REVIEW- Hollywood Wax Museum in Pigeon Forge (SPONSORED)

This has been a traveling year for us so far! In May, we went to Baltimore for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday; in June, we took the kids to Gatlinburg; in July John and I went to Chicago; in August we spent a weekend in Pigeon Forge; in September we went to Nashville for my cousin’s wedding; and this month we are headed to our first Notre Dame football game!

I’m writing today about our little Pigeon Forge vacation, during which we visited the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Castle of Chaos and all the attractions therein.  I was provided with free tickets for myself and my family in exchange for my honest opinion.

We did not start our mini-vacation with the Wax Museum, though.  We went up on a Friday afternoon, and the first thing we did was go to Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner.

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PF 2John was excited about this crazy drink.  We were ALL excited about eating crab.

After dinner, we were able to go next door and play some miniature golf because we still had a ticket left from my review of the Ripleys attractions in June!  In fact, we played twice because I got a hole-in-one on the final hole!  Then we headed across the street to the motel we had chosen.  This vacation did not require much driving once we got to Pigeon Forge (well, I think technically we were still in Sevierville at this point.).

PF 4 The Oak Tree Lodge fulfilled all Sholly requirements for suitable lodgings and then some.  We demand free breakfast, free WiFi, and a pool.  This place also had cookies in the lobby, unlimited free arcade games, and an exceptionally friendly staff.  Also, the pool was super awesome with the splash pad you see above and a big slide!  We made our first trip to the pool before bed, and then the kids and I went back the next morning while John slept in.

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Then is was time for the main events of the trip–and the main subject of this review.

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We have been curious about this place forever, because you simply cannot miss King Kong looming over the building as you drive down the Parkway.

PF 7PF 51The first building is home to the wax museum, while the Castle of Chaos (pictured below) is in the same parking area, set back a bit from the road, and houses three additional attractions.
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We decided to start with the Hollywood Wax Museum.  We were welcomed by this fellow:

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PF 22This aerial view is to show you his hand, where all entering parties are told to pose and first smile, them look scared, while they are photographed.  At the end of your tour you have an opportunity to view (and purchase!) said photograph.

The exhibits begin in the next room.  Let’s start with the positives.  There are a wide variety of exhibits.  Great care has been taken with the setting of said exhibits–actors are dressed as some of their famous roles, with backdrops to match, and even the theme music playing in the background.  There are fun little factoids and interactive kiosks posted throughout.  Opportunities for interacting with the scenes–including dress-up items–are provided, as you will see in my pictures.

The negatives?  Well, here’s a big one:  a lot of the figures are just BAD.  Conspicuously absent from this museum is any explanation of how they make their figures.  After having visited Madame Tussaud’s in D.C. earlier this year, we were spoiled.  Rather than meticulously measuring the models as was described there, it’s quite clear that in some displays heads were attached to generic bodies.  Now, I have seen worse wax figures.  I might have appreciated these more if I hadn’t been to Madame Tussaud’s first.  And they are not all bad by any means.  I would say the quality appears to be improving.  But I will post some pictures and let you decide for yourselves.  Keep in mind that but for one exception (and you will be able to tell which one it is, I assure you) I did not post the worst figures because I didn’t feel like photographing them when they didn’t look anything like the people they were meant to represent.

First I will show some examples of my family interacting with figures.  Some of these figures were not the best but we liked whom they represent so much we wanted to get into the scenes anyway!
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Anyone who knows William will understand why this was his favorite part of the museum–and it was also the most well-done part, presumably because it’s harder to mess up non-human figures.

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Didn’t you always wish you could get inside that bottle when you were a child? I know I did.

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This was kind of fun since when we visited Savannah we saw the ACTUAL bench and location where this iconic scene was filmed.

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And here are some figures on their own.  In my opinion, the basketball player’s hands are the most well-done thing in this museum.  What do you think?

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With that, it was time to leave Hollywood for the Castle of Chaos.  I’m going to TELL you what we did there, but I can’t SHOW you, because the experiences were not conducive to picture-taking.  You can see some promotional pictures at my preview post for this review, if you want.

First up was Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors. This is the third mirror maze I’ve been to this year, and it was the best.  With mirror mazes, it’s a kind of “you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” deal, and they have worked to change that here.  This maze comes with a story–a little movie that you watch at the beginning, which provides a purpose to solving the maze (besides just getting out!).  There are also a few additions to the maze itself–musical stairs, a “rotating” bridge, characters appearing in the maze–that make it special.  If you want to do a mirror maze, pick this one.

Next we hit up the titular attraction, Castle of Chaos.  This was a 5D theatre experience in which we spun about to face various scary scenes.  The twist here is that we were armed and got to shoot at them, and our scores appeared on the screen along with our pictures at the end (John shot the most things out of everyone in the theatre!).  This was a slightly scary and mildly entertaining attraction.  The Ripleys 5D attractions are better if you are looking to experience this kind of thing.

I’m going to rave about the final attraction, though.  Outbreak–Dread the Undead was well done and lots of fun.  William and I went to this one alone, because Lorelei was scared and John sat it out with her.  The premise was that we were going to be doing some clean up of a government experiment gone wrong.  Supposedly all the zombies were locked up, but something went wrong . . . We went through several rooms, and there was a combination of models and live actors playing zombies.  Per usual, there were jump scares and imitation blood flying.  It was just creepy enough and I would do it again.

I hope I’ve given you enough information to decide which of these attractions you’d like to visit.  If you want to hit them all up next time you visit Pigeon Forge, here’s a coupon for my readers:

My Readers receive $2 OFF ALL ACCESS PASS
Please visit HERE for more information about the attractions.

As for the rest of our visit, we ate dinner at our favorite Asian place in Pigeon Forge before returning to the motel for MORE swimming and a good night’s sleep before heading back home on Sunday.  We have been really enjoying these short weekend jaunts.  I want to take the kids to Chattanooga next and look forward to sharing that trip with you.


People love Pope Francis, and they love Pope Francis memes.  They love them so much, in fact, that they will repost them whether they are true or not.

But truth matters, y’all, and Pope Francis is saying awesome things ALL THE TIME. There’s no need to make things up.

So I’ve made some new memes, using a fair use photo from Google and actual quotations from the Pope’s visit to the United States.  If I make more, I will come back and add them here.  If you like them, please share the post and/or the memes! I’ve already taken care of the attribution. :-)

Let’s spread some wisdom and truth today!

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Pope Meme 3

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Walls are never the solution. But bridges are, always.

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Fun at the Fair

We called it “The Dirty Fair” when we were little and although we begged to go every year, our pleas were rarely heard.  I don’t remember why we started to calling it that, but I have a feeling it came from whatever reasons my mother gave for not wanting to go to it!

Perhaps because we went so seldom, my memories are magical and mythical–made up mainly of bright lights, loud noises, cool breezes, tantalizing smells.  There was the year that I saw the calf with an extra leg growing out of its shoulder, the year I won some money in the spelling bee, the year my classmates and I were bilked out of eight dollars each trying to win stuffed animals, the year I was old enough to take my baby sister alone to ride the kiddie rides.

We’ve taken our kids a few times over the years, but the prices have shot up since I was a child and buying admission and ride tickets for seven people is, to put it mildly, not cheap.  There were years when I made a mental note not to drive down Magnolia Avenue in September lest someone see the rides and start asking to go.

This year it was Emily–aged 24!–who wanted to go to the Fair.  I couldn’t tell you how many years it had been, but it was long enough that 14-year-old William had no memory of it.  He wasn’t sure he was really interested but I when told him there would be animals he said he’d give it a try.

As it happens, the animals (which I didn’t even realize were there when I was a child) were the first thing we encountered.  First rabbits–cage after cage, tiny to giant, little ears to long floppy ones, every color you can imagine.  For some reason I didn’t take pictures of them, but I couldn’t resist photographing these sweet sheep:

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It was time for the sheep to go home while we were in their barn, so we had the fun of watching a border collie herd them into their van!  Then it was onto the chicken barn.  Y’all, I had no idea how many different kinds of chickens there are, and how beautiful they can be!

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We had come straight from school, and we were hungry.  So the next order of business was food.  And we all knew what you are supposed to eat at the Fair.

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After we ate, we took a look at the flyer we were handed when we arrived, and took note of all the interesting entertainment that was offered that day.  It had never occurred to me that the kids would want to watch shows, but they were very excited to watch the Frisbee-catching dog act:

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Later we caught an hour-long hypnotist show.  I had seen one when I was in college and knew what to expect, but William in particular was amazed and enthralled.  It was hilarious.

We also enjoyed the photography display and the winners of the cake decorating contest in the exhibition building, and wished we had time to look at more of the exhibits.  But a fair isn’t a fair without the rides, so . . .

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I did not ride anything.  Rides that spin in circles make me sick, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve become scared of roller coasters (perhaps especially ones that are designed to be dismantled and moved from place to place!).  William is also not a big ride fan, so the only one he was interested in trying out was the Haunted House, which he enjoyed.  He also went into one of the few remaining “Freak” shows, which purported to contain a woman with the body of a snake as I recall.

Lorelei loves rides, and did not find the Native American tent we visited next as interesting as the rest of us did,  But William was very interested in the different knives in particular, and Emily and I enjoyed listening to some flute playing and a short history lesson about the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

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Then it was time for the fireworks, and we found a nice place to sit on the far side of the lake to watch them.Fair 14Fair 17

We had a great time, and wished we could have spent the whole day there.  We would not have run out of things to do!  I don’t think Emily will have to try as hard to convince me to go next year.

Is there a fair where you live?  Do you like to go?

I’ve done it, you’ve done it–go ahead, admit it–forwarded a meme or an email that was so perfect, such a reflection of and corroboration of personal views, only to find out later it was a pack of lies.  It’s human nature to crave affirmation, and when such a beloved and respected person as Pope Francis is doing the affirming, that’s REALLY affirming.

But let’s remember the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, y’all:

As Francis Fever sweeps the nation, Francis memes, old and new, are flooding the internet.  Two extremely popular ones which I’ve made efforts to combat before are back again and stronger than ever, being forwarded by normally trusted sources including Catholics who really should know better.

Now, I hope as much as anyone that my dogs are in heaven, but that doesn’t change the fact that this meme is not true.

The above meme comes in many forms, and springs from a longer and more complicated story that made the rounds awhile back and also included the gift of a goat and the blessing of guide dogs.  I was suspicious of the story when I first read it, even though as you can see it was being reported by the mainstream press.  It took me about an hour of clicking back and doing research on the Vatican website to realize that the original article in the Italian press had conflated several events and was being misquoted to boot.  Anyone could have done this research but apparently they did not bother.

Y’all, come on.  I cannot BELIEVE that Catholics are circulating this.  I’ve heard plenty of people saying this, but not Pope Francis.  He didn’t say it or anything like it.

Pope Francis has said a lot of wonderful things.  He has also said a lot of challenging things.  Many are uncomfortable with some of his verifiable statements regarding homosexuals, capitalism, and climate change, to name just a few.

But what he has never done, as he very recently reminded reporters, is say anything that falls outside of Church teaching:

I’m sure that I haven’t said anything more than what’s written in the social doctrine of the Church . . . a colleague asked me . . .  “But is the Church going to follow you?” I told him, “I’m the one following the Church.” . . . Things can be explained, possibly an explanation gave an impression of being a little “to the left”, but it would be an error of explanation . . .  And it if necessary, I’ll recite the creed. I am available to do that, eh.

Yes, y’all, you read that right:  all that awesome stuff Pope Francis says is stuff the Church has been teaching all along! It’s all right there in the Catechism and encyclicals, and even most Catholics never read it, and it’s beautiful.  Pope Francis somehow is able to put these teachings into word and action in a way that resonates with people today.  People are listening to him and hearing the doctrine.  Because many cannot reconcile his words with their perception of the Church, they try to frame him as progressive or liberal or as someone who has come to change the Church, and I believe that is what gives rise to these memes that clearly do not reflect Church doctrine.

Pope Francis follows the Church

I remember a time when it seemed like we were always going to weddings.  Next came the baby showers.  Lately, it seems it’s always funerals.  It’s the circle of life and all, I realize (and I do love a good funeral, as I may have mentioned a time or two!).  But I’m ready to circle back to weddings (and my big kids are not quite there yet).

So I was excited to be able to be at my cousin’s wedding in Nashville last weekend, which left me with all those warm feelings you get when you attend a wedding where the bride and groom obviously really love each other (as opposed to that other kind where you leave thinking, “Well, that will never last.”)

I wanted to share a few pictures with you so you could feel all warm and fuzzy too.  But first, just a little background: My mother has one sister, and this cousin is her only son (he has three sisters).  Eight years younger than me, he was the only boy in our family.  I remember thinking he was a wild little thing, but that was before I had three boys of my own!

We grew up living in the same neighborhood, where our grandparents also lived, and we saw each other pretty much every day for many years.  But then they moved to a new neighborhood, and then I went away to college, and Jeff grew up and moved to Nashville, and our grandmother died, and what with one thing and another I think it may have been five years since I’d seen Jeff, at his father’s funeral.  And other than his oldest sister, whom I talk to regularly, it had been a while since I’d spent time with anyone else in his family either.  So it was a real honor to be able to share this special day with them and to get to visit just a little bit, and to meet his beautiful bride who we are all so happy to have in our family.

Now for the pictures!

Jeff and Quinn were married at an historic church near downtown, so first some pictures of that:

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I just have a few highlights of the people walking in to share:  my aunt Mary Leslie (only we call he Aunt Mezzie because that’s what my mother came up with as a child) with her husband, David, who was also the best man; the adorable flower girl; and of course the bride and her father.

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Next we have the proud father in the process of giving his daughter away, and then we have the newly married couple processing out (I really love that one!):wedding 8

wedding 9The reception was at Union Station downtown, an impressive location.  I’ll share just a couple of pictures with you.  Please note the FOUR (delicious) cakes.  When I remarked to one of the gentlemen cutting them that I had never been to a wedding with four cakes, he replied, “I’ve never served at a wedding with four cakes!” (They were chocolate, almond, caramel, and lemon, if you were curious.)
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And now on to living happily ever after. :-)

The Presidential Debates- An Educational

In this house, we LOVE election season (except sometimes on Facebook!).  We had a great time watching the first GOP debate last month (definitely the most entertaining debate I’ve ever seen) and then talking about it afterwards.

If you had asked me earlier this year, though, I would not have expected William (a 14-year-old 8th grader) to be glued to the screen along with John, Emily, and me.  It’s true that our big kids were interested in watching debates at his age, but I wouldn’t have thought William would sacrifice two or three hours of precious time that could have been spent researching one of his many obsessions about which he wishes to acquire ALL THE KNOWLEDGE to watch a debate.

As it turns out, though, he did watch the entire first debate, and had plenty of intelligent insights and opinions about the participants.  We all enjoyed talking it over and mostly agreed on who we thought did well.  Agreement on matters political is not taken for granted in this house, where the parents have opposing views on some issues and the kids have been raised to think critically and to form their own opinions, so it was interesting that we reached such similar conclusions.

So William was bitten by the bug, and he has added Donald Trump and his antics to his list of topics he researches.  For the past month he has watched videos about the Donald and has kept all of us updated on what he has learned (most recently being my source of intel about Mr. Trump’s Twitter exchanges with the Mexican drug lord who is on the lam).  William was so excited about watching last night’s debate that he did his homework WHILE IT WAS STILL DAYLIGHT, without complaining, so that he would not miss any of it.

That debate was really, really long, y’all.  Too long.  But we stuck it out, although we were too tired to hash it all over for too long afterwards.  Once again, William had opinions.  But there were a lot of people up there, and he wasn’t clear on all their names.  When he started reeling off his thoughts accompanied by his own unique descriptors, I knew I had to run for my notebook so I could record them for you all to hear.

2016 GOP Candidates, as named by William

1. Trump

2.  Jeb

3.  Young guy

4.  Jersey man

5.  Little curly ugly-haired man

6.  Sad man

7.  Woman

8.  Brain surgeon

9.  Random person

10. Old man that was not afraid to say things (clue: based on observations from the first debate)

11. He couldn’t even remember this one by the end–I wonder what that says about his chances?

Leave me a comment if you think you can guess who is who. ;-) And tell me, do your kids watch the debates? Do you talk to them about politics? Do you get upset if they don’t agree with your political views?

OakesFarm 1

As y’all know by now, I’m a US Family Guide blogger, which means occasionally I share offers for admission to attractions with you, then visit the attractions and honestly review them in this space.  In return, I get free tickets for me and my family.  Today I am sharing an attraction that I already know you’ll enjoy because I’ve visited it before.  Here’s what they’ve asked me to share with you:

Oakes Farm is the place to experience an amazing corn maze, a delightful pumpkin patch, an old-fashioned hayride, and lots more! Fall is simply fantastic at Oakes Farm … so, join us for a day that will provide a lifetime of memories! We’re becoming famous for our amazing corn mazes, which are works of art when viewed from above (of course, we have pictures) and challenging, life-size puzzles when you’re inside them.


oakesfarm-hayrideandpumpkin1oakesfarm-hayrideandpumpkin2General Admission includes admission to the “Back 40” and a hayride. The “Back 40” includes over 25 fun attractions! A Giant 9 Acre Professionally Designed Corn Maze, Giant Slide, Bouncing Pillow, Kids’ Corn Maze, Pedal Karts, Giant Sand Play Area And much more! Fun for all ages and any occasion including groups, field trips and birthday parties!



Located about 12 miles north of Knoxville, TN, Oakes Farm is a wonderful place for both the young and the young-at-heart to enjoy a truly unique outdoor experience at a very affordable price.

And guess what!  My readers get to save on your visit! $1 off General Admission – to Oakes Farm Tennessee Corn Maze! Valid for up to 19 guests!  Just click the link below for your coupon:
Oakes Farm Coupon for readers of Life in Every Limb

Hope to see you there!  And be sure to check back in a few weeks for my review, which will include lots and lots of pictures!


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