High up in the Smoky Mountains, between thick patches of leafy trees and evergreens, lives a herd of horses that spend their days strolling through trails without a thought for the bustle of city life below. Up there, the Jayell Ranch horses carry tour groups along a 4-mile trail, showing them more than 220 acres of trees and mountain views.
In addition to friendly horses and breathtaking vistas, Jayell Ranch also hosts the longest zipline in the Smokies. To get to the launch point, guests board a 2.5-ton military monster truck and ride to the top of the mountain before strapping in and sailing to the bottom, feeling the thrill of life as a flying squirrel.
Edward Krump is looking for help. The paranormal professor wants to perform a complete survey of the reportedly haunted Castle of Chaos, but his limited budget means he will have to do so with the help of amateur volunteers. However, amateur doesn't necessarily mean helpless. Donning 3D glasses, the team will spin on the platform and use special pistols to zap targets throughout, possibly opening up bonus levels or making skulls do that creepy skull laugh.
Most people associate flying with the sound of whirring engines, intercoms buzzing, and even propellers sputtering into a spin. Wonders of Flight at WonderWorks, however, removes all audible distractions—its helium-filled balloon rises above the trees with nary a hum or vibration. The effect, says the website, is akin to "being on a flying balcony."
A maximum of 30 people can stand on the balloon's circular gondola as it ascends up to 500 feet in the air. After takeoff, passengers are treated to a sprawling view of the Smoky Mountains, as well as a bird's-eye perspective of the upside-down WonderWorks attraction. These 5- to 10-minute flights run throughout the day, permitting riders to snap photos of the scenery as the blue-and-green balloon levitates from its grounded tether. Wonders of Flight also hosts 30-minute wedding experiences, which afford couples ample time to say "I do," and toss a bouquet into a mob of jetpack-wearing bridesmaids.
Kim Warner’s daughter, Clare, was riding whitewater by age 3, and had advanced to doing it dressage style the following season. The owner of Rafting With My Kids, Warner has safely launched families since 1988, when she and her outfitters turned their condo in Asheville into a base camp for trips down the Tuckasegee, Green, and French Broad rivers. Now in its 24th season, a group of CPR- and first-aid-certified guides lead exhilarating two-hour voyages exclusively on the Tuckasegee River. Their gear includes lifejackets designed specifically for kids, enabling adventurers as young as 4 to pile into inflatable rafts with a guardian and older kids the freedom to venture out in two-person duckies. The water is only 3–5 feet deep on average and, as Warner puts it on the business’s website, the rapids are not “too hardcore.” Each guide carries a cell phone and a first-aid kit, as well as light snacks of cookies and peanut-butter or cheese crackers to keep rafters energized.
What sets your business apart?
There is everything you could imagine in an amusement center. We have four different go-kart tracks, eight different kiddie rides, including a 70-foot Ferris wheel, and three thrill rides: the Sling Shot, SkyScraper, and the 700-foot long, 80-foot high zipline. Fun Stop also features a state of the art arcade with the latest games.
What inspired you to start or run this business?
My dad and grandfather have been in the amusement business for over 20 years. Personally, I had always dreamed of making a career in the amusement industry myself. That dream became a reality in November of 2011. I truly do love this business, and what I love most is our great customers from literally all over the world.
What is your most popular offering?
Our most popular rides are the Sling Shot and the SkyScraper. Our go-karts are also popular because they are the fastest in town.
Barely able to walk on his own and many years away from becoming a reverend, a 3-year-old Jim Chambers rode a horse for the first time and was immediately enchanted. At 7, Chambers owned his own mare and paid for her necessities by selling rides for $0.15. Now, on his own ranch overlooking the tangled green of the Cherokee Valley, Chambers is still providing trail rides, campfire cookouts, and western horseback weddings. The Douglas Lakeview Stables crew leads trail rides every day, the Smoky Mountains cutting a rolling gray swath from the distant horizon. The adventures go on regardless of weather conditions, allowing riders to watch snowstorms unfurling over Lake Douglas or rain performing its natural role of ruining papier-mâché hats.