We’re all aware by now that summer is in full swing, whether we’re trying to cool down or heat up some fun for our little ones. This is the time of year where our household can fall prey to a little boredom (okay, a lot) if we’re not careful, with the kids right in the middle of their summer break and some of our creative energy running low. Some days it’s tempting to give up on the screen time battle and just let them stay glued to the tablet from now until school starts back.
But my wife and I have always been big on outdoor adventures—we both grew up taking family road trips, going to camp, and playing in the woods… you know, the true summer stuff. Of course, we all know that can be hard to do these days, but fortunately, we’ve got an ace up our sleeve in Lookout Mountain.
A trip to Lookout Mountain was always a big part of summer for me when I was a kid, and I wanted my daughters to have that same experience. In all the right ways, it’s exactly the same, but with so many new features and exciting events that even my little tech wizards found themselves forgetting the iPad and enjoying the natural beauty the mountain has to offer.
The girls adored Ruby Falls, where they felt like true explorers charting the underground caverns. They especially loved that they could touch one of the formations and look for the inspiration behind their silly names (Steak and Potatoes was a favorite, as was the Elephant’s Foot—I couldn’t help but sneak in a “Roll Tide,” despite the look I got from my wife). Outside the main cavern tour, we also experienced Ruby Falls ZIPStream Aerial Adventure. At six and eight, our kids are just the right age to tackle the kid-size zip line and obstacle course, and they had an absolute blast. ZIPStream also has more advanced courses we can do together as the kids get bigger. We took a family selfie on the new Blue Heron Overlook that my wife wants to use on our Christmas card. I’m not sure if it’s because, for once, all of our eyes were open or because of the amazing view – probably both. As we were exploring the brand new Ruby Falls Village, I got sentimental wondering what new experiences will be here for my kids to discover with their children someday.
We grabbed lunch at Mr. T’s Pizza and Ice Cream in Historic St. Elmo—it’s the building with the giant ice cream cone on top, so you can’t miss it!—before climbing aboard the famous Incline Railway. The old-world charm of the trolley car was brand new to the kids and only got more fun the closer we got to the top. The car climbs up the mountain into a breathtaking 72.7% grade, with panoramic windows offering stunning views of the landscape: a lot more exciting than what any video game can do! We had a good laugh about the “graphics” as we perused the gift shop and took pictures from the observation deck.
The cherry on top of this perfect family-centric experience was Rock City’s Summer Music Weekends festival. Every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Rock City plays host to some really toe-tapping, honkey-tonking bluegrass and country music bands. Looking out over the seven states view by the Café 7 restaurant, we sipped on some fresh-squeezed lemonade while we listened to the local talent croon. Then, it was on to the “Critter Classroom,” which hosted the Rock City Raptors Birds of Prey show. I don’t think the girls had ever been that close to wildlife—Yes, kids, these are the real Angry Birds—and they were blown away.
All of us are guilty of being too glued to our screens sometimes, myself definitely included. But it was so important to me to give my girls the gift of a good, old-fashioned family road trip to somewhere they could learn, see nature, and most importantly have a whole lot of fun. We’ll be making Lookout Mountain our summer destination for many years to come.