We dropped Duncan at the vet's office to board as soon as they opened at 8am Wednesday morning and then hit the road. My, oh my, Illinois is a long state! We stopped for photos with the giant Superman statue in Metropolis and I was a bit disappointed that he was wearing a Santa hat since it's AFTER Christmas, but I guess we'll remember the time of year. We hit a bag of garbage on the highway and had to stop to remove it from under the car. The kids found that minor inconvenience hilarious and really, it was. We didn't stop again until we were deep in the mountains and we stopped to eat and pick up a couple of things at Walmart. We then drove on to a suburb of Atlanta and stopped for the night. It was a long day of driving, but the kids did great and everyone was happy to be getting away.
Thursday morning we got to the Georgia Aquarium right after opening. We walked right up to the ticket window and then headed directly to the whale shark viewing tube. We had the whole area practically to ourselves! The kids were blown away by the huge whale sharks and manta rays! Usually, one of our big favorites at aquariums is sawfish. The sawfish were all over the tunnel area, but we hardly noticed them with four huge whale sharks swimming just feet from us. We then beat the crowds to the beluga viewing area and got lots of fun interaction. I love the rare opportunity to see an octopus, but usually they are crammed into a corner or rock and you can just see a small part of them OR the tank is so dimly lit you only see a silhouette. The octopus was moving all over its well-lit tank. The sea otters had just been fed and were very active. The rays in the touch tank WANTED my kids to pet them. The dolphin show was a little silly with singing and pointless drama, but the parts that contained actual dolphins were incredible! The place was packed by the time we left, but it was a fantastic experience. I bet I've taken the kids to at least 40-50 different zoos and aquariums and this was easily their favorite.
We then headed across the park to the World of Coca-Cola. The kids were really looking forward to this place. It was early afternoon and BUSY. They have three areas to slow crowd flow before allowing you into the main museum area, but we still waited at least 30 minutes in line for the uber-cheesy vault tour to see the safe where the secret formula is stored. It was so dumb :) We then went through a couple of memorabilia areas, an area that showed old television commercials and a bumpy "4D" movie that was pretty fun. The bottling plant tour (they give you a souvenir bottle of Coke when you leave) was really cool. Finally, we got to the tasting area, with 60 different flavors of Coke products from around the world. It was fantastic! The special flavor was gingerbread Coke which was delicious. We then tried sips of dozens of crazy flavors from around the world. Everything from watermelon to apple to vegetable soda. The Asian flavors were our favorites and the European our least favorite. We all had to retry the infamous and disgusting Beverly of Epcot fame. It's Italian and one of the worst drinks I've tasted. The tasting area was by far the best part of the tour and while very fun, I don't know if I'd go back to the World of Coke. I'm glad we did it once.
Logan has decided that he hates elevators and urban areas, so we headed to the suburbs to find a hotel for the night. We stopped at a huge shopping mall with a Lego store. The mall reminded me of a combo between Woodfield and Gurnee Mills malls near Chicago. However, instead of being at all uppity and high class, it was filled with weird mall things from the past. They had one of those virtual reality box rides that were popular in the 80s and a big section of shiatsu massage chairs from the 90s. It was like having the store selection of a nice urban mall in the building of the Pekin mall. I normally only tolerate malls if they have Lego stores, but I enjoyed this one very much. We found a Drury Inn with an indoor/outdoor pool and the kids are in heaven. I would totally book it for another night, but I think we're going to head back to Tennessee after we go to Zoo Atlanta today.
The place I'm planning to go to see the huge sandhill crane migration is all over the internet because an Asian hooded crane that is NEVER seen in the United States has been spotted. It is such big news that it was actually #3 in the top ten searches on Yahoo yesterday. Birders from 32 states have gone to this place in hopes of seeing the rare crane. I'm a bit bummed because I was assuming I'd have the place to myself. Oh well... We can't have everything :) Otherwise, the trip is going great and we're having a blast!