The perfect frame can make a work of art leap off of a wall. For the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, the overall layout frames a 2,000-piece museum with 17 acres of lush English gardens. Tulip-lined walkways, scenic vistas, and the occasional sculpture surround visitors on tours of the Tennessee woodlands, where oaks and hickories climb towards the sky where all the good sunlight is. In total, more than 120 identified species of trees live and breathe within the gardens' level IV arboretum.
Even more sights await visitors behind the museum?s corinthian columns and brick fa?ade. Eight to ten rotating exhibitions a year hang alongside a permanent collection that touches on paper works, sculptures, and paintings by French and American impressionists?from Claude Monet to Mary Cassatt. Beyond these ever-present attractions, the museum also hosts live performances, educational programs, and other special events.
Walking through Belmont Mansion's Victorian-era plantation is like exploring an alternate history. The stories presented by the 2,000 artifacts that fill the 18 rooms are all true, but in place of the 19th-century South's traditionally male-dominated household, tour takers witness evidence of a plantation controlled, enlivened, and energized by a woman. After inheriting a fortune from her first husband, Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham oversaw the construction of the mansion with her second husband, basing the style off an Italian villa and completing the project's first phase in 1853. Over the years it would change appearances as dramatically as a caterpillar on Halloween—sometimes by her hand and sometimes not. She commissioned a Prussian-born architect to expand and embellish the house six years after completion, and fled as the Civil War's Battle of Nashville destroyed most of the plantation's outbuildings, including the greenhouse, bear house, and zoo. After Adelicia sold her home in 1887, it transformed into a girl's school, then a girl's academy and junior college, and, in 1952, became part of the Belmont University campus.
Today, Belmont Mansion is the largest house museum in Tennessee, inviting visitors to wander past cast-iron neoclassical statues in the gardens, to cross the fountain courtyard, and to study the original water tower and few remaining gazebos. Stoic marble busts, decorative boxes, and a four-post bed fill the interior's 10,000 square feet, alongside more than 120 works of art. During a themed art tour, which is not included with this Groupon, expert docent Mancil Ezell introduces visitors to these masterpieces, including two 400-year-old Flemish paintings. And for those bright-eyed visitors captivated by the surroundings, the staff also coordinates weddings, building on a tradition established when Adelicia married her third husband on the grounds in 1867.
In 2011, WBIR-TV reported that local racecar driver Trevor Bayne dropped by Oakes Farm to see his face carved into the cornfield. The farm had adopted Bayne as that year's maze theme, shaping the field to look like his face and his racecar when viewed from above. On the ground, however, the maze was a tangle of curves and dead ends that often took guests 90 minutes to solve, longer if they neglected to learn ancient Greek in order to ask the minotaur directions.
The farm updates its agricultural labyrinth annually to reflect a new motif, but it never fails to entertain explorers with its routes and interactive games. Just as delightful are the hayrides that ferry visitors to and from the pumpkin patch, the smell of autumnal sweets from the Cornfections stand, and the echoes of laughter from inside the Mine Shaft—a giant slide in the farm's Back 40 entertainment area. These attractions, alongside animal exhibits, pedal karts, and open zones for freeform play, draw families to the seasonal hotspot. In the days approaching Halloween, however, the farm endeavors to make patrons flee with its haunted attractions and pop quizzes for school children.
Chattanooga resident Rufus Marye?s enthusiasm for his city is palpable. Fueled by a desire to transmit his immense love for the history and natural beauty of his hometown to others, he came up with the idea for a double-decker tour. Even as he was deployed to Iraq, he continued to forge his plan to create a fun and historically accurate tour. He began implementing his dream when he returned in 2010, eventually finding the vintage double-decker bus he dubbed ?Eleanor,? a 1960s British vehicle whose horn honks with a Cockney accent. Determined to show tour-goers as much of the southern burg as possible, Marye mapped out a route that would whisk them over all three of the city?s bridges, through famous sites such as The Chattanooga Choo Choo and Underground Chattanooga, and along the south and north banks of the Tennessee River.
But Rufus didn't stop there. With Eleanor, he offered a family-friendly vessel on which passengers sit back and explore the city's scenic and historic sites. To create a more cost-effective, adult-oriented spin on the same theme of city exploration, he turned to the novel trend of the pedal pub. Named the Chattanooga Bew Choo, the vessel draws its power from pedaling passengers who, in turn, derive energy from the draft beers they can enjoy along the way.
There's no shortage of rays to soak in at Hot Spot Tanning. The salon offers bed tanning, standup spray tanning, and even a mobile airbrush outfit. This breadth of bronzing options makes it easy to achieve a summery glow without going to the pool or that scary, sandy place where the land suddenly turns into water. In addition to darkening complexions, Hot Spot Tanning specializes in red-light therapy, which can help improve skin's tone and texture.
Century Farm orchestrates a bright spectrum of dry wines, semisweet wines, and fruit wines in a charming country shop surrounded by acres of shady arbors and southern grape vines. Only 4.5 years old, the blossoming winery proved its mettle at the 2011 Wines of the South Competition by collecting three awards—the Best of Tennessee Fruit–William O. Beach Award for its 2009 vintage traminette; a silver medal for its 2009 Norton; and a bronze for its 2009 red muscadine. While guests peruse bottles, a complimentary tasting introduces palates to the subtle notes and intricacies of varieties such as the dry, oaked 2010 Norton ($12.95) or the semisweet 2008 traminette ($12), with fruity layers and a spicy finish. Century Farm also hosts musical performances on select Saturdays from late April to September, during which visitors may enjoy wine tastings, picnics, and slow dances with graceful vines.