ICE! and Christmas at Jellystone

In September and October of 2016 we stayed at three different Jellystone campgrounds. We spent nearly two weeks at Jellystone west of Chicago, one week at Jellystone south of Memphis, and parked our fiver at Jellystone of Kansas City when we flew to Alaska.

The location in Chicago was outstanding and certainly raised the bar for RV parks that consider themself “family friendly.” Memphis’ Jellystone (actually located in Mississippi) didn’t have much going on to speak of, and they made no effort to make up for it, despite the closed-up inflatables section that had hours but never opened and the playground that was a clear hazard because the slide kept falling off, but it was a decent stay — far better than if we would have stayed in Memphis. We didn’t get much chance to enjoy Kansas City’s location, but what we experienced in the little time before we left for and after we returned from Alaska was excellent, and we would stay there if ever in the area again.

Fast forward to now.

We’ve spent a few Christmases camping, but we prefer to spend time with family, if and when able to. Out of the blue, however, Mama’s parents decided to go to Biloxi for the holidays, and we do usually spend Christmas with them, if any family. That suddenly presented to us an opportunity to go camping the last week of December.

However, our usually preferences — James Island County Park in South Carolina and Disney’s Fort Wilderness in Orando — were understandably booked.

No problem! That meant looking for a new location!

We’d heard there’s a Jellystone in northern Florida, so Mama called to inquire about a site and was surprised to learn they were nearly empty for the holidays because, according to the young lady on the phone, the office closes for Christmas and the staff is reduced.

Perfect! We weren’t really looking for anything to do, just someplace to camp, to get away from it all and the stress of getting the house ready for listing.

She booked it then and there.

The day before checking in to Jellystone we decided to treat the boys to ICE! at Gaylord Palms in Orlando. Mama and Papa have been to two before — once at Gaylord Palms and once at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville — but this would be the first for the boys.

If you’ve never been and have the opportunity to go one year, go! Especially if you can score a deal on Groupon, like we did. It’s a unique experience, and every year there’s a different theme. This year the display had to do with countries around the world. It was beautiful, fun, and — of course — cold!

The other times we’d attended ICE! it was just sculptures and Christmas village setup. It’d been more than a decade since we’d gone, and they sure have expanded since. Not only were the sculptures and village there, but there were also snowball-throwing games and two snow hills for tubing down.

It was a blast!

After spending much of the day there we left, found a Cracker Barrel outside of Gainesville that we could boondock at for the night, and continued to Jellystone the next morning.

And yes, it was nearly empty.

We got a beautiful site that looked out across the lake, and beyond our rig there were no other campers. We basically had an entire loop to ourselves…and it was so peaceful.

During the busier season — which doesn’t include Christmas, oddly enough — their on-site water park is open. Now, this isn’t a splash park. This is a small, full-fledged aquatic amusement center, with a large water slide, splash pad area, zero entry zone for the little ones, and a lazy river. The park is included for campers, but others can partake for a nominal admission fee.

Also at this campground were multiple playgrounds, two bounce houses, a large jumping pillow, a heated swimming pool, an arcade, golf cart rental, sports fields and courts, miniature golf course, gem mining area…and more than 10 miles of off-roading trails for dirtbikes, ATVs, and UTVs!

Sadly, the water park was not open. This Jellystone location gives most of its staff the days before and after (as well as the day of) Christmas time off. They only keep a couple of people on staff in the office, and even the office hours are severely abbreviated.

This would have been fine, and for us it was okay because we simply went to Jellystone to give us someplace new to go for Christmas, but a neighboring family a couple of sites behind us was from out of state and came down to this location due to the activities and events advertised on the website.

Come to find out, there were supposed to be several things going on, including a caroling tractor-pull ride throughout the park, campsite holiday-lights decorating contest, and more, including the water park that was supposed to be open.

We didn’t mind one way or the other, but if you’re deliberately escaping the frigid and snowy climate of one location to spend the holidays in a warmer area promising much to do, then that’s a probem.

Especially when kids are involved.

The father of this family was certainly vocal. He voiced his disappointment to the few office staff and even spoke with the owners of the park. He then ended up getting permission — and the keys — to drive the tractor for the tractor-pull ride one night and then was granted access to the water park. He and his oldest son spent hours cleaning and chlorinating the water park so his kids could enjoy it.

And when we saw it had been opened for them, we joined as well.

We also found out from him that the bounce houses and jumping pillow weren’t initially in use either. He had complained about that as well and then turned them on and cleaned them so his kids could play on them.

Sadly, they vacated three days before their planned checkout date. They were very disappointed and he was tired of working on what should have been his vacation, so his kids could do what they had planned to do.

At one point we went to the office (which we discovered was closed early) and noticed there was actually a bulletin by the entrance, listing and highlighting the park’s planned events during various holidays.

There was even a flier posted listing what was supposed to be going on the days we were there, the reason the other family had come down.

So not only was it online, but it was physically printed out and posted just outside the entrance of the office.

We were glad we had no expectations, but we certainly felt badly for the family that did. It was no wonder they were so upset.

Fortunately, we truly enjoyed ourselves.

Christmas morning we had our traditional breakfast of unhealthy sugary foods — the only time we ever eat this stuff for breakfast — and went about enjoying what Santa had brought for the boys and opening gifts.

We also started another tradition a few Christmases ago: the boys get one large gift (usually something combined), but to find it they get sent on a scavenger hunt.

And this Christmas was no different! Just because we’re on the road does not mean the final gift won’t take a little work.

The boys took turns reading clues as they ran around inside and outside June and even to other vacant sites.

All that work to find the final gift in the bed of Bertha!

The boys had a large box to unwrap, with another wrapped box inside, followed by the final wrapped gift.

A four-gun, vest-free laser tag gun set!

Batteries — a pack that happened to be at the clue just before they found the gift — were quickly installed and then it was game on.

The boys played that for hours, and we joined them for several rounds. Talk about a fun workout!

We had another surprise yet for the boys too. Mama’s parents had gone to Biloxi for Christmas, but they were leaving there Christmas morning. They had to pass right by Jellystone on their way home, so they stopped by for a few hours to celebrate Christmas with us and join us for dinner.

It was a great holiday.

Two days later, it was time to head home. We really had a great time, though. We rode our bikes around a lot, even venturing to the beginning of the off-roading trails and playing on the hills. We also rented a golf cart on the last day, and we played even more laser tag together.

Would we go back again, despite the disappointing experience the other family had? Absolutely. We had no expectations when we made our reservations and arrived, so we weren’t disappointed in any way whatsoever. That’s not to say we’re not disappointed in the campground for doing what they did. And we’re not sure if the other three families — yes, only three — that were also there were also disappointed.

Perhaps someone in the office dropped the ball and failed to inform this particular family that the park all but shut down for Christmas.

Maybe it was an oversight that this park’s website reflected the same schedule of holiday activities that other Jellystone locations also showed online.

And why on Earth there was physical proof of the so-called events that were never really planned posted just outside the office made no sense.

An error or negligence on the part of one or a few can ruin it for an entire establishment, but it does not necessarily reflect the intentions or standards of the owners, who actually stopped by the day after Christmas to see how our stay was and make sure we weren’t affected the same way as the other family. They even made it clear that they had no idea about the activities listed on the website or on the bulletin by the office. They didn’t know until we told them.

As for us, we plan to go back. Based on reviews and the steady flow of campers and trucks towing trailers with off-roading vehicles arriving as we were checking out, this is a very popular and family-friendly place to go.

Next time, though, we plan to bring our dirtbikes so we can venture onto the miles of wooded trails as well.

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Certainly Beats the Classroom

This just never gets old.

Yesterday there was a teaser on TV regarding the NHL team St. Louis Blues, which is one of the teams in the 2017 NHL playoffs. (If you didn’t already know, we’re die-hard hockey fans.)

During the teaser, the boys saw the St. Louis Arch. They got so excited and started yelling: “That’s the St. Louis Arch! We saw that! We drove right by it!” Indeed, this past September we did drive right by it on the way to Mississippi from Illinois.

We can’t even tell you how often they’ve made comments like this, positively thrilled that they saw, experienced, and learned about things in person, not merely from books. We’re not saying they haven’t learned about things from books or the Internet, but what they remember, what they talk about, what gets them super excited, are the things they have actually seen, been to, and done.

Our boys can say they’ve been to the top of a lighthouse because they’ve climbed the 203 steps to the top of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse in Florida.

Our boys can say they’ve seen hundreds of huge windmills because we drove by and between them in states like Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, and more.

Our boys can say they’ve played in the snow while a young moose walked by only feet away and watched two bull moose fight in Alaska.

Our boys can say they’ve been to the top of the Space Needle and looked out over Seattle, with Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains as the backdrop, in Washington.

And yes, the boys saw the St. Louis Arch glistening in the setting sun in Missouri.

Already they’ve stayed at least a week in each Alaska, Washington, Colorado, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico, and D ‘Skiy has been to New Mexico, although he was only one year old at the time and doesn’t remember it except for the pictures.

(And then there’s our home state of Florida, of course.)

The boys have camped in the sweltering heat of the Florida Keys and the snow-covered hills of Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

They have been on steam engine and diesel engine trains, climbed many rock walls, rode on wave runners, took on several ropes courses, snorkeled crystal-clear waters, canoed and kayaked, fished in both salt and fresh water, walked dozens upon dozens of trails, and splashed in freezing mountain streams.

They’ve been to many gardens, zoos, museums, science centers, historical landmarks, and amusement parks throughout the country and the Caribbean.

The beauty of it is that they’re still so young, and they still get so excited whenever we go someplace new, enter a state we’ve never been to before, and pack for any adventure, whether we’ve done it ten times or this is the first.

That’s part of the beauty of homeschooling. The world is their classroom and everything is an open book.

And it never gets old when they can point to something on TV or in a book and say, “I’ve been there.”

Cabbage Key

Our final, final stop before heading home was to Fort Myers to see Papa’s parents. It gave us a chance to see them after being away for three months as well as celebrate Papa’s birthday…which is today!

On the evening of the 16th we set up our rig at San Carlos RV Resort, a campground we’ve been to before and loved and is probably the most-convenient and affordable family-friendly RV park in the area. The next day we met Mama’s in-laws at the dock on Captiva Island to board a boat bound for Cabbage Key. The boat ride was long and slow, but we were kept entertained by the many dolphins that followed alongside as we floated across the water.

Once we arrived to the island we dined at the only restaurant there (Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant), walked the sandy paths, and climbed the water tower for a view of the area. The entire area was very pretty.

Earlier today — Papa’s birthday! — we checked out from the RV park and met Papa’s parents at the local Bass Pro to have a delicious lunch at Islamorada Fish Company.

It was a nice brief visit with his parents and he had a nice birthday…

…but now we’re actually heading home.

Historic Virginia

The final three-month field-assignment stop landed us in Virginia, just outside Maryland and less than an hour from Washington, D.C.

This state is the location of Arlington Cemetary, many battlefields and monuments, and the famous Luray Caverns. Virginia is also where Mama and Papa honeymooned 15 years ago!

For one week we stayed at the beautiful Bull Run Regional Park, and we witnessed staff erecting and testing the annual holiday lights displays. Mama and the boys frequented the large playground, and the boys took part in a nature scavenger hunt that the park ranger had arranged.

Being so close to battlefields and monuments, we took a few drives and some walks to these historic areas. We crossed over and walked under Bull Run Bridge, along the river, and down paths that led us to not only battlefields but also locations of homes that no longer remain. We found a Civil War cemetary and a location with retired cannons and Bull Run memorials and monuments.

While at the park’s campground, we were also glued to the television as a historic presidential election took place, resulting in the surprising win of Donal Trump over Hillary Clinton.

At the end of that final week, we decided to stay a few more days in Virginia, while Papa enjoyed a much-needed vacation and break from working days and nights. We moved from Bull Run to Outlander’s River Camp, only a few miles down the road from Luray Caverns.

And we went to the caverns too!

It had been 15 years since Mama and Papa honeymooned in Shenandoah Valley, and in 2001 they had also went to Luray Caverns. Imagine how surreal it was to now be taking the boys there!

Not only did we take the tour of the caverns, but we also completed the garden maze and the boys took on the multi-story ropes course. We browsed the Toy Town Junction and Car & Carriage museums located on the premises as well.

Papa had read about an isolated road that went into the mountains and led to an overlook of Shenandoah Valley, so we packed a lunch and drove up there one day. The boys had a blast climbing the rock formations and the view from the top was breathtaking.

Finally, it was time to head south. We plan to stop by Mama’s parents on Florida’s west coast to briefly visit, having been gone for so long, on the way down to Papa’s parents even further south, where we’ll celebrate Papa’s birthday.

We’re looking forward to seeing family and friends again.

But we can’t say we’re ready for this adventure to come to an end.

Halloween In View of the Rockies

We’d love to say we actually got to drive up into the Rockies during our stay in Colorado, but things came up…

We arrived just north of Denver the day before Halloween, staying at the Fort Collins/Lakeside KOA. On the way there we looked up Halloween events so the boys would have a chance to dress up and have a little spooky fun, seeing how we always take them to local ones back home.

Just because we’re traveling doesn’t mean we can’t keep with tradition!

We found out about a really neat trick-or-treat event taking place at a park in Ft. Collins called The Farm on October 30th, so we ran to Walmart for costumes and dressed up. It was incredibly organized and so much fun. Businesses from the area dressed up “doors” throughout the farm and kids were to knock on each “door,” say “Trick or Treat,” and somebody on the other side would open that “door” to present a treat. There were dozens of them! Then there was also a tractor-pulled hayride. The entire event cost a small fee, but it was unique and we highly recommend it!

Papa reported for work the next day, and that night we took the boys trick-or-treating in various neighborhoods. The boys collected so many goodies that M was unable to carry his bag anymore!

The next day — November 1st — Papa’s two colleagues that are on this field assignment with him (they’re doing night-time hardware installations while Papa does the daytime training regarding the new software involved) ventured off into the mountains for a bit of hiking. One of them lost her footing and could no longer walk. By the time help had arrived for her it was getting dark and had begun snowing. In the hospital she found out the extent of her injuries: she had broken her leg and foot in three places. She was going to be okay but she was derailed the remainder of the trip, which meant the current one in Colorado and the next one — the final one — in Virginia.

And Papa, in turn, not only needed to work days, doing his training classes, but also at night, to assist his other colleague.

Talk about some long days and a rough week for him…

On the positive side, we had already celebrated Halloween and there was a huge playground and a lot to do at the campground, so although we rarely go to see Papa that week the boys had plenty to do to keep them busy.

But one big challenge still lays ahead of us. Since Papa we needed to help in the evenings and his colleague’s injury resulted in everying getting pushed back a day, it’s going to be almost impossible to make the cross-country, multiple-timezone trek from Colorado to Virginia…in only two days.

Let’s see how that one goes!

Update: Papa’s co-worker flew home at the end of the week in Colorado. She required surgery but it was put off due to the swelling. She has since made a full recovery and is able to walk again, after months of needing a scooter to support her leg and physical therapy.

The Last Frontier

Up until now, Washington was our favorite stop on this journey.

Then we touched down in Alaska!

Washington has some steep competition here!

We couldn’t have gone in a better week either. The day before our plane landed Alaska had their first snow storm of the season. And during the entire week, it never snowed again and the temperature never rose above freezing.

It.Was.Perfect!

And you can tell we’re Floridians when we admire and get excited over something like the amazing details of the snowflakes!

Mama wanted to see one thing especially though: moose. We were informed they’re shy and there’s a good chance we wouldn’t see any…and for most of the week, we didn’t.

Although the first day Papa reported for work, there was a young bull on the property!

Mama was jealous.

But, oh, the snow! The weather was clear, cold, and crisp, and we planned ahead, bringing snow suits for the boys and multiple layers for everyone.

And just how cold was it? Well, one morning Papa got a cup of coffee from the hotel lobby before driving to work. When he tried to set it in the cup holder of the car, some of the coffee spilled. He grabbed a napkin to clean up the mess, but when he turned to wipe it up the hot coffee had already frozen! In just a matter of seconds!

Yup. Cold.

This was the boys’ second time seeing snow, their first happening earlier just this year in February. And that’s all they wanted to do all week: play in the snow! Fortunately, the around around the hotel had plenty of the white stuff, and they played in it until Mama was numb from the cold and demanded breaks.

When Papa wasn’t working we drove to the mountains, looking for wildlife, letting the boys sled down snowy hills, and walking on nature trails. One took us to a popular location for beavers, but the lake was frozen over and we saw no signs of the buck-toothed critters.

Then we found out about a park near the airport back in Anchorage where moose tended to live. We drove there one night…and saw several moose, including one mother with her calf. But it was dark, and it was difficult to see them well.

So the day before we were set to fly out of the Pacific Northwest, we decided to spend the day at the same park. At first we didn’t see any moose. Then we went for a walk on a trail…when a young male crossed the path directly in front of us! He was knock-kneed yet graceful, and he wasn’t at all bothered by our presence.

He was pretty photogenic too!

After the walk and letting the boys sled a little more, we climbed back into our rental car and started to leave the park. On the way out, we noticed several cars ahead that had stopped and people standing outside their cars, looking through a chain-link fence.

There in the field was a female moose…and two bull moose, with their massive antlers locked in battle! It was like a National Geographic special on TV, only it was live and happening a few dozen yards from us!

We were in absolute awe!

We watched the display for about half an hour, and then we called our Alaskan adventure a successful one and headed back to the hotel to pack our belongings.

At the airport the next day Mama started talking to a woman working at one of the shops there. She had asked how our trip was, at which time Mama went on and on about the bull moose we had seen fighting. The woman was amazed, informing Mama that she’d lived there for more than twenty years and had never seen bull moose fight!

We got lucky.

As much as we loved Alaska, we were ready to get back to the continental US, where we didn’t need to don two or three layers of clothes just to go to a grocery store and it didn’t take half an hour for our vehicle to warm up.

We can’t wait to go back though.

Oh, and did we mention that our cat Luna joined us here too, flying with us on four more planes?!

When we touched down in Kansas, we found out the weather in Alaska finally rose above 32 degrees and the snow was melting away.

We definitely got to see Alaska during a beautiful time.

And let’s not forget about the moose!

Amish Country

Having safely escaped the southeast and the looming Hurricane Matthew — which happened to be less damaging and dangerous than anticipated — we ventured into Amish Country, first in Ohio and then Indiana.

Oberlin, Ohio, was beautiful and rolling. The vast countrysides were picturesque, and it was entertaining watching the folks on horse-drawn carriages.

The same folks we’d also seen donned in the stereotypical zipper- and button-free clothing, shopping in Walmart.

It was a quiet and slower area, nothing like we’d picture the area around Cleveland to be. Even the campground we stayed at was beautiful, with a great playground, walking and bike-riding trails, and even a catch-and-release fishing pond.

Sadly, try as we might, we couldn’t find the Amish villages and shops we’d heard so much about. We saw the people, the horses, the carriages, and the signs, but we couldn’t find what drew the tourists.

We had similar luck in Indiana, although we were in a busier — and not so scenic — area just outside Indianapolis. With that said, though, there was more to see and do.

Being close to Halloween, there were many fall festivals taking place. We found one that was a petting and pick-a-pumpkin farm, with a corn maze and children’s play area that our sons certainly didn’t want to leave, amazing food, and tons to see and do. If you’re ever in the Indianapolis area, no matter the time of year, you must look up the Waterman’s farm!

That night we drove to Indiapolis, where the city was holding a celebration for the American Red Cross, celebrating 100 years. There were live bands, firetrucks, food trucks, activities, and more on display and taking place. We even wrapped up the evening with a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic city.

The campground we were at had a nice creek that ran through it, a couple of playgrounds (one that our site backed up to, so it was like having our very own jungle gym), an activity room, and a stable with two horses: a mother and her colt! Although we couldn’t ride them, we were informed we could feed them, so whenever we went to the grocery store we made sure to buy carrots for the large friendly residents.

Now we’re on the way to Kansas City, to park our rig at the Jellystone campground there and hop on a plane bound for the Northwestern-most point of the country.

Alaska, here we come!

Georgia On Our Minds…and Hurricane Matthew’s Radar

Following our Tennessee assignment — and Mississippi stay, seeing how we were not going to stay in Memphis, thank you — we headed to Kingsland, Georgia. Papa ‘Skiy was due in Jacksonville, Florida, and Kingsland is a brief drive from where he needed to report.

The campground we chose was amazing and we’d highly recommend the North Jacksonville/St. Mary’s KOA in Kingsland anytime. From the fun things for kids to do (small farm, playground, pool, jumping pillow…), to the teepees you can sleep in, to the free breakfast and delicious BBQ… We met some of the nicest people there, and this is one of those rare KOAs that offers large shaded sites and beautiful canopies throughout.

However, it wasn’t all fun for Mama and the boys or work for Papa.

Hurricane Matthew was in the Atlantic, and he had his sights set on the coasts of Florida and Georgia.

And is it just us, or did the satellite image of Hurricane Matthew — seen above — look like the face of something evil?!

A couple of days into our stay, the campground had to get into hurricane-preparation mode. Chairs and umbrellas were collected from each campsite. Light fixtures and plants had to be taken down and moved indoors. The Halloween decorations had to be removed from throughout the park. Even the teepees had to be uncovered.

We’re proud of our sons for helping the park owners in their efforts to prepare for the hurricane. The boys even got a free pizza and drink for being so helpful and working so hard.

Those who work at the campground went around and advised everybody it would be in their best interest to pack up and relocate across state or elsewhere. Most of the campers chose to evacuate.

But we still had our home in Florida to think about too.

We were very fortunate. If a hurricane was going to hit, the timing couldn’t have been better, seeing how we were staying less than four hours north of our house, and the company Papa works for cut short the assignment in Jacksonville and allowed everyone to fly or drive home to their houses to get it ready for Matthew.

And we did just that.

We’ve lived in the house for ten years now. This was the first time we’d had to use the storm shutters that came with the house!

In a matter of hours we were home and running around like crazy, putting up shutters, cleaning up the yard, clearing the porches…

Once we were done, we drove back to the campground and packed up our own belongings and RV. The next day we set off for the western part of Georgia, far west of the path of Matthew.

We found an amazing state park in Adel, Georgia, called Reed Bingham State Park, just off of Interstate 75, that had a campground. Although the campground was filled to capacity with those that had evacuated due to the hurricane, they were still accepting campers and allowing them to park anyplace we could, and they allowed evacuees to stay throughout the weekend. (If you’re ever looking for a wonderful park or campground in this area, Reed Bingham is huge and beautiful, with places to fish, playgrounds, and a dam you can drive across.)

We checked in and settled in for the night, holding our breath and praying for the safety of our neighbors and friends back home that were in Matthew’s path. And yes, we were extremely nervous for our house and Mama’s car as well.

Most of the night we watched the weather reports and listened to updates about Hurricane Matthew. He decided to make his presence known in the dark early-morning hours. Fortunately prayers were answered and the storm turned northward just enough to only skirt along the coast, as opposed to directly hitting Brevard County and other counties north, as previously forecasted.

Our amazing neighbors checked on our house for us once the hurricane had passed and the winds died down. There were some limbs down and debris in our yard, and a tree that we’ve been trying to get rid of for years had split down the center due to the winds, but there was absolutely no damage whatsoever.

With the all-clear sign, we packed up our stuff and left Adel, heading north to our next assignment in Ohio.

The hurricane caused a lot of damage, but everyone we knew — including those at the KOA in Kingsland — was unharmed and safe.

Thank goodness.

The Memphis Pyramid

We’re no fans of Memphis. It’s a city with so much history, yet it’s neglected terribly.

So when our next assignment took us there, we opted to stay outside Memphis — and Tennessee, for that matter — at the Jellystone campground in Horn Lake, Mississippi.

We didn’t plan to do much while in the area. Fortunately the campground had many kids that our sons played with, and it was fun hosting their new-found friends at our site’s picnic table.

However, we did manage a trip into Memphis one day. We drove by Graceland and the Presley museum and mansion, and we drove along the shores of the Mississippi River.

What surprised us most — aside from how run-down the city has become — was the pyramid that towered the buildings in the distance.

Yes, the pyramid.

The Memphis Pyramid, formerly known as the Great American Pyramid and the Pyramid Arena, used to be a sports arena, and at 321 feet tall it’s the tenth tallest pyramid in the world.

It was originally opened in 1991. After sales and changes of hands over the years, in 2015 it was reopened as a Bass Pro Shops megastore location. More than a store for outdoorsmen and hunting enthusiasts, this location boasts a hotel, a bowling alley, restaurants, and more.

We love Bass Pro, and the architecture was certainly unusual for what the chain is known for, but what caught our attention was the glass-floor observation deck at the peak of the pyramid. To get there you had to ride the slow-moving free-standing elevator, which is the tallest in America (to date).

Once at the top, you arrive at a bar with a huge aquarium. There are doors past the bar that take you to the open-air observation deck, with views from three sides of the pyramid, one overlooking the Mississippi River.

If ever in Memphis, this is a neat landmark to visit. It costs nothing to park or go inside, the ride up the elevator is cheap, and there’s so much to see and do inside Bass Pro, from a free arcade-style shooting gallery to simply looking at the impressive taxidermy collection.

Besides, it’s not every day you get to see a pyramid in the United States.