Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies

This past weekend, my family visited Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee in search of homeschool friendly spring break ideas in the Smokies. We found several that are perfect not only for spring break, but any other time of year you find yourself longing for a getaway or a field trip.

As a homeschooling mom, my family is not tied to the public school schedule. I can schedule breaks into our calendar any time of the year for any reason as long as we meet the requirements of our state. As my children’s teacher, I could also choose not to loose the momentum of our studies and press on, hitting the books, forgetting about national holidays or spring break. Fortunately, I learned long ago that I can give my children a break while ensuring that they continue to learn while visiting fun, family-friendly, educational attractions.

The following attractions in the Smokies meet that criteria while offering special programming or pricing to homeschool families. While this is an overview of each facility, I will have reviews of each of the individual facilities in the coming days so you’ll want to check back.

Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in Sevierville

National Knife Museum inside Smoky Mountain Knife Works, Inc.- Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies via www.thetravelingpraters.com

The National Knife Museum

My family can’t visit the Smoky Mountain area without making a stop at Smoky Mountain Knife Works, two full of knives for the amateur or serious collector. I was excited to discover the store is also home to the National Knife Museum which moved from it’s previous Chattanooga location. The National Knife Museum is the largest display collection of historic pocketknife and other exotic cutlery in the country.

Educational programs are offered if arranged in advance for groups and homeschooling families. Students will learn about the history of the knife, learn how knives are now manufactured and have the opportunity to hold a 5 foot long knife that is reminiscent of something William Wallace would have toted on a daily basis.

Things to Know Before you Go:
Address: 2320 Winfield Dunn Parkway Sevierville, TN
Phone: 865-453-587
Website: http://nationalknifemuseum.us/
Cost: Free, but donations are very much appreciated
Hours: Open 10  a.m. until 6 p.m. daily, closing hours vary throughout the year.

Allow 45 minutes to one hour to visit the National Knife Museum. Guided tours are available when volunteers are available. Make sure you watch one of the manufacturing videos during your visit.

Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in Pigeon Forge

WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge- Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies via www.thetravelingpraters.com

WonderWorks

Our first stop was to WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge. How could we not be drawn to a building that looks like it just fell upside down out of the sky? Known as ‘the amusement park for the mind’, this amazing museum is fun for the entire family. You’ll be amazed by the things you’ll learn as you explore over 100 interactive exhibits in this two story building. Can you believe it also houses the World’s Largest Indoor Ropes Challenge Course?

If you’re looking for an educational experience, make sure to download the WonderWorks Scavenger Hunt or Lab Manual. The scavenger hunt will have your child seeking the answers to “Lightening strikes the earth’s surface how many times a second?”, “The lifespan of a major league baseball is how many pitches?” and 20 other questions throughout the museum.

The Lab Manual contains labs and classroom activities to accompany many of the interactive exhibits, making your trip to WonderWorks a fun, educational, homeschool family field trip.

Things to Know Before you Go:
Address: 100 Music Road Pigeon Forge
Phone: 865-868-1800
Website: www.wonderworksonline.com
Cost: $14.99 (ages 4-12 or 55+), $22.99 (adults) plus tax.  Various combo pricing is available. Homeschool families may contact Kerensa Archer about group pricing at 865-868-1800 or by email. Hours: Opens at 9  a.m. daily, closing hours vary throughout the year.

Allow 3-4 hours to explore the facility.
Your ticket allows you to come and go on the day of purchase.
The rock climbing wall, ropes course and 360 Bike require close toed shoes.
Wonders of Flight- Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies via www.thetravelingpraters.com

Wonders of Flight

WonderWorks is also home to Wonders of Flight, a brand new attraction that will soar you 400 feet into the sky for a beautiful daytime or evening panoramic view of the Smoky Mountains. This giant tethered helium balloon can transport up to 30 people at one time for an unforgettable daytime or evening view, weather permitting.

Things to Know Before you Go:
Address: 100 Music Road Pigeon Forge
Phone: 865-868-1800
Website: http://www.wondersofflight.com/
Cost: $12.99 (12 and under), $15.99 (adults) plus tax. Under 36” ride free with an adult.
Hours: Opens daily at 10 a.m.

The flight does not operate when the temperature drops under 32 degrees, during limited visibility or inclement weather. Call ahead to ensure this attraction is open.

Wonders of Magic - Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies via www.thetravelingpraters.com

Wonders of Magic

WonderWorks also houses the Wonders of Magic theater where you’ll be spellbound by the talented and personable magician Terry Evanswood, winner of the prestigious Merlin Award, Magic’s Oscar! The show is affordable and I’d say appropriate for those about age 8 and above. While Terry does utilize the help of two lovely female assistants, unlike shows you may find in larger locales, they are always tastefully clothed. The skimpiest outfit you’ll see in this show is when one of the assistants dons an outfit similar to a one piece bathing suit for the levitation act that is pictured above.

To add in a bit of the “educational” aspect, pick up a copy of Terry’s DVD at the end of the show that teaches you how to perform some of the acts in his show. Don’t miss the free Hall of Magic which showcases Terry’s personal collection of magic memorabilia including artifacts from great magicians like Blackstone, Thurston and Houdini.

Things to Know Before you Go:
Address: 100 Music Road Pigeon Forge

Phone: 865-868-1800
Website: http://www.wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge/experience/terry-evanswood-wonders-of-magic/
Cost: $14.99
Hours: Call for reservations and show times

Reservations are highly encouraged, as the show will sell out. Seats are not assigned, plan to arrive 30-45 minutes before show time to line up for an opportunity to get the best seats. Go to the restroom before the show, as it could be disruptive to exit the row of theater seating.
While this is a “magic” show, Terry Evanswood, is quick to point out that his performance is an act and that what he performs is more practiced skill.

The Titanic in Pigeon Forge- Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies via www.thetravelingpraters.com

Titanic- World’s Largest Museum Attraction

Stepping inside the Titanic Attraction in Pigeon Forge is a surreal experience. Upon entering, you are handed a boarding pass of a person who had boarded that tragic ship over 100 years ago. You’ll learn about them and the other passengers and classes abroad the fateful ship as you meander through the galleries, exhibits and impressive replicas of a sampling of state rooms and the beautiful Grand Staircase.

If you are visiting for a feel good experience, just the name of the attraction should tip you off that you won’t find it here. I don’t get choked up often, but I had a hard time holding back tears on more than one occasion. If you want to learn more about the face of humanity in such a tragic situation, you’ll learn through touching exhibits and interactive displays. Homeschooling families will appreciate the online teaching resources to aid in your study before or after your visit.

Brand new in 2013 is the first and only tribute to pay homage to the littlest passengers to board the Titanic, 133 children that set sail on the RMS Titanic. You’ll learn what they saw, heard and felt from the moment they boarded the ship, documented and visualized by the Titanic Museum Attractions in Branson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Things to Know Before you Go:
Address: 2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge
Phone: 800-381-7670 (for ticket information)
Website: www.titanicpigeonforge.com
Cost:  See website for discounted admission and family rates. Homeschool families receive special rates until May.
Hours: Call for reservations and hours

Plan to spend 2-3 hours during your stay. Call ahead for reservations, especially during peak season and weekends.

Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in Gatlinburg

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies- Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies via www.thetravelingpraters.com
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has been voted the #1 aquarium in the U.S. by TripAdvisor, that’s no easy feat. You’ll discover amazing exhibits at every twist and turn as you travel from the Tropical Rainforest, into the Ocean Realm to the Coral Reef and through the impressive underwater tunnel in the Shark Lagoon with shark, schools of fish and sting rays swimming around and overheard, immersing you in the experience.

Many shows, dives and feedings take place throughout the day. Special experiences that include Sleeping with the Sharks, Splash with the Stingray, and the Penguin Encounter are available for those  who want to get up close and personal with the creatures at the aquarium. The special Behind the Scenes tour is available for an additional charge and I think would be a great learning opportunity for a homeschooling family as you learn what it takes to maintain a healthy living atmosphere for all the animals that call the aquarium home.

Your admission to the aquarium includes entrance to the new Dinosaurs exhibit where your child can uncover dinosaur bones, learn about the massive creatures from the past in interactive exhibits and have their picture taken with the animatronics, roaring T-Rex.

A  Schoolin’ Around curriculum guide is available which is designed to provide educator’s with fun, hands-on activities before and after your visit.

Things to Know Before you Go:
Address: 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg,TN 37738
Phone: 865 430-8808
Website: http://www.ripleyaquariums.com/gatlinburg/
Cost:  Adult: $24.99 Child(3-11): $14.99 Under 3: free (discounts for homeschool families are offered if arranged in advance)
Hours: Opens at 9 a.m. 365 days a year.

Plan to spend 2-3 hours. As with the nature of prehistoric exhibits, the dinosaur exhibit is full of evolutionary content, if you’d rather not go through the exhibit or have very young children that you feel may be fearful, you can easily bypass the exhibit. But if you would like to walk through, just for a quick glance, there is no additional fee to do so.

Guiness World Records Museum- Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies via www.thetravelingpraters.com

Guinness World of Records

When you visit this next attraction, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped inside the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records as hundreds of exhibits bring the book to life. The Guinness World of Records includes dozens of interactive exhibits where you can test your strength and abilities to see how you measure up or rather, if you’re a record maker.

Use a computer screen to see how far you can stretch your skin, compare your height to the world’s tallest man and learn incredible trivia that will amaze and astound your family, friends and acquaintances.

Things to Know Before you Go:
Address: 631 Parkway Gatlinburg,TN
Phone: 865-430-7800
Website: http://www.ripleys.com/gatlinburg/your-visit/guinness-world-records-museum/
Cost:  $9.99 Adult (12 & up) $7.99 (child 3-11)
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Plan to spend 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, dependent upon the interest level of your family.

Ripley's Believe it or Not Odditorum- Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies via www.thetravelingpraters.com

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium

Robert LeRoy Ripley spent his life collecting bizarre and unusual trinkets and artifacts from around the globe. After employing a professional fact researcher, Ripley claimed that his collection is real and visitors to the Odditorium may choose to “Believe It or Not”.

You’ll find three floors of oddities at Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium, from a Merman, to the world’s largest gum wrapper chain to shrunken heads.

Things to Know Before you Go:
Address: 800 Parkway Gatlinburg,TN
Phone: 865-436-5096
Website: http://www.ripleys.com/gatlinburg/your-visit/believe-it-or-not-odditorium/
Cost:  $14.99 Adult(12 & up) $7.99 (child 3-11)
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Plan to spend 1-2 hours. This attraction is spread out over several floors and will require that you climb stairs. If mobility is an issue, there is an elevator available. Due to the nature of some of the exhibits, I would be hesitant to take young children through the exhibit. It is definitely more appropriate for upper elementary age students and up.

Sugarlands Visitors Center in the Smoky Mountain National Park- Your Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies via www.thetravelingpraters.com

Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Smoky Mountain National Park

You really shouldn’t visit Sevierville, Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg and not visit the Smoky Mountain National Park! This natural treasure that encompasses 800 square miles and the highest mountain peaks in the Appalachian range is one of the most visited national parks in the United States.

The national park offers a variety of educational programming and Park Ranger led talks that are a perfect opportunity for homeschooling families to learn not only about the area, the environment and the wildlife, but also pieces of our America history. Educational programming, hikes and a 20 minute video are offered through this visitors center and the staff is able to accommodate homeschooling groups and families for educational programming if you call Brad Free 865-436-1291 to arrange it in advance. You’ll find educational resources to help you plan a field trip with your homeschool group or family including self-guided lesson plans for grades K-8 on a variety of  topics as well as curriculum materials through high school. You’ll even find an electronic field trip for those unable to visit the park or to get your children excited about an upcoming trip.

Homeschool families are also welcome to attend any of the public programs that are offered at the park and 5-12 year olds are encouraged to participate in the Jr. Ranger program.

The Smoky Mountain Field School offers a several special family programs for families with children between the ages of 6 and 12 and a number of offerings for older kids and parents’. More information is available

Things to Know Before you Go:
Address: Follow US-441 through Gatlinburg for the park entrance to Sugarlands Visitor Center
Phone: 865-436-1200
Website: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm
Cost:  Entrance to the Smoky Mountains National Park is free but donations are highly appreciated.
Hours:  The park is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Hours of operation at individual facilities vary upon season. For a full list of hours check here.

You could spend days in the park. Allow as much time as you can afford.  Sugarlands Visitor Center is currently in the midst of extensive renovations to its natural history exhibit, which are expected to be completed by Easter.

Are you a homeschooling family that has or plans to visit the Smokies? What attraction(s) appeals most to your family and how would it enhance an area of your studies?

Disclaimer: I was invited to visit the Ripley’s attractions and received free and discounted admission to both Ripley’s and WonderWorks attractions.  I was asked to share my honest experience with my readers. All opinions stated are my own.  I did not tour the Titanic on this trip, but I am a Titanic Mom Blogger.

© 2013 – 2014, Tonya Prater . All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Funny– I have been to most of those places. We went when the kids were little like 3 and 6. Hmmm–maybe a family trip is needed again!!!

    Thanks for sharing your fun experience. Where did you eat at? I would love to hear!

    • Yes, Jen, you should visit! Just make sure you allow plenty of time.
      We stayed at a hotel that had a kitchen so we mainly cooked our own meals. We did grab a pizza from Mellow Mushroom though. We’ve wanted to eat there for ages so it was a great place to stop.

  2. Wow, that is a lot of things to do! We have been to the Titanic Museum in Branson, MO. Looks just the same. What is a Titanic Mom Blogger?

  3. I have not been to visit the Wonder’s of Flight or the Knife Museum but have been to the rest. It’s a perfect family friendly location. I’m going to have to add them into our next trip to The Smokies this fall. Thanks for the info. I can’t wait to visit again.

  4. The Titanic is excellent. I was worried it would be too much for my 4 yr old but she was fine. She was wearing her gloves still when a guide told her that her person had the largest suite on board and brought the most clothes and mentioned the number if gloves brought, just like she was wearing. The knowledge of the facts made the tour more personalized. We will definitely go back when the kids are older. Expect to stay a long time. We were there almost 3 hrs and took our time; we probably still missed some things.

  5. Oh, how I love the Smokies! We went camping there last summer and loved every bit of it, couldn’t wait to go back. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is amazing. Featuring you again in this week’s issue.:)

    • Sugarlands will be even better next time you visit. They are undergoing extensive renovations. We always on our way through the Smokies. I just love it there.

  6. Smoky Mountain National Park is amazing. It’s one of those places that I can visit again and again.

    • I love the Smokies! I had hoped to fit in some hiking while we were there, but the rest of my family wasn’t up for it this time. That’s okay, it just means that we need to return, right?

  7. I cannot wait to visit the Smokies! We are planning on going there next spring and will have to check out this museum!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] from The Traveling Praters, shared a Guide to Homeschool Friendly Spring Break Ideas in the Smokies…. such a beautiful place to [...]

Speak Your Mind

*