We slept in a little bit this morning (I think we needed it!) and took our time getting packed up and out of the hotel. I went to bed early last night, so Josh did all the research on where we should go today.
He did a great job picking out our breakfast stop: The Pancake Pantry. When we got there, the line was out the door even though it was 10:30 am on a Tuesday. It reminded us of the best BBQ restaurant in Kansas City, Oklahoma Joe’s, that seems to always have a line out the door as well.
We ended up waiting about 30 minutes, but it was definitely worth it! Josh got blueberry pancakes and I got a bacon and cheese omelet with buttermilk pancakes. The kids got a stack of silver dollar pancakes. Well, they called them silver dollar pancakes, but they looked like regular sized pancakes to me. We pretty much ate every bite of food on every plate because it was so good. The kids kept saying “these are the best pancakes I’ve EVER had!”, but I’m pretty sure they meant besides daddy’s pancakes 😉 (Josh says: No, they were WAY better than my pancakes. In fact, they’re the only pancakes I’ve ever had better than our recipe.)
After breakfast, we headed over to Centennial Park and took some fun pictures in front of the life size Parthenon replica. Then we played on the playground for a little while before we hopped in the car and headed down I-40 East toward Knoxville, Tennessee.
As we drove, I remembered my Roadside America iPhone app. I busted it out just in time to read about the Minister’s Tree House in Crossville, Tennessee. It’s the largest tree house in the world and was built by a Horace Burgess, a landscaper turned preacher. We headed that direction and were in awe as we drove down the gravel road and pulled up to the ginormous tree house. (Josh says: It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. Especially after learning that it took Horace over 14 years of his life to build the treehouse…by himself.)
Let me tell you, it was HUGE! It’s built in 7 trees and is about 10,000 square feet! It was pretty cool and we explored the whole thing. There were definitely some areas that made me nervous, but we held the kids hands the whole time and everybody made it out safe. There was also a lawn chair tied up to be a swing that was pretty fun.
After we finished touring the tree house, we continued on our trek to Knoxville. The kids started getting a little crazy in the car, so I busted out the bubble gun I picked up last week. They had crazy amounts of fun trying to pop all the bubbles and Lia even tried to lightsaber them.
We really wanted to stop and do something fun in Knoxville, but it was already getting late and all the fun stuff was closed. We were totally going to go rent a paddle boat at the marina, but they don’t start rentals until April. And then we were going to take a train ride, but those didn’t start till May. Boo. So we drove on.
We totally thought we were going to take a gorgeous scenic route down to Gatlinburg, which is right outside of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s even called US-441 Scenic Parkway. WRONG! The drive through Sevierville and Pigeon Forge was crazy. It totally reminded us of Branson, Missouri… motels everywhere, go karts and mini golf, country music shows, etc, etc. And there was totally a pancake house LITERALLY every block (at least!). I’m not even kidding!
We did stop at a tacky souvenir shop (Josh says: They had sharks too!) to buy some fun props for tomorrow. We would have done pictures tonight, but it was already dark. I booked our hotel through Priceline again and we headed into Gatlinburg and found the place. Once we got here, I was kinda bummed that we didn’t book a cabin. But it was so late, we probably wouldn’t have gotten the full enjoyment out of it anyway.
Tomorrow, we’ll be hitting up the Great Smoky Mountains and then starting our trek back toward Kansas City.
Pancake Pantry – 5 stars – The only downside to the whole place was that we had to wait 30 minutes to get in. On a Tuesday at 10:30 am. But I guess that’s a testament to just how amazing the food is! The hostess told us there’s pretty much a line out the door all the time! And it was totally worth the wait! We will make it a point to eat there every time we pass through Nashville in the future!
Centennial Park – 4.5 stars – We didn’t even begin to see everything at the park, but it was a great place. The Parthenon replica was really cool and the playgrounds were great too. I give it only 4.5 stars because there were no doors on the bathroom stalls and that’s just awkward. I mean, does it really cost that much money to buy doors?
Minister’s Tree House – 5 stars – This place was just pure awesome. And we never would have known about it without the Roadside America app. I will say if you have little kids, you definitely need to keep an eye and a hand on them. But it was a really cool place to see and explore and I’m so glad we stopped!
River Edge Motor Lodge – 4 stars – I booked this through Priceline for $28 ($38 with taxes and fees)! I was a little nervous when I read the name of the place… motor lodge doesn’t exactly sound amazing! But the place is just fine. We got a room with two beds (yay!) and there’s a fireplace, microwave, mini fridge, free continental breakfast, AND free wifi. My only real complaint is that the toilet leaks so we had to shut the water off. And the people next to us are loud!
Things I learned today:
1. My kids get excited every time they see an airplane, but their excitement level goes through the roof if it’s a Southwest airplane.
2. Some of the best things we do on our road trips are considered ‘offbeat attractions’.
3. Some of the coolest things we don’t get to do on our road trips are only open during the summer. Too bad we don’t have more time available during the summer for traveling!
4. There’s no shortage of places to eat pancakes in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
5. There are many things that can make grumpy kids happy, two of which are m&m’s and bubbles in the car.
6. One of these days, my kids will be tall enough to ride the go carts. Today is not that day.
Favorite quotes/conversations:
Mom “Why is there apple juice in the marker bag?”
Ava “Maybe someone peed in the bag.”
Max “Look! There’s a Southwest airplane and it’s landing! I can tell because it’s going down below the trees!”
Lia “And we could get in it! We could park our car and walk it home.”
Lia “Mom, I need a band-aid because my foot is broken. It’s bleeding. ‘Cause Nate threw a baseball at my foot. And he’s gonna get in trouble.” (She had a tiny scratch on her foot and the rest is totally made up!)
Ava “Mom, when I tried to color on my jeans with the lid off the marker, it didn’t do anything.”
Me “Wait, why are you TRYING to color on your jeans?”
Max “Mom, why didn’t you bring scissors?”
Me “Scissors in the car just seemed like a bad idea.”
Max “Next time we move, I want to move near that hotel with the water park, so we can stay there sometime.”
Ava “Mom, I just spilled some sauce on my hand, but then I licked it off.”
Ava “If I get sauce on my hands, I can just wipe them on my lap.”
Pancake Pantry in Nashville, Tennessee.Two kids playing travel hungry hungry hippos.Hungry hungry hippos at the Pancake Pantry.Boy doing a puzzle with his mom while waiting for breakfast.Wild blueberry pancakes from the pancake pantry.Breakfast in Nashville Tennessee.Little girl eating pancakes.Toddler eating blueberry pancakes.The Parthenon replica at Centennial Park in Nashville Tennessee.Family pictures at Centennial Park.FFamily running.Mom tickling daughter.Laughing girl swinging at a playground.Girl hanging on monkey bars in Nashville, Tennessee.Mom and son playing tag.Toddler running on playground at Centennial Park.Girl spinning on a swing.Funny face by a preschooler.The ministers tree house in Crossville Tennessee.Welcome sign at the ministers house.Climb at your own risk sign by Horace at the biggest treehouse in the world.Cross etched in wood at the Minister's Treehouse.Boy smiling in the tree house in Crossville TN.Little girl making a silly face.Girl sitting in an old school desk.Hope painted on wood.Family portrait at the ministers tree house in Crossville, TN.Love life.Jesus and a cross mowed into the garden.Kids looking out the top of a huge treehouse.Life ain't always beautiful.Wood pieces of the huge tree house in Crossville, TN.Huge chair swing.Dad and son laughing while swinging in the biggest swing ever.Dad and son spinning in huge swing.Dad and girls swinging at the ministers tree house in Crossville, TN.Mom and son spinning and swinging.Family picture in front of the preachers tree house in Tennesee.Kids lightsaber fighting in the backseat of a minivan.Girl popping bubbles in the car.Toddler lightsabering bubbles in a car.Little girl eating Kraft easy mac in the car during a road trip.Girl eating Chef Boyardee Spaghetti rings in a car.Girl with silly miners hat on.


  • Gatlinburg is one of my most favorite places to visit. Next time you go, definitely get a cabin, the one we stayed in had a hot tub on the deck. Ride the gondola up the side of the smokies. Awesome.
    I’ve been looking forward to your posts every day, and living vicariously through you guys! 🙂

  • It warms my heart to read/see the memories you’ve captured here 🙂 You’re kiddo’s are truly lucky to have you two. It’s fun to imagine them sharing all this stuff with their children one day… I heart you guys (yeah I said it)!!!

  • I’m from Knoxville, TN and there is allot to do here that is fun for families, free, and doesn’t have hours. If you are every driving through again stop at the World’s Fair Park downtown right off the interstate and take ride in the Sun Sphere, free and very cool for the kids. And it won’t take much time if you need to get back on the road. Love your blog. After seeing the dinosaur park, decided we gotta take our 4 year old son. Thanks for inspiring our own road trips.

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