Bad Hair Day, Ripley’s Aquarium, Indoor Zoo: A Month in Review

I know, y’all. I’m sorry. I totally disappeared for a month! This post will, of course, have your Disney fix and a few bonus reviews as well.  Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Bad Hair Day
 I know the new Disney Channel Original Movie Bad Hair Day premiered in February and I’m way late, so I’ll only do a mini-review.
The characters were nicely crafted, shucking stereotypes. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to have a main female character be super smart and enjoy dabbling in beauty products and trends without some drastic makeover montage. Bad Hair Day‘s protagonist is a tech wiz and a girly girl, and that’s awesome. Multi-facted personalities are a fact of life, and stereotypes in television and movies perpetuate that.
Of course the plot line is a little far fetched, from jewel-heists to kidnappings, but like most Disney stories it’s told with a lot of heart. Sincerity goes a long way in making up for predictable twists, and Disney nails it. Bad Hair Day was enjoyable to watch, with deep characters, funny quips and a heartwarming ending.

After nearly two years apart, my favorite (and only) sister and I were reunited last week. It was so much fun, I can’t even begin to describe it. My son, A, totally fell in love with her all over again. He was glued to her side the whole time she was here, even climbing in to bed with her one night. We always have fun together, whether we’re hanging out at home or adventuring out and about. Here’s a review of some of the adventuring we did.

Since moving to Tennessee, we live in the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our proximity to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg allows us many day trips to experience things that people travel from all over to see and do.  While my best sis was visiting, we hit a few local attractions and ate many delicious foods (here’s looking at you, Krispy Kreme, O’Charley’s and Olive Garden!).

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
As a huge animal lover, I’m a bit obsessed with aquariums. I love seeing how magical these creatures look, and I’d heard great things about this aquarium. We were worried about the amount of time we’d have, since J had to work and we wouldn’t get there until 5, and they close at 9 in the spring. We ended up having more than enough time, spending just over two hours there. Admission is pricey, which is why we’ve been waiting for a special occasion to go; with $25 for adults with kids admittance varying from $5 and up, you want to make sure you’re there long enough to get your money’s worth.

By far, the best part was the shark tunnel. Stretching and turning, the tunnel has a moving sidewalk that goes on for quite a while, affording you every angle of view you could want of many different kinds of sharks. There was also a spooky sign explaining the scratches on the tunnel were from a shark attack in 2011. The only negative is that they play suspenseful music the whole time, perpetuating the bad stereotype sharks have. I know, I’m crazy. But many shark species are becoming endangered because people kill them out of fear. End of rant.

You’re allowed to take photos, and the sharks are so accustomed to people and noise they just keep swimming (5 points if you got the Finding Nemo reference!). I thought our photos came out great, but later realized they’re a bit grainy and sometimes unfocused. The tunnel is very dim, I’m sure for the comfort of the sharks, and I only took my iPhone to take photos with. (Apple has ruined me; I hardly ever take anything other than my iPhone 5 for photos!).

There are a lot of exploratory areas and knowledgable staff. There’s even an indoor waterfall! My 2 year old had the best time, looking at fish and penguins, and trying to catch the wave pattern on the floor made by overhead lights. We were able to catch two shows, the fish feeding dive show and the sting ray dive show. Both were great, with the divers interacting with the fish and the audience. I was surprised at how toddler friendly it is. Many windows are at toddler height, so he could see the fish really well. There are also a lot of tunnels and areas that are small, and clearly just for kids. He had a great time.

Disney has spoiled me a bit when it comes to attractions like these: I go in expecting a Disney-like experience, where every part of every attraction is both informative and entertaining. When I leave Disney, I always feel…fulfilled. I’ve never been disappointed at Disney. I found, after all the excitement leading up to the aquarium (TripAdvisor does list it as the #1 aquarium in the US), that I felt a little let down after, as if it were a little anti-climactic. There isn’t anything that I can say was disappointing, except for the lack of marine mammals (I’m used to seeing dolphins, thanks to the Indianapolis Zoo. I’m a dolphin nut). We had a great time, and I loved getting to experience it. It isn’t something I can see us doing frequently, especially since it isn’t an all day experience. But we still had a blast, and there is a lot to see.

My feelings might also be tempered by the giant freaking crabs. I’m terrified of crabs, and the ones here were so large at first I thought there were fake. It’s…excessive.

We planned on going to WonderWorks, the upside-down building with a hands-on museum/interactive experience. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time, and had to settle for plan B: a poorly researched decision that may have scarred us for life. Of course, I could be being melodramatic (just a little). I’d recently seen mention of a little indoor zoo in Pigeon Forge, and since we had a rainy day with only an hour or two to fill, we decided to give it a try. A horrible decision.

We pulled up to Rain Forest Adventures Indoor Zoo to find a near empty parking lot (not a good sign, as WonderWorks had been packed and traffic in Pigeon Forge was sluggish). When we opened the door, we were hit in the face with an intense stench. We hadn’t thought of the smelliness of an indoor zoo. You enter into the gift shop, where you pay $12 a person. A loved the monkeys, and they were great. They’re the first exhibit you come across, and they’re happily playing and swinging and chomping on fruit. What follows are quite a few reptiles (snakes! lots of snakes!), amphibians, insects (spiders…blech), and birds. The birds are very, very loud. Oh, and rats. There are rats. When A walked up to a drinking fountain, I glanced up to see a very large insect not in a cage. I pulled him away and realized it was a 3-inch long cockroach, just hanging out on the wall. No thank you! We moved on, and found several more roaches scurrying about. One lizard, which had been sleeping, awoke and started hanging out near the front glass of his enclosure. We moved closer to see until we realized he was trying to get to the roach hanging out on our side of the glass.

There was also an outdoor petting zoo area with goats, llamas, chicken, and sheep. The goats were cute, and the sheep were very baaa-y and trying to eat the sign on our side of their fence. The chickens were just hanging out, in the open, no fences or enclosures, and at eye-level of my 5’10” sister. We didn’t see them at first (I’m quite a bit lower, so I had to look up). There’s nothing quite like turning your head and being face to face with a chicken. I was excited about the llamas, because A loves, loves, loves Llama Llama Red Pajama and the Llama Llama series. However, the llamas were terrifying. We were seriously concerned for our safety just walking by. They weren’t necessarily aggressive, but this one giant black one was pressed up against the fence and glaring at us the entire time we were outside.

Overall, the whole experience left us sneaking out to avoid small talk and using hand sanitizer the moment we were out the door. It gave us a good laugh, and will always be the scary zoo to create funny stories, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone go there. Except maybe my enemies (but I don’t really have any, so I guess I won’t be recommending it at all).

What else have we been up to? Well, I decided to take advantage of Netflix’s free trial to try and watch all 7 seasons of Boy Meets World. I’m so enamored with Girl Meets World I wanted to refresh my memory and get all the inside jokes and references to the original series. I don’t know if I’ll make it, since I’m 1/3 into season 3 and my trial is halfway over, but that’s my goal.

I’m sorry for the absence and I’ll try and do better, but spring has FINALLY come to East Tennessee and boy, have I been loving it. Now it’s time to get on Spring Cleaning and tackle that yard work we put off last fall.

Has Spring come to your area yet?


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