My Weekend Away - Getting My Christmas Gift 8 Months Later
United States
Redford
Michigan
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When it comes to vacations, my wife and I decide where to go together. But when it comes to making the plans, I take on that duty, which my wife gladly lets me, since I am meticulous in planning, maximizing, and getting the most out of wherever we go.

So for Christmas, I told her I wanted a weekend getaway that she entirely planned herself. She would decide where we go and what we do. So what follows is our 4-day weekend that she put together for us.

Keep in mind that I had no idea of what the plans were, or where we were going until we actually got there. I drove with direction from her, but didn't know what the final destination was until we pulled into the hotel. Each day's events were a surprise.
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1. Board Game: Kentucky Derby [Average Rating:4.41 Unranked]
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Redford
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We got up at about 6:00 AM, got ready, packed (I was told to pack normally, shorts, pants, shoes, sandals, bathing suit, nothing special was needed). We left about 7:30 AM and hit the road. We headed south into Ohio, and kept on driving through, only stopping once for lunch and gas after about 4 hours. We headed into Kentucky and kept on driving, until we finally reached our destination of Cave City, KY, 7 hours after leaving our house. This was the home of Mammoth Cave National Park, a place I had never heard of before.
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2. Board Game: The Flying Nun Game [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
United States
Redford
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We checked into our hotel, A Comfort Inn, and had about an hour to kill before our first "adventure" as she called it. So we relaxed a bit. Then we headed out and drove into Mammoth Cave National Park, going over lots of winding roads through lots of forest, before finally coming upon a clearing with a wooden building with a sign that read, "Mammoth Park Adventures".

As we got out of the car and headed into the building, I saw what we were about to do, which was something I had never done before. We were going to go ziplining through the trees. For those of you that don't know what ziplining is, you hang from and ride across steel cables connected to trees for fairly long distances.

We geared up in a harness and helmets, and joined two other couples and headed up into the first tree. Our guides were great, hooking us onto the tree and the lines, so we were always connected at any point and were in no danger of falling. It was odd to hang from a harness at first. You're supposed to just sit back and hang while you ride the lines, but your first instinct is to hold yourself up on the ropes. Doing that will just wear you out very quickly though. So after that initial jump out of a tree, you relax, and can ball yourself up or spread out to control your speed.

There were five different lines to ride, and it was a blast. The scenery was alright, as we were surrounded by nothing but trees, so there wasn't much to look at. But soaring through the air was great.

The adventure didn't stop there. We got back to the building, and they asked us if we also wanted to try the tower and the giant swing. I was a little apprehensive at first about stepping off a 10 story tower, but I figured, I'm already there, let's do it.

So we climb up ten flights of stairs to the top of a large wooden tower. When it is our turn, they hook us up to a rope and pulley. We are supposed to just walk off the edge, free-falling for a second or two before the pulley slowly lowers us down to the ground. Even when you're attached to a rope, it takes a lot of courage to just step off a platform at that height.

The giant swing was last, and they hook up your harness to ropes tied across two trees, which form a swing. Then they hook you up to another rope that lifts you in the air. Once up there, you have to pull on the release, and you go swinging down towards the platform, and then up wards into the forest, before being pulled back and swinging back and forth. This wasn't as bad as the tower, but the few seconds of free fall before the ropes catch is still unnerving.

Lots of adrenaline-rushing fun this first day, and we were beat from pounding these harnesses gave us as well as starting the day so early. So i twas off to bed, in order to wake up for the next day of adventure.
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3. Board Game: Mountaineering [Average Rating:4.47 Overall Rank:15917]
United States
Redford
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The next day we drove out back to Mammoth Cave National Park, and went to the visitor's center to pick up our tickets. We were going on three different cave tours of the park's namesake cave, Mammoth Cave.

Mammoth Cave was named due to its huge size. It is not very deep when it comes to caves, but it is the world's longest by far. It has over 400 miles of known length, all packed into a roughly 7 mile by 7 mile area. The world's second longest cave is about 190 miles.

The tours are all roughly 2-2 and a half hours long. Our first tour was the historic tour, which goes through one of the cave's natural entrances and into the sections that were first discovered. At our meet up point, the guides are explaining what we will be going through, for those that think they may not be up to the challenge. We would be going 310 feet below the surface. Some rooms were larger than subway tunnels, while one section, called Fat Man's Misery, would be a length of roughly 300 feet of crab-walking sideways because the path was so narrow. To top that off, the end of that path is called Tall Man's Misery because we would then have to duck down to fit into the 3 foot tall opening. And of course, what goes down must come up, so there were plenty of stairs to navigate our way back up to the surface.

The cave tours we're very cool. The paths are mostly smooth, since they filled in the main walkways with cave sediment that made smooth natural pathways. Stairs and handrails were added to make navigating easier, and electric lighting was added throughout the trails. But other than that, the caves are generally untouched. There were tools and artifacts that remain in the caves from as far back as 2000 years ago. We also got to see what it's like in there with the lights shut off completely. And what you see is absolutely nothing, not even your hand directly in front of your face.

After our first tour, we had about two hours before the next one, so we walked some trails through the forest. We though this was going to be a relaxing hike, but this is a very hilly area, and was almost as rough as navigating the cave.

The second tour was at an entrance a few miles away. So they loaded us on a bus and took us to the spot. It's pretty funny to see a heavy metal door in the middle of a forest. It was through this door that led us down, and into more caverns. This cavern was quite different from the open caverns of the first tour. There were lots of stalagtites, stalacmites, and rock formations, which gave a very different look to the interior. This trek was also quite a workout, dodging and ducking under odd shaped formations in the trail, and hunching through the paths with low ceilings. It's pretty amazing how vast and varied these caverns formed.

We had another two hours before the final tour that my wife was very excited about, but wouldn't tell me why. We ate some dinner and rested up from all the hiking. We met with about 36 other for our final cave walk through.

This tour was special because they wouldn't be turning on the lights. There were 10 gas lanterns to be distributed amongst the group, and we would be exploring that way. We went back in through the natural entrance, but took a different path, to areas that were mostly wide and open, since the low lighting would make the small paths dangerous to navigate. We got to an area with names carved all over and written with smoke in the ceiling. This area was quite a time capsule, as a lot of the names and dates were from the early 1800s. That, and just going through with lanterns was pretty amazing.

It was a long tiring day, but I had a great time. I was very impressed with my wife for setting something like this up, something I (we) had never done before and something I never even had the idea to do. We went back to the hotel as were tired and sore from all the hiking, and to get ready for yet another day of adventure.
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4. Board Game: Legend of the Flying Canoe [Average Rating:5.70 Unranked]
United States
Redford
Michigan
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Bright and early the next day, and we were off to do yet another activity that I have never done before, canoeing (though I have been kayaking once). We got to Mammoth Park Canoeing and Kayaking to rent our canoe, and they drove us through the park onto Green River. The river path that we got to take was roughly 7 and a half miles long. We brought some snacks with us, and headed down the waterway.

It was a nice day, very hot, and we got to see a little bit of wildlife. There were lots of turtles on the logs and branches, and we even saw a woodchuck along the bank. It took us just under three hours to make the trip, which was about an hour less than we thought it would take, since I had never done this before, and my wife only once.

The rest of the day was pretty open. My wife planned to visit different museums or caves, but we didn't really know what was in the area, so we went based on the brochures from our hotel. We first went to the Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum. This museum has tons of animals on display that have been killed and stuffed. The first room takes you into the butterfly and insect room. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of butterflies and insects on display, and a lot of them are huge! I have never seen such giant beetles and other creepy bugs before, most of which seem to come from South America. The rest of the museum is filled with all kinds of animals, birds, and even some fish from all different areas of the world. They had quite a collection on display.

Our next stop was Diamond Cave, a cave that is separate from Mammoth Cave. This cave isn't as large as Mammoth Cave as it only took about a half hour to walk through. But the cave was very wet as it was still actively forming, and this cave had way more formations. It was very different from Mammoth Cave and I am glad we decided to go. The entrance to this cave was below their building, and I find it pretty funny that you just open a door like you would to go to your basement, but the basement is a sprawling giant cave made of nothing but limestone.

After that we played a game of miniature golf (I got creamed), and grabbed some dinner before heading back to the hotel for the night. It was the last night before we had to head back home.

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5. Board Game: Down Under [Average Rating:5.61 Overall Rank:12423]
United States
Redford
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Monday was our last day. We ate breakfast, and then left for our final destination, Kentucky Down Under.

This place is a zoo that originally had only animals that you could find in Australia. But the zoo has had a new owner towards the beginning of the year and they are in a transition to becoming a full zoo, so there were some extra animals on display that you wouldn't find in the outback.

This place also had a cave (it seems like everybody in Kentucky does) which we got to tour as part of our admission. Due to the new ownership, the cave lighting was being reworked, so the tours were being conducted in the dark with flashlights and battery operated lanterns. This too was a small but active cave, so it was cool to see, and also had some interesting formations.

Back on the surface, we viewed an assortment of birds and reptiles. We got to go in a cage for a bird feeding, and get swarmed by birds as they ate from the cups in our hands. During a reptile show, we got to pet a bunch of reptiles, and even the birds in the smaller cages came near us as we looked at them. It seemed as most of the animals were used to people and didn't mind us at all. In the one area where they take you through a path that consists of kangaroo and emu, there were a couple of each that we were also allowed to pet.

It was a pretty small zoo, but you really got to get up close to the animals. And it looks like the place will be expanding quite a bit, so if we ever get back, it will be a great place.

After the zoo, it was back in the car for our 7 hour trip back home to real life.
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6. Board Game: Food for Thought [Average Rating:7.33 Unranked]
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Redford
Michigan
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I didn't mention them in the entries in order to keep them from getting too long, but I didn't want to shortchange the restaurants we ate at.

Our hotel had a hot breakfast bar every morning that we loaded up on. Then during the day we would skip lunch and eat an earlier dinner.

The first night we were looking up places to eat on the phone and came across a well-reviewed place called Mama Lou's BBQ. So we went, and got quite a surprise when we went inside. The restaurant dining area was about the size of our living room. There were only six tables total, and the walls were surrounded by with shelves and hundreds of coffee mugs. We sat at a table an both ordered the ribs with some sides. This place had some great food! It was all served on disposable plates as if you were at a picnic, but it was amazing. the ribs fell right off the bone, and the huge plate-sized piece of cornbread was awesome. My wife was so impressed with the place, she bought a t-shirt.

All day Saturday was spent in the park, so we went to the park's restaurant which is attached to its hotel. This was just an ordinary place. It had good food, and some good homemade jam for their biscuits.

On Sunday we went to eat at a Mexican place that was recommended by the guy that drove us to and from our canoeing destinations. It was called El Mazatlan, and was right across the street from our hotel. Which was a good thing, because I ordered the large margarita. The small was 12 oz., the medium was 16 oz., and the large was 45 oz! The food was awesome as well.

On the way home, we ended up eating at a place that my wife ate at all the time when she was a child, and are located all over everywhere, and was amazed I had never been there before: The Cracker Barrel. I liked it, I got the roast beef with carrots and macaroni & cheese. I thought the carrots and the biscuits were amazing. And they are everywhere, it seems like every other exit has one.
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7. Board Game: Family Vacation [Average Rating:6.19 Unranked]
United States
Redford
Michigan
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I was very impressed with my wife's vacation planning. There were a lot of new experiences that I had never even thought about trying before, and would now recommend to others. At the very least, the caves are definitely something everyone should see. Despite the descriptions and how scary they make them sound before you go in with the small pathways and the multitude of stairs, they are very safe and our groups had kids as young as 5-6 to people in their 60s.

It was a lot of fun and I am sad that it had to end, and even sadder I have to be back at work.
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