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travel

BUSCH GARDENS

travelStacey OswaldComment

Paul and I purchased the Tampa CityPASS last weekend at the Florida Aquarium, in the hopes of hitting five major attractions within nine days. The pass is a steal at $99, especially if you can manage to hit all five. But even if you go to only three, like us, you're still getting good bang for your buck. Tickets to Busch Gardens are $79, and the zoo is priced at $27.95, so even if you go to only those two, you're saving money with the CityPASS. Cool, right? 

On the topic of Busch Gardens... DEFINITELY splurge on the Quick Queue passes once you have your admission tickets. They are beyond worth it. Skipping lines is the most gratifying activity in the world, and it allows you to hit all the rides in a shorter period of time. Just don't bother adding on the extra $10 to skip the line for Cobra's Curse (see later section in post regarding this ride). 

The roller coasters at Busch Gardens are INSANE. My favorite is Cheetah Hunt- it accelerates 3 times throughout the course of the ride, and it takes you on a really scenic path through running water and greenery. Plus it's fast, as every roller coaster should be. 

Montu is consistently one of my favorites. Your feet dangle, it does a ton of loops, and it has a long ride time so it's always worth the wait. Can't beat a classic! 

Kumba is consistently rated one of the best roller coasters in the country, for good reason, and it's one of Paul's favorites. It beats you up with lots of quick turns and loops- I always walk off of this one with a slight headache. But worth it if you like big coasters! 

Falcon's Fury is legitimately terrifying. It takes you really really high, flips you sideways so you're looking at the ground (like a falcon- get it???), holds you there for FAR too long, and drops you. I was screaming bloody murder, and I typically don't get scared on roller coasters. So beware, if you're one who gets freaked out easily. 

SheiKra is great, but definitely try to get the front row. It's a ride with an almost 90 degree drop, and you don't get as big of a thrill if your view is blocked by people's heads. Cobra's Curse, BG's newest ride, is cool but not worth the extra $10, as previously stated. It's pretty slow in comparison to the other rides, and it doesn't do all that much. Just speed over there right when the park opens so you can skip the line without the added premium, as it is worth experiencing. 

I loved/hated seeing the animals. Loved because they were super close and extremely beautiful, hated because I despise the idea of putting animals in cages. Are any of y'all torn about zoos? I want to appreciate them for their conservation efforts, but I can never tell if organizations are being honest about their practices. And if I hate Sea World, shouldn't I hate other forms of animal captivity, too? #conflicted

On the topic of food- we happened to go to Busch Gardens the day after embarking on our lil vegan challenge, so it was definitely more difficult to eat there than I anticipated. But we totally made it work! Serengeti Overlook offered a great buffet with several vegan options: potato salad, green salad, quinoa salad, and fruit salad! SALAD FOR DAYSSSS. The chef even came out to walk us through the buffet and point out specifically which items were vegan. I 100% recommend this restaurant- for the food, and its amazing view! 

I already can't wait to go back to Busch Gardens! Howl-O-Scream, anyone? 

PS- If anyone has happened to notice an increased level of photo quality... blame Paul. He's officially the blog photographer, so from here on out, he'll be taking most of the pictures I post. Except food pictures (ie. the ones on my Instagram and even the DSLR ones on the blog), which I will always take. I also do all of my own photo editing. 

finding PEACE in the mountains

travelStacey OswaldComment

Not too long ago, I surprised my boyfriend with a trip to the Smokies. He's a huge nature person, as am I, so we were excited to get out of Nashville for a weekend and experience what the outside world has to offer. 

 
 

The drive to and fro is approximately three and a half hours, which can easily turn into four if you like to stop as much as I do. I have a really hard time sitting still, as well as an irrational fear of running out of food- this means lots of stops at gas stations, mini marts, and fast food restaurants. Hey, at least we didn't go hungry! 

We decided to stay in an Airbnb, which we LOVED. The one we found was super cheap, close to the mountains, and very cozy/cute if you're looking for an authentic cabin-in-the-woods experience. Our host was extremely hospitable and helped us navigate our surroundings like pros. We even got discounted massages at the end of our stay! 

Here's a little run through of our weekend, as well as some input on what I would recommend if you're planning a trip to the Smokies! 

Day One

HIKE: Hiking in the Smokies is the best, even in the winter. We found a really random path for our first hike, but there are infinite possibilities within the park. Just drive until you find something! We ended up climbing up a hill off the beaten path to see the top of a very tiny waterfall. Being that it was early and we were both ravenous, the climb could have gone better. But oh well, it was fun! 

 
 

GRANDMOTHER'S KITCHEN: I highly recommend this spot for breakfast if you're looking for a place where all the locals go. I enjoyed a delicious omelet, but the star of the meal was the chicken fried steak with biscuits and gravy. It is truly not for the faint of heart. Note: this restaurant is cash only! 

 
 

CADES COVE LOOP ROAD: This is where we had an up close and personal encounter with deer. And when I say close, I mean within feet- I was RIGHT THERE. It was a true dream come true, and I strongly believe that it was the most magical moment of my life. The drive itself was really scenic, especially as we were going along the river. You get great views of the mountains as well!

PICNIC: We happened upon the most amazing picnic spot on the river as we were driving. I don't want to reveal its exact location, because I want to keep it a secret! But there are plenty of beautiful spots along the river to eat, and I couldn't recommend the picnic plan enough. We got some food from the general store, crossed the river (I got soaked in the process- Paul did not), and parked our butts on a beautiful rock. It was heavenly. 

 
 

GATLINBURG: Gatlinburg is more touristy than I can put into words. I don't think either of us were expecting what we found when we pulled in. However, they have a great spot for mini golf, and I happened to love the Old Smokey Moonshine Distillery, where they offered free moonshine tastings. I got a cool shirt out of the experience, as well as some apple pie moonshine, which we enjoyed that night with our takeout Mellow Mushroom pizza. Note to travelers: don't plan a fancy dinner out after your day in the Smokies. Trust me- you'll want to relax! 

Day Two

Honestly, this day was pretty boring, and the place we went to for breakfast was meh. All I will say is that I highly recommend getting in touch with your creative side while you're in the mountains. I was able to write for the first time in months, which gave me the inspiration to get back into blogging. And we both read all morning sitting on our porch and gazing out at the mountains. It was as heavenly as it sounds- that is, if you like to read. 

It's safe to say that this was one of the better vacations of my life. I can't wait to go back in the summer! :)