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.
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.
Though the staff at Honeysuckle Hill Farm cultivates livestock and crops of seasonal produce, its other chief resource is outdoor adventure. Through their seasonal tours, farm staffers teach adults and children about farm operations, the basics of agriculture, and which fabrics scarecrows find itchy. They also give visitors a chance to work their way through labyrinthine corn mazes. At birthday parties, younger visitors can pet the resident animals, pan for gemstones at an artificial stream, and race each other in pedal-powered carts. Away from the fields, Association for Challenge Course Technology–certified guides and their guests soar down a one-mile zipline course designed and built to ACCT standards. The guides lead tours through the course’s three elevated towers, three canopy-level bridges stretched across Battle Creek, and eight ziplines, which they maintain daily to chase away loitering vigilantes. Along the way, guides showcase their knowledge of the creek’s history while pointing out local flora and fauna.