Thanks to Wilderness at the Smokies for hosting my family overnight. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Want to know a travel secret I’ve learned over the years? November and December are VERY GOOD times of the year to take little vacations. Other than the week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas, this is a time of year when most folks aren’t thinking about vacations, so the crowds at resorts and attractions tend to dip a little bit. This is great news for the folks out there like me who want to have lots of fun but skip the lines and long waits.
Just 2 1/2 hours away from our home in Chattanooga is a spot we have visited before and were so glad to return to now that the weather has gotten chilly. December is the most wonderful time of the year….to visit a water park!
Do I sound crazy? Well, perhaps I should clarify. This particular water park is located indoors and boasts year-round 84 degree weather. Yes, even when the weather outside is frightful! It’s also connected to a beautiful lodge so you don’t ever have to even leave the building where you are staying in order to get to the fun. And entrance to the water park is included in the price of the room you stay in which really makes this a tremendous value! Let me introduce you to Wilderness at the Smokies.
Before we check out the amazing on-site water park, let’s look a bit more closely at the rooms. This resort offers a wide variety of room options, from a more traditional hotel room look and feel at Stone Hill Lodge to several different choices in the main River Lodge. We have really enjoyed the bunk suite, which comes with a queen bed and a pull out couch in one area, and a half wall for a bit of privacy separating a bunk bed (twin on top, queen on the bottom). The room also has a balcony and a small table for in-room dining, as well as a fridge and a microwave so you can have plenty of snacks on hand (always important when kids are around). I also noticed the placement of the sink outside of the room with the toilet and shower, and that is another great design feature that makes things easier when lots of people are staying in the same space. There’s also the possibility of renting adjoining rooms if you have a big group and need more than one suite!
Now let’s focus on all the fun to be had on site! We spent a lot of time playing in this kid-friendly splash zone. A giant bucket of water is tipped over every 10 minutes of so, and the kids line up to get soaked by it. For the older kids, there are 3 different tube slides that are tons of fun and take you several stories down as you twist and turn. There’s also the option to do a little surfing!
Since we have a 4-year-old, we spent a bit of time in the part of the park designed for the younger kids. It’s nice to have an area where you don’t worry that your little one will be overlooked and subsequently run over (it happens!).
This space has slides and bucket swings for babies and toddlers, as well, and even seating areas for the parents if your child can comfortably splash around on his/her own.
We spent the majority of our time, however, in the giant wave pool, jumping over wave after wave and absolutely wearing ourselves out with the fun of it. When the waves would stop, we found ourselves heading over to the giant hot tub area for a warm up. I was surprised (and the kids were delighted) to see that there’s an entire section of this hot tub area that is outside and it’s also open all year. We went out for a bit just for fun, but quickly decided we liked that 84 degree weather much more! 🙂
The water park can provide hours upon hours of entertainment, but it’s not the only fun attraction at the resort. Layah was able to snag this super awesome plush dog by trying her luck (and winning!) in the video game arcade. Before 10am every day, the arcade games are only half price, so that seemed like the ideal time for us to try our luck and have some fun. It paid off in prizes, but even if it hadn’t, we made some great memories while we waited for the water park to open.
In the same area, you’ll also find some really fun activities, like candle pin bowling, rock climbing, a ropes course, laser tag and glow-in-the-dark putt putt golf. We had stay passes so we could play these types of games as much as we want (I recommend going that route) and had so much fun playing together.
So all of these fabulous things can be found at Wilderness of the Smokies any time of year that you visit, but during December, there are some extra special features that you will want to check out.
Shortly after we checked in, we noticed a doorway that led to Santa’s workshop, and we decided to check it out after we we finished with our water park fun that day. So after dinner, we got into our matching Santa jammies (because #wesleigh) and headed downstairs to check out the fun. And we were SO surprised by how much fun was waiting for us!
There were several different crafts set up (only 2 options had a cost…everything else was completely free!). We decorated cookies, made ornaments, did some holiday coloring, and even wrote a letter to Santa.
And speaking of Santa, let me tell you about one of the greatest moments of the entire trip. While we were having our fun in the workshop, I decided to go over to the cafe on the first floor and get some hot chocolate (they serve Starbucks, so I knew it would be yummy!). I took my 7-year-old with me, and guess who we ran into at the coffee shop?
SANTA!!!! Oh my gosh! Darah could not believe her eyes and was just beside herself with joy at this unexpected run-in! Turns out, Santa was there to hang out for a bit with the kids and to take pictures (again, completely free of charge for guests!). It was a rather magical encounter, friends, and one that my girls will remember for a long time!
We stayed at the resort just shy of 24 hours, but we made countless memories and enjoyed so much fun while also enjoying lower crowds. I very highly recommend taking a trip to Wilderness at the Smokies during December. It was such a fun experience, with all sorts of complimentary extras thrown in for the guests who are extra savvy and work in a little vacation during the holiday season! Be sure to check out the specials being offered by the resort, even if you are reading this after the holidays! There’s always something fun in store for you.