Travel dates: July 14-15, 2016
Park: Jellystone Park, 2572 Music Valley Drive, Nashville, TN
The women agreed. After spending a week in the Great Smoky Mountains we wanted at least two nights in Nashville, Tennessee on our way home. The resort did not matter that much to us, as long as we were able to take in some of the sights, sounds, and flavor of Nashville we were going to be happy girls. Wayne is the one who selected Jellystone, I think he has a thing for BooBoo or maybe it is Ranger Rick. I dunno but which ever one it is, he was insistent on camping at Jellystone.
The drive from Townsend, TN to Nashville took us approximately four hours. As we neared Jellystone, large dark storm clouds threatened rain. Although check in was not until 4 p.m. we called ahead and the manager gave us the welcome mat to come early to try and beat the storms. We got checked in, unhitched, and leveled just moments before the skies opened. Lesson learned; sometimes those check in times are more of a guideline than a rule so be sure to ask.
Day 1: 2:00 p.m. Music Valley, Opryland Neighborhood
Despite the fact that our first afternoon was wet, we were determined to get out and enjoy the city. Our first stops were super convenient to Jellystone; they were a few hundred feet away on Music Valley Drive. We found several RV dealers that had a variety of campers that our local dealers at home don’t have. We looked at 5th Wheel trailers, Class A motor coaches, and even little girl campers. The fun abruptly ended when Angie slid down the steps of a Class A cutting her ankle requiring medical care.
Day 1: 5:00 p.m. Centennial Park:
The Todd’s second stop in Nashville was to a local urgent care center where Angie received five stitches.
The second stop for The Taylor family was to visit Centennial Park and check out the Parthenon. Lesson learned, in planning I thought the draw was to see this beautiful building….from the outside. I did not realize there were amazing things to see on the inside. So, we were not concerned with business hours and by the time we got to the park, the Parthenon was closed for the day. We milled around the building and Centennial Park. The park itself is beautiful with ponds, manicured lawns, beautiful flowers in bloom, and plenty of walk ways to stretch your legs.
We expected a lot of people to be in the park, this place came highly recommended so I figured it was a tourist destination. On the date we were there, it was packed. People milled every where. Families, groups of friends, people driving by in cars. It took us no time to realize that while this park was a tourist destination, it was being invaded by locals all playing….Pokemon Go! Under duress, I got a few photos of the family in front of the Parthenon before I gave up and consented to letting them play (and by that I mean be on their phones).
We will add the inside of The Parthenon to our return trip to Nashville.
Day 1: 7:00 p.m. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, 112 19th Avenue South, Nashville, TN:
While trip planning we knew that a visit to the famous Hattie B’s Hot Chicken Restaurant was high on our list. With heat levels that range from Mild (with a touch of burn) to Damn Hot (Fire Starter) or the Shut the Cluck Up (burn notice) we were a mixture of excited and intimidated to cross the threshold.
We met back up with The Todd’s, newly stitched and bandaged, late in the afternoon and the line was already out the door and around the building. Wayne and I easily agreed to split the large dark but choosing sides was super hard for us to agree upon. With options like Southern Greens, Pimento Mac and Cheese, Black Eyed Peas, and Baked Beans it was a tough decision. We found a seat on the covered deck and soon our meals were delivered. The chicken, slightly reddish from the spices, is fried to perfection. Crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. Hattie B’s is the kind of chicken that makes you visit Nashville over and over.
Day 1: 9:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Printer’s Alley and Pedestrian Bridges:
Every vacation has that moment when things just did not work out as planned. Well, for us, on this leg of the trip it was the time after Hattie B’s. We decided we would walk down Printer’s Alley and listen to the sounds of music pouring out of the buildings. However, we found parking to be a struggle for our large Ram trucks and when we did find a parking lot big enough to maneuver the trucks in, the spots cost $25. The price tag would have been one thing if we had one vehicle and we had planned to stay for many hours but we found it too steep for two vehicles and an hour or so of mingling in the area.
We decided to try out a pedestrian bridge. Siri failed to recognize the Seigenthaler Bridge downtown and gave us directions to the Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge. It was very close to the campground so we did not mind. Reviews said this bridge offers great views of the Nashville skyline. Althought we found it easily enough we could never find any access to it. We ended up driving around for some time looking for a way to access the bridge and never found it. In the end, we drove around the suburbs a lot and called it an early night.
Day 2: 10:30 a.m. The Ryman Auditorium:
After breakfast our group split in half. Angie and I along with the two teens made arrangements to take the shuttle to downtown Nashville while the husbands and two girls stayed at Jellystone.
We used The Downtown Shuttle to pick us up right at Jellystone Registration and drive us downtown. The cost was $10 per person round trip. The shuttle picked up tourist from all the local RV parks/hotels in the Opryland area and transports them to Lower Broadway. The Downtown Shuttle runs late hours so you get to determine how much downtown Nashville you want to see and have a safe way home. Our shuttle driver was very familiar with Nashville and with country music. She teased us all the way downtown with places we should see and she quizzed us with trivia all the way home. Considering how well we navigated downtown the night prior, using this shuttle was a no brainer for us…and it allowed the men to stay behind and not worry about us banging up their trucks!
First up on our day of sightseeing was the Mother Church, The Ryman Auditorium (Tickets were $20 per person). I do not think it matters what genre of music you grew up with, odds are your favorite artist has probably performed at The Ryman or at the very least dreamed about performing there. As a lifelong fan of country music I have wanted to visit the home of the Grand Ole Opry for my entire life. Being there was completely surreal.
The Ryman dates back to the 1880’s when a riverboat captain attended a good ole fashioned church revival. He was immediately converted and set out to build a permanent place for his preacher to preach in. After his death in 1904, the Union Gospel Tabernacle was renamed to The Ryman after the riverboat captain, Thomas G. Ryman.
Quick Trivia before I introduce Ms. Naff: this hat was made famous by Minnie Pearl. Any idea how much is written on the price tag so famously forgot to remove?
Thomas Ryman may have been the architect who built the Mother Church, but Lula C. Naff morphed the Ryman into the iconic building that we know. Under her management The Ryman became a premier performance hall and in 1943 she opened the Ryman up to the popular radio show. The rest, as they say in show business is history.
There are two types of tours at the Ryman; the self guided and the back stage. Both tours start at the same place, watching a movie titled The Soul of Nashville. The Soul of Nashville describes how the Ryman came to be the Mother Church, how it was abandoned, sitting in a state of dilapidation and nearly demolished, and finally, how it has once again rose to be the icon of Nashville. We followed a well marked path through the Ryman, reading well placed plagues full of historical information. We were able to see historic clothing from some of our favorite country music stars, sit in the church pews that makes up the audience seating, and we could even walk up on stage and stand near the unbroken circle.
Day 2: 12:30 p.m. Honky Tonk Highway (aka Lower Broadway):
Our shuttle driver informed us on our way downtown that Nashville had become one of the most popular destinations for bachelor/bachelorette parties. Four city blocks known as Lower Broadway is one of the main reasons tourist flock to this city. All day every day, you can catch live music in every bar in this area. There is no high dollar cover charge to join this party and if you get lucky you might catch site of a country music legend or at minimum catching the next big star as they work to make a name for themselves. If being inside is not your cup of tea, we also noticed numerous bachelor/bachelotte groups cycling through Lower Broadway on Pedal Taverns where you get to take the bar and music with you outside. It is so very easy to see why this has become a party destination. One thing is clear, this town is full of memories and legends. Every one you chat with has a story to tell. One of the stories we were told is about the alley between The Ryman and Tootsie’s Orchard Lounge. Performers of the Grand Ole Opry would sneak out of the Ryman and visit Tootsie’s in between sets, some of them not finding their way back to the stage in time. One artist even told Tootsie Bess that there were 17 steps to get to Tootsie’s and 34 steps to get back!
The four of us walked down Broadway, listening to the music as it flooded out into the streets. We stepped into every boot store we could just to smell the leather and try on hats. We ate lunch at Tequila Cowboy enjoying live music and a cold beer.
Day 2: 2:30 p.m. Country Music Hall of Fame:
Our last stop in downtown Nashville was the Country Music Hall of Fame, which was a two block walk from Lower Broadway. We paid around $25 per person to get in and we lingered in the Hall of Fame for a couple of hours walking from one exhibit to the next. The Hall of Fame is three floors and is also attached to Hatch Show Print, a printing company that has become famous for printing handbills.
From Roy Acuff to Hank Senior, from Patsy Cline to Taylor Swift and from Johnny Cash to Blake Shelton. Lead singers to bass guitarist and from managers to producers. If it is country music it at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The amount of history collected and displayed here is unbelievable. I felt like I was reliving moments from my childhood as we walked from one exhibit to the next.
Quickly some of the highlights from our time at the Hall of Fame; we loved the collection of cars, music, video’s, clothing, and instruments (Barbara Mandrell’s steel guitar!!). We saw the Hee Haw corn field, so many gold records, and we were super excited to see a painting by a famous Missourian (Thomas Hart Benton) hanging in the Hall of Fame room. The Hall of Fame had a Blake Shelton exhibit full of personal treasures of his rise to fame.
The Hall of Fame concluded Angie’s and my time downtown. We were tired, maybe a little hot, and ready to relax. We left the two young men with us and caught the shuttle back to Jellystone. The boys stayed and shopped until they found a new pair of boots and a cowboy hat to take home.
Our Nashville experience was almost complete. We had eaten hot fried chicken, walked around the Parthenon, seen The Mother Church, walked around Lower Broadway visiting honky tonks and western outfitters, and even hit up the Hall of Fame. There was one last thing for us to do….go to the Grand Ole Opry!
Day 2: 7:00 p.m. The Grand Ole Opry:
After a rest, nap, and a shower, we joined the rest of the family for a night out at the Grand Ole Opry. We were actually pretty lucky that our campground was in the Opryland area so it did not take us long to get to the Opry.
With a combination of old country and new/upcoming country we enjoyed our time at the Opry. The Opry started as a radio show and it continues to be. The show is divided into four segments, four different sponsors, one fifteen minute intermission, and over two hours entertainment. On the night we were there, we saw legends Connie Stevens, Whispering Bill Anderson, John Conlee, and Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers. We enjoyed rising stars, Jimmy Wayne, Kalisa Ewing, Keith Anderson and Craig Campbell. Merle Haggards son, Marty was there along with Mike Snider and bluegrass legend Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-press. I will forever be thankful that I had the opportunity to see Mr. Roy Clark at the Grand Ole Opry.
From the youngest in our group to the adults, from those of us raised on country music to our vacation guest who had never listened to a moment of country music before this trip, we all had a great time. It would seem as if we could not get enough as we have found ourselves tuning into SiriusXM to listen to more.
I might have dragged my husband to the Opry that night but in the end, he became a fan. We ended our evening walking through the Opryland Hotel, which is right next to the Grand Ole Opry. We woke the next morning headed home ending our first two week vacation in the RV. Since our return home, I have heard several songs on the radio that we were introduced to at the Opry. Which is kinda cool.
By 10:00 a.m. the next morning we said au revoir to Jellystone and Nashville. Overall, it was a whirlwind 45 hours and in true Roam With Friends fashion, we packed as much in as we could. We enjoyed ourselves and I think we all can say we have had a taste of Nashville and we left wanting more.