Since the Franklins live just an hour away from Sevierville, they are frequent visitors who even hold season tickets to Dollywood, yet they still discovered new experiences on this vacation. Best of all, every member of the family was able to enjoy all of the planned activities. “My wife and I have four kids, ages ten, eight, six and five,” says patriarch Nathan Franklin. “One son broke his arm three days before we left for the trip,” so some accommodations were made, “but everyone participated fully in everything.”
One shared favorite discovery was the Rainforest Adventures Discovery Zoo, home to more than 600 live creatures from cute to creepy that represent more than 130 species. Among the exotic birds, bugs, reptiles, mammals and amphibians at the zoo are a northern blue-tongued skink, African crested porcupine, and golden headed lion tamarins that are some of the smallest and rarest monkeys on earth. “We ended up liking that experience better than anything,” said Nathan. “I had seen the signs for the place before but never thought about doing it, and then when we did it we were all like, ‘Why had we never done this before?’ It was really fun! We got there early, as soon as it opened, and the animals hadn’t been fed yet so they were really active. We got to watch the animals get fed which was really neat.”
The family experienced adventure at Sevier Air Trampoline & Ninja Warrior Park. The facility features 38,000-square feet of jumping, bouncing and flipping fun with 60 trampolines, an obstacle course inspired by the popular Ninja Warrior TV show, plus a three-story net system specifically designed for youngsters age two to ten. There are also two competition dodgeball courts, a two-sided rock wall, three basketball goals, two tumble tracks for gymnastics, a rope swing, and a jousting area above a foam pit. “The Ninja Warrior course is accurate to what you see on TV,” says Nathan. “And still basic enough that kids can participate in it, too. It has obstacles and different levels based on ability. It was very nice, and a nice surprise for us since we didn’t know it was there.” Though one son took extra precautions for his broken arm, the whole family was able to get in on the fun.
Another first-time experience the family shared was racing at NASCAR SpeedPark Smoky Mountains. “We love go-karts,” said Nathan. “We really liked that!” Though the Franklins had raced go-karts before, they’d never experienced this park’s 22 attractions, including go-karts, bumper boats, amusement park rides, a three-story climbing wall, two mini-golf courses, and more. With eight go-kart tracks, there’s an option for everyone: “Even the little five-year-old could drive on one go-kart track,” said Nathan. “On other tracks there were two-seaters so he could ride with me.” The son sporting an arm in a cast was thrilled to play his pick among the 75 games in the indoor arcade while the rest of his family raced.
At Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Mini-Golf, which is conveniently located at Tanger Outlets Sevierville, the Franklin family played “Chicken Eggspress,” “Porky Putts,” and the “Udder Course” surrounded by animatronic farm animals that comment on each golf swing. For a total of 54 holes, the trio of 18-hole mini-golf courses incorporates water features, barnyard characters and interactive elements. “We really enjoy mini-golf,” said Nathan.
The family stayed at Wilderness at the Smokies where admission to Tennessee’s largest indoor waterpark is included in the room rate. “We love that place,” said Nathan. “We had stayed there before, but it had been awhile. It’s clean and feels upscale for a family with four kids. The rooms are nice and the waterpark is amazing!” With a total of 17 waterslides, nine pools, a lazy river, and multiple water rides and attractions, guests of any age and height find multiple ways to splash, slide and surf. “There are age-appropriate slides for everyone, even our five-year-old,” said Nathan. There’s also an indoor adventure forest that offers additional challenges with the option of staying dry, plus a 55-foot drop into a swirling funnel, the region’s only body-surfing simulator, and a vortex with a near-vertical trap-door release. “I think I enjoyed the waterpark more than anyone else in our family,” said Nathan. “It was cold outside but I could take a break from work and swim and play in the waterpark where it’s warm!”
Even after returning home, the Sevierville trip remains a frequent topic of conversation at the Franklin household. “My son wants to go back to the Ninja Warrior Park with his buddies for his birthday,” said Nathan.
There’s no need to wait for a special occasion to come discover Sevierville with your family.