> Family Vacation Ideas: 2008

Smoky Mountain Vacation - Family Spring Break

Every year my family looks for something different to do for spring break. This year I think were going to make a return trip to the Smoky Mountains. I cant imagine anything more beautiful than a Smoky Mountain Vacation in the spring where all the trees are starting to bloom, wildlife abounds and the waterfalls are at their fullest. I've already started looking for a cabin to rent and was quite surprised at the amount of luxury cabins in the Smoky Mountain area that have been discounted already. Usually when we try to get a family cabin we have to wait until the last minute and do some heavy searching to get a discounted rate for the week. I would imagine that the economy and gas prices have a lot to do with so many rentals being marked down already.

If you haven't been to the Smoky Mountains I would highly recommend it for any family vacation. There is plenty for the whole family to do but in nature and in the towns. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg while heavily commercialized are still great places to take your kids on spring break. DollyWood I'm sure wouldn't be nearly as crowded as it is during the peak vacation season and discount tickets should be easy to come by. In the past we've spent most of our time in the national park on the Tennessee side of the mountain but this year I think were going to head to the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains for our spring break vacation. The North Carolina side has many advantages for those that don't want to spend a week in the overly commercialized areas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Another great benefit to spending your Smoky Mountain Vacation on the North Carolina side is that cabins, hotels and lodge rentals are quite a bit cheaper. There are a few drawback as the few cabins I've researched seem to be quite a bit older and not near the luxury mountain cabins we've seen in Gatlinberg and the surrounding areas. If your going to take spring break in the Smoky Mountians and want to save some money look for cabins without air conditioning. You won't need it this time of year and those cabins without air tend to be considerably less expensive. I hope your family enjoys its smoky mountain vacation as much as ours has in the past. I'll update the site with some new photos of our trip when we get back.

Cooperstown New York Dreams Park

Cooperstown New York is now in the heat of little league baseball season with the weekly tournaments being held at he Dreams Park. I hope that all you that have planned or are planning a vacation in Cooperstown while you watch your kids play baseball have taken the time to reserve your room, lake cottage, condo , or apartment well in advance. If you haven't yet made arrangements for your vacation in Cooperstown you'll most likely have to find a hotel or rental house in the towns surrounding the Dreams park area.

Those of you taking vacations this year to Copperstown New York should definitely plan on going to Sal's pizza. Sal's was a real eye opener for our little group from the Midwest. The owner reminded me a lot of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. While there service at Sal's pizza left something to be desired the pizza was excellent.

I know your vacation time will mostly be spent at the Dreams Park Little League fields cheering on your players but please take the time to tour the local brewery, winery and of don't forget the Baseball Hall of Fame. If you happen to be driving to Cooperstown New York you'll be amazed at the number of other families and teams you meet at the rest stops along the way. It looked pretty much like a little league convoy from Buffalo all the way to Cooperstown.

If your not fortunate enough to be able to take the vacation trip to Cooperstown with your son or daughter, you can catch the action at the local field on their web cam and new online TV site. I know when we took our team all of the Grandparents were back home staring at the computer just waiting for a glimpse of their grand kids.

Cooperstown, NY | Little League Dreams Park

Many families find it hard to take vacations during the summer do to their kids involvement in little league baseball. Little league families need to think outside of the box a little bit when it comes to taking a vacation. Several years ago when my kids were in little league their team took a trip to Cooperstown, NY to participate in a 96 team tournament at the Cooperstown Dreams Park.

Cooperstown, NY is known primarily for the Baseball Hall Of Fame museum located in downtown Cooperstown. Every baseball fan should take a trip to visit this marvelous museum to see baseball history at its finest. There is a lot more to Cooperstown, NY than just the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Just down the road a ways is what I consider one of the best little league baseball complex I have ever seen.



Cooperstown Dreams Park is a little league complex built to house 96 little league teams during the weekly tournaments held throughout the summer. little league teams from all over the United States gather each year to compete with the hopes of winning their tournament to become eligible for the year end playoffs. Parents if you child has the opportunity to participate in this event, it will be a memory he or she will have forever.



Taking the entire family to watch the week long tournament is a must. During times when your child's little league team isn't playing there are tons of free and inexpensive things to do throughout the Cooperstown, NY area. Our family rented a cottage on a nearby lake and spent our off time enjoying fun in the sun. The scenery is unbelievable our lake was nestled right in the middle of beautiful foothills. We also took an afternoon to enjoy local wineries, and a brewery. There is a train that travels from the Dreams Park into Cooperstown regularly each day for those that want to shop or view downtown.

Finding a place to stay in this are is a bit difficult. With all the families that visit both the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Dreams Park you need to get your reservations in early. There are a few hotels located in the area but not many. Most parents I know rent a house, lake cottage,or stay at a Bed and Breakfast during their stay at Cooperstown. Once you visit the area, especially if you go up for the little league games, you'll want to go back again and again.

Ohio River Vacation Day Trip

This past weekend we took a Day trip to Madison, In. If you’re not familiar with Madison, IN it is located on the southeast corner on Indiana bordered by the Ohio River. We went for the weekend to one of my kid’s school functions and I really hadn't planned on doing any sight seeing. To my surprise we had plenty of free time to spend in the Madison Indiana area.

We started our sight seeing day trip by cruising through the historic downtown of Madison, In. It was amazing to see all the old brick buildings that were restored to their original beauty. The downtown area was chocked full of antique stores, candy stores, restaurants and cafes. We stopped at one nice coffee shop for a mocha during our stroll through downtown. There is a trolley tour you can take but we didn’t notice it until we had exhausted ourselves walking the entire downtown of Madison.

Part of our stroll included stopping at three of the six Indiana wineries located in Madison area. Of course we had to do some tasting and buy a few bottles of wine to take home. I must say I was quite surprised at the quality and types of wines produced in southern Indiana. We plan on going back to visit the three wineries we missed later this summer.

We also spent the evening strolling along a beautifully lit walkway next to the Ohio River. There we sat on the benches, relaxed in the porch swings, and viewed a wonderful sunset. There is a restaurant right on the Ohio River but unfortunately it was closed. My guess is that it won’t open up until the end of May. There was also a state park, Clifty Falls, located just outside of Madison, In , but do to some heavy rains we decided to bypass it this go around. I'll try and get some of the photos of the trip posted here in the next couple of days. If your looking for a short family vacation idea I'd recommend the Madison Indiana area.

Smoky Mountain Vacation | Things To Do




In my previous post I discussed the cabin rental we stayed at during our vacation to the Smoky Mountains. Today's topic will be on the many different things there are to do in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Things to do while at the Smoky Mountains

1. Take an auto tour. There are many different books that have been published over the years that point out all there is to see at the Smoky Mountains from your car. If you don't care to do hiking like my family did this is another great way to see the park and its many different sights. Cades Cove is a popular route to visit by car if you want to see wild life such as deer and bears. We were fortunate to see several bears during our visit to the Smoky Mountains. Statistically, only about 10% of those that visit the Smoky Mountains actually get to see a black bear. Cades Cove is by far the most popular place to sport one.





2. Fishing - With the many miles of mountain streams, fly fishing for trout is a very popular activity. Brook, Brown, and Rainbow trout are numerous and make for great fishing. I will tell you the brook trout in the higher parts of the mountains can be quite a challenge to catch. I was able to get several hours of fly fishing in at various locations throughout the park. A trout stamp is not needed so long as your fishing with in the national park boundaries.



3. Historic Buildings - There are around 80 historic log structures in the park. Several churches, cemeteries, farms, old vacation homes in a wide variety of shapes sizes makes each building site quite unique. Most of these historic buildings can be accesses by road and a short walk.




4. Horseback Riding. While the entire park isn't open to horseback riding there are hundreds of miles of horse trails that are accessible. You can bring your own horse and trailer or rent from one of the many local stables. This was something we wanted to do but just didn't find time to squeeze it into our schedule.

6. Camping- there are many places to go camping throughout the Smoky Mountain National Park but there are very strict regulations that must be followed if you decide to camp in the back country. During our vacation at the part many of these back country camping sites were closed do to aggressive bears. Nothing makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck like hiking down a trail and coming across one of these signs. My understanding is that most of those signs were posted due to mother bears with cubs in the immediate area around the posted signs. If you plan on camping definitely take the time to read all the rules and regulations published on the Great Smoky National Park website.



These are just a few of the many activities that available with in the Smoky Mountain National Park. There are tons of other more commercial entertainment options that can be visited in the surrounding towns. Dolly Wood amusement park is a huge attractions in the Pigeon Forge area. Shows, restaurants, shopping, museums, family miniature golf also abound in the many small towns surrounding the park. If your adventurous white water rafting trips can also be arranged.

Hopefully, This post gives you a good idea of the many different things to do on your family vacation to the Smoky Mountains. Our family enjoyed the trip so much we plan on making several more trips back to the area to do many of the things we didn't have time to do the first go around.

Smoky Mountain Vacation Hotel Or Rental Cabin

During our family vacation at the Smoky Mountains we decided to rent a cabin instead of staying at one of the many hotels in the Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Tennessee area. Before making this decision we did the usual price comparison between the two options and found that for a weeks stay we could rent the cabin for just slightly more than a moderate priced hotel. Let me tell you this was the best thing we ever did.

Taking a family of 5 on vacation and having the convenience of a full kitchen, living room, and several other amenities made it the best choice for us. I can't even imagine what it would have been like staying in a hotel. The cabin allowed us all plenty of space to relax and enjoy our down time without tripping over each other. It kept our food bill much lower as we would go back to the cabin and prepare lunch and dinners instead of going out to eat every night. Have you ever taken a family of 5 out to dinner in a high traffic tourist area, Yikes it gets expensive. We did however enjoy the occasional meal out mainly for convenience after a day of tiring activities. Here are some photos of our family vacation cabin.


Cabin by the creek - looking off our back deck


We were in a semi secluded area - Hot Tub OH BOY!!



Fireplace would be very nice in the late fall or winter



We had a full kitchen and a grill outside


My suggetion is if your heading to the Smoky Mountains for your family vacation, definately get a cabin. It didn't cost that much more and was well worth the expense. If you look online at hotel review's you will find that many in that area of Tennessee get a poor to fair rating. Just another reason to go with a cabin. If your not into staying in a cabin at the Smoky Mountains your might enjoy a vacation on a houseboat. There are many places you could spend your vacation relaxing on a lake with the luxury and comfort of all that houseboats have to offer. Perhaps a Lake Powell Houseboat Rental would be best for your family vacation.

Smoky Mountain Family Vacation - Waterfalls

In my previous post about our trip to the Smoky Mountains I mentioned we spent the majority of our time hiking. One of the main attractions to the Smoky Mountain National Park are its many waterfalls. Throughout the entire park there are over 2000 miles of streams and creeks, that have resulted and many beautiful waterfalls. Unfortunately when we took our trip it was late August and in the middle of a state wide drought. The waterfalls we visited had far less water flow than normal but were still quite beautiful. I'm not a professional photographer so many of my photo's didn't turn out as well as expected. I'll do better on my next trip I promise.

One of many Smoky Mountain waterfalls.





Waterfall we saw from the road and hiked back to see.




Most of the hiking we did on our vacation was to view as many of the Smoky Mountain Waterfalls as possible. Some of the most popular waterfalls at the park are:


Abrams Falls
Mingo Falls
Grotto Falls
Mouse Creek Falls
Hen Wallow Falls
Rainbow Falls
Indian Creek Falls
Ramsey Cascades
Juney Whank Falls
Tom Branch Falls
Laurel Falls


During out trip I believe we saw just about all of these. Next vacation I'll make sure and name my photos as soon as I upload them. Looking back through my album its hard to tell which Smoky Mountain Waterfall is which. Several of these are located deep into the park and require quite a bit of hiking. Laurel Falls if I remember right was the shortest hike and by far had the most people visiting it.

In addition to hiking to the falls there are several you can drive to see. These are Meigs Falls, which I believe is the one in the photo above, and Place of a Thousand Drips. Don't think that because we spent our family vacation to the Smoky Mountains hiking, that it is the only way to view the beauty. There are tons of road tours to take that are on maps provided at the park's offices. Definitely take the time to visit the park office and pick up your trail/travel maps on the first day you arrive. That's all the time I have today so post again shortly. Feel free to leave any comments or questions your have as my goal here at Family Vacation Ideas is to provide as much information as possible to aid in your vacation planning.

Smoky Mountains Family Vacation Photos

Family Travel Idea #1 Smoky Mountain National Park




Last summer our family vacation travels took us to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can see in the photo above that the Smoky Mountains stretch across the states of Tennessee and North Carolina. I time at the park was mainly spent on the Tennessee side. The Smoky National Park covers a huge amount of area and has over 800 miles of hiking trails. If you plan on taking a family vacation to the Smoky Mountains I can't stress enough to do plenty of planning before you go. There are so many different things to do and see, without a plan you will spend too much time wandering around aimlessly. We only spent a week there and will have to go back a few more times just to see the things we missed. The bulk of our time was spent hiking the many trails to see the waterfalls, wild life and historical sites within the parks boundaries.


Smoky Mountain Vacation Photo 1





A mountain stream in the Smoky mountains



one of a hundreds of trails in the national park



The Smokies are full of natures oddities (no I didn't mean the fat man in the photo). While I am definitely one of nature's oddities that's not what I meant. :) I'll be posting several more photos and tidbits about our family travels to the Smoky Mountains in the next few days so be sure to check back. I hope you find my family travel ideas beneficial and perhaps a bit informative at times. The biggest thing I can stress about a vacation to the Smoky Mountains is to plan ahead. Visit the Great Smoky National Parks website for maps and sites to see in the area an schedule your days to maximize not only your time but to keep you gas usage to a minimum. You will be doing a lot of driving from place to place if you don't plan your family vacation properly.

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