Back in 1995, fresh out of college, Shannon Skidmore and his fiancée, Shannan, leased a small 20'x20' building, an old Chevrolet van, and 50 tubes, and took over Smoky Mountain River Rat from its previous owner. Over the next five years, the “Shannons” gradually made the business their own by buying their own property, with Shannon using his contractor license and expertise to erect a new, larger building in just six weeks. Smoky Mountain River Rat has expanded to 500 tubes, two vans, and 20 kayaks, and the business now also offers whitewater rafting on the nearby Pigeon River. Meanwhile, its shuttles transport families up and down the Little River for unlimited daily rides, with customers as young as 2 years old floating down 1.5 miles of tubing-friendly, meandering waters as they trade off verses of old sea chanteys.
Tell us about your business.
Friendly Farm is a goat dairy that offers family-friendly activities that help families learn about nature and where their food comes from. We love the outdoors, farming, animals and want to share that love with others.
Do you have a specific philosophy—either toward outdoor activities or nature itself—that you are hoping to share with your customers?
We believe that we should enjoy nature, learn about nature, and by doing so we will learn to take care of our world.
What's one interesting fact most people don't know about your business?
You can train chinchillas to sit on your shoulder.
What special safety precautions does your staff take?
Our staff takes great care to help people learn about nature safely. All our animals are handled daily and we know them by name and are aware of their personalities. Our staff is trained to watch for signs of frustration in our animals and remove the animal to the comfort of its stall if needed.
One runner tucks his laser gun under his arm as he ducks behind an obstacle. Just before he's out of sight, his sister shoots at him from afar, settling the score with her sibling without having to deflate the tires on his bicycle. Within Battlefield Knoxville’s 36,000-square-foot arena, up to 40 players, armed with a selection of futuristic and realistic weaponry, go toe to toe at once. During play, groups embody fantasy action scenarios during games of Capture the Flag, Base Assault, and Rescue the Hostage. The facility also includes a gaming center where players give their limbs a rest at 13 flat-screen gaming stations that offer group bouts on Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 consoles.
Ijams Nature Center is committed to outdoor conservation and recreation, supplying members with rugged nature trails, an eco-friendly learning center, and a wildlife sanctuary spread over 300 acres. The visitor's center reduces energy emissions through passive solar heating, and most of the building's surfaces were constructed using materials made from recycled newspaper, cardboard, and grocery bags. New and permanent exhibits fill this space, such as Ijams Family History—which showcases the traditional preserved birds that highlight their passion for ornithology. Inside the forest exhibit, correct answers to questions light up components inside a giant walk-through tree, and glass cases hold specimens such as a hummingbird nest and snakeskin.
Heading outside, guests enter the raptor enclosure—a sheltered structure and small amphitheater housing a red-tailed hawk and turkey vulture, who read excerpts from their favorite Looney Tunes fan fiction during educational demonstrations. From here, all-ages visitors explore a greenhouse and organic garden. Children can frolic in Jo's Grove—an interactive nature play area replete with hidden spaces and materials for building a nature fort. Hikers and mountain bikers can traverse ten miles of surface trails that wind through mature woodlands, as well as Mead's Quarry and Ross Marble Natural Area.
Larry Schmittou, a renowned minor-league coach, executive, and overall baseball legend, traded diamonds for lanes to become president and co-owner of Strike & Spare Family Entertainment. Bowlers, gamers, and bar-goers can convene at locations across four states, each booming with the thundering sound of balls clashing against pins and confused children tap-dancing down the alley. The center is open 365 days per year, with lights and music enticing adults into the bar for a drink or snack, all while the arcade’s bells and whistles distract young ones until the lanes close. A bowling-rewards card incentivizes trips to the alley with credits for future purchases.
Visitors enter a gleeful realm of recreation and friendly competition amid the indoor and outdoor attractions of Putt-Putt Golf & Games. The emerald corridors of 54 mini golf holes meander throughout the playscape, forming three 18-hole courses that gradually escalate in both difficulty and the territorial aggression of their native windmills. The thunderous clap of bat barrels smacking line-drives resonates from the baseball and softball cages, where mechanical hurlers sling baseballs at four different speeds and softballs at fast- and slow-pitch standards. More than 50 arcade and ticket-redemption games hungrily devour tokens in the game room, and guests can sate their appetites with pizza ($9 for a large), hot dogs ($1.50), and scoops of Blue Bunny ice cream ($2 for one scoop).