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Great Road Trips From Donna Vissing - Nashville Tennessee

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President Jackson's Home- The Hermitage

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Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, Tulip Garden within the Boxwood Gardens

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Nashville Zoo at Grasmere

By Donna Vissing
Travel Editor
The Auto Channel

When I travel to a destination, my first interest is the history. After I begin to understand the history, then I can more fully appreciate what the destination offers today. Everyone knows that Nashville Tennessee “Music City” is enriched with a musical heritage, most notably country and home to every aspect of the music business.

But did you know that Nashville was also home to three presidents: Andrew Jackson – 7th President, James Polk – 11th President and Andrew Johnson – 17th President? The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson, has been well preserved with most of its original furnishings. The president is buried on the property, and the grounds are beautifully maintained and manicured creating a lasting tribute to this great American. Visiting the estate will fill you with a vivid sense of history.

Nashville is also where Maxwell House coffee was developed, and it is rumored while visiting Nashville President Theodore Roosevelt coined the famous phrase “good to the last drop”. Joel Cheek was the developer of the coffee blend, named after the hotel that was willing to serve the coffee to their guests. However, it was his cousin, Leslie Cheek, who was willing to invest in the brand. He, along with his wife, Mabel Wood, eventually made their fortune from the investment which was re-invested into the 100-acres of property that later became Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art.

The 33,000 square foot, 36 room mansion started being built in 1929, with the family moving in 1933. Opened to the public in 1960, the Museum houses one of the world’s most significant compilations of Faberge’ pieces. In addition there are other permanent exhibits and various traveling art exhibits scheduled throughout the year. The Botanical Gardens and surrounding property are breathtakingly beautiful, scenic and serene. The perennials within the Boxwood Gardens are changed four times a year, coinciding with the seasons. Following the path through a Bamboo Grove leads to the Japanese Gardens, where many come to reflect, meditate and enjoy the tranquility.

In planning a visit to Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, you can spend a day or half a day, depending on how you want to experience the property. The Pineapple Room Restaurant is on-site to serve visitors a gourmet lunch while sitting out on the veranda overlooking the luxuriant lawns and gardens.

The historic Tennessee State Capitol is another site where you are surrounded with American and Tennessee history. Completed in 1859 by architect William Strickland, it is one of the country’s oldest original capitols still in active use. The Capitol is the final resting place for U.S. President James K. Polk and his wife Sarah, and is also the final resting place for Strickland and Samuel Morgan, Chair of the Capitol Building Commission. Except for the 1860’s when during the Civil War the building was used for Union occupation, the Capitol has been used and continues to be today, for the purposes originally designed; where the state’s legislative branches meet to run state government. For tour information, call (615)741-2692.

Nashville is also known as “Athens of the South”; and when visiting the inspiring Parthenon, located in one of Nashville’s premier parks – Centennial Park, you are transported back to the ancient Greece grandeur. The Parthenon building project was started in 1895 in preparation for The Tennessee Centennial Exposition scheduled for May 1-October 30, 1897. After the world’s fair ended, the other buildings were moved or destroyed, but the Parthenon stayed, and has been a centerpiece to this day. 1982, Alan LeQuire was commissioned to re-create Athena Parthenos, the ancient Greek goddess sculpted for the Parthenon in Athens around 447 BC by fifth-century Greek sculptor, Pheidias. Over an eight-year period LeQuire created the only full-scale recreation of this graceful statue. According to history, the original met its fate approximately 700 years after she was created. In addition to Nashville’s Parthenon being home to Athena, the tallest indoor sculpture in the Western world, there are also art galleries with permanent and visiting exhibits, gift shop, and the opportunity to walk among Greek opulence.

For a complete list of historic sites to visit in Nashville, visit and then click your area of interest for the list.

You cannot visit Nashville and not be impressed with the exceptional preservation and celebration of music and the music industry. Nashville is well-known for the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium (known as “The Carnegie Hall of the South”), Country Music Hall of Fame, and Music Row. But did you know:
• Nashville’s first music star was discovered in 1811 and was Davy Crockett. He was a fiddler and buck dancer, before he was elected to the state legislature in 1821.
• Nashville’s music publishing history began in 1824 with the printing of the popular hymnal “Western Harmony”. Move forward a couple of centuries and Nashville is now headquarters to contemporary-Christian music and presently employs more music industry employees than country music. It is home to the Gospel Music Association, Gospel Music Channel and numerous other related gospel music businesses.
• The first ad jingle was recorded in Nashville in 1947. This is still an active business, including the writing and recording of the theme song for NBC’s Today Show.
• Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” was recorded in Nashville in 1956.
• Jimmy Buffett’s “License to Chill” was recorded in Nashville in 2004.
• In 1984, Nashville became an instrument manufacturing center when Gibson (Guitars) Corporation arrived.
• In the 1990’s the bluegrass industry moved their headquarters to Music City.
• Naxos of America, one of the largest classical music labels in the world, chose Nashville in 1998 for its headquarters.

Music from the past and present, along with many genres of music blend into the very landscape of Nashville’s culture. You can tour the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Grand Ole Opry and Museum, Hatch Show Print, Ryman Auditorium, Willie Nelson & Friends Showcase Museum, or book a dinner cruise on the General Jackson Showboat. Located in the heart of the past and present music business community is historic RCA Studio B, known as Music Row. The studio is credited with recording over 250 hits for Elvis Presley, in addition to Roy Orison and the Everly Brothers.

Other ideas for things to see and do - if antique cars are a passion, visit Lane Motor Museum Adults and children alike will enjoy visiting the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere There are also numerous fine art galleries to visit, such as Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery and Van Vechiten Gallery of Fine Arts, to highlight two.

Gaylord Opryland is always a treat to visit with shopping, unique boutiques, restaurants, attractions and ambiance only found at this destination site. The hotel, just completing one expansion phase, is now embarking on a $45 million guestroom renovation. The expansion recently completed includes Relache, The Spa at Gaylord Opryland. The facility is a 27,000 square foot European inspired spa, including fitness center and full-service salon. For more information about booking your stay at Gaylord Opryland Resort, or for details on upcoming events and activities, visit

Nashville is a great city with a vibrant downtown, including variety in hotel accommodations, along with restaurant selections catering to every known taste. With such a lively downtown, you can reach many tourist interests by walking or trolley, which makes it very convenient for moving about. One hotel recommendation is the newly renovated Doubletree Hotel Nashville, located in the heart of the city on Fourth Avenue North. With all the amenities including fitness center and indoor pool, the hotel is an ideal lodging choice for vacation or business stay.

Restaurants and nightlife in Nashville do their part in embracing the rich music tradition. Enjoy dining at Arnold’s Country Kitchen or Frist Center Café, located within the Frist Center for Visual Arts. Or combine dining and entertainment at B.B. King’s Blues Bar & Grill, Level 88 Jazz Bistro and The Bluebird Café. Dance your evening away at honky tonks located along the infamous Printer’s Alley, including Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar, Brass Stables, and Lonnie’s Western Room.

Nashville is a destination that can transform and be whatever interests you and your family. The city is full of history, arts & culture, museums, galleries, the zoo, restaurant varieties, nightlife and then there is the music! Make plans soon to visit Nashville and find ways to start celebrating life!

For more information, contact the Nashville Convention & Tourism Bureau by calling toll-free at 800-657-6910 or visit