The Discovery Center enlivens kids’ learning experiences by cleverly disguising exhibits as awesome playtime arenas. Tiny tots and even 10-year-olds are encouraged to run wild at this hands-on children’s museum and nature center, trying their hand at the many fun activities.
At the creation station, which is stocked with paint, clay, chalk, paper, and just about anything a young da Vinci or police sketch artist needs, kids are free to unleash their creative potential. Alternatively, at the fire-truck exhibit, they can put on a firefighter’s boots and hat and climb aboard the full-sized 1954 Oren fire truck to learn about a firefighter’s job in Murfreesboro. Nearby, at Tennessee Live!, they can get in touch with their natural surroundings when they come face-to-face with turtles, fish, and snakes at the living stream table, dig in the fossil pit, and learn about the customs of the native Cherokee.
On the evening of November 30, 1864, the town of Franklin, Tennessee, bore witness to more than five hours of carnage as Confederate forces under the command of General John Bell Hood assaulted an entrenched corps of Federal troops led by General John M. Schofield. The heaviest fighting entailed a frontal attack on the Federal lines—incorporating about 20,000 soldiers on each side, or more soldiers than Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. General Hood hoped this attack would dislodge the Federal forces and that he would be able to eventually recapture Nashville.
Over the course of the next five hours, this charge resulted in a staggering number of casualties and General Schofield steadily withdrew his forces toward Nashville, leaving behind a battle-scarred town as well as a battered Confederate force. Today, the Battle of Franklin Trust allows visitors to learn more about this key battle by visiting and taking guided tours of several sites that played integral roles in the events that took place on and around November 30, 1864.
The Carter House served as the command post for General Jacob D. Cox, a Federal officer tasked with overseeing the construction of defensive positions as the Confederate forces advanced. These defenses were constructed within 300 feet of the home, and guests have the opportunity to explore the grounds as well as the home, including the basement where the Carter family and roughly two dozen civilians sought shelter from the battle being fought outside their doors.
One of those civilians was Albert Lotz, whose own home still stands 110 steps away from the Carter residence. The Lotz House bears its own battle scars, too, including a charred indentation in the wood flooring that was caused by an errant cannonball.
Located one mile away from the two houses, the McGavock family's Carnton Plantation also welcomes guests, providing them with tours of the site that served as the area's largest field hospital after the fighting ceased. The plantation features two acres of land that the McGavocks offered as the final burial site for approximately 1,500 Confederate soldiers who died at the Battle of Franklin, making it the largest privately owned military cemetery in the nation.
Replete with ornate gardens and a brick mansion fronted by towering, white columns, Rippavilla Plantation winds the clock back to the time of the Civil War. In the fall, the smells of bonfires and steaming hot chocolate fill the sprawling grounds as they host pumpkin paintings and other old-timey, outdoor fun. The Rippavilla corn maze tests internal compasses and scarecrow-bribing techniques on a 10-acre, labyrinthine path. As they pass through the maze, guests encounter signs that boast historical facts about major Civil War battles in 1862, putting them in touch with the site's legacy. For a plus-size serving of fresh, autumn air, guests can also board the hayride to circle the grounds, which are devoid of the sinister ghouls that often emerge at many fall festivals; instead, the grounds remain family-friendly throughout the night.
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.
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.
Operated by the nonprofit Country Music Foundation, this monument to the genre’s local and international history honors inductees—including the inaugural trio of Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Fred Rose—with bronze plaques in a vast rotunda. The core permanent exhibit, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music, traces country from its pre-commercial roots in the 19th century to its current place in the entertainment industry with hallmarks such as photos, original recordings, and 10-gallon hats still filled with whiskey. On the packed event calendar, a quarterly Poets and Prophets series honors legendary songwriters, and weekly instrument demonstrations reveal artists' deft finger work. At the onsite Frist Library and Archive, patrons can explore more than four decades of historical media, from fan-club newsletters to Johnny Cash's amateur photographs of dogs dressed in striped prison jumpsuits.