Chicago mom adventures: Family holiday road trip

Every year as Christmas rolls on in with it’s twinkly lights and ho-ho-ho’s, we Jewish families are stuck with closed activities and really bored kids. So, around ten years ago we started a tradition of trekking out to the Dells for 80-degree indoor waterpark fun in a nearly empty hotel on December 24. Apparently, we weren’t the only geniuses who thought of this idea as year after year more locals we knew were showing up in the Dells.

In 2008, my youngest nixed our tradition when she arrived on December 24. My three older children, while excited about her birth, were also disappointed that she broke our annual plans. Even the nurse was disappointed, as she joked, “I wasted a Christmas baby” because we don’t celebrate. Ah, well…

So, when my baby turned 1, we celebrated in our little home away from home in the Dells and all were happy again. After so many repeated years of the same old, this year we’re off to do something just a wee bit different.

My in-laws love a good ol’ road trip. Me, I love a good ol’ 5-star hotel. So when my father-in-law suggested a coordinated winter trip to a cabin, I looked for a 5-star-ish villa in the Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN.

I believe his idea of our cabin would be about 20 bucks a night in a rustic place with none of the comforts of home. My idea of cabin life is going to be fine homemade dinners around a roaring fire (indoors) with a hot tub and a glass of wine. So, we found a beautiful compromise for Christmas to New Year’s week where we can hunker down, relax and enjoy something a little bit tinkered from our beloved traditional Dells.

I am told that Gatlinburg is filled with touristy shops and kitschy restaurants but I am prepared to wow my family with new fun anyway. Already having ‘no Dells’ fever, my younger ones are tentative about this new plan. My teens understanding of there being no Internet connection in our area think we are really beyond ‘roughing it’. They, too, are tentative that this can possibly be fun.

I have picked out favorite 80’s movies like Goonies, Adventures in Babysitting and the like, packed up a zillion board games and a large stack of books. S’more-making stuff and hot dogs for the fireplace are packed up as are bathing suits for the hot tub and a sled for the snow we hope to find there. I am both nervous and excited about our new destination.

Check back for my next post to see if all went according to plan. Is Gatlinburg worth the 9.5 hour drive from Chicago? Will the teens lose it for a week with no Internet? Will my little ones cry when they see there is no waterpark? Will I be okay for a week in the woods with my in-laws?? Wish us luck! And, for those celebrating, Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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