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Tennessee Travel Tips

TENNESSEE TOURIST INFORMATION: (615) 741-2158

NASHVILLE

Nashville is named after a Revolutionary War hero, General Francis Nash, but the Civil War is most apparent around town. Redoubts are still visible in the city's famous Centennial Park. (Nashville fell early to Union forces and was an occupied city for much of the War. In the Battle of Nashville, Confederate troops tried to free the city but were badly beaten in a two-day battle believed to have been the last before the war ended.) Today, Nashville has a delightful mixture of southern charm, classical Greek architecture (it is the "Athens of the South") and foot-stompin' rhinestone-studded country/western entertainment. Home of the Grand Ole Opry, and Opryland, an outlandish entertainment/amusement park, Nashville has something for everyone. And none of the cultures clash.Whether you like the historic charm, or the flashy musicals, both peacefully coexist in Nashville.

Statehouse (615) 741-2692
The Tennessee State Capitol was completed in 1859. Modeled after a Greek Ionic temple, it's classic, timeless design stands out among the modern skyscrapers that grew up around it. The Capitol's two-tiered tower with Corinthian pilasters supporting a crown ring, is patterned after the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens (Nashville is considered the "Athens of the South"). The slender tower stands elegantly isolated among the more common and bulkier buildings of the 20th century. One of the most beautiful rooms inside the building is the State Library, graced with a beautifully crafted wrought iron spiral staircase and balconies. To the right of the Library is a massive marble staircase with "chocolate marble" bannisters. One of the bannisters has a chunk missing from its edge, having been torn off by a bullet fired in 1866 during a bitter legislative battle over the ratification of the 14th Amendment.

Tip: Visitor's are not allowed on the top of the Capitol's cupola, but details are evident on the architect's scale model exhibited in the state museum.

Check it out . . . Tennessee has four tombs on its premises. The most unusual is the body of William Strickland, the architect of the building who knew he would not live to see the completion of his masterpiece and asked permission to be entombed in its walls. The legislature agreed. His body rests in the North portico. Samuel Morgan, the chairman of the Capitol Building Commission is also entombed in one of the western walls. On the grounds outside are the tombs of President James Polk and his wife, Sarah. Their tombs were designed by the Capitol's architect, William Strickland.

Check it out . . . The south entrance of the Capitol has a statue of Edward Ward Carmack, a journalist and staunch Prohibitionist who was killed by an anti-prohibitionist. Ironically, the statue is situated above the Motlow Tunnel, named after a partner of the Jack Daniels Distillery.

Check it out . . . The Tennessee Capitol is one of only two public buildings where smoking is allowed. (Tobacco is Tennessee's Number #2 crop).

Bicentennial Mall Outdoor History Museum (615) 741-2692
From the North portico of the Capitol is a view of the newly completed Bicentennial Mall. Completed in 1996, it was designed to resemble the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C. The Mall contains a Greek amphitheater, a 200-foot marble map of Tennessee showing its rivers and counties. The map is a brushed marble while the rivers are a smooth marble, giving a watery appearance to them as they stream throughout the state. Beyond the map is the Fountain of Rivers, where geyser-like fountains represent each of Tennessee's 31 rivers. From here the Mall is divided by a green lawn that separates the Pathway of History and the Walkway of Counties. The Pathway of History on the West is a 1400-foot Wall of History engraved with historic events in Tennessee's 200-year history. The wall "breaks" at the time of the Civil War to represent the divisive nature of this battle of brother-against-brother. The Walkway of Counties on the East is a walk across the state's 95 counties, highlighting topographical features of each area, depicting the flat, mountainous and rolling hills section of the state. Native trees, plants, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns and grasses are planted in each county accordingly, giving the walker a wonderful insight into Tennessee's botanical differences.

Tip: Visitors who walk the marble state earn a certificate, signed by the Governor that reads, "I hereby certify that <your name> walked across the state of Tennessee, this <day> of this <year>."

State Museum (615) 741-2692
Among exhibits of Tennessee's history, the state features a gigantic gristmill as its centerpiece, with a Conestoga wagon off to the left. Some of its unique artifacts are: Andrew Jackson's inaugural beaver fur top hat (and its leather hat box), Sam Houston's guitar, Davy Crockett's gun, and personal belongings of President and Mrs.James Polk. An unusual find is a display of actual homespun clothing from the 1700s. Another unusual feature is the beautiful artwork of 18th and 19th century oil and water color paintings.

Ryman Auditorium (Original Grand Ole Opry 1943-1971) (615) 741-1445
A tabernacle in 1892, an entertainment hall in 1904 and home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943-1974, this exquisite building dodged demolition threats for two decades, and is now a magnificently restored concert hall and museum to its 107-year history of revival meetings, lectures, political debates, boxing matches, variety shows and country/western entertainment. Self-guided tours take visitors into the concert hall where guests are allowed to get on stage, grab a guitar and have a photo taken of themselves singing into the historic microphone. Since this building was originally designed as a tabernacle, the orchestra seats in this concert hall are actually church pews that have been beautifully restored to a lustrous wood (after 50-year old gum left under the seats by Orpy fans had been scraped off). In the afternoon, the stained glass windows cast a glorious rainbow glow throughout the room. Exhibits contain relics of the building's tabernacle days, its entertainment hall days, and its Grand Ole Opry days, with old photos and artifacts such as Minnie Pearl's price-tagged hat, stringed instruments of the stars and Loretta Lynn's sparkly dress and shoes. Old-time radios upstairs replay some of the entertainment from earlier radio programs.

Check it out . . . The tabernacle almost met the demolition ball as early as 1905 if it hadn't been for one woman, Lula C. Naff, who took over the management of the place and changed the tabernacle into an entertainment hall -- featuring such notables as W.C. Fields, Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, Basil Rathbone, and Orson Welles -- and charging people a dime admission.

Opryland USA (615) 889-6611
It's like Las Vegas with amusement rides.The complex includes: The Grand Ole Opry, the nation's longest running continuous radio program, (which has not missed a broadcast since its first airing in 1925); a 120-acre theme park of rides, crafts and American musical entertainment including country, bluegrass, rock 'n' roll, Broadway and Gospel; and The "General Jackson," a four-deck paddlewheel showboat offering morning, afternoon and evening musical cruises.

Opryland Hotel (615) 223-2211 One the edge of Opryland is the Opryland Hotel with three interior Botanical Gardens: The Conservatory, The Delta, and The Cascades, each containing unique buildings, waterfalls, fountains, tropical plants, palm trees, and a riverwalk -- all under a large glass roof, protected from outside elements. The Delta includes passenger boats that sail along the interior "riverfront." Visitors are welcome to stroll the grounds and enjoy the many "village" shops and restaurants within each of the three theme Gardens.

1986 Parthenon (615) 862-8431
Built in 1896 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, Nashville's Parthenon is the only full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon in Athens, created with exact details. Just as in the days of ancient Greece, a 42-foot statue of Athena stands as the focal point. The Nashville Parthenon stands in the city's beautiful Centennial Park -- beside a swan lake with a center fountain and sunken gardens. It remains a monument to Nashville's nickname "Athens of the South." Now an art museum it features 19th and 20th century American paintings.

Tip: Walk through this beautiful park and rest on one of the swinging benches. Most parks provide benches, but these are benches that swing. How elegantly Southern!

The Hermitage (Home of President Andrew Jackson), Hermitage (615) 889-2941
The Hermitage was built in 1821 on Jackson's 625-acre estate. It was built in the Federal style, considered outdated for that time. After a fire in 1834 the house was slightly altered to keep up with the times: Corinthian columns were added to reflect the popular Greek Revival movement. Today the mansion retains much of Jackson's furniture and personal belongings. Of particular note is his library: a large room with bright green walls and a 19th century version of a Lazyboy chair -- in bright red upholstery. The colorful wallpaper is from France. It depicts scenes from ancient Greece. This wallpaper was Mrs. Jackson's favorite and after the fire in 1834, Andrew Jackson went to great lengths to repaper the walls with the same French wallpaper, even though his wife had been dead six years.The adjacent garden, is a formal garden with grape myrtle trees, money trees, and arbors along lanes that meet at crossroads of a circular garden of annuals. The garden was Mrs. Jackson's constant comfort while "the General" was away, and after her death (she died three weeks before Jackson went to the Whitehouse), President Jackson frequently wrote home to "keep after Mrs. Jackson's garden." Andrew Jackson is buried alongside his wife, Rachel, in her beloved garden.

OUR CAMPSITE FOR THE WEEK

Two Rivers Campground, (615) 883-8559 or 8(615) 883-070
Quiet. Clean. Well-maintained. Mature trees. Good roads. This campground has a lots of trees for the much-desired shade and privacy, and cement patios, which we really like. An extra-nice feature is the picnic tables. They're round, pedestal style tables, made of stone with matching half-circle stone benches. Very Greek or Roman looking, with little carved flowerettes, and other designs. These little touches make an RVer feel more at home, and more civilized. Being on the road so much of the time, an RVer starts feeling a bit too rustic, so these niceties are very much appreciated. The campground also is situated on a trolley route that provides easy access to all Nashville events. What more can you ask for? Good rates, you say? They've got the best rates in town -- and without sacrificing quality. In fact, the campground is sandwiched between two other competing campgrounds that charge from $5-$10 a day more, but don't seem any nicer, and they're certainly not any closer to all the Nashville sites.

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