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Thread: Suggestions for family vacation this summer? Considering Smokey's vs the beach

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    Elite Member Bellatheball's Avatar
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    Default Suggestions for family vacation this summer? Considering Smokey's vs the beach

    Once again, I have been tasked with planning a family vacation for August. Normally, I have some sense of where we should go. This time, I'm overwhelmed and am getting next to no help from my husband (who is wildly overworked) and my kids (who can't understand why we would skip Disney). We are starting in the Midwest and plan to drive unless we could get really cheap airfares out of Chicago somewhere. I don't mind driving up to 22 hours or so. Anything over that is torture.


    We have talked about spending part, or all, of the week in the Smokey's somewhere. There seem to be a lot of cabin rentals, which would be fun. I haven't been there in ages but I assume there's enough to do to keep everyone happy. My youngest is going to be 5 so he won't be able to go on super long hikes or rafting.

    We have also talked about going to the beach for the week. For the last couple of summers, we've been in FL for Disney so part of me wants to go to another state. That said, I've heard Destin and Orange Beach, AL are amazing. We would consider Sanibel Island too. If we went to the Atlantic, I've been kicking around Hilton Head. A few people have told me Myrtle Beach is kind of dumpy. We'd have to drive through TN no matter what so we could splint the trip as well.

    Does anyone have any feedback about any of these places or have other ideas? My main goals are to go somewhere that will allow us to relax and have fun without sticking to any schedule.

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    A*O
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    Rent an RV and go exploring.
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    Elite Member Flygirl's Avatar
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    I have a lot to add to this one tomorrow! I am awake because we are in Orange Beach right now, actually. That being said, my vote is the Smokies, hands down. My kids are similar in age to yours, so I'll wrote more tomor
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    Elite Member Bellatheball's Avatar
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    A*O, I would love to say I could just go with the flow and explore but it would make me slightly insane. My friends have called me Monica (Gellar) for the last 15+ years for good reason. Sigh.
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    Elite Member CornFlakegrl's Avatar
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    I'd think splitting it between Smokies and beach would be too much work. Packing, unpacking, multiple long drives - one smack in the middle of your vacation. Plus, the kids settle in, start having fun and then it's time to leave. Unless you're taking a couple of weeks.
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    In 2012, we took the kids through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge - which is a massive tourist trap area in the Smokey Mountains. Lots of things for little kids to do. Because it's NASCAR country, they had a ton of go-kart tracks. I think Mrs. Mo loved that even more than the kids.

    It also had the Ripley's Believe it or Not Aquarium, which is twice as good as the National Aquarium in Baltimore - and cheaper, too. Bella, if you haven't seen that aquarium, I'll post some shots.

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    czb
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    i went the smokies as a kid and that was pretty fun. myrtle beach is not so fun. i'm a BIG fan of the jersey shore - prefer that over florida beaches, but that is probably too far of a drive for you. we went last summer, had a cute rental on the beach and planted for a week. great fun for kids.

    i've not been to sanibel island so don't know about that one.

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    Elite Member Flygirl's Avatar
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    Ok, fwiw here's my suggestions . We have been to both the florida beaches and the Smokies multiple times because they are close and easy with young children (we save the exotic trips for just the two of us for now). I am not sure how strong of swimmers your kids are, but I would suggest taking them to the beach when the youngest is a bit older and you could relax and enjoy yourself. The undertow and rip currents on these panhandle beaches is nothing to mess around with.

    I would suggest a cabin in the Smokies. That way you could do as much or as little as you'd like. Pigeon Forge is a cheesy tourist trap, so I would avoid staying there although it's fun to visit. Since snow will not be a concern, I would suggest the Ski Mountain Rd area in Gatlinburg. You can find areas that are semi isolated but still just a few minutes drive to the touristy stuff of Gatlinburg. The prices are very reasonable, and most are within walking distance of the community pools. Chalet Village is the name of the neighborhood of you are using vrbo. Then you could just drive into pigeon forge if you wanted to do Dollywood or the Dixie Stampede dinner show. Ripleys Aquarium in Gatlinburg is neat to see also.

    You woukd be surprised at how many trails your kids could actually do that are also fun for them. For one of your days, I would drive through the National Park (hwy 441) over to Mingo Falls in NC. It's the highest waterfall east of the Mussissippi River and is only about .3 of a mile hike. You could pack your lunches because tgere are multiple places in the park to stop and picnic and wade or swim in a stream.

    Just remember, there are places that are super cheesy, but it is also some beautiful country. PM me if you want links of cabins we have personally stayed. I don't want to put them in this thread bc I don't want to advertise.

    If you decide on the beach, let me know if there are any houses you want me to scope out for you while I'm down here. I have plenty of time on my hands!

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    Elite Member Flygirl's Avatar
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    ^sorry if that post sounds know it all or bossy; it wasn't meant to be

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    i have a friend in north carolina and some friends and i were thinking of going down to see her and renting a house somewhere on the coast of NC or SC. i've also been told myrtle beach is awful and has just been ruined by high rises and resorts. i've heard there are lots of other really nice beaches and coastal towns around charleston, etc. that are nicer and less touristy than myrtle.
    i've also heard nice things about holden in NC and pawley's island and fripp island in SC.
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    czb
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    ^^^pawley's island is nice. so is cumberland island in georgia.

    NC beaches are better than SC (IMHO), but jersey beaches are better. they get bad press because they are in NJ, unfortunately.

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    Elite Member KrisNine's Avatar
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    I love the beaches in MD and Delaware. Lots for kids to do with the boardwalk. Food, fun, games, etc. I prefer those beaches to the ones out here in CA and most of the Florida beaches. Although, I love Miami Beach because the water is clear and warm, but it's expensive to do anything there with a family of five.
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    Elite Member Bellatheball's Avatar
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    Great suggestions! I considered going to the Jersey shore because we have friends who rave about it every summer. I worry that would turn into a sight seeing tour instead of an R&R vacation. Still worth considering though! I'll check out some of the islands you've all mentioned. Three friends recommended Sanibel. Funny enough, they all said this place is great. Hotels Sanibel Island | Sanibel Island Hotels | Casa Ybel I guess the beaches are known for their shells but that means most people don't walk barefoot on the beach.

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    Don't go to Myrtle. Hilton Head is lovely - bring bikes (or rent when you get there). You can bike all over the island, and I'd recommend a day trip to Beaufort or Savannah. Pinckney Island (just off HHI) is a great place to bike and see some wildlife. It's not an action packed place - no boardwalks or amusement parks - but they have some nice restaurants and very chill beaches. My folks had a place there when I was a teen and I loved it there (although I'm more of a swim in the ocean and ride around on the bike kind of gal).

    If you're thinking Smokies, I'd recommend looking closer to Asheville NC. It's not "the Smokies" exactly, but it's gorgeous and there's plenty to do, or not do, if you'd rather get a cabin and do day hikes near town. Plus Asheville is cool as shit. I live about an hour from there and try to make it as often as I can. Brevard NC is pretty close too, and it's right next to Pisgah National Forest which has hiking and waterfalls galore, many just a short hike that your 5 year old can do.

    Sput - check out Edisto Beach just south of Charleston. It's close enough to day trip up to Chas if you want to visit (and it's well worth it!) and one of my favorite places on earth is right there - Botany Bay Planation. It's an old plantation property that was turned into a nature preserve and has completely undeveloped beaches. If you want something with slightly more action, Folly Beach near Charleston might be a good call. There's some beach town stuff, but it's mostly just a chill place to hang at the beach and is close enough to Charleston to go do stuff there when you've had enough beach. I haven't been to Pawley's since I was a kid, but I think it's pretty much the same as Edisto, except that it's Myrtle that you'd go to for the action.

    I guess that was my "visit the Carolinas-festo". lol
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    czb
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    bella - what part of the jersey shore? not all of it is the same. i'm not a big fan of places like cape may or wildwood, but really like points that are more central like long branch/red bank/pt pleasant. others here may disagree with this, though.

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