The Very Best of Tennessee

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If you’re looking to plan a trip to the Nashville area, I’ve got you covered with some cool stuff you can do.

Just a quick note, I won’t be talking about any of the country music stuff because that’s what most people associate Nashville with and there’s way more to it than that. Also, I’m trying to talk about locations that people from out of state or across the state may not know about, or maybe have heard but have never experienced. I will, for the most part, avoid talking about tourist destinations.

I will also be showing you around my hometown, Murfreesboro! It is about 35 minutes south of Nashville, and is growing rapidly. It has a lot of its own fun places but with a more suburban feel.

All information is current as of March 2019. All times listed are in Central Time. All photos were taken by Jackie of The Vibrant Dreamer unless otherwise stated.

Getting Here!

Nashville only has one airport, BNA. It is located between all three major interstates in Tennessee. I would recommend renting a car or taking your own car.

Both Nashville and Murfreesboro have a bus transit system, but I’d still recommend driving yourself. The public transit system is… basically, not great unless you’re just going around downtown Nashville, in which case you can utilize the free Music City Circuit.

There are several lots in downtown Nashville that you can choose from; if you’re planning on visiting several different spots in a day I’d recommend figuring out which lot is best for you based on proximity to your hotel/AirBNB. Or, it may be cheaper for you to take an Uber. It’s really going to depend on what works for you. I am the type of person who prefers to just park once and be done with it, but I am also able-bodied and don’t have children.

Murfreesboro is a more suburban area, so most of the places that aren’t in the heart of downtown will have their own lots. If you are visiting the public square, most of the parking is free for 1-2 hours only. You can park for free all day in the public library parking garage located on Sevier Street, and there is also a parking garage at the Judicial Center located at 225 N. Maple Street.

Fun Activities in Nashville & Murfreesboro

Adventure Science Center – Nashville

(Open every day from 10am-5pm, except for some events)

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The Adventure Science Center is a multi-level, interactive science and technology museum. They feature various science/technology exhibits and also several activities for all ages. Some events are adult-only but most of them are for all age groups.

They also feature a planetarium with a variety of its own events and showings. The planetarium has a separate event list that can be viewed here. Also, on Monday mornings before they officially open, they have an Early Explorers event geared towards children 6 and under! For more information and the event schedule, click here.

You can plan on spending a long time there, as there’s a lot to do and see! It’s possible to spend several hours there and still not see everything, so this is definitely not something you’d want to rush. They do have a Subway restaurant inside, and you are permitted to leave the center and come back, as long as you keep your ticket receipt for re-entry.

Nashville Zoo at Grassmere – Nashville

(Open 9am-6pm: March 8, 2019 – October 10, 2019

Open 9am-4pm: October 11, 2019 – March 2020)

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Photo by Jacob Brogdon

I know zoos are not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you and your family enjoy them the Nashville one is a good experience.

The food at the zoo is tasty, but it’s expensive. If you are on a budget, I recommend bringing your own food– there are plenty of tables/benches to sit at to eat. Save your money for something from the gift shop if you are looking to spend money at the zoo.

A must-see exhibit is the Kangaroo Kickabout! It’s a quite popular exhibit, but absolutely worth it. You can go through the exhibit on a path where the kangaroos are just out, so you get to be closer to them than you normally would (but you still have to stay on the path). There are usually crowds, and last time I went there was a line… but it’s worth the wait.

They recently added a cool thing called the Veterinary Center… that I haven’t even been to yet, that’s how new it is! You can see how the animals are taken care of at the zoo, and learn about animal conservation and care as well.

It usually takes around 2-3 hours to see everything, but possibly longer with children.

Mewsic Kitty Cafe – Nashville

(Open Thursday-Sunday from 11am-6pm)

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Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev

Nashville’s first cat cafe!!! If you aren’t familiar with cat cafes, basically they are a place where you can get some coffee/tea/pastries and play with some cute cats who are available for adoption. You can get some much-needed cat therapy!

They will only accept walk-ins if there is space, so if you need a specific time slot a reservation is your best bet. You can book online up to three months in advance. The cafe does recommend that you arrive approximately ten minutes before your appointment.

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens – Nashville

(open Tuesday-Sunday from 9am-5pm; hours may vary by event and season)

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Photo by Joshua Ness

A gorgeous 1930s estate that now serves Nashville as a botanical garden and art museum.

They feature 55 acres of gardens for your viewing pleasure. Cheekwood also hosts several events throughout the year; their calendar is here in case you want to see if any of them coincide with your visit!

Honestly my favorite thing to do here is just… walk around and be in nature. This might be a good chance for you and your family / significant other to just unplug from technology and be outside.

Go USA Fun Park – Murfreesboro

(Open Sunday-Thursday 10am-10pm; Friday 10am-1am; Saturday 9am-1am)

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There’s something here for everyone– Go karts, mini golf, driving range, batting cages, and a pretty big arcade. You can easily spend hourshere, and if you have kids they probably won’t want to leave… that’s how I was when I was a kid, anyway.

Insider Tip: Take the entrance from Robert Rose Drive to avoid a traffic nightmare!

Stones River Battlefield – Murfreesboro

(open 8am-5pm)

One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War occurred here in 1862. Today, it showcases several walking trails, guided tours (May-October) and a visitor’s center. They do also offer self-guided audio tours year round. Across the street from the visitor’s center is the Stones River National Cemetery, where over 6,000 soldiers rest.

You can also visit the remnants of Fortress Rosecrans, which was the largest fortification built during the Civil War. There are walking trails there that are also connected to Murfreesboro’s public walkway system, called the Greenway. The Battlefield itself also has some trails you can walk.

Cannonsburgh Village – Murfreesboro

(official hours vary by season; typically 9am-4pm Tuesday-Saturday)

Cannonsburgh is a historic village that represents what life was like in Tennessee in the 19th and early 20th Century. You can go on a self-guided tour for free and purchase souvenirs for your trip (such as post cards and t-shirts) in the on-site gift shop.

The official season is May-November; you can still visit the grounds in the off season but some of the buildings aren’t open. The grounds are occasionally rented out for private events, so if you’re concerned about that you may want to call ahead to be sure it’s available.

The Best Shopping & Entertainment Destinations in Nashville & Murfreesboro

Printer’s Alley – Nashville

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Historic Printer’s Alley is one of Nashville’s smaller entertainment districts with a more relaxed nightlife/bar vibe. The nightlife isn’t as “bustling” as the more touristy areas; it’s more of an area where the city is trying to preserve history, but you still get a slice of the old-school Nashville culture.

If you prefer a more energetic vibe, head a few blocks over to Broadway!

12South – Nashville

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Home to some trendy places and some iconic Nashville Murals. This is probably one of my favorite parts of Nashville. Plenty of great places to grab a meal (honestly… there’s enough options here for all three meals!), amazing coffee, cookies, and take pictures. It’s also the home of Reese Witherspoon’s clothing boutique, Draper James.

The Gulch – Nashville

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Super trendy neighborhood with a more urban feel. Home of the infamous “What Lifts You” mural… which, by the way, people wait in line to take pictures with! There is A LOT to see and do in The Gulch; from breweries to shopping… there’s something for everyone!

McKay Media – Nashville West

(Open Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm; Friday-Saturday 9am-10pm; Sunday 11am-7pm)

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Photo by Jonas Jacobsson

You can literally spend HOURS in here. They sell all kinds of used media and entertainment ranging from books to comics to video games to CDs to instruments to games to… basically anything of that nature you can think of. It’s two levels and there is SO much to see. If you’re a lover of books and entertainment, you should absolutely check it out.

Public Square – Murfreesboro

Murfreesboro’s public square and the surrounding streets have quite a few fun little shops, boutiques, bakeries, and restaurants. You could probably spend a couple hours looking around here. If you like theatre, check out what’s showing at the Centre for the Arts; they also have a gallery featuring local artists that changes each month.

Quinn’s Mercantile – Murfreesboro

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The best place to shop for unique gifts to take home to your friends and family, so they can have a slice of your trip as well! It’s near the public square, but slightly away from it so if you don’t know it’s there you might miss it! Don’t forget to pick something up for yourself, too.

Social Links

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Author Bio:

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Jackie is a mental health and lifestyle blogger who wants to inspire others and help break the stigma around mental health. She currently lives in Murfreesboro, TN with her boyfriend and two cats.

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Jackie Tennessee sounds like an amazing place to visit! I like that you put so much in here that does not have much to do with country! While I do like country you are right everyone knows that there is country there. I totally want to go to the Kangaroo kickabout and cat café!

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The Very Best of Arkansas

Touring Arkansas – the Natural State

I would like to take you on a tour of our great state of Arkansas. We will be traveling by car. because one of the greatest aspects of our state is that each place we visit, can be a day trip. First we would start in my hometown, Vilonia. It is located in the central part of the state, about 45 miles from our capital city, Little Rock. Vilonia is a close knit community which has endured two devastating tornadoes, one in 2011 and another in 2014. But through it all, the people of our small town stand together and help each other in every way possible.

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We would leave Vilonia and go to our closest town, Conway, which is the home of Toad Suck Park. I know that’s a strange name for a park but it’s based on the following legend:
“Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern there, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who said: “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend and fun live on at Toad Suck Daze.” * Each year on the first weekend in May, an event called Toad Suck Daze is held in downtown to raise money for local scholarships. Live music, food and craft vendors, carnival rides and yes, toad races fill up the fun-filled weekend.

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Our next stop on our tour would be Petit Jean State Park. It’s one of the 52 state parks in Arkansas. Petit Jean mountain is a wonderful place to hike and enjoy some of Arkansas’ natural beauty. You can hike to the majestic Cedar Falls or follow the Seven Hollows Trail to see natural bridges and caves. The legend of Petit Jean is:
“In the 1700s, a young French girl named Adrienne disguised herself as a cabin boy named Jean in order to follow her beloved to the New World. Because of her small size, the other sailors nicknamed her “Petit Jean,” French for “Little John.” At some point after arriving in Arkansas, Petit Jean became ill. Her identity was revealed. Unfortunately, she succumbed to the illness, died, and was subsequently buried atop the mountain now called Petit Jean. ”

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Petit Jean Mountain – Cedar Falls *www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net

Now let’s travel to the beautiful Historic town of Hot Springs. It is known for its natural hot springs. People travel from far away to experience the therapeutic healings from the natural springs and tubs. My favorite place to stay in Hot Springs is the Arlington Hotel. It was originally built in 1875 but was destroyed by fire in 1923. It was rebuilt in 1924. Many famous people have stayed there including Al Capone, whose favorite room was 443. He had the whole floor for his staff and bodyguards. He could look across the street from his window and see the activities at the Southern Club, now the Wax Museum. *

The Arlington Hotel – Hot Springs
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Now on to Northwest Arkansas, a favorite part of the state for many people. We will travel via “The Pig Trail”. It’s called this because it is the scenic highway leading to Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. We will head there first to enjoy a Razorback football game. Arkansas is famous for calling the hogs to cheer on their favorite team. From then, we would go to my favorite place to stay in the Northwest part of the state, The Lodge at Elm Springs. This Bed and Breakfast is amazing! It’s a beautiful place to stay, the owners are wonderful. You will be served a homemade afternoon dessert and wake up in the morning with a delicious hot home-cooked breakfast. Just right down the street is a fantastic eclectic-styled antique/flea market shop, The Mercantile at Elm Springs. Also, a great place to eat is Mama Z’s which serves the best Italian food around.

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Next we will travel to Murfreesboro to the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Arkansas if the only natural diamond producing state. In 1906 a farmer discovered diamonds in his field. Years after, diamonds are still being found there. Anyone can go to the 44 acre diamond mound and try your luck at finding that great diamond. Some have been very lucky. There’s also a cafe, water park and gift shop. I went last summer with my grandsons. We had fun digging in the dirt but we weren’t able to find any precious gems. Maybe next time!

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Crater of Diamonds State Park craterofdiamonds.com

Our last stop on this tour of the Natural State is the Buffalo National River. This natural river is a main attraction for spring and summer canoeing. There are many places along the river that offer canoe rental. We love to grab a group of family and friends and make a day of enjoying this beautiful river. There’s always something different around every bend. Beautiful landscape, large rock formations, wildlife and even places to stop and swim and enjoy the lunch you packed for the trip.

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I hope you enjoyed your tour of some of my favorite places in Arkansas. There are so many places to see and things to do for all ages in our beautiful state. It’s easy to see how it got the name of the Natural State.

About the author:

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I have lived in the great state of Arkansas my whole life. I have been married to my wonderful husband for 33 years. We have three daughters and now four grandkids. I have recently retired from teaching first grade for 29 years. My hobbies include: sewing, quilting and blogging. I have a part-time job at a local fabric shop where I enjoy meeting and being around other quilters. I am very grateful for my life and know that is only by the Grace of God that I have the life that I have now.

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Paula, thank you so much for sharing with us Arkansas! I visited Hot Springs one year with my family and had a wonderful time there! I would love to go visit all the places you listed, but that Diamond spot looks pretty interesting to me!

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