After a fantastic few days in the Great Smoky Mountains, we continued our 2016 road trip drive west toward Nashville, Tennessee. The route from Gatlinburg through Pigeon Forge and along I-40 to Nashville is about 4 hours. Tennessee is a long state! Because we had two cars, I went ahead of Todd with the camper on this drive.
The day we drove to Nashville happened to be my birthday, and some special guests were joining us for the day! My family lives in Alabama, so my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew drove up for the day to meet us on our journey. We were so excited to see them and to spend a little time exploring with them.
We checked into Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park. The park had a huge kid’s play area and pool, but unfortunately, we didn’t make use of it. Our time in Nashville was jam-packed with things to see and people to visit! The campground was in the perfect location to meet our visitors at the Grand Ole Opry House!
Grand Ole Opry House
The Grand Ole Opry is the longest-running radio broadcast in United States history. It’s a weekly concert of country music continued since 1925. While the venue has changed throughout history, the current Grand Ole Opry House has been in use since 1974 in East Nashville.
We greeted our family who had arrived shortly before us, and then entered the Grand Ole Opry House for a tour! We learned the history of the Grand Ole Opry from our tour guide. Then, we visited the backstage dressing rooms, the performer’s entrance, several sound stages, and even the artist mail room! Our tour guide was fantastic and she told us lots of little details about different artists who visit. After seeing the backstage fun, we were able to walk on stage and put on our very own performance at the Grand Ole Opry!
We enjoyed the tour and loved hearing about the history of the most famous music venue in Music City! Next time we’ll have to stay for a performance.
Opry Mills and Gaylord Opryland Resort
After our tour of the Grand Ole Opry House, we walked over to Opry Mills, the large shopping center, for some lunch. Opry Mills is located where the former Opryland theme park once stood. The theme park closed and was demolished in 1997, the last year I visited Nashville! It was strange to think about my 13-year-old-self riding a roller coaster in that exact location where I now ate lunch with my two rambunctious kiddos!
After lunch, we walked over to the Gaylord Opryland Resort. We walked in a side door and were immediately greeted by the cool breeze of the continuous 71-degree tropical oasis in the atrium of the hotel. The hotel is like a rain forest, filled with greenery, walkways, shopping, restaurants, and even a river with boats! The kids loved the little play areas and the water features. That evening we celebrated my 33rd birthday with a family dinner at a local restaurant!
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage
On our second day in Nashville, we had to say goodbye to my parents. It was so fun to have visitors on our road trip! One of our favorite parts of a road trip is all the friends and family we can visit along the way! My brother and his family stayed with us for the day, and we decided to visit Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. The Hermitage is the home and plantation of the seventh president of the United States. After visiting Mount Vernon and Monticello many times while we lived in Washington, DC, we were excited to explore another early presidential home.
Upon entering the grounds, the first place you visit is the museum. Andrew Jackson was a controversial person even before he because the seventh United States President. His history and the history of the Hermitage is displayed nicely among reading and artifacts in the museum. We spent about 30 minutes exploring as much of the museum as we could with toddlers in tow. Then we began the tree-lined walk toward the home.
The Hermitage Home
Considered by many historians to be the best preserved early presidential home, the Hermitage is a gorgeous traditional Antebellum home. The two stories, the double porches, the columns, the symmetrical interior, and the large hallway for airflow are all classic of historic southern homes. The tour of the home allows you to view each of the 8 interior rooms restored to Andrew Jackson’s time period. The thing I was most blown away by was some of the original wallpaper! It was so ornate and detailed.
After our tour of the home, we dodged a few rainstorms while we walked the beautiful plantation grounds and gardens. There are miles of trails to explore. The kids enjoyed hiding under a magnificent magnolia tree during a particularly heavy downpour! We visited the gardens where Andrew and Rachel Jackson along with other family members are buried. Then, we began our walk back toward the museum for some lunch in the café. We love to mix up our visits between outdoor activities and museums, and this was the perfect combination of the two!
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
After a quick lunch, we made our way to a quaint little suburb of Nashville, Franklin. The small boutique-lined main street was the perfect opportunity to enjoy some more time with my sister-in-law before we had to say goodbye. We celebrated our time together by a delicious treat at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream shop in Franklin. This is no ordinary ice cream shop. Jeni’s is known for their unique ice cream flavors and adorable shops.
I chose Brown Butter Almond Brittle and Salted Caramel to taste while the kids tried Lemon and Blueberries Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt. Oh my. So heavenly. It was so difficult to choose, but thankfully they do offer taste-testing! Todd took great advantage of this before choosing Middle West Whiskey and Pecans. There are several locations around the Nashville area, so if you’re in town, make sure you check them out!
After saying goodbye to my brother, sister-in-law, and adorable nephew, we spent the afternoon and evening enjoying downtown Nashville. We parked about 1 block away from Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943-1974. The building, built in 1892 as Union Gospel Tabernacle, continues to host Grand Ole Opry shows throughout the year and host tours during the day.
We continued walking down 5th Avenue toward Broadway and into the downtown area known as “The District”. We strolled down Broadway past honky tonks, restaurants, shops, and lots of interesting characters toward the Cumberland River. There was lots to see, and we even tried on some cowboy boots! The kids even ran into The King himself!
The riverfront park area is being revitalized, and right across the Cumberland River there are parks and trails to explore. We just viewed the river from the West Bank and then continued our walk down 2nd Avenue and then back up Broadway. It was a good introduction to downtown Music City!
After a quick dinner, we returned to Jellystone to pack up for our drive to Hot Springs, Arkansas the next day.