The old adage “time flies when you’re having fun” certainly holds true for us on this last portion of our trip – we ended up staying two whole weeks in Tennessee! Clearly, given our (my) last post, I could have stayed a lot longer but there is far more to see.
After heading out of Alabama, we made our way to Lynchburg to check out the Jack Daniels Distillery. We aren’t really Jack drinkers, but we can appreciate the craft and history of the brand. The tour was fantastic and we learned a lot about the process and that they were the first distillery to register after prohibition – cool! Despite being the first to register, the distillery is located in a dry county so they have to sell the bottles of whiskey at the distillery as collectors’ items to circumvent the law. After walking the grounds in the heat, we made our way to Toms Ford State Park for the evening. It was a gorgeous park with plenty to do; that is, once they are open for the season. We were there just before Memorial Day so we were lucky to find a spot before the families poured in for the weekend.
To continue with the holiday weekend festivities, we headed back slightly south to Chattanooga to set up camp for a few days. On Saturday we found our way to Park Point on Lookout Mountain and had the honor of watching reenactment crews shoot cannons in memory of those who gave their lives for our country. Since we were staying a ways outside the city, we made the most of our time and headed downtown to check out the city proper and then back up the bluffs to a small winery for dinner. The highlight of the winery was the pizza by far! And to round off our time in this beautiful part of the country, we made our way to Harrison Bay to do some paddle boarding. The lake was stunning and the water was so welcoming (not what we’re used to on Memorial weekend in MN). We were surrounded by gorgeous yachts and fun houseboats making us daydream about another adventure after this! Shea busted out the drone to get some aerial footage to only find out that he forgot the memory card in his bag… In the camper… Back at the KOA.
Next up was the insanely chaotic town of Pigeon Forge – it was like Wisconsin Dells on crack. Since we rolled into town so early in the day we were able to head straight into the Smoky Mountains to enjoy some beautiful sights. After living in the Rockies for the last couple years, it felt good to be back in elevation and breathtaking views. We got a couple great hikes in during our time there before falling into the tourist trap town of Gatlinburg for a little moonshine tasting. Again, not really our thing, but it was interesting to try.
Okay, so the part I have been waiting for… Nashville! And, no, not because of the TV show – I’ve never even seen an episode. First up was a day trip to Franklin, a charming little town just south of the city full of history and great shopping. We toured the Carter House early in the day to see the lasting effects of the Civil War on one family’s home. After that, we spent the day meandering through the town doing a little shopping and fro’yo eating for a little day-date. We wrapped up our date like day at Arrington Vineyards – a must-see if you are in the area. Not only do they have good wine, the vineyard itself is gorgeous! The celebrity ownership doesn’t hurt either 🙂
Throughout the rest of the week we hit up all the major tourist spots: The Ryman, Opry, Gaylord Hotel, Hermitage, Honky Tonks on Broadway, Hatch Show Print, Farmers’ Market and much more. However, if you couldn’t tell, I could have sat and listened to music the whole time we were there. Fortunately, we had three great nights filled with country music’s finest!
First up was the Blue Bird Café. We lucked out and got there about an hour and fifteen minutes before the doors opened and not only scored a parking spot but we were 35 and 36 in line so we knew we’d be able to get in. Since the café is a small intimate room, seating was open and gave us the opportunity to sit with others while enjoying the performance. We just happened to luck out again and sat with the most wonderful people on a girls’ trip. After introducing ourselves to one another and asking about each other’s trips, we found out that we are from the SAME town! HA! It was three generations of some of the nicest people we have met. Being from the same town gave us more to talk about than just the usual quick story swapping and we had a blast chatting with them. We just loved their spirit and willingness to jump in a car and travel and even cooler that they had their mom/grandma with them at full speed (I hope to be like her!). Thanks, ladies for giving us an awesome story – and hopefully see you in MN!!
Next up was the Grand Ole Opry with an amazing lineup – Darius Rucker, Chris Janson, Little Big Town and Carrie Underwood! When we originally booked the tickets all they had left was standing room, but when I went to pick them up the gal at the ticket office upgraded us for free – I couldn’t believe our luck! The show started with Darius leading to a theater wide sing-along to “Wagon Wheel” and continued with Chris lighting up the stage with his incredible harmonica skills and talent for pure entertainment. Little Big Town performed “Girl Crush” and again had the whole place singing along and they closed out by bringing Pharrell Williams on stage to perform their newly collaborated song – how cool is that?!?! Finally, closing out the show was the unbelievable Carrie Underwood – such amazing talent wrapped up in one person. I never thought I’d get to see her live and she crushed it! Speech. Less.
And last up was the CMT Music Awards. While they were super cool to go to and see, concerts are still where it’s at. It was great to see how Nashville shut the city down to create a stage in the middle of Broadway for outdoor shows; that way, you didn’t have to be in the stadium for the show. Next time, that’s the route we’ll go. The show had some amazing performances and gave us a chance to get all gussied up, so it was well worth the tickets.
It was a bummer that we couldn’t stick around for CMA Fest, but we aren’t big on giant crazy crowds so it’s not that big of a loss. But, it won’t be the last time we see you, Nashville – until next time!!