During a December Road trip, I discovered many things to do in Nashville and in other parts of Tennessee.
Music City lives up to its name. Walking down Broadway, music spills onto the street from various bars and clubs. From Toby Keith to Luke Bryan, you will find many bars and restaurants where you can enjoy county music. You will also find several world-class museums dedicated to county music history. I found twelve sites that shouldn’t be missed.
Cline died in 1963, but her legacy lives on. The museum is small but well-presented. There is a good film narrated by Beverly D’Angelo, who played Cline in A Coal Miner’s Daughter. Patsy’s numerous gold records adorn a wall, and her stage costumes are striking. Furniture from her home is also on display, which takes most visitors back in time. A timeline of her life events gives a visitor the scope of her life and how her legacy continues. Just below the Cline Museum is the Johnny Cash Museum.
Johnny Cash was the Man in Black and a county music legend. You will see many artifacts from Cash’s career. You will walk through his childhood, his Air Force career, and his rise to stardom.
I have fond memories of watching Campbell’s Good Time Hour. Glen started in Nashville as a studio musician and became the Rhinestone cowboy. While Campbell’s museum is not large, you will enjoy hearing his numerous hits. His collection of guitars, stage costumes, and awards is stunning.
The Country Music Hall of Fame is massive, with many displays of county music icons from its early roots to the present-day superstars. As a lifelong country music fan, the Hall of Fame and its three tiers of plaques to legendary performers, from Chet Akins to Blake Shelton, are impressive. The County Music Hall of Fame can be a bustling museum and is worth visiting.
A film begins the self-guided museum tour. The timeline serves as the guideline for the exhibits. There is more to the displays than just the musicians; it explains how African American music continues to evolve and change the world. The 1940s and 50s were my favorite portion of the museum because of Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, and Ella Fitzgerald, just three of the greats noted in the exhibits. The 60s brought us Motown and the 80s Rap. Dozens of artists are featured here, along with many artifacts.
The Musician’s Hall of Fame is next to the Historic Nashville Auditorium, just below the Tennessee State Capitol. The Hall of Fame is all about the backbone of the music industry, the musicians that make it happen. I found this museum informative and learned a lot about country music bands.
OTHER SITES IN NASHVILLE
I enjoy visiting state capitols when I have the opportunity. While each State Capitol contains similar offices, the Governor, the State House, and the Senate, the architecture of the building is usually significant. The Tennessee Capitol has a gold dome and is surrounded by numerous sculptures. President James K. Polk is buried on the grounds.
A short drive from the Tennessee State Capitol is the State Archive. There was more to this place than I imagined. You can walk through Tennessee’s history here, from the beginnings with the indigenous tribes of the area through the Civil War to the present. History buffs can spend a good deal of time here.
The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is located just off Broadway in the atrium of the Bridgestone arena. Displays on all Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame inductees from various sports, from Golf to Tennis, Football, and Racing. I hadn’t realized how many pro athletes were from Tennessee.
I needed a break from the hubbub downtown. The Greenbrier Distillery has a whiskey tasting of four of its whiskeys. I was fond of pecan liquor. It’s a short drive from the bustle of Broadway and has ample free parking available.
OUTSIDE of DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE
Lane Museum is an impressive collection of one man, Jeff Lane. What you will see here are not your everyday cars; they are unique and one-of-a-kind. Lane Motor Museum opened in October 2003 and is the largest European public car collection in North America. Every car has a story. Jeff grew up in the car business.
Housed in an old Sunbeam bread factory, the museum’s open floor plan made it perfect for displaying the over 550 car collection. Not all cars are on display at once; they are rotated. It was surprising to see many stacked vehicles in the vehicle maintenance area. Yes, all of them are operational. There is an upcharge to tour the maintenance area. All were stacked by color.
They supplement the collection with touring exhibitions like the Indy cars. There are many unusual vehicles here. The 1933 Dymaxion Replica was an eight-year investment of time for the museum, and the story needed telling. Designed by Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the Geodesic Dome, Fuller had a vision but ultimately only constructed three cars.
The largest vehicle in the collection is the 1959 LARC-LX, a one-hundred-ton military amphibious vehicle parked behind the museum. Don’t miss it; it’s not something you will see again. If you are vaguely interested in automotive history, this is a must-see. You will be amazed!
The Mansion is located on the campus of Belmont University. The docents were informative and pleasant; several were students at the university. The story of Adelicia Acklen is quite extraordinary for the era. Adelicia was married three times. First, she married Isaac Franklin. He ran the largest slave trading company in the U.S. in the 1840s.
In 1808 slave trading was banned in the U.S., bringing Franklin’s business to a halt. After the ban, he began an illegal slave trade. At the time, as a single woman, Acklen was the 7th top slave owner in the county. Franklin and all four of Adelicia’s children died.
Adelicia inherited sixty thousand acres of land, Franklin’s assets, and 750 enslaved people on plantations she owned in Louisiana. Adelicia married Joseph Acklen in 1849 and required him to sign a prenup. He managed her estate for his lifetime, and they had six children. By 1860, he had added more land and tripled her wealth.
Joseph died, as well as two of their children. After Joseph’s death, she went on a European shopping spree to furnish the Nashville house. It soon became the largest home in the state: before the Civil War. The house is exquisitely decorated.
After Joseph’s death, she married a local physician, Dr. William Cheatham, a mental health doctor. Their union didn’t last. They ultimately separated but never divorced. After the separation, Adelicia built a house a D.C. She was friends with President James Polk and his wife, Sarah. Two furnishings in the home were gifts from the Polk family.
After Adelicia died in New York of pneumonia at age 70, the Mansion was sold to developers. They sold the house to two women who wanted to start a women’s college. The Mansion is beautifully furnished, and forty percent of the items in the house are original.
There are many activities to do in Nashville. With only two days, I only touched the surface of what visitors can do. Broadway is the main drag of Music City, and most attractions are located nearby. I found parking was a bit expensive. The Music City Convention Center seemed to be the most reasonable at ten dollars for three to five hours. It is within walking distance of Broadway and many downtown attractions. Outside of the downtown area, parking can get much pricier if parking is not provided.
Get out and explore the Music City; you will not be disappointed within the heart of country music.
CAVES and UNDERWATER LAKES
I have visited several caves in the last few years, and this was the most unusual and certainly one of the longest hikes. Lost Sea is the largest underground lake in America. 13-year-old Ben Sands discovered the underground lake in 1905. By 1915, the cave was beginning to be used and developed for public use.
At the end of the hike is a 4-acre underground lake where you have a short boat ride. Visitors will learn the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. Midway through the walk, you will experience total darkness, which you can only do deep in the ocean and space.
You will also find glassblower Van Camp creating his art in the Old Sweetwater village area. His creations are worth seeing, and you might find something you will want to take home.
Lost Sea is in Sweetwater, Tennessee, between Athens and Knoxville, off Interstate 75. It is worth a visit. It is closed until March 2023 for construction.
A Tennessee road trip can make for an exciting and enjoyable journey.