From the outside, Professor Wonder?s WonderWorks Pigeon Forge laboratory appears to have flipped completely on its head. When visitors enter the upside-down edifice, they must first pass through the psychedelic spinning lights of the Inversion Tunnel, which turns the building right-side-up so that families can embark on a day of entertaining educational activities.
More than 100 interactive exhibits spark excitement around natural phenomena. The facility houses a replica of an astronaut's space suit that visitors can climb inside, a gallery of mind-bending illusions, and a caf? where human beings transform food into energy through the process of digestion. There's even a display that allows guests to experience the aftershocks of the San Francisco earthquake of 1989, as well as one where they can lie down on a bed of 3,500 sharp nails without receiving so much as a scratch. Additional activities include the Indoor Ropes Challenge Course, which exercises bodies and minds as challengers navigate four stories of swinging beams and suspension bridges, and the The Wonders of Magic, a variety show starring illusionist and Merlin Award winner Terry Evanswood.
Jim and Jeanette Greiner have been helping people escape the concrete ecosystems of everyday life since 1971. That's the year that they founded Wildwater, and as its name suggests, it started as a rafting outfitter that led groups down the rushing waters of the Chattooga River. Today, Wildwater's trained guides still navigate a number of rivers?the Ocoee, Nantahala, and Pigeon, in addition to the Chattanooga?but they've expanded their reach to the land as well. The company offers canopy tours with a combination of ziplines and elevated bridges, inviting guests to take a thrilling trip through the treetops. If clients prefer to stay within a few feet of the ground, they can opt for jeep tours that explore paths beyond the main roads.
Since Wildwater's team values the beauty of the natural environment, they embrace eco-friendly practices intended to help protect the areas they explore. Each of the company's locations strives to minimize its impact by using solar-powered water heaters for the showers, composting leftover food, and painting all of the outdoor equipment with chlorophyll.
As a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee's School of Architecture, Jon Felderman savored free time away from his office job in downtown Knoxville. Ditching his button-down shirt and tie, Jon headed to the Pigeon River on the weekends during the spring of 1996 to begin his training as a river-rafting guide. In just a year, Felderman's skill and enthusiasm had earned him promotions from river guide to trip leader and then to river manager—all while he maintained his full-time architecture job. Finally, in 2004, the inexorable draw of nature inspired a massive change: Jon abandoned the rigors of city life for good, founding his own rafting company, Big Creek Expeditions. Staffed by experienced guides who share Jon's love of the great outdoors, today the company leads trips down both the upper and lower Pigeon River and orchestrates rafting and camping packages for overnight expeditioners.
Two miles might seem like a negligible distance when you?re driving a car. But when you?re skydiving from two miles above the earth, you relish every foot that separates you from the ground. As the only safety net for their patrons, Skydive East Tennessee?s licensed instructors escort divers thousands of feet up into the sky, where they enjoy aerial views of the Smoky Mountains, make white beards out of fluffy clouds, and embark on 45-second freefalls. Before ever stepping foot into the company?s aircraft, the seasoned staff goes over all the details of the trip, ensuring jumpers know exactly what to expect as they leap from the plane and finish their fall with a scenic 5-minute parachute ride. A camera crew can document the whole experience, from the instruction period to the landing, and assembles the footage into a keepsake DVD set to music for an additional fee.
Runners embarking on the Honky Tonk Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K won't need headphones to hear twangy country tunes. That’s because the hilly Wisconsin Dells course features live bands and DJs along the route to keep participants energized as they race toward the finish line. The party-like atmosphere doesn’t end with the race, as a full-blown celebration complete with food, beer, and line dancing awaits runners and their family and friends. Aside from age-group awards for the top three males and females in each race, finish-line gifts include a Honky Tonk cowboy hat and goodie bag for all participants, a finisher-medal buckle for marathoners and half marathoners, and an ice bath for those who decided to pogo stick the entire 26.2 miles. The Honky Tonk marathon and half-marathon course is USA Track & Field certified and is also a Boston Marathon qualifier.
From the Friday of Memorial Day weekend until the Monday of Labor Day weekend, The Smokey Mountain River Romp sends tube riders and kayakers traversing the tranquil waters of Little Pigeon River on inflated tubes. Visitors strap on US Coast Guard?approved life jackets before letting the water steer them for a two-hour, 2.5-mile excursion past the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains before they encounter a stretch of residential Sevierville. Upon reaching the pavilion at the end of their trek, guests hop onto a shuttle that returns them to their starting point, nicknamed "the Barn," where they can feast at the picnic grounds or spend the remainder of the day fishing. Subsequent rides down the river are also free of charge, with a final journey commencing between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.