Tom Brown's first wine didn't quite make it into a barrel. Instead, it aged inside a pickle crock in his mother's kitchen, finally flowing forth in the year 1976. Today, Tom heads up a slightly more sophisticated operation as owner of Beans Creek Winery. Sourcing grapes from eight Tennessee counties, Tom and his team of vintners have created 31 wines, including dry reds, sweet and spicy muscats, and three types of sparkling wine. His concoctions have earned 38 medals in the Indy International Wine Competition, where they were also chosen Best of Class three times.
When surveyor Aaron Higgenbotham discovered Cumberland Caverns in 1810, he couldn't see its majestic pillars of dripping rock, its flowstone curtains, or its subterranean waterfalls. Stuck on a small ledge in the dark, Higgenbotham was as blind to the cave system's features—one of them a 2,000-foot-long cavern hall—as the eyeless crayfish that live there. His initial discovery nevertheless paved the way for nearly 200 years of speleological findings. Today, guides preserve this 32-mile National Landmark cavern by leading daily tours through its passages.
During tours, guides point out artifacts left by pre Civil War–era saltpeter mines, tunnels filled with rare gypsum deposits, and mysterious inscriptions reading "Shelah Waters - 1869" and "Millard Fillmore + Stacy." They lead guests among stalagmites and stalactites to a sound-and-light show that dramatically retells Bible stories, or into a domed hall that houses a hand-cut crystal chandelier rescued from a historic Brooklyn theater. It's in this last space that staffers organize banquets, weddings, and monthly live bluegrass concerts, or hold burial services for broken fax machines. They also lead visitors through the tight passageways of lesser-seen cavern segments during daytime or overnight spelunking trips.
Obscured by the jagged branches of towering trees, the pale moonlight scarcely illuminates the night. Through the darkness, the sound of snapping twigs and rustling leaves sends a clear message: you are not alone. This is the spine-tingling setting waiting to welcome brazen guests as they embark upon their journey through the Haunted Woods in Howell. The one-hour odyssey is interrupted by spine-tingling scenes, including an encounter with the headless horseman, an exorcism, and at least one terrifying tête-à-tête with a high-school gym teacher. More than 70 live actors ensure a night of novel scares, and all funds raised will benefit the Hazel Green High School baseball and theatre programs.
Hot Spot Tanning combines state-of-the-art sunless-bronzing technology with friendly, committed service. Marinade your melanin with a month of unlimited tanning in one of Hot Spot's standard bulb-based beds, which boast a bevy of advanced amenities, including built-in timers, optional air conditioning, and inspirational photos of the world's sexiest gingerbread men (a $41.99 value). Or, achieve the perfect sun-un-kissed glow thanks to the ray-less power of two airbrush tans, applied by a trained tantress to deliver a UV-free dose of customized color (each a $27.99 value).
The 120-acre Huntsville Botanical Garden is a year-round source of botanical bounties, with horticulture-loving visitors able to spy an array of gorgeous plants, from Japanese cedar in the winter to daylilies in the summer. Plant perusers can learn medicinal uses of common plants in the herb garden, practice whistle harmonies with the nature trail's melodious bird population, or write haikus about their devotion to limericks in the new Washio Ishii bonsai display. Junior leaf-hunters grab the spotlight in the 2-acre children's garden, filled with eight different activity stations, including fossil displays, a real Space Station node, and a bamboo musical garden. And until February 28, visitors are encourage to bring their dogs for the “Dog Days of Winter” festival, when their four-legged friends can pounce around the “No Leash Zone,” take a couple doggie classes, or explain the science of photosynthesis by barking the periodic table.
In the early 20th century, Tate Farms was a social hub for sharecroppers, who congregated at farmer John Patterson's general store, blacksmith shop, and gristmill. More than 200 harvests later, John Patterson's grandson, Homer Tate's descendants continue to uphold the farm’s legacy as a community gathering spot. However, instead of waiting for a new batch of horseshoes or gossiping about which neighbor might be a spy for the Kaiser, people now come to pick from 90 varieties of pumpkins on the 70-acre pumpkin patch. Leading visitors across the wider 5,000-acre fields, tour guides not only illuminate the farm’s history but teach visitors rural-agriculture info, including lessons on the role bees play in pollinating pumpkins and cotton.
Though the Tate family strives to preserve the past, they have retrofitted the farm with a brand new 14,000-square-foot covered area. Here, visitors sample fresh pumpkin pie made with the farm’s own pumpkins at the Country Café or head to the bakery for fresh pumpkin muffins and cinnamon rolls.