Eric and I went on vacation a couple weeks ago for the first time in years, and we had an absolute blast! I guess the fun was evident in my posts on social media, because a bunch of people asked for details and more pics. So, here you go! We set out for our Smoky Mountains/Nashville trip on a Saturday afternoon, and instead of driving the whole way to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, we decided to stop in Cincinnati and check out the city a bit.
Our first stop was Christian Moerlein Brewing Company where we refueled on beer and Goetta, a regional favorite made of ground sausage combined with oats and spices. Then we explored the shops and bars of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood for a bit. Believed to be the largest, most-intact urban historic district in the country, OTR has seen a huge gentrification effort in recent years, and reminded me of a larger version of Cleveland's Tremont or Ohio City neighborhoods. After indulging in some Graeter's ice cream (OMG, the key lime pie!), we wandered into an appropriately named bar, The Drinkery, where a surprisingly awesome soul band, Magnolia Sons, was just starting. Unlike in Cleveland, nearly every single bar patron was on their feet dancing. Kudos, Cincy! Clevelanders don't seem to dance much. What's up with that, Cleveland?
The next day, we headed to Cincinnati Museum Center, home to three museums and an Omnimax theater. The museum center is a grandiose former train station, and its original 1930s Art Deco architecture and detail has been meticulously maintained and restored. It might look familiar because it was the inspiration for the Hall of Justice from Justice League. My jaw literally dropped when I stepped inside the grand hall. It's that beautiful.
We explored the Natural History Museum and the Children's Museum, where an exhibit called the "Science of Sports" gave me the opportunity to race a T-Rex! The point was to see how fast you can run in comparison to notably fast animals (another option was a cheetah), but I was mostly interested because you all know how I feel about dinosaurs… Here's me racing T-Rex with really poor sprinting form. Spoiler alert: It would've eaten me.
After we had our fill of science and nature, we moved on to, well, nature, and headed to the Smoky Mountains. After passing through the tourist trap that is Gatlinburg (this is your place if you like Ripley's Believe It Or Not museums or airbrushed Confederate flag tees), we camped inside the park at its polar opposite, the peaceful, off-the-beaten-path Cosby Campground (where lots of inappropriate Bill Cosby jokes ensued.)
It was so nice to just totally disconnect. Quiet, sparsely-populated, no cell service. And, so many stars. You don't realize how much light pollution there is in the city until you look up in the wilderness and the sky is just packed with stars.
We spent the next couple days hiking up mountains, horseback riding up mountains (EEEE!!! HORSES!), and generally enjoying the amazing vistas and densely packed, lush forests. In three days, we really only scratched the surface on all the things I would have liked to see and do in the Smokies, so I hope to be able to make it back sometime soon.
Building fires, making s'mores, reading in a hammock. This part of our trip rekindled my love of camping and I'm really looking forward to our next camping trip, in early October.
Stay tuned for part two, in which we explore Nashville, bathe in waterfalls and buy dead things!