During a trip to the Nashville Zoo, guests greet animals who crawl, swim, creep, and fly through a wide range of habitats and displays, including a three-acre savannah and 15,000-square-foot lagoon. Pack a map and board a train to peek at elands, swap tales with zebras, and challenge ostriches to a game of Simon Says. The fun continues indoors as the Unseen New World exhibit enthralls visitors with reptiles, snakes, and bats, and the amphitheater plays host to daily animal shows. Elsewhere throughout the park, kids can scale a 66,000-square-foot jungle gym and emit whoops on the Wild Animal Carousel, burning off excess energy before moving on to meet toucans, cougars, and sasquatches.
Since first stumbling upon them as a child in Colorado, Susan Russell has been enthralled with rocks and fossils. The law offices she found herself in for the first 23 years of adulthood, however, were a far cry from the natural surroundings that first catalyzed her imaginative passion. "I wanted to get back to doing something more creative with the remainder of my years," she told The Tennessean in 2010, which is why she supplemented her daytime gig with classes in metalworking, silversmithing, and repurposing tin cans into airplane propellers.By congregating jewelry designers, glass blowers, potters, and painters, Susan has fulfilled her creative ambition at Atelier, where the artisanal ensemble handcrafts original, oft-customized jewelry and art from real gemstones, exotic pearls, and hand-forged sterling, silver, and gold. Each craftsperson builds their designs around the natural materials personally selected by Susan, ensuring that their pieces emphasize the color and attributes of their coral, fossil, tiger eye, or Peruvian opal centers. The store, voted Nashville's Best Jewelry Store by Nashville Scene readers in 2011, ships every creation in a covered and cotton-filled box that you can gift without additional wrapping to an important person or mannequin in your life.
When visitors walk between the 1853 Greek-revival mansion’s six solid-cut stone pillars, onto the portico, and through the heavy wood door, they might tour the rooms or learn to cook in its original kitchen. Originally founded by John Harding in 1807 for thoroughbred-horse breeding, the rolling grounds of Belle Meade Plantation now welcome seasonal tours and events ranging from book signings to art shows. Knowledgeable guides in period costumes lead tour groups through the building’s parlors and bedrooms and down a long central hallway to ascend the three floors via a circular cherry-wood staircase.
As groups wander the mansion and cross the grounds, guides divulge facts about famous visitors, such as President Cleveland and General Ulysses S. Grant, including the fact that they probably got scared of the dark just like normal people. During special tours, the staff demonstrates Southern cooking techniques and walks visitors through an herb garden or serves them lemonade or hot wassail with desserts. In an on-grounds winery, winemakers hold tastings of red and white varietals made from Tennessee grapes. Visitors can also clink wineglasses over Southern-style cuisine at the Harding House restaurant, located on the plantation grounds.
Founded as the Union Gospel Tabernacle by steamboat captain Thomas Ryman after an angel got trapped in his smokestack, the Ryman Auditorium has since become a different kind of hallowed ground, lovingly referred to as the "mother church of country music." The Grand Ole Opry and The Johnny Cash Show have both taken residence among its wooden pews, and the twanged voices of country legends such as Hank Williams and Patsy Cline have reverberated off the stenciled artwork on the face of the balcony. Today, the venue plays host to a variety of acts, from rock concerts to television specials to comedy shows.
A log cabin sits huddled in the woods as breezes sway rolling grasses and flowerbeds across the 1,120 acres that surround it. A Federal-style mansion stands tall against the sky, its columns flanking a towering front door and presidential balcony. Carrying on a 200-year tradition, The Hermitage tells the story of the presidential family, its plantation's slave population, and the atmosphere of the time through 32 historic buildings and more than a dozen archaeological sites.
The mansion and visitor center boast 3,000 original objects and 800,000 archaeological artifacts on display, as well as 1,200 printed items, 3,000 photographs, and 800 manuscripts bearing the president's original handwriting and cappuccino stains. The mansion's Greek-revival woodwork and mantels frame original wallpaper, and glass cases hold Andrew Jackson's authentic glasses, slippers, top hats, swords, and canes. Inside the visitor center, the Jacksons' actual private carriage guards a hallway leading to collections of artifacts from the plantation's slave families and communities. Most items in the collections were purchased directly from the Jackson family, though many artifacts were uncovered in the late 1800s by the historic Ladies' Hermitage Association when they broke ground for a new Olympic-sized swimming pool.
On the outdoor grounds, trained guides usher visitors to the first Hermitage, a log cabin where the Jackson family lived while the mansion was being built, and Alfred's Cabin, the preserved 1840s quarters of the former groundskeeper. In the garden, winding trails take visitors past period plants and the Grecian-style tombs of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. The rest of The Hermitage's grounds contain a network of winding walking trails, as well as grassy areas and cabins where museum staffers host events, weddings, and birthday parties. Across the grounds, interpreters in authentic period dress direct visitors to the sites of historic events and often train grade-school students to do the same through the center's special school programs.
Tell us about your business.
Christian Way Farm was established to provide a family friendly place to enjoy the experience of a farm and a visit to the country. From picnics to a relaxing afternoon on the front porch of the barn, feeding animals, playing in a corn truck, or now playing through a farm-themed miniature golf course, the farm is intended to be a place to enjoy the outdoors, participate in farm activities and feel the goodness of God—in all that He has created for us to enjoy.
What makes your business stand out?
The farm is gorgeous and has been maintained to keep the natural look. The store is in a barn. The tractors are older. Visitors can touch the animals. They can use the antique equipment. The setting is authentic farm but maintained to accommodate the public.
What inspired you to start this business?
In 1999, Milt was managing a large orchard and we decided he should quit his job there to move our family to Hopkinsville and build a house on the exact location of his grandfather's home on the family farm. Our goal was to begin with a pumpkin patch, but at the time that's all we knew. In the years since our first crop of pumpkins, we have built our business with the idea that planting seeds is important. We knew that we were to invite people to the farm and without "preaching" to share the love of Christ with everyone who comes here. We wanted an agri-tourism experience that made a safe fun place for families to come, but we wanted that atmosphere to be one that means our customers walk away knowing they have been cared for in the best possible way. Planting a seed—that will bring a harvest of good experiences.
What is the best reaction you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
On a regular basis we hear, "Can we just move here? Can we just live with you all here," and on a temporary basis, some move in with us for a while. We often hear from soldiers who said, "I can just really decompress here," and from families where a spouse is about to deploy [and tell us], "We just wanted to enjoy a good family day together before he leaves."
What’s your favorite part about your job?
All of it. Living on the farm, raising [our] family while doing this, and meeting thousands of people.
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Staff Size: 2–10 people
Parking: Parking lot
Reservations/Appointments: Not necessary
Most popular offering: Miniature golf, feeding farm animals, and pumpkin patch
Pro Tip: We are located in the country so allow time to travel to here and allow plenty of time to visit.