We got a late start once again this morning, then we wasted well over 30 minutes driving around looking for a good donut shop. We were unsuccessful, so we finally headed to the Tennessee Aquarium. Their credit card ticket machines were not working, so there was a super long line to buy tickets. It was one of those days where you could easily throw in the towel, but we pressed on.
Once we finally bought our tickets, we headed into the River Journey first. It was inside a HUGE building. There were four floors of animals to look at, including alligators, sea otters, a butterfly room, and of course, tons of fish. We spent well over an hour touring the whole place.
Once we finished up the River Journey, we headed to the Ocean Journey. The big draws in this building were the sharks, turtles, and penguins. The Ocean Journey was also a huge exhibit, which took us well over an hour to tour. Lia even tried to hug the penguins (unsuccessfully). Overall, the aquarium was awesome and the kids had a blast!
After the aquarium, we FINALLY found a donut place. Thanks to twitter, @BusinessChatt sent us a link to Julie Darling Donuts, the most amazing donut place EVER and it just so happened to be down the street from the aquarium. Score! (AND! we were even featured in a blog post about twitter today because of it: http://mmlabs.biz/2011/03/case-study-how-twitter-drives-customers-to-your-location/)
After donuts, we were trying to decide if we had time to do Rock City or not. The kids were being SUPER whiny, so we almost skipped it. In the end, we decided to do it. So we headed there and paid our admission. Since today was St. Patty’s Day, they were actually having a discount on tickets, so we saved some money on admission.
I had heard conflicting reviews of Rock City, but we decided it was worth a shot. We got inside and headed down toward the first trail area. We weren’t there more than 5 minutes, when Lia fell right off a little ledge, right onto her head. That kid has something about falling on her head, because this isn’t the first time. She got a huge goose egg on her forehead, so I ran her up to the first aid area. Major parenting fail on our part 🙁
After she got all fixed up, we headed back down to the trail, MUCH more cautiously the second time around. We spent about an hour and a half walking through the different trails and enjoying the awesome views. Max decided that the viewer thingies were Star Wars weapons of some sort and started destroying cities. People think we’re crazy, guaranteed. I’m definitely glad we found time to visit Rock City, though I wish poor little Lia could have left without a battle scar.
After Rock City, we grabbed a quick dinner and a started driving toward Birmingham, Alabama. At first, we were just driving down I-59 South. Then we decided to see if there were any scenic routes we could drive on instead. We found a great stretch of road through the DeSoto State Park. We hopped on that scenic route for about an hour until the sun went down.
After dark, we headed back to I-59, and it seemed that we somehow backtracked. After that, we continued our drive toward Birmingham, through the lovely construction. I tried desperately to book a hotel through Priceline to no avail. Eventually, I got frustrated and tried the Choice Hotels app instead. I found a hotel, but didn’t book it through the app because I was able to get a cheaper rate just by walking in.
We eventually made it to Birmingham, albeit very late! We got checked into our room, the kids went crazy jumping on the beds, and we finally got everyone settled and down for bed. Tomorrow, we’re headed toward Little Rock, AR through Memphis, TN. Hope the kids aren’t too grumpy!
Tennessee Aquarium – 5 stars! – This place was awesome! We’d only heard great things about the aquarium, and it did not disappoint! This is a must-see if you are traveling anywhere near Chattanooga. There were two huge buildings full of stuff to see AND they were definitely set up with kids in mind. There were tons of ledges for kids to climb on so they could see. They also had workers stationed in different areas to answer questions or direct attention to something cool (like the baby fish that were just born today!). The kids were absolutely thrilled! Word of advice: the gift shop in the River Journey is way better than the gift shop in the Ocean Journey (Josh says: But the Ocean Journey gift shop had paintings done by penguins!). We actually bought a one year membership (was $115 for a year versus $80 for one trip), because we are hoping to stop in again in August on our way to D.C.
Julie Darling Donuts – 5 stars – The donuts were amazing! And the donut holes were still fresh and super yummy when Josh and I ate them tonight. We love getting donuts from mom and pop stores versus the Krispy Kremes and Dunkin Donuts of the world. We’ll definitely be going there again next time we are in Chatanooga!
Rock City – 4 stars – Despite our nervousness about this place (due to conflicting reviews) and the fact that Lia did a header onto the concrete and got a giant bump on her head, we really enjoyed it. The rock formations were awesome, as were the views, especially from Lover’s Leap. They say you can see seven states from there. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but good luck proving otherwise! I will say, there were some parts that were pretty weird. They had a couple of caverns done up with black lights, gnomes, and kitschy renditions of old school fairy tales. The kids rather enjoyed that part, but I honestly thought the whole place was cool enough that they could have done without weirdness. Either way, it was a cool place! I think it’s probably a little overpriced at almost $20 per adult and over $10 per kid, but still very fun.
EconoLodge, Birmingham, AL – 4 stars – We got a ground level floor with two beds, a microwave, mini fridge, etc. It’s nice enough, clean, quiet, and there’s free breakfast in the morning. The internet, on the other hand, is pretty slow.
Things I learned today:
1. There are a ton of donut places in Chattanooga, however, most of them don’t exist anymore, even though the GPS still thinks they do.
2. Chattanooga is actually still in the Eastern Time Zone, though the iPhones never quite got that right. Both of our iPhones kept switching back and forth between time zones most of the day.
3. Hand puppets can totally turn super grumpy, whining, crying, fussing kids into giggly happy kids. Especially if said hand puppets are not making their correct animal sounds.
4. I think I’m failing as a parent. At Rock City, they had tons of fairytale setups (you know, like Hansel & Gretel and the old woman who lived in the shoe. My kids have NO idea about any of these fairytales. I always thought they were pretty weird and creepy, but now I’m wondering if anyone still reads these to kids…
Favorite quotes/conversations:
Lia “Mom, I don’t want the sun to look at me.”
Max “Mom, someday I want to have a river otter as a pet.”
Me “I don’t think river otters make good pets.”
Max “Why not?”
Me “Well, we don’t have a river in our backyard.”
Max “Well, we could buy one.”
Me “You guys better eat that macaroni and cheese.”
Max “I kinda don’t like it, but I do like it.”
Me “What does that even mean?”
Max “Is Washington D.C. the next country in this country?”
Me “what?”
Max “I mean, is it the next state?”
Me “It’s actually the capital of the United States. It’s where President Obama lives.”
Max “oh.”
Ava “Hey mom, I have ketchup on my foot.”
Toddler looking at fish at Tennessee Aquarium.Kids looking at fish in Chattanooga at the aquarium.Girl touching stingray.Little girl touching stingrays.Two alligators sitting on top of each other.Kids looking at Beluga Sturgeon Fish.Toddler trying to hug penguin at Tennessee Aquarium.Girl watching penguins swim at the aquarium.Brother and sister watching shark swim by at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga Tennessee.One of a kind artwork painted by penguins.Julie Darling Donuts in Chattanooga Tennessee... yum!The Grand Corridor at Rock City.Kids watching Dr. Seuss on the iPhone.Kids in cavern at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.Girl on swing bridge at Rock City.Boy looking out over Lover's Leap.Boy using binoculars as fake gun.Gorgeous flowering tree in Tennessee.Kids posing in a 'See Rock City' barn photo prop.Girl standing at top of Fatman's Squeeze in Rock City.Lover's Leap at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.Mom holding up giant boulder with one finger.Dad tickling daughter.Kids playing with Baby Einstein hand puppets in backseat of Dodge Grand Caravan on a family road trip.Borther and sister playing with hand puppets.Girl with dog puppet.Boy wearing Burger King crown and holding lightsaber.Boy smiling at DeSoto State Park.Kids lightsaber fighting at DeSoto State Park.Toddler using The Force on her older brother.Kids playing with lightsabers.Little girl using The Force at DeSoto State Park.Toddler girl with band-aid and lightsaber.Girl holding custom lightsaber from Disney World.


  • Thank you for shearing these beautiful road trips and fantastic Family moments with me. I love looking and reading about my wonderful great nieces and nephew. It’s so great to see the love they have for each other. But most important is the love you have for each other. You guys are great and I love you all more than words can say.

  • One of the VERY BEST PICS OF MAX I have ever seen. You can actually see the mischief in his eyes!!! Jenny, you really can hold up the world on you fingertips! I love the pic of Lia and the penguin, sssooo cute, Ava, too. ~&;_) What were the flowers? The rock waterfall was too cool. Josh, you are doing such a great job! I am so proud of you all!!!

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