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.
As a ballet dancer, David Gensheimer didn't need much help becoming lean, limber, and lithe. But when he found himself recovering from knee surgery, he knew he needed to find something that would keep him strong without compromising his healing process. In addition to physical therapy, he turned to Pilates and was won over by the sport's ability to strengthen core muscles and enhance flexibility. Though he was back to pirouetting in no time, David never lost the Pilates bug and went on to complete his Pilates training while serving as a company member with Ballet Austin and Nashville Ballet and dancing with the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company and Stillpoint.
Today, when he's not busy dancing his way through guest performances around the country, David helms Simply Balanced where he helps others strengthen, rehabilitate, and challenge their bodies through Pilates and yoga classes. Students can also try Gyrotonic classes, which blend elements of gymnastics, yoga, dance, and tai chi, performed on a weight and pulley machine that engages the entire body. Beyond transforming the way visitors look, move, and feel about spandex shorts, the Simply Balanced studio also showers them with feel-good perks such as complimentary beverages, free parking, and access to a team of highly trained massage therapists.
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.
Despite being blessed with a mellifluous, five-octave voice and an unwavering desire to sing, Brett Manning couldn?t find a vocal coach who would give him the results he wanted, always slipping back into the same problems and frustrations. That all changed when he met a wizened old gentleman who had spent his career amassing effective exercises and training some of the country's top singers. Taking classes from his new mentor, Manning began his own experimental foray into vocal training, streamlining his newly discovered secrets and adding new tricks to enhance his lessons. Before long, he was helping Broadway casts, Grammy-winning artists, and big-label singers to improve their vocal performances and shame all other party invitees in renditions of "Happy Birthday."
At Brett Manning's studio, a hand-selected coterie of coaches?each individually trained in Manning?s method?helps to shape up aspiring crooners, bringing a wide range of experiences to lessons. Classes are available in person, over the phone, or on Skype, allowing students to hone their pipes from across the country or safely hidden in the studio's air ducts.
Renowned dance coach Anthony Lewis, who’s mentored many nationally ranked clients, boasts several competition titles, as well as a fourth-place win at the World's Championships himself. His teaching experience spans the country, having overseen studios in Kentucky and California, and his staff of instructors emulates his star quality with their devotion and skill. Yet, for all of their impressive credentials, the teachers at Nashville Ballroom specialize in training adult beginners, deriving fulfillment from transforming two left feet into comfortable twirling tools.
As Nashville Ballroom’s students sashay through the studio's three-step schooling approach—composed of private lessons, group classes, and social practice—they can choose from more than 20 dance styles. Instructors stress that their setting is "not your grandma's ballroom," culling modern steps from Latin, swing, and country-western choreography. Though they do tutor such classical styles as the waltz and foxtrot, lessons typically focus on the modern techniques needed for nightclub outings and wedding receptions in the year 4012.
A captain licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard, Jim Steele’s more than 25 years of boating⎯including time spent at the helm of Opryland’s water taxis⎯comes in handy as he coaxes The Blue Heron, a specially built 40-foot pontoon, about the Cheatham Wildlife Management Area on daily tours. Out on the water amid soothing birdsongs and the burbles of river critters, Captain Jim can be found behind the wheel of the craft, exercising his chops as an entertainer as he regales his passengers with chuckle-inducing anecdotes and factoids about local flora and fauna. With the comfort and safety of his guests always in mind, Captain Jim equipped the Heron with a restroom and keeps the vessel stocked with a comprehensive library of life jackets to fit adults, children, and pet iguanas of all ages and sizes. Hitting an average cruising speed of 5 to 10 miles per hour, the Heron affords its passengers leisurely looks at area wildlife as it embarks upon all manner of tours, from gold-tinged sunset cruises to kids' adventures punctuated by the gleeful laughter of curious youngsters.