Georgia Aquarium: Whale Shark of a Good Time

The Georgia Aquarium is one of the biggest and best aquariums in the world. It was easy to put it high on our bucket list of “Must Go” places. We would like to start by saying a big “Thank You” to Jessica for being so cool with us. We always appreciate it when people open their doors and show us everything we wanna see. Now the highlights and details of the Georgia Aquarium.

Parking: Use the parking garage connected to the aquarium. It’s $10 for all day parking pass. We initially had some confusion on where and when to pay the parking fee. Here is the scoop on that subject: Pay when returning to your car at the kiosk near the elevators. Make sure to grab the receipt which you will use to raise the gates at the exit. Do not be cheap and use nearby parking lots offering $5, your car is much safer in the garage.

Hours: Sunday through Friday: 10am-5pm Saturday 9am-6pm Allow for 2-3 hrs to explore all that Georgia Aquarium has to offer.

Cost: General Admission Adult $29.95 Child $23.95. The experience for the child is “off the charts”, leaving long-lasting memories and making the admission price well worth it overall.

Our pictures and videos from the Georgia Aquarium centered around four permanent exhibits. We will give an overview of each exhibit. We decided to skip the Dolphin Tales because we heard it was geared more toward children. We also decided to pass on Georgia Explorer, we had been to a few aquariums in the prior months that feature local habitat similar to Georgia Explorer exhibit.

The Ocean Voyager Exhibit has to be the pride and joy of the Georgia Aquarium. It was a jaw dropper for us when we entered the exhibit and stood in front of the enormous viewing window for a long time just gazing into the blue hue. It is easily the largest tank in North America holding 6.3 million gallons of salt water, with four whale sharks and four manta rays . They are the only manta rays in an aquarium in the United States. An added bonus is the 100 foot underwater tunnel through the massive tank bringing you up and close to the giant groupers.

Nick standing in front of Ocean Voyager. Nick stands 5’11” The Ocean Voyager viewing window measure 23 feet high by 61 feet wide

Here is a tip: Have your camera ready when entering with a child, the expression on their face is priceless and needs to be captured.

Video:

The River Scout was pretty interesting to walk through compared to the other exhibits. The exhibit carries an outdoor theme throughout the entire exhibit. River Scout features animals that can be found across the world. Some of our favorite animals in the exhibit: Asian small-clawed otters (sleeping) and red piranhas.

White American alligator in River Scout Exhibit

Video:

The Cold Water Quest has a lot of stars in the exhibit The beluga whales (4 of them) are constantly swimming by the viewing window entertaining the crowd. They definitely acknowledge and know when people are watching them. The southern sea otters are huge compare to some other otters I have seen in the past from other aquariums. The otters were play wrestle with each other like siblings in their childhood years. In the penguin area, I convinced Nick to crawl through a tunnel to reach an up-close viewing area. The penguins were very active, swimming and waddling around their surrounding.

Nick trying to get a close up of the penguins in the Cold Water Quest exhibit

Video:

We have to agree with Georgia Aquarium’s statement “Tropical Diver is a living art exhibit”. The Pacific Barrier Reef filled with so many moving colors making it rough on the eyes to select just one fish. We never saw a garden eel before and it was helpful that one of the volunteers was present to tell us more info about the eel.

Video:

Our Closing Thoughts

Shawn: Great aquarium, really appreciate the high theme level for each exhibit. It works well in setting the overall mood for the exhibit. I could easily sit for more than a half hour in the Ocean Voyager and watch the whale sharks.

Georgia aquarium is a “Must Visit” if you have children. The kids in the area are lucky to be able to go on field trips to the aquarium and see the behind the scene workings. My childhood field trip consisted of trips to Johnstown Flood Museum which barely reached exciting on fun score.

Nick: The aquarium was amazing. If you have not been to Georgia Aquarium, you need to plan a trip ASAP. Going behind the scenes with Jessica was awesome. She was very hospitable, and knowledgeable about everything going on at the aquarium. She showed us some great stuff behind the scenes. I loved the penguins and the otters. I have always wanted to own a little penguin. I have to agree with Shawn that the Ocean Voyager was my favorite part. Sitting there looking at Voyager tank is like having a seat down on the bottom of the ocean looking out. Awesome view. Next time I wanna get in the tank! This place is definitely on my top 10 places. Can’t wait to go back. I give this place 10/10

We have more pictures on our Wanna See It All Facebook Page

NASCAR Hall of Fame, Checker Flag or 5 Car Wreck

The NASCAR Hall of Fame was not on our original game plan when we visited Charlotte. Our goal was to tackle the Intimidator at Carowinds, but we were unaware that they would be closed during the weekdays in late August. So we quickly needed an alternative fun place to visit to make the 4 hour trip worthwhile. The NASCAR Hall of Fame caught our eye. Not because we are die-hard race fans (We are only average fans) but due to the “over 50” interactive stations at the Hall. So we decided to head to the NASCAR Hall of Fame . Boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s go racing boys!

The admission for the Hall was $19.95 which was a fair price for the two hours we were wondering around the place. They will give you a “Hard Card” at the admission counter which you take it to the first station to create a profile for the interactive experience throughout the Hall. Be mindful and pick a nickname that would be proper for the general public because it may show up on the big screen for all to see. Make use of the “Hard Card” throughout the Hall to get most out of the experience and you will receive a final score at the very end of the Hall. A very cool idea.

The very first area we discovered was the Great Hall with Sunoco Glory Road leading up to the third level. They have a number of historic cars on display in this area. They did an amazing job showcasing these cars and very creative way to get people to the upper level. Way better than an escalator or elevator.

One of the many historic cars located in the Great Hall

One of the cars on display on Sunoco Glory Road

The third level has the Hall of Honor. NASCAR did a terrific job honoring their legendary drivers. The lighting, displays and video screen around the upper dome, they all come together to set the appropriate mood. If you’re a die-hard racing fan this area is a “Must” visit.

Hall of Honor

The rest of the third and fourth levels hold the majority of the interactive stations of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. They help people get a better understanding what happens on “Race Day” and the progression of racing through the years. The two stations that were the most fun were the Kobalt Pit Challenge and iRacing Simulator. The Kobalt Pit Challenge allows two people to simulate a timed pit stop in NASCAR. None of us wanted to show our pitiful attempt at changing a tire, but we did capture two guys that put on a clinic on how it should be done. (Video Clip) The iRacing Simulator was an extra 5 dollars, but it was worth every penny. Jerry and Shawn both jumped in a car to race on the Bristol Track against other visitors which consisted of 2 pace laps and about 12 laps of racing. Jerry did very well, but Shawn managed to get the 3rd fastest lap time overall for the day and still only finished 7 of 8. The controls take some practice so make sure to visit the practice area first.

iRacing Simulator: Each car holds two racers. The race is broadcast on the big screen along with the fastest times of the day.

Josh: What I liked about the Hall of Fame?
The history behind NASCAR, the memorabilia in the glass cases, the interaction activities.
It was an all around good time.

Jerry: What I enjoyed the most from my visit at the Hall was how it brought you every aspect of NASCAR and how it all started from the moonshiners to the 1st race at Daytona Beach to the Super Speedways of Talladega! Its great how the Hall allows you to test your skills with the simulator and pit crew tests. I would recommend a visit to anyone who loves NASCAR like me!

Shawn: During iRacing, I was going with Ricky Bobby ideology of racing “Only one speed ~ Fast” which in return I shared some rubbing time with the wall.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame was a surprise hit for us. We do not think you have to be a NASCAR fan to appreciate this place. They did a terrific job creating an environment that appeals to a broader crowd thus potentially gaining new fans. Well played NASCAR Hall, you received the checker flag from the Wanna See It All Guys.

Video:
Link to Video on Youtube

We have many more great photos posted in our Facebook Album worthy of a check out.

SweetFrog, Get in My Tummy

SweetFrog is a chain of premium frozen yogurt shops found across the United States. They are a type of yogurt shop where you grab your own cup, flavor, and toppings. The weight comes into the factor of the cost of the goodness. I only became aware of this place couple weeks ago while reading a post on Facebook. Someone mentioned how they had a craving for some SweetFrog that needed fixed ASAP. After 36 “Likes” and positive comments I knew we had to check this place out.

Josh’s Choice: Peanut Butter & Chocolate Milk Yogurt with chocolate chips chopped up snickers, caramel syrup and hot fudge with whip cream.

The closest one for us was only 4 miles away. When we walked into SweetFrog, we were greeted right away. The employee had so much joy and enthusiasm that it actually carried over to us. I was so pumped up to pull the yogurt machine handle and win my prize. They have over 50 flavors but the location we were visiting only had ten flavors available. Before going to SweetFrogs, I checked the flavor options online ~ I was gunning for Jolly Rancher Fruit Punch. It would bring back memories as a kid walking home from school and stopping at small newspaper/candy shop to buy some 10 cent jolly ranchers. I was a little disappointed that my memory was not available and I had to go with a back up plan. I decided to get all Top Chef “Just Dessert” creativeness with the red velvet yogurt with white cake pieces and white chocolate chips. It was amazing and only $5 out-of-pocket (pretty good value) It actually tasted like red velvet cake.

I told Nick ahead of time to get crazy with his selection and be somewhat adventurous. Prior blog entries ie Wilber’s Barbecue might give you a clue how far out of the box Nick goes. He went with Cookies & Cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. His selection reminded him when he was little, his mom would take him to dairy queen almost every day after school to pick up some cookies and cream blizzards or sometimes stop by the gas station and pick up some Reece cups / slurpie combo. Overall he agreed with me that SweetFrog has some good yogurt.

Shawn’s Choice: Red Velvet with white cake & white chocolate chips

Nick’s Choice: Cookies & Cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

We will definitely be repeat customer at SweetFrog. So many interesting flavors to try. As we try them we will update this post.

Our Flavor Hit List: Apple Pie, Maple Bacon Donut, New York Cheesecake, Root Beer Float and Thin Mint Cookie

Side Note: Josh went a couple of days later after us.

Patriots Point, We Salute You

Patriot Point is probable the best naval museum in the United States. Patriot Point is located just north of Charleston, SC. It took us about a 2 hour drive from Myrtle Beach to get there. The cost of parking was $5 for the day. Side Note: Ever notice when you drive up to one of these parking booths that your passengers are always looking out the opposite side window. The cost of admission for an adult was $18 which we feel is a pretty good deal for the amount of time you will spend there. You can explore the USS Clagmore (submarine), USS Laffey, USS Yorktown (aircraft carrier) and Vietnam Naval Support Base. Doing all of these would take up a good portion of the day. We will break down each section of Patriots Point.

USS Clagmore

Currently the USS Clagmore is having maintenance work done so we were unable to explore this time around. They posted that the repairs would be done in Mid-July.  But during a prior visit we had the opportunity to check out the inside of the Clagmore. I could only imagine my 6’1″ frame would be a hinder if I was a sailor back in the sub’s active day. The corridors were very tight and cramp. If you have a phobia of tight places this would not be on your high level of fun.

USS Laffey

The USS Laffey was nicknamed “The Ship That Would Not Die” because the ship held off so many kamikaze attacks. The USS Laffey took about 30 minutes to walk through the entire ship. The highlight for us was the ability to check out the area where the crew worked the cannons. Manning the cannons had to be the worse job on the ship, to sit basically in a hot box for hours with no air circulation.

USS Yorktown

The USS Yorktown is the best part of the Patriot Point experience. The ship is broken down into 6 different tours with each taking about 30 to 45 minutes to walk through. We had a lucky opportunity stand in on a tour given by one of the volunteers. Most of the volunteers were in the Navy during World War 2 so the stories they have to share carry that much more weight and interest. If you have the chance to follow a guide around the ship do so, it takes the experience to a much higher level.

When taking these 6 tours, you will be going up and down stairs at a constant rate. You will get enough exercise and no need to hit the gym later. This place is a perfect father/son outing, guarantee no boy would  turn down this adventure. Our favorite spots (kinda obvious) flight deck, hangar bay and torpedo workshop. The added aircraft (over 20) on the deck and hangar was a very nice collection.  Please make sure to check out the Medal of Honor Museum near the entrance of the USS Yorktown. It was done very well and the tunnel caught me off guard in a good way. Some added photos below with 2 videos.

Photo from the flight deck of Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge leading into Charleston

Torpedo workshop aboard the USS Yorktown

Where pilots go over flight missions

The HD Video

The SD Video (different from HD)

Coccadotts, Rule 106: Never Turn Down a Good Cupcake

It was a nice surprise that Coccadotts Cake Shop recently opened just two miles away from us. They had some pretty good credentials for making good cupcakes.  An automatic decision was made to go check them out and welcome them to the neighborhood.

As soon as I walked in Coccadotts, I was greeted with a warm welcome and smile.  They encourage questions to help out with the selection that fits your taste buds.  They have so many different cupcakes;   it would take a couple of trips to just go through the top-tier ones. On the first trip we sample several flavors.

Below are photos and comments about each one.

Gnome Cupcake: Shawn's Favorite ~ Chocolate cake with peanut butter flavor Nice surprise at the base

Tough Cookie: Josh's Favorite ~ Chocolate chip throughout the cake with cookie dough pieces on top.

Snickers Cupcake: Very good, has piece of snickers in the center of the cake.

Guinness Cupcake: Actual made with Guinness Beer

Chocolate Mint Cupcake: Makes your kitchen smell minty.

Boston Cream Cupcake: Sadly no cream in the center of the cake.

Bacon Maple Cupcake: Definitely taste the maple.

They were all good cupcakes; we will be back for sure.   Rule 106 applies here  “Never turn down a good cupcake.”

Pigeon Forge, TN : Josh’s Breakdown of the Road Trip

Mountain Harbor Inn was a very nice place, ideal for honeymooners, or romantic get aways, not so much for 3 guys. Although the Condo of the Rich and Famous had 3 bedrooms so we didn’t get too many weird looks. Real relaxing atmosphere, right on the lake, pontoon boat rentals also available, away from everything but close enough to everything, plus Mountain Harbor Inn had a pretty killer breakfast.

Dollywood, I myself was not to impressed with it, they needs more rides. The rides they do have were pretty fun like Thunderhead and Barnstormer. We have a good pov video we put together using the GoPro Hero camera from the Barnstormer ride.(Jerry was with me on the ride and you can hear his excitement over the rest of the people)

I did not go on the River Rampage but Shawn and Jerry decided to jump on the ride. I discovered the water guns along the fence line used to spray unsuspecting people as they passed on the raft. I think I spent probably 3 or 4 dollars messing with people including Shawn, good times!

We went to eat at Mama’s Farm House, the drive there was interesting I was driving and about got us in  2 or 3 wrecks, but as far as the restaurant goes it was excellent, the servers brought it out in small portions and it was family style. The mac n cheese and chicken was good. I recommend you  check out if you are ever in Pigeon Forge.
After we were done eating needless to say I wasn’t allow to drive back to the inn.

Forbidden Caverns was a really cool place, it used to be an old moonshiner’s hide away. The Forbidden Caverns tour guide was pretty funny real theatrical woman and friendly and knowledgeable, pretty interesting stories behind the caves from indians to moonshiners. On the way back to the Harbor Mountain Inn  we also found where Bush’s baked beans was made.

Josh waiting to get inside Forbidden Caverns

As far as the whole town of Pigeon Forge, it was great. Pigeon Forge has a lot of shops, museums,and eateries along the main stretch of road. We were wanting to go on the cable car up into the mountain but for some reason Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort was shut down. The road trip was a pretty good time.

Pawleys Front Porch – Hamburger Heaven in Columbia

Pawleys Front Porch is located in Columbia, SC. I have been to this place twice in the last couple months and was not disappointed at all. There is three things my taste buds know well pizza, BBQ, and hamburgers. Pawleys Front Porch has the best hamburgers I tasted yet.

Our first visit to Pawleys was on a Sunday, we sat inside the restaurant. The inside can have a cramp feeling when the place is jumping with customers (try to get a booth if you can).  A few items come into play when I make a burger selection off the menu. I don’t do veggie toppings or mustard. My burger got to have some kind of cheese and another protein on it to take the hamburger to another level. I chose the Wadmalaw Burger: chipotle BBQ sauce, fried pickle chips, applewood smoked bacon and cheddar cheese. The only topping that was a big question mark for me was the fried pickle chips, not a big fan of pickles in general. These fried pickle chips were awesome, the batter was the key factor. I kinda wish I would have ordered them as an appetizer. The BBQ sauce was the highlight of the burger with a perfect tang taste. The burger was cooked just right still retaining all of it juices. The Wadmalaw  was a burger masterpiece.

Pawleys Front Porch

Wadmalaw on left and Beaufort on right

The second visit, we chose to sit outside on the patio. Great place to people watch while enjoying a quick-lunch. This time around I chose to be a little bit more daring in my selection of the burger. I went after the Beaufort: Franks Red Hot onion ring, fried egg, apple cured ham and cheddar cheese. I had to minus the Frank onion ring because of my passion to dislike onions. The burger was good but the fried egg played a smaller role than I was expecting. I did not get much taste from the egg but the ham made up for the difference. Overall it was still better than the average hamburger.

Every time we drive through Columbia we mention about stopping at Pawleys Front Porch for a round of hamburgers. Take note on Tuesdays, they do half price burger from 5pm to 7pm which makes it an absolute bargain.