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.
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.
Frame and Art Gallery's staff preserves keepsakes using archival framing materials in addition to conservation-clear, conservation-reflection, and museum-quality glass. Many of their moldings sell for less than $175, efficiently enclosing photographs and other valuable items. Frame and Art Gallery also specializes in framing jerseys, stretching canvases, and art restoration. If shoppers don't already possess artwork they'd like to frame, they can pick up John A. Maxwell original paintings or purchase a pet portrait to memorialize domestic animals without constructing a shrine out of fur.
Fired Up fuels the flames of creativity with hundreds of unfinished pottery pieces, including plates, platters, bowls, and mugs. Amid its orange and yellow walls, the contemporary studio lets visitors choose whatever pieces they want and equips them with paints, brushes, stencils, and other design tools. After the decorating process, the studio clear-glazes and fires finished pieces, making them safe to use with real food or fake food during imaginary tea parties. Fired Up opens its doors for studio sessions, as well as for birthdays, field trips, and special events.
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.