Well my friends, after what feels like a long and wild ride I am happy to tell you that I graduated the other day with my masters degree. This last month has been packed full with finishing and presenting my final paper, family in town so us going to favorite Tennessee spots, being in charge of a big event at work, and getting a terrible case of pink eye in the middle of it. After all of that I think it fair to say that I am tired out.
We really loved having family in town for my graduation and getting to show them around. We covered a lot of places in just a couple of weeks but it was so fun to get to share some of our favorite places with them.
On the first day we drove south to Lookout Mountain that sits on the border of Tennessee and Georgia. We always love a visit to Rock City Gardens and walking through the rock passages and overlooking the beautiful valley from the top. Rock City Gardens is celebrating 90 years. Originally opened in 1932 when a couple bought the land and turned the natural rocky pathways on the hilltop to an attraction. The rock bridges, slot canyons, swinging bridge, and fairy caverns are a thrill to walk through. From the top viewing area you can see out to 7 different states.
One of this area’s claims to fame is being home to the Tennessee Walking Horses. This breed of horse is known for the unique four beat running walk. They were bred to be riding horses at southern plantations and have since become one of the leading show horse breeds in the world. This legacy of horse breeding first started in this small area of Tennessee. Visitors can watch the Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville and then pop over to Wartrace to see the Tennessee Walking Horse National Museum.
Tennessee is whiskey country and at the center of that reputation is Jack Daniels. Even for those who don’t partake, the tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery is a must. Jack Daniels not only survived through prohibition, but seemed to thrive during it. The tour offers a look at the man himself and the empire of whiskey that he created with the fresh mountain spring water. The distillery still remains in a dry country from prohibition and can only offers tastes by a tricky twist in an agricultural bill.
A walk through the Stones River National Battlefield and National Cemetery brings the somber remembrance of the Civil War and what it cost to preserve the Union. One of the worst battles of the war was fought here and the much needed victory for the North after so many defeats was much needed to support the Emancipation Proclamation that was issued soon after by President Lincoln. Had the Union lost this battle, they most certainly would have lost the war. The cemetery with the rows and rows of markers that have pennies laid on top of them with the face of Lincoln facing up is a powerful symbol of the cost of war.
Just down the road from the battlefield is Wat Lao Buddharam temple. In the 1980s there was a great wave of immigrants from Laos that came here to Tennessee and this Buddhist temple is a little piece of the home they left behind. Golden dragons guard the door to the temple while diligent monks care for the grounds. Visitors are welcome in their gathering building where they can be taught about the beliefs and the traditions that are at the core of the people who live there.
Of course, no visit to Tennessee could be complete without a visit to Nashville. The best place to begin any tour of Nashville is at the Ryman Auditorium as this is where the city began and where they first gained the title of being ‘Music City’. The Ryman began as a church but became the most premiere place for music, public speaking, entertainment, and protesting. From the beginning of the Grand Ole Opry to presidential speakers, the stage of the Ryman has seen an all star list of people and today is considered the very epitome of making it in the business.
We visited the Tennessee State Capital where we got to read the history through the decades along the black marble wall next to the park and see the giant map of the state. The capital really highlights every aspect of the state showing their pride in the state they govern. It is surrounded by the Tennessee State Museum, Tennessee State Library, and the Tennessee Military Museum. If you really want to dive into the history and culture of the state, then this is the place to do it.
Did you know that Nashville is called the ‘Athens of the South’? Because of their focus on education and being a central part in all trade throughout the country, Nashville was dubbed the ‘Athens of the South’. To celebrate that, for the city’s centennial they built their own Parthenon in the middle of Centennial Park. This is a recreated version of the Parthenon in Greece as it would have been in its heyday and displays incredible detailed reliefs of Greek heroes along the top and has its own ivory and gold statue of Athena inside.
The last favorite spot that we got to share with family was at Fall Creek Falls State Park. We have seen this park in every season, and we just never tire of its natural beauty. We started at the overlook of the waterfall and then climbed down within the rocks to get to the bottom and see it from an entirely different angle. In our goal of seeing all of the state parks, we seem to get distracted by visits back to this park because we just love it so much. This was Tennessee’s first designated state park.
It has been a great couple of weeks as we have shared some of favorite places with our family. It has definitely been busy but what a joy to share this time with family. Adding to the busy of the last month, we have also been working on travel plans for our next great adventure which is taking us to France and Belgium. After two years of canceled trips, we are on our way to Europe and we can’t wait!
For more of our favorite places in Tennessee, check out these:
Thanks for coming along with us as we shared some of our favorite places with our family. May country roads take you through Tennessee.