to preserve it for future generations. 

On your way out to Morris Island, we passed right by Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. We also got incredible views of the Harbor and Ravenel Bridge. And we saw more dolphins – it was a great trip before we even got to the island. For you history buffs, you can read about the history of Morris Island on the Coastal Expeditions website.

Hunting for Fossils

Once we made it over to Morris Island, about a 30-minute boat ride from Shem Creek, we descended onto the sand and Jackie drew a map right on the sand of the island. She gave us her expert opinions of where to search for shark teeth and fossils. But the best part of her short presentation was when she showed us what she had found in the past on the island so we knew what to look for. 

She showed us a ton of cool stuff: shark teeth obviously but also vertebrae of sharks, fossilized clams, stingray teeth, and fossilized mammal bones. The tides and waves naturally erode the beach, dredging up fossils and teeth from thousands and thousands of years ago that are buried beneath the island. That’s how you can find some really neat things and why this place is so special. 

Looking for shark teeth on Morris Island
Where are you, shark teeth?

Once we got our instructions and tips from Jackie, we were off to find some treasures. You have three hours on the island, which may seem like a lot of time but it’s not a small island and you’ll want to walk slowly as you search for treasures. 

Within a few minutes, my kids had already found a couple of shark teeth, their very first ever. It took me um, a little longer. But I eventually found some and started looking more closely at anything that resembled a shiny triangle, which, it turns out, there are many of along this beach and they are not shark teeth. But I persevered!  

The island is very peaceful, clean, and beautiful. It is uninhabited and even if there are lots of other people, it won’t feel crowded. People just do their thing and look around or hang out on the beach and get some sun. 

We ran into Jackie a little over halfway through the time we had on the island and showed her some of our finds. We walked together for a little ways and she so kindly would draw circles in the sand where she saw shark teeth so my daughters could find more. Really, I should have looked in those circles because I was terrible at finding them but I thought it was really nice she did that to help them out. 

What We Found on Morris Island 

My kids found shark teeth a lot faster than I did. They had a good eye for them. But about 30 minutes into our walk along the shoreline, I hit the jackpot. I found a huge shark tooth and nearly jumped up and down at my find. It was just the coolest thing. Jackie, in all her knowledge, said it was from the predecessor to the Megalodon shark. That’s super old. 

Shark tooth and vertabrae
Shark tooth and vertebrae

Jackie has a cool book she carries around with her where you can match your shark tooth to a picture and it will tell you where it came from. She is a great naturalist though and was easily able to identify where most of our shark teeth came from, which mostly included bull sharks and reef sharks. My one daughter found a really old one that was older than the big one I found. 

One of the things I was really hoping to find was a vertebrae. I knew it looked like a really small version of a cut up tree trunk and to my great surprise, I found two. Jackie said they likely came from a shark. 

We also found a couple larger vertebrae and a fossilized clamshell plus some really gorgeous shells. I’m not sure exactly what we are supposed to do with all these shark teeth (I will tell you that we are heading to the Nature Exchange with some of them at the Roper Mountain Science Center!) but to have them is pretty neat and a wonderful reminder of the beauty of the Charleston area. 

One other neat thing about Morris Island is the lighthouse on the island. It’s very pretty but also too far to walk to and from in order to make it back to the boat. It’s no longer in operation but it was shown in the Netflix series, The Outer Banks. So if you’re a fan of show and love fossil hunting, you will love this tour. 

Comparing Finds on Morris Island

I really enjoyed the time we spent awaiting our boat to come back and get us since that’s when a bunch of us in our group got to compare finds and Jackie could help us identify things we didn’t know, which was pretty much everything. 

Some people in our group really brought in the haul and had lots of cool shark teeth, some of which were pretty big. One lady found a piece of post-colonial pottery, which she was legally able to keep. If it had been dated before that, she would have had to surrender it as it would have been considered an artifact. We were legit living our Indiana Jones dreams right here. 

Sea turtle on Morris Island
Remains of a sea turtle on the island

Jackie also had what she thought was a bone of a Leatherback Sea Turtle. She needed to consult her “bone guy” to get it properly identified though. Even so, it was neat. If the bone was from a Leatherback Sea Turtle, she guessed it came from the one that had washed up deceased on Morris Island a little over a month ago. She had shown it to us while we were walking along and it was enormous. It’s the largest kind of sea turtle in the world and was easily longer than myself. As sad as it was to see the turtle being delivered back to the Earth, from a scientific perspective, it was fascinating. 

Tips on Visiting Morris Island 

We learned a few things on our trip that may help you when you go: 

  • Wear shoes. Shells are sharp and you really don’t want to cut yourself or have your kid cut their foot. That will be most unpleasant. 
  • Bring water, sunscreen, and bug spray. We went in April and the temperatures were perfect but it was sunny and sunscreen and water were crucial. 
  • Bring a few snacks but don’t go crazy. I totally overpacked my bag and it was really heavy the whole trip. I had three water bottles, my camera, a lot of food, sunscreen, and bug spray. I really only needed the water and a couple snacks. If you have a small and comfortable hiking backpack, that would be a great option for this trip.
  • Keep the pups at home. Dogs are not allowed on public boat trips. For private boat trips, an exception may be made.
  • Bring a sunshirt or jacket. Weather on the coast can be very unpredictable. A light jacket or sun shirt would be useful to protect yourself from the sun on the island and if the boat ride gets a little chilly. 
  • Bring a plastic bag for your treasures. A gallon-sized ziplock bag is perfect for collecting and admiring your treasures. A fanny pack to attach it to would be excellent. 
  • You’ll be walking (very slowly) for most of the time if you want to search for fossils. We pretty much walked around 2.5 hours of the three hours on the island. I could have stayed there all day but just be prepared if you have smaller kids that may not want to do that kind of activity. You don’t need to go that far on the island to find treasures though – we just wanted to explore. You can certainly find a few spots to hang out at and look around. 
  • Towels are useful. Towels can be helpful if you get a little wet during the boat ride or just want to sit on the beach and relax. Towels can also be useful if you decide you want to swim in the ocean for a bit.
  • For those with accessibility needs, they are evaluated on a trip by trip basis. Coastal Expeditions suggests giving them a call to talk about mobility and what those needs are and see if they can be accommodated.

Booking Your Morris Island Trip 

The Morris Island excursion runs from March 16 – October 15 and in total is about four hours. You can book your tickets online.

Tickets are $65/adults and $40/kids. Gratuity is not included but very much appreciated if you really enjoyed your trip. The trip begins and ends at their Shem Creek flagship location. 

For other excursions and adventures run by Coastal Expeditions, check out the Coastal Expeditions website

If your family loves adventures, trying new things off the beaten path, and making amazing memories, this is the trip for you. My daughters and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and we learned so much in the process. This is the best kind of learning! And going with Coastal Expeditions – an established company with an impeccable reputation – you know you are going to have the best experience possible.

Coastal Expeditions
514 Mill Street, Mount Pleasant, SC
843.884.7684
Coastal Expeditions Website | Facebook 

Travel Guide to Charleston, South Carolina

Looking to make a longer trip? Here’s our Charleston, SC Visitor Guide… things to do, where to eat, and where to stay.

What to Expect at Pirates Voyage in Myrtle Beach

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Ever heard of Pirates Voyage in Myrtle Beach? Recently, my family traveled to nearby Myrtle Beach in order to check it out for our Kidding Around community. We had a lot of adventures (you can read our full Myrtle Beach itinerary here) but one of the experiences that stands out for being truly amazing and beyond our expectations was the dinner & show, Pirates Voyage produced by the Dolly Parton Company. Here’s a review of our experience at Pirates Voyage plus some tips for your visit.

Thank you to the Myrtle Beach CVB and Pirates Voyage for inviting us to enjoy the show.

Pirate on stage spinning fire

Before the show

Don’t head in too quickly as you might spy a sea lion or parrot outside before the show.

The doors open at 50 minutes before the performance. The show is around 2 hours long so take that into consideration when you plan your arrival time. However, there is an entertaining pre-show in the Pirates Village with pirates singing and tricks to help pass the minutes before your meal begins. We were happy to see lots of seating in the waiting area and there was popcorn and drink available for purchase if you needed a snack.  Before the show, you can also pay to “Join the crew” which includes face painting, costume accessories, and flags. The face painting area was decorated very nicely with huge chairs for the kids to sit in and the face painting looked very elaborate. You should reserve your spot ahead of time if you want to add this to your package.

I was also pleased to find that the gift shop had a wide range of prices and types of items.  Our kids had brought some of their own spending money but it wasn’t much and both found a decent costume prop for $3 each in the gift store.

About the show

Be prepared to be entertained by pirates, tricks, animals, and even mermaids during the two-hour show. My family was impressed by the number of tricks and the many surprises. The show also included singing, dancing, and a fun story plot. Don’t worry if your kids are not into pirates, there are parrots, sea lions, mermaids, and lots of tricks and aerobatics. The show is fast-paced and kept my kids’ attention for the entire time.

You will also be assigned a pirate team to cheer for which adds a fun interactive element. It’s all lighthearted and while there is enough sword fighting and banter to keep the kids entertained, it’s not violent or scary.

At a couple of points in the show, members of the audience were given a chance to participate. I’m not sure how the members are chosen, but my kids were picked to chase ducks. They received a book from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and a medal for their participation.

It’s easy to see from any level of seating in the arena. We were seated in one of the higher sections and had no trouble seeing. In my opinion, it’s worth paying a couple extra dollars to be in the preferred section though in order to be in the middle of the room.

The food

Plates of food and a drink

Like most dinner & show venues, you will be served a set menu, though you can request a vegetarian meal or gluten free meal when you make your reservation. The beverages served are Coke, Diet Coke, tea, and water and you are served multiple refills during the meal. The food was hot and fresh and included chicken, shredded pork, corn on the cob, creamy vegetable soup, bread, basted potato, and an apple pie pastry. You can purchase additional beverages at the start of the show.

Last Tips

Be sure to bring a suitable cash tip as tips are not included in your ticket price. Our table had a small sign that suggested 15% for good service. The servers work very hard carrying large trays across the arena while in costume and they deserve a decent tip.

Have your kids use the restroom before the show as it’s a long show during which they will possibly be consuming a lot of beverages. We were really happy to find clean restrooms that were actually large enough to accommodate the crowds (in fact when we headed there after the show we didn’t even have to wait in line).

If you choose to skip the pre-show, be sure to still arrive early enough to allow time to go through the ticket lines and get your photo taken before the show.

You can purchase a bundled deal on the Pirates Voyage website when you purchase your tickets to save money on tickets to Ripley’s Aquarium or Wonderworks.

About Pirates Voyage

8907 N. Kings Highway
Myrtle Beach, SC 29572
(843) 497-9700
Pirates Voyage website
Ticket prices: starting at $59.99/adults, $34.99/children

Have you ever been to Pirates Voyage? What did you think?

A Travel Guide To Myrtle Beach, SC: Things to Do, Where to Stay, and Places to Eat

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Planning a Myrtle Beach family vacation? Myrtle Beach is a clear favorite, and it is easy to see why. As one of the most popular beaches for vacationing in SC, Myrtle Beach offers top-notch hotels and resorts along with tons of family-friendly activities along the Grand Strand. So we’ve gathered up reviews and coverage from Kidding Around into one convenient guide! Our guide includes places to stay, where to dine, fun activities, and more to help you create the perfect vacation.

Travel Guide to Coastal SC: Myrtle Beach
Places to travel in the United States

There are lots of other great places for family vacations! We’ve rounded up some of our favorite travel spots with all the best things to do and see while you’re there in this Ultimate Travel Guide!

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stayAPT Suites: Spacious, Comfortable Suites with Full Kitchens & Affordable Rates

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We stayed at the new stayAPT Suites in North Charleston, SC and loved the spacious rooms with full kitchens. This hotel is ideal for families during trips and longer-term stays!

Thanks to stayAPT Suites for inviting us to their North Charleston location so we could provide this review.

You know that feeling of walking into a hotel room and just enjoying the immense space you’ve got there? Me neither. One of the things that makes stayAPT Suites stand out are the huge rooms, which are basically like an apartment. I walked in and I literally felt like I walked into an apartment. One of my kids actually said that word. 

When I travel with my family, I almost always stay somewhere that has a kitchen because let’s be honest, eating out for every meal gets pricey really fast. StayAPT really hits the mark on the kitchen, the spacious bathroom, and the huge bedroom. I was just floored at all the space. This is a big reason why I think families especially will love stayAPT – that and the affordable prices. 

stayAPT room
stayAPT room

About stayAPT Suites

StayAPT Suites are all 500+ square feet with distinct living space, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. The company wants their guests to feel at home, to be comfortable, and to enjoy the time spent there. They don’t want them to feel like they have to sacrifice the comforts of home when they travel for work, vacation, or even relocation. 

StayAPT Suites are mostly centered in the Southeast and Midwest but are working on a few locations out West. They are growing fast and their location map can help you find the one closest to your destination for travel. If you’ve got family coming to Greenville who need a place to stay, they have two locations in our area: one in Greenville and the other in Greer. 

We stayed at the stayAPT Suites in North Charleston for our adventure, which was the perfect area for exploring and relaxation. 

stayAPT Amenities

Every stayAPT Suites has a courtyard, a fitness room, and an on-site laundry room. The suites are pet-friendly so don’t worry about leaving your furry friend at home. 

They don’t have a pool or breakfast buffet but you won’t really miss it when you’re out exploring and saving all that money doing fun things with your family instead of spending it all on a cramped hotel room. 

All rooms have free and fast wi-fi so you can get your work done if needed.

stayAPT courtyard
stayAPT courtyard

Eat-In Kitchen

The kitchen we had at stayAPT Suites was a beautiful, eat-in kitchen. Honestly, I’d love to have this same kitchen in my house. It’s bigger and prettier than my own kitchen. 

There’s a full-size refrigerator, a huge granite peninsula with chairs and a sink, a dishwasher, an electric stove, a coffee maker, and a toaster. I was at home here and I loved it. 

While they provide one day of coffee, if you’re here longer, bring your own coffee and filter. They have pots and pans, silverware, and cups. A roll of paper towels and salt and pepper would be helpful to bring with you as well.

Minimalist Decor, Affordable Rates

The decor around stayAPT is very minimalist and has no frills. The courtyard is really pretty though with comfortable seating and an area to relax and let the kids play after a long drive. 

The hotel is able to keep rates low because they have minimal staff and amenities to keep up with. All of the staff I met were incredibly nice and helpful. While I checked in at the lobby, you can use keyless and contactless check-in via an app.

stayAPT Suites room
stayAPT Suites bedroom

This minimalist philosophy is a huge advantage in most places but especially in Charleston, where it’s not easy to find someplace affordable to stay for families or longer term stays. 

StayAPT is perfect for traveling nurses, families who are relocating and need a spot to stay for a bit, and longer-term travel for business.

Honest Mom Review of stayAPT Suites

I was immediately floored when I walked into the room because it was just so large and spacious. And I absolutely loved the kitchen with all the open space and big countertops. It was perfect for when I cooked breakfast and dinner during our trip and helped us save money, which is always appreciated. 

I wasn’t expecting such a minimalist hotel in terms of the normal amenities that most hotels usually offer like a pool and breakfast (if you’re lucky) but it was an easy transition to make in my mind because we weren’t cramped and the location was great.

I especially find stayAPT Suites a fantastic option for visiting families or people who need a place while relocating. Not all of us have a lot of extra space for when our families come to visit and stayAPT Suites has two locations in the Greenville area for such an occasion!

Booking Your Stay 

It’s super easy to book your stay at stayAPT Suites as everything is done online on their website. StayAPT Suites has double queen and king rooms available and rates will depend on season, holidays, and other factors that determine the prices – but rates will be competitive. 

You can book your stay at the stayAPT website for North Charleston as well as search their other locations.

Travel Guide to Charleston, South Carolina

Find fun things to do in Charleston, SC!

Here’s our Kidding Around Travel Guide to Charleston, SC

10+ Things to Do in Mount Pleasant, SC

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Planning a trip to the Mount Pleasant area? If you’re looking for free things to do in Mount Pleasant, SC, you’ve come to the right spot. We’re sharing our top recommendations for things to do that you will not want to miss on your next trip to the Low Country. From history-rich tours to fun at the waterpark, we’ve got you covered on things to do and even where to eat in Mt. Pleasant.

Travel Guide to Charleston SC

Planning a trip to the Lowcountry? Here’s your ultimate guide to visiting Charleston, SC – read it before you go!

Want to plan an educational trip to the low country with your family? Discover all things you can learn on a Road Schooling Trip to the Charleston Area.

This article includes:
Free Things to Do in Mt. Pleasant, SC
Cheap Things to Do in Mt. Pleasant, SC
More Things to Do in Mt. Pleasant, SC
Where to Eat in Mt. Pleasant, SC

Free Things to do in Mt. Pleasant, SC

Charleston is a popular destination for residents of the Upstate of South Carolina. Tucked away, just at the other end of the iconic Ravenel Bridge, is the town of Mount Pleasant. And if you’re looking for free things to do in the area, we’ve got some recommendations for you to consider adding to your itinerary.

Playground at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park
Playground at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park

Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park

As you cross the Cooper River into Mount Pleasant, you’ll be on top of one of the best places to visit. Beneath the Ravenel Bridge is the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park.  The Park offers visitors a bunch of things to do for little to no cost. The Mount Pleasant Visitor’s center is located at the front of the park, and this should be one of your first stops. Inside you’ll be able to get all kinds of information about the area, grab discount tickets for area attractions, and book reservations for popular restaurants.

Underneath the bridge is a great playground for kids. With seating for parents and a fenced-in area, it will be a favorite stop for you. The park’s huge greenspace is host to several free events, including live music, moonlight movies, and more.

If fishing is something your family enjoys, you’ll love the pier. The bait shop offers everything you’ll need to drop a line in the water with your kids. You could be in for an exciting time on the pier!  If fishing isn’t your thing, the pier is excellent for people-watching.

boy looking out at Shem Creek
Shem Creek

Shem Creek Park

Another great place to visit in Mount Pleasant is Shem Creek Park. The 2,200-foot boardwalk extends over the marsh and out to the water. The creek is home to the local fleet of shrimp boats, and kids will love watching them come and go. The boardwalk is a great place to bring your kids’ scooters. If your family owns a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard, this is a great place to bring it. You can rent one at the shop right there if you don’t own one.

This is also a popular spot for watching dolphins frolic in the creek as they hope for scraps from the incoming fishing vessels. Grab a picnic lunch and enjoy the view from the many benches along the boardwalk.

sullivans island Edgar Allan Poe Library

Exploring Sullivan’s Island

If the crowds at Folly Beach aren’t your thing, then you’ll enjoy Sullivan’s Island, located off the coast of Mount Pleasant. Free public parking makes the beaches on this quiet island appealing, and the secluded nature of the beach makes it peaceful. Searching for shark teeth is a great lesson in patience and attention to detail for adults and children alike.

There’s also a small local library, the Edgar Allan Poe/Sullivan’s Island Library, you can visit. There’s a comfortable sofa and plenty of books for kids to enjoy. The Island has ties Poe, and you’ll find his name all over the island.

We’ve got even more things for you to do at Sullivan’s Island.

Pitt Street Bridge

The Pitt Street Bridge (also known as the Cove Inlet Bridge and the Cove Inlet Causeway) was once the only way to cross the water to get to the beaches. Originally built for a trolley, it was later widened for personal vehicles. The bridge closed in 1945 and was converted into a fishing pier. The old bridge burned, and now it’s covered by Pickett Park, a greenway lined with palm trees that takes pedestrians and cyclists across the former bridge site. At the end of the bridge is a great spot to go fishing.

Charles Pinckney National Historic Home

Charles Pinckney helped draft and sign the US Constitution, and now you can visit a 28-acre remnant of his original 715-acre plantation, Snee Farm. While visiting, you’ll be able to learn about Pinkney’s life and political influences, the People he enslaved, plantation operations, and the main cash crops of the Lowcountry (indigo and rice). There is no fee to visit Charles Pinkney’s National Historic Home.

Cheap Things to Do in Mount Pleasant, SC

Taking a trip to the Charleston area doesn’t have to break the bank. If you need some extra things to do on your trip, there’s plenty of low-cost fun to be had!

Charleston Water Taxi
Charleston Water Taxi

Charleston Water Taxi

Kidding Around’s fans are some of the best around! The suggestion of the Charleston Water Taxi was from a loyal reader. She hesitated to share her secret, but we’re glad she did.

The Water Taxi is a great way to see the waterfront from a different perspective. The pontoon-style boat picks passengers up at several different locations. Pro-Tip: There are no bathrooms on board, so make sure to stop at a restroom before hopping on.

One of the nice things about the taxi is you can stay on as long as you’d like, or hop on and off to sightsee. The taxi offers some very unique views of the ships docked at Patriots Point.

A complete trip around the harbor takes approximately 60 minutes. Make sure to have your camera ready because, in addition to the photo opportunities at Patriots Point, guests of the taxi are often treated to visits from dolphins. You can also capture some nice family photos with the Ravenel bridge in the background.  The guys that captain the ship are happy to jump in a play photographer, so you can capture the memory of your entire family’s day out on the water.

$14 a person gets you a pass that covers the entire day, and kids 3 and under ride free.

Fort Moultrie

Sullivan’s Island is also rich in history, as it was home to where some of the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Fort Moultrie is part of the National Park Service. Adult admission costs $10, and children 15 and younger receive free entry.

Among the ranks at the Fort was someone who was destined for fame later in life. Regimental Sergeant-Major Edgar Allen Poe spent just over a year stationed here, and you will find evidence of his time here all over the island.

More Things to Do in Mt. Pleasant, SC

Patriots Point Naval Maritime Museum

For more immersion into Lowcountry history, take a visit to Patriots Point. In June 1975, the USS Yorktown entered Charleston Harbor and was the first ship dedicated to the Naval & Maritime Museum. Patriots Points opened the following year, housing the museum and a fleet of National Historic Landmark ships. You’ll be able to view a World War II Aircraft Carrier. You’ll also find the Cold War Memorial, the only Vietnam Experience Exhibit in the US, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and the official Medal of Honor Museum. It’s a very popular attraction and one to consider.

Give yourself 2-3 hours to go through everything. A single-day Patriots Point ticket for adults 12-61 years old is $27, children 6-11 years old tickets are $16, children 6 and under are free, and seniors 62+ years old will pay $19 for their tickets. There are bundle ticket options, and Veterans, First Responders, Teachers, and Active Military are offered discounts.

Splash Island Water Park

Splash Island Water Park is an excellent and fun attraction within Mount Pleasant Palmetto Islands County Park. The water park features a 200-ft body flume, a 16-ft otter slide, cyclone swirling water ride, a pool, and plenty of sprays, geysers, and raindrop waterfalls. There are lifeguards on-duty, and you’ll find concessions, restrooms, showers, and changing areas. Be sure to check their site for hours of operation because they do close during the winter season.

Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens

Another thing to do in Mt. Pleasant is to visit Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens. The plantation was founded in 1681 by Major John Boone. His family and descendants were significant influencers in South Carolina’s history. It’s one of the oldest working plantations in the US; it continues growing crops to this day. Boone Hall has been dubbed “a must-see stop on any trip to Charleston, SC” by NBC Daytime and is recognized as the “#1 Plantation in the Charleston Area by USA Today 10Best.”

Regular Adult tickets are $28, Seniors/Military/AAA are $25, children 6-12 years old are $12, and children 5 and under are free.

Where to Eat in Mount Pleasant

There’s no shortage of pitmasters in the Lowcountry, that’s for sure. Swig & Swine BBQ is a favorite. If you haven’t been yet. Be sure to follow Swig & Swine BBQ on Facebook so you don’t miss out on their daily specials, like $5 burger night and Wing Night!

BBQ near Mount Pleasant

Bon Bahn Mi is another local favorite restaurant in Mount Pleasant. They have delicious food and a build-your-own kid’s meal menu that is a hit when we go! Kids get to choose from a taco, a rice bowl, a noodle bowl, or a sandwich – and build it with protein and veggie options all for just $7 with an included drink!

Be sure to treat yourself to one of their iced Vietnamese coffees, they are amazing!

lunch in Mount Pleasant

The Pitt Street Pharmacy Soda Fountain is an old-school spot where you can grab a no-frills meal and a low price. Cheap burgers, sandwiches, and ice cream are the perfect lunchtime meal when you are on the go. Dine in and go around exploring Historic Mount Pleasant, or get it to go and head up the road to Shem Creek to relax.

Every Monday night, from 6-8 pm, Dog & Duck has family bingo night! The family-friendly prizes include gift cards for X-Box, iTunes, and more. If you make it there before we do, let us know!

Want to read our entire guide to visiting Charleston, SC? We’ve got you covered with Charleston Itineraries, Things to Do in Charleston, Where to Eat, and Places to Stay.

We can’t wait to add more free and cheap fun to our list of activities in Mount Pleasant! Check back often to see where our next adventure takes us.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Greenville, SC: Travel With KAG!

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Planning a visit to Greenville, SC? Travel to the area is booming, and we’re so glad you’re here! We love our little city (and so does The New York Times, Forbes, and Southern Living!) because there’s so much for everyone to see, do, and eat.

Art connoisseurs, outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, and history buffs will all find something to enjoy while visiting Greenville. And, of course, families have an incredible amount of opportunities to make memories here. So, since you’re planning to visit, we wanted to make your planning a little easier by giving you a list of our top recommendations for places to eat, places to stay, and things to do in Greenville… as well as a guide to parking in downtown Greenville.

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Ahoy! Pirates and treasures galore at this pirate museum in St. Augustine, FL

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The incredible St. Augustine Pirate Museum has lots of amazing hands-on entertainment and treasures in St. Augustine, Florida. 

Making a trip down the East Coast from the Upstate, SC? The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is the real deal and has such cool exhibits and treasures! We checked it out and have all the details. 

Captain Kidd's Chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
Everyone has fun at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

About the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum

The museum is a brainchild of Pat Croce, a best-selling author, entrepreneur, and pirate scholar. Some of the artifacts in the museum were obtained from dives he did to sunken ships. So cool. 

The museum initially opened in Key West in 2005 but was moved to St. Augustine in 2010, where it has resided ever since. St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, is no stranger to piracy after all. Famous pirates such as Robert Searles and Sir Frances Drake even visited St. Augustine. Castillo de San Marcos, the Spanish fort which I had visited on a previous trip (highly recommend, super neat), saw its fair share of pirates. It is right across the street from the pirate museum. 

St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

Today, the museum spans about 5,000 square feet and holds more than 800 authentic pirate artifacts ranging from the 1600s to the present day. The entire museum is arranged so that you feel like you’re actually on a pirate ship. 

Exploring the Museum 

Honestly, I thought the museum would be a little cheesy and touristy but I had seen good reviews and wanted to give it a shot. Also, one of my daughters had recently done a presentation on female pirates for school so we were already into the history of pirates and I thought this would make a fantastic addition to her knowledge of pirates. 

I am happy to say I was blown away by this museum. It is not even close to being cheesy. I have always been fascinated by pirates and the museum just brings the history of piracy and the more famous pirates to life right in front of you. 

There’s a scavenger hunt you can do during your time there where you look for drawers with the Jolly Roger sign (skull and crossbones) and write down what’s inside them on your treasure map. That was easy and fun for all of us and certainly interactive. 

Captain Kidd's Chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
Captain Kidd’s Chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

We found all kinds of incredible artifacts from sunken ships off the coasts of North Carolina and Florida that had been recovered even up to 2011. There were remnants of barrels, guns, pottery, glasses, and even books and Bibles. 

Exhibits featured screens with drawings of famous pirates and their stories. We even found stories about Mary Read and Anne Bonny, two of the pirates my daughter had researched. We learned about knot tying, why certain sails were raised at certain times, how pirates were tortured, and even how the famous pirate, Blackbeard, met his end. 

There is a really interesting room that holds the only known pirate treasure chest in the world from several hundred years ago plus gold and silver coins and other pirate treasure that has been recovered from shipwrecks. 

My kids are 9 and 12 and they really enjoyed it. Even as an adult, I absolutely loved it. I wish I could have stayed longer and read through more of the exhibits but the kids wanted to see different parts of the museum so we kept on going on our pirate adventure. 

Visiting the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum 

The pirate museum is open daily 10 am – 7 pm except for Christmas Day. We spent a little over an hour there and bought our tickets online. We went during Christmas Break so I just wanted to be sure that we could get in. I don’t think we would have had any problems buying tickets at the museum though. It wasn’t terribly crowded. 

St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum Treasure Chest
Treasure chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

Tickets to the museum are $17.99/ages 13-59 and $9.99/ages 5-12. Military and ages 60+ tickets are $15.99. You can buy them at the museum or online.

If you’re visiting the nation’s oldest city, I definitely recommend checking out the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. 

You can park across the street at Castillo de San Marcos where it is metered parking or in a nearby parking garage. 

For more fun things to do in St. Augustine, see our reviews on Castillo de San Marcos, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, and Blue Springs State Park.

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum 
12 S Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, FL
St Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum Website

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A Travel Guide to Tennessee: Family-Friendly Vacations

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Looking to vacation in Tennessee? The beautiful backdrop of the Appalachians, southern charm, and unique vacation destinations make it an excellent choice for a family-friendly vacation. We’ve visited several cities throughout the state and collected dozens of reviews to help you plan your next trip. You’ll find unique places to lodge, dining options, adventure recommendations, and more for cities like Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Travel Guide to Tennessee, with information for family friendly vacations.

Where Would You Like to Explore?


A Family-Friendly Vacation to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

If you have never been to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, you are in for a treat! The area has grown rapidly over the last 50 years and includes some out-of-this-world attractions, is near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and has a lot of great places to lodge.

Things to Do in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Enjoy snow tubing all year round at Indoor Snow Tubing in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
See the magical Christmas lights at Winterfest, which starts in November and ends in February!
During Winterfest, you can enjoy the epic lights on the Wonder of Light Walking Trail
The Island at Pigeon Forge is a great one-stop for an amazing day of shopping, fun attractions, and food.
Ever seen the world from upside down? You can at Wonderworks in Pigeon Forge!
Soar over America in an immersive theatre at Skyfly at The Island at Pigeon Forge
Cruise around the Smoky Mountains with Smoky Mountain Pink Jeep.
The Titanic Museum is a truly immersive experience in a replica of the ship itself, right off the Boulevard!

Wildwood Grove at Dollywood

Dollywood

Homeschooling? These Homeschool days at Dollywood will save you some money on the theme park.
You’ll find a woodland-themed waterpark at Splash Country at Dollywood
Christmas at Dollywood is one of the most magical times of the year, with lights, crafters, and more!
Wildwood Grove at Dollywood is full of whimsy and rides.

Lodging in Pigeon Forge

The Inn on the River is a prime location on the river and is a great family-friendly place to stay.
If you are looking for an all-out resort, Margaritaville RV Resort and Lodge is the place!


Visit The Charming Mountain Town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg is one of the most popular travel destinations to take a vacation in Tennessee. With stunning mountain views and dozens of attractions that are unquestionably unique to the town, you could spend an entire weekend with a packed itinerary. There is an aquarium, mountain coasters, and even a sky-high bridge you have to see to believe!

Winter version of Galtlinburg, Pigeon Forge silo.

Our KA Ultimate Guide to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with reviews, lodging information, and places to eat.

Things to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

See ocean creatures and walk under sharks at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
Anakeesta is a sky-high destination that offers fantastic views, dining, and special attractions.
The Mirrormaze is a fun attraction for families to try and navigate the maze.
Get rocked while experiencing the 5D Theatre in downtown Gatlinburg!
Take the ski lift to the Skybridge, and you’re in for a real thrill as you walk the suspension bridge.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park is an American treasure, you have to visit it at least once.
Elkmont Ghost Town is a ghost town that your family can explore! How neat!

Places to Stay Near Gatlinburg, TN

Enjoy a family-friendly stay at the Greystone Lodge, which has an excellent location!
The Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort has an indoor waterpark that the kids can play in.
If you are looking for luxury camping, Camp LeConte is a great option in Gatlinburg!
Smoky Hollow Outdoor Resort has covered wagons you can camp in!
This 17 Room Gaming Mansion is a wonderful place to stay for larger groups!


Spend the Weekend in Sevierville, Tennessee

Do not overlook Sevierville while planning your vacation to Tennessee! Situated right next door to Pigeon Forge in Sevierville, Tennessee. If you didn’t know, Sevierville is the birthplace of America’s greatest gift, Dolly Parton! There are also a lot of fun things to do, and one of the most epic hotels in the area (it has an indoor and outdoor waterpark!)

These 23+ Special Things to Do in Sevierville, Tennesse will make for a memorable vacation.

Sevierville TN

Activities and Things to Do in Sevierville, Tennessee

You have to make a pit stop at Buc-ee’s Sevierville, where you will find everything you need and more!
There are coasters, chair lifts, cowboy demonstrations, and more at Skyland Ranch.
Soaky Mountain Water Park is THE BEST waterpark, with some epic slides to try out.

Glamping tent at the Ridge Outdoor Resort

Lodging in Sevierville, Tennessee

The Ridge Outdoor Resort in Sevierville offers glamping, RV camping, and amenities.
Wilderness at the Smokies is wonderful for families, with multiple waterparks and cozy hotel rooms.


Explore the Outdoors in Chattanooga, Tennessee

In the Southeastern part of Tennessee near the Georgia line, you will find an amazing city that has perfectly balanced city life with the outdoors, Chattanooga, Tennessee! The downtown area is bustling with art, interesting things to do, and exceptional dining. Plus, there is an aquarium, a zoo, a famous train hotel, and Rock City is just down the road.

The Ultimate Guide to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Check out our KA Ulitmate Guide to Chattanooga, Tennessee for ideas on places to stay, things to do, and our honest reviews of popular attractions!

Meercats at Chattanooga Zoo in Tennessee.

Meercats at the Tennessee Zoo

The view from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.

Overlook at Lookout Mountain

Family-Friendly Things to Do in Chattanooga, TN

The iconic Rock City is just a few minutes drive from Downtown Chattanooga!
Big Soddy Creek Gulf Trail has a mesmerizing swimming hole that is crystal clear.
The Tennessee Aquarium has two buildings full of ocean creatures to visit.
You can feed giraffes and red pandas at the Chattanooga Zoo!

The Read House hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Where to Stay Near Chattanooga, Tennesse

The Read House Hotel is iconic and even has ghost stories to learn about.


More Tennessee Travel


Places to travel in the United States

Our Travel Page will give you tons of ideas for day trips, weekend getaways, or family vacations to destinations throughout the Southeast.

This Gatlinburg, TN Resort Has a Huge Indoor Water Park

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Families and couples will love the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg with it’s excellent restaurant, indoor waterpark, spa, and proximity to the Smokies.

Kristina was invited to take her kids for a few days to explore all the resort has to offer. Thank you to the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort for hosting us and for exceptional hospitality.

Lobby at Westate of the Smokies

Our Review of Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort

The Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg is part of the Westgate Resort family, which has properties in Orlando, Las Vegas, Miami, Daytona Beach, Myrtle Beach, and several other popular locations in addition to this Gatlinburg indoor waterpark hotel.

They are top-notch resorts that have plenty of entertainment for both families and couples who want to relax and have fun. They also take great pride in providing excellent dining, spa amenities, and family-friendly activities and events to guests. 

You Don’t Have to Leave the Resort to Have Fun

We were thrilled to stay at the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg, just outside of the main drag and less than ten minutes from both Pigeon Forge and the perfect backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. But really, if you wanted to just drive there, park your car, and enjoy the resort amenities without ever getting back in your car until it was time to go home, you could absolutely do that.

The resort has enough things to do to keep your entire family entertained easily for a weekend or more without ever leaving the property. 

Amazing Views

The Westgate Smokies is enormous and if you don’t have a room on the base level where the indoor waterpark and restaurant is located, you’ll be up the mountain with amazing views of downtown Gatlinburg and the majestic Smokies right outside your doorstep.

And the views are just breathtaking. The resort looks over to Anakeesta, the mountaintop village that we’ve often written about and just love, which is framed by Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park, and Mt. LeConte, which is nearly as high.

We could even see the snow-covered peak of Clingmans Dome! The clouds roll in and out of the mountains, creating those postcard-perfect photos that you can’t even believe exist in real life. 

Shuttles & a Trolley are Available

Because the resort is so large, they have constant shuttles running to get you where you want to go and will even pick you up if you start walking back and forth to your room. The staff is very friendly and eager to please. 

If you feel the need to leave the resort, you can jump on the Gatlinburg trolley, which has a stop right at the resort entrance. That will take you into town for a minimal fee. 

How much does it cost to book a room?

The Westgate Smokies offers studio rooms up to five bedroom villas. Prices vary according to room type and season. As of this writing, a studio in January ran about $105/night and a one-bedroom was $130/night. In April, those same rooms are currently going for $185 and $200, respectively.  July and October are typically the busiest and more costly seasons. 

If you’re looking to visit, be sure to go to the Gatlinburg hotel deals, as they actually have more than one resort in the area.

Wild Bear Falls Water Park

For families, the main draw of the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort is the indoor waterpark, Wild Bear Falls Water Park. I kept this part a secret from my kids when we went, only telling them to bring their swimsuits. It was worth it to see their utter amazement when we walked in. They were speechless, which, for kids, is quite incredible. 

The waterpark is huge, more than 60,000 square feet, and is nice and warm. It looks like a giant greenhouse with a big glass ceiling and glass walls. Parents or caregivers need to be in the water with their kids so be prepared to join in on the fun. 

Zero-Entry Pool and Playground

There is a zero-entry pool area with two slides that is perfect for smaller children. There is a big playground in the middle of the waterpark that pours gallons and gallons of water on kids as they slip down wet slides and play in the foot-deep pool. 

Westgate Waterpark

Pool with Basketball Hoops Right Next to a Hot Tub

A bigger pool for older kids has basketball hoops in the center and is the deepest at four-and-a-half feet. Next to that pool is a deliciously steamy hot tub. Adults seemed to gravitate over there. 

Lazy River

My kids loved the lazy river, which was only two-and-a-half feet deep and warm. You cruised around the park in a tube and could get out to go on one of two water slides.

Westgate Lazy River

Water Slides

Guests need to be 48 inches tall to ride the water slides. Tubes are needed for the red water slide, which is half open to the ceiling until the very end when you go through a short tunnel.

Westgate Waterslides

The yellow one is body-only and is totally enclosed. I preferred the red one best and my oldest went on it several times by herself. 

Westgate Smokies

There’s also a very warm hot tub near the water slides that opens to the outdoors, which feels really nice in the cool air. 

Locker Rooms

Locker rooms are on-site with showers and there are plenty of towels available for guests to use free of charge. Paid lockers are available if you want to store your backpack with your phone or other valuables. 

How Crowded was Wild Bear Falls Waterpark?

We went to the waterpark both on a weekday and weekend. It was more crowded on the weekend than on the weekday but still had plenty of space to not feel like people were close to you.

How much does it cost?

The waterpark is open daily but check the schedule ahead of time. Rates are $29.95/single day admission,  $53.85/two-day admission, and $84.75/three day admission. Children three and under are free.

Are day passes available?

Even if you’re not staying at the resort, you can go and enjoy the waterpark as they offer day passes.

What is there to do at the Westgate Smokies Resort?

We (myself and two kids, ages 9 and 6) stayed at the Westgate Smokies for three nights and nearly four days and didn’t get to do half of the things the resort offers just because we ran out of time. They have that many things to do. 

Outdoor Pools with Views

There are two outdoor pools, including an infinity pool at the top of the mountain. I saw that on the map and decided to check it out and am so happy we did because it was amazing. The view up there was insane and the infinity pool was perfect and warm. There’s a hot tub there as well.

Towels are provided and during the warmer months, they have a bar. It’s completely picturesque. 

Right below the infinity pool is an inviting firepit that overlooks the mountains. It was quite the place to get warm after our dip in the water and I could have looked at those mountains forever. 

View of Gatlinburg from the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort

Playground, Mini-Golf and a Zip-Line

A playground for kids is halfway up the mountain and right near one of the shuttle stops so you can stop there and play or just play while you wait for your ride. There is a mini-golf course and a zip line next to the infinity pool. Guests need to weigh at least 75 pounds for the zip line, which my youngest didn’t quite reach so we had to skip that one. Next time!

Fitness Center, Snack Bar, and Activities

A fitness center overlooks the waterpark and a snack bar also is at the same location as the waterpark. The resort also has a huge list of activities for families and their kids like archery, ornament making, survival courses, guided hikes, ghost tours, and free movie nights. Again, we just ran out of time to do any of these because we were so busy having fun doing other things there. 

Spa

If I had my husband with us on this trip, I would have taken advantage of a spa treatment because how amazing does that sound, right? They have everything from massages to luxury pedicures to hot stone treatments. 

Washer and Dryer

Every floor also has a free washer and dryer, which we definitely used. It was especially convenient to dry our swimsuits after going to the waterpark and pool. 

Kitchens and Kitchenettes

The rooms at the resort are spacious and some of them have kitchens or kitchenettes. Whenever we travel, I always look for this feature because it saves us so much money when it comes to not having to eat out at every meal if we can make some of our food at the hotel.

Yet you may not want to cook when you try the restaurant on-site, Southern Comfort. 

Southern Comfort Restaurant

Southern Comfort opened a few years ago at the Westgate Smokies that serves southern cuisine with a Lowcountry, Cajun twist. We sampled several dishes at the restaurant and each was better than the last. 

The chef at Southern Comfort used to work at the Biltmore and her food was incredible. It was flavorful with just the right amount of spice that even my kids, who aren’t into anything with spicy flavors, enjoyed it.

One of their favorite dishes was the Nashville hot chicken and biscuit that we had for breakfast one morning. I was shocked. It was like their little palettes were changing right before my eyes. 

Southern Comfort

This is how I can best describe every dish we had: it was so obviously made with love. You could taste it. I don’t mean that mushy romantic love. This was a love of food, of ingredients, and a kind of pride in the dish that the chef was serving to guests. 

We had everything from Egg Nog French Toast (as good as it sounds), Blackened Catfish, Pulled Pork with Sweet Potato Cakes, Southern Fried Chicken, Deviled Eggs with Spicy Pickle, Fried Green Tomatoes, Mac & Cheese, and my favorite, a Cajun Gumbo.

Kids’ Meals

The kids’ meals are also tasty. My oldest daughter got a cheeseburger and fries one night and I kept stealing her curly fries when she wasn’t looking. They were perfectly crispy and salty and hot.

Dessert

On our first night there, the general manager Crystal, told us about their s’mores dessert that has marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate, and peanut butter cups. I had to get that the last night we were there and it didn’t disappoint. We managed not to burn the place down, which was a success. 

Helpful Staff

The entire staff was so kind and helpful. They not only talked to us about the recent opening of the restaurant but also gave us some tips on places to explore in the area. 

Cozy Decor

And the decor of the restaurant keeps with the whole cozy cabin theme of the resort with high ceilings, a log cabin feeling indoors with a large fireplace, and candlelit tables. 

Make a Reservation

Southern Comfort is open to both guests and the general public but definitely make a reservation if you want to enjoy a meal there. Weekends can have a long wait. Word is getting out just how delicious this place is.

There is parking on site. 

Marketplace & Starbucks

Lastly, there is a marketplace and Starbucks at the resort, which is so convenient if you want to grab breakfast and coffee on the go if you’re heading to the National Park for a drive or hike. I definitely made use of those when we were there. 

Other Local Attractions in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge

Kidding Around readers know how much we love Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smokies as we have many stories on things to do in the area. Additionally, the Westgate Smokies has these 51 things to do in Gatlinburg, most of which are within a quick jaunt from the resort. Yet every time we go, we always discover something new. 

Anakeesta

Even after going to Anakeesta several times, we’ve never been during Christmastime, which was a special treat. Lights are strung so beautifully up on the mountain village and the new restaurant is now open (make reservations as the waits are long). We finally got to watch one of their outdoor movies for a bit, which my kids really enjoyed. Elf was playing and they had never seen it before and thought it was hilarious. 

Anakeesta

Ole Smoky Moonshine

I got to do a special moonshine tasting as well this trip at the state’s oldest distillery, Ole Smoky Moonshine, right in the heart of Gatlinburg. I’m not a big straight liquor drinker but it was a lot of fun learning about the history of the distillery and tasting their surprisingly delicious offerings. The White Lightening, the straight up moonshine, was quite the kicker.

The others were a lot less of a punch in your face and I loved the peanut butter chocolate one, which hardly tasted like liquor at all (could be dangerous, right?). 

The distillery is America’s most visited and you can sample several moonshines for $5. The samples are thankfully tiny since the alcohol content is so high.

Their moonshine making process is open to the public and you can see how it’s made so if you happen to be homeschooling your kids, that’s a science lesson right there.

Ole Smokey Moonshine

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

And of course, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is just minutes from the resort. I love this park for its beauty, its miles upon miles of trails, and its fascinating history. The Westgate sent us on a short hike to the Noah Oglesby cabin with a guide and it was so interesting. Be sure to get your parking pass ($5/day, $15/week, $40/year) from the National Park.

Cabin

The trailhead was just 15 minutes from the resort and we learned all kinds of history about the family with nine kids who lived there and farmed the area.

My kids soaked up all the information and loved learning about the environment and different things to look for on hikes like twin trees, quartz, and woodpecker restaurants, which looked like lines of holes circling trees.

Virtual Learning & Homeschooling at Westgate Smokies

For families who are homeschooling or doing virtual school, taking a trip to Westgate Smokies is ideal because there are plenty of opportunities to learn about different subjects while getting homework done online at the resort and then playing at the waterpark or enjoying other amenities offered. 

It’s a nice change of scenery that could help give everyone a break while still making sure the work that needs to get done happens. 

The resort often offers specials and discounts, which can be found here

Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park
915 Westgate Resorts Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
865.430.4800
Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort Website
Westgate Smoke Mountain Facebook