A Trip to the Museum: Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio

A Trip to the Museum: Columbus Museum of Art

Take Your Teen to the Columbus Museum of Art!

My daughter, Holly, pictured above (hint: she’s the one in the fur-obscured Arctic Monkeys t-shirt), is already a world-renowned artiste at the tender age of fourteen.  Hey, I have Dutch friends who have seen some of her artwork!  And looky here!  Now you have, too!

CMOA Columbus Ohio
Artists’ occupational hazard? Beautiful face bursting through the sketch paper.  Untitled (Holly, watercolor, 2017)

When I saw that one of our favorite museums, the Columbus Museum of Art, was closing out its special exhibit called Beyond Impressionism, I asked Holly if we should go.  Without any hesitation she agreed to the road trip!  She’s not an impressionist; she’s a realist, but we hoped post-Impressionist art such as we would find on display would inspire her to take her portraiture in an exciting new direction.  So it was a no-brainer to hop in the car last Saturday and drive up to Columbus.

McDonalds Columbus Ohio
Top Drawer! Top Drawer!

The next morning, Sunday, we made our way to downtown Columbus, which locals call the Discovery District, and the museum.  Luckily we arrived around 9:45am, because a long line was starting to form behind us in anticipation of the 10am opening.

The Beyond Impressionism Exhibit’s Star Artist, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

The museum has a lot of great offerings, but of course we made a beeline directly for the special exhibit.  I loved seeing works up close that I had learned about in high school!  Especially cool were the Toulouse-Lautrec prints.  Holly even snapped up a “Le Chat Noir” t-shirt.

Le Chat Noir Toulouse Lautrec Columbus Ohio
Le Chat Noir (Nightclub poster by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec)

I recalled how many times over the years I had seen the Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine print and its variants.

Troupe de Mlle Eglantine Toulouse Lautrec Columbus Ohio
Troupe de Mlle Eglantine (poster by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec)

Poor Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Though born into an aristocratic family, he lived a tough, tragic, short life.  His parents split when he was only in grade school.  He grew to be only 4’8” tall due to easily-broken femurs in his teen years that didn’t heal properly.  He also suffered from alcoholism.  Painting gave him relief from his despair.  He died age 36.

Toulouse-Lautrec spent a lot of time with morally questionable characters.  According to fellow painter Edouard Vuillard, “Lautrec was too proud to submit to his lot, as a physical freak, an aristocrat cut off from his kind by his grotesque appearance. He found an affinity between his own condition and the moral penury of the prostitute.”

The Sphinx Toulouse Lautrec Columbus Ohio
The Sphinx (Toulouse-Lautrec, 1898). This is one of his more modest ladies “de la nuit.”

So while other artists of his day aspired to create paintings of perfect likenesses of their wealthy patrons, Toulouse-Lautrec was perfectly happy to sketch all number of the prostitutes, dancers and other “low lifes” in his circle of acquaintances.  He paid the rent by creating low-brow advertising posters, which further caused him to be looked down upon.

For a modern-day analogy, think of yourself as poor, unloved Henri: your art friends enjoy the prestige of creating fine art portraits of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, while you get to maybe design disposable Wal-Mart circulars.  I wonder what art aficionados of Toulouse-Lautrec’s time would think about how celebrated his works have become in the years since their creation!

The Contemporary Art Gallery

Once Holly and I made our way through the marvelous Beyond Impressionism exhibit, we headed upstairs to see some of the regular collection on hand at the museum.  Our destination was the Contemporary Art Gallery.  There’s just so much creativity on display there!  You can’t help but marvel sometimes at the intent of each artist, and wonder what was he or she thinking!  Definitely do not miss this incredible gallery!

Within it, the thought-provoking Nocturne Navigator had a small room to herself.  The larger than life, iridescent blue statue of a skyward-looking African American female in a lit-up skirt, illustrating the path for slaves to find their way at night to freedom, was jaw-droppingly awe inspiring.

Nocturne Navigator Columbus Ohio
“Nocturne Navigator” by Alison Saar, 1998. Pic can’t do it justice, sadly.

Having seen so many paintings and sculptures that stirred us, we took our leave of the museum and headed back home.  I was sad we didn’t make it to the other incredible galleries on hand, but we were kinda missing Jitterbug, our own “chat noir.”  I have no doubt we will be back to Columbus soon, though, and I promise I will monitor Holly’s new artworks for any signs of inspiration!

Jitterbug Chat Noir Columbus Ohio
Our own “Chat Noir,” AKA Jitterbug!

Columbus Museum of Art Entrance
Outside the Columbus Museum of Art Entrance

Tips to Enjoy the Museum!

  • -Allow at least an hour to enjoy the JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity on the first floor, straight ahead and to the right after you enter the museum.  This is a spacious, attractive workshop to take the kids to and have all sorts of unique fun creating art with them.
  • -But take the kids to the exhibits as well.  Interactive creativity stations for young and old alike are strategically placed throughout the museum.
  • -There is no charge to enter the museum on Sundays. However, the crowds start pouring in early so do arrive as close to 10am as possible.
  • -Plenty of parking is available on the surrounding streets, so don’t bother paying to park in the lot behind the museum.
  • -Bring a pencil and sketch to your heart’s content in any gallery you like!  Non-flash photography is also permitted.
  • -The museum is situated right in the middle of Columbus’s Discovery District.  Pick up a museum brochure at the entrance, which lists nearby attractions and places to eat!

Cleveland ROCKS! Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland Ohio

Here it is, the 21st century already, and I had little idea of the amazing happenings on the other side of my adopted state of Ohio.

When I was little, back in the Stone Ages, Cleveland was known universally as the buckle of the Rust Belt.  Why?  Its claim to fame throughout much of the 20th century lay in its rise as an Industrial monolith.  Terrific for the American economy… not so much for Cleveland.  Factories belching out smoke and all manner of industrial pollutants ain’t pretty.  The “Mistake on the Lake”, as Cleveland was dubbed, eventually offered up a gritty cityscape of the usual urban decay.

But no more!

Thanks to the ongoing efforts of public and private partnerships throughout the area, Cleveland has become a true renaissance town.  The northeastern Ohio city has reinvigorated its stretches of forests, beaches, rivers, and even waterfalls.  Once an environmental nightmare – the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969 – today the landscape comprises cleaned-up pinnacles of natural beauty.

There is a wealth of amazing attractions and activities here, rivalled only by the wealth of the city’s captains of industry of decades past.   You will have a grand time simply planning a visit, let alone actively participating in the awesome stuff to do.

Cleveland rocks, indeed!

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Cleveland Ohio

IndoorsCultureDiscover exactly why Cleveland rocks as you tour its world-renowned Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  The term “Rock & Roll” was coined right here on the banks of Lake Erie, so it makes sense that the city is home to this terrifically entertaining museum.  I know that “rock & roll” as a musical genre, despite its roots in teenage angst and rebellion, holds little interest to many young people of today.  Even so, let your parents get their geek on within the seven floors of interactive content and unique rock memorabilia.  You’ll find cool connections between the history of rock and the riffs of present-day popular artists such as Sia, Bruno Mars, The Arctic Monkeys (Hi, Alex), and many more.

 

Cleveland Museum of Art

IndoorsCultureThe Cleveland Museum of Art, thanks to the generous patronage of all those wealthy industrialists, happens to be one of the finest art museums anywhere.  Amazingly, it costs nothing to attend.  Visitors love the museum itself, which centers around a handsome lobby.  Each exhibit starts and ends within the lobby, so it’s easy to use the space as a meet up if everyone strikes out on their own.  The medieval armor (featuring snicker-worthy codpieces) and weaponry exhibit is a special treat for all but especially for young folk, who will also enjoy the interactive camera technology that sets you up making your own 2-D and 3-D art.

OutdoorsMiscellaneousTranspoOn the other side of 9th street from the RNRHOF, check out the USS Cod Submarine Memorial; you won’t have too much walking around too do within its claustrophobic confines.  I mean, how much do we owe these dedicated 97 navy men who lived in frequent terror on this relatively tiny sub during World War II for over two months at a time?  It’s a fascinating exhibit that all Americans should experience in order to appreciate just a small but significant facet of our exemplary armed forces.

 

The Arcade Cleveland Ohio

IndoorsCultureGood eatin'Peer back a little further into history at The Arcade Cleveland, an architectural treasure downtown that dates back to the end of the 19th century!  This glass-enclosed, multistory visual feast is a must-see, and it stands within easy walking distance of Quicken Loans Area, Progressive Field and/or the Public Square.  One of the country’s first indoor shopping malls, the Arcade demands you take a seat with a steaming latte, cappuccino or hot chocolate.  Close your eyes, and imagine yourself amongst the bustle of upscale Cleveland during the turn of the prior century.

Good eatin'CultureDelicious stuff to eat lies within easy Uber distance at Cleveland’s own Little Italy neighborhood.  Kick Chef Boyardee to the curb, because you can’t go wrong enjoying your pasta at any number of the authentic Italian kitchens to choose from.  The quaint ambience of the area will enchant, whether you dine indoors or out.  After your meal, enjoy a stroll amongst the art galleries, coffee shops, boutiques and bakeries.  The Italin treats are out of this world!

 

A Christmas Story House Cleveland Ohio
Look familiar?

IndoorsMiscellaneousGood eatin'If you’re at all like my family and me, one of the aspects of Christmas we look forward to the most is the annual A Christmas Story marathon on TBS.  Did you know the exterior of Ralphie’s house – The A Christmas Story House – was shot right here in Cleveland?  And that you can not only visit said house, but have it all to yourself if you book an overnight there as well?  The house has been redone inside to match the movie, and it’s filled to the brim with selfie-enticing touchable props, including everyone’s favorite, the F-R-A-G-I-L-E leg lamp!  A museum with the real props from the movie sits across the street.  Save your ticket stub for a 10% discount at the fabulous Rowley Inn restaurant on the corner.

IndoorsMoving on to some fun stuff, be sure and check out the vintage pinball machines at your beck at call at the Superelectric Pinball Parlor.  Situated within the buzzing Cleveland Arts District, the Parlor features over 20 games of the cool variety that your grandparents would have played on their first date.  You can easily find out what’s on hand by perusing the list of available machines on their website.  Also on hand is a FREE vintage jukebox with some serious retro tunes.

IndoorsGood eatin'In keeping with the vintage gaming theme, why not unplug for a while?  Put yer dang cell phone and its execrable junk-food themed game apps away, and stay a while at the Tabletop Board Game Café.  Why aren’t these cafes on every street corner everywhere, I demand to know!   Anyway.  Only five bucks gets you in, and you can choose amongst an array of dozens if not hundreds of board games to play amongst your friends or total strangers.  Everything from the classics (think Monopoly, Sorry and Clue) to the new stuff like Cards Against Humanity is here along with tasty food.  What a fantastic way to relax and while away a rainy afternoon!

 

Edgewater Beach Cleveland Ohio
A beach! In Ohio!

OutdoorsSeasonalIf the weather is nice, feel free to forfeit your Monopoly riches and head directly to Edgewater Beach, do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Sit and enjoy a picnic on the fine sands of the shores of Lake Erie, or walk/bike/run along lovely paths with views of the skyline.  Swimming in the lake is mostly encouraged – the water is shallow enough for all but the smallest kids.  However, there may be signs prohibiting it so be sure and look for them, first!  This beautiful jewel of the Cleveland park system is very well kept, and there is plenty of parking available.

OutdoorsSeasonalIf even more adventure and excitement is what you crave, I highly recommend the 5 zip lines, dozens of obstacles and beautiful vantage points amongst the tree tops at the Go Ape at Mill Stream Run Recreation Area.  Such a fun and exhilarating way to burn off energy!  The Tarzan swing looks especially unique and enticing.  As always with outdoor attractions, check first for important safety regs and answers to all your questions.

How would you spend a day “rocking out” in Cleveland?  Let me know in the comments.  Rock on!

Live It Up in Dallas, Texas!

Luggage tags inked “DFW”?  You’re in for a massive heart-pounding, adrenaline pumping good time!   Dallas is only the third largest city in Texas.  Even so, this southern metropolis proudly embodies the “Everything’s Bigger in Texas” mantra.  So it shouldn’t be any surprise that the excitement to be had here is just as outsized as the city itself.

Live It Up in Dallas, Texas
Welcome to Dallas, y’all!

What you’ll find are opportunities galore to kick your adrenal glands into high gear.  Dallas likes to think of itself as prim and proper.  Look carefully, though, and you’ll find a real wild child of a town, just ready to show you an exhilarating good time.  Everything is indeed bigger here, including your maxed out heart rate when you kick it at the following attractions!

 

Live It Up in Dallas Texas

OutdoorsMiscellaneousIf there’s a more extreme amusement park in Texas than Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park, I’d like to know about it.  Two – just TWO – of the amazing things you can do here include free falling from 16 stories up, and experiencing 4 g’s of force in the so-called Skyscraper.  (4g’s is more than space shuttle pilots experience during take-off.)  Shouldn’t it go without saying that you can bungee jump here? I want pictures if you go!  And video, too.

 

Live It Up in Dallas Texas

OutdoorsMiscellaneousWould-be circus performances will want to explore the thrills on hand at Skyline Trapeze.  Allow for at least two heart-thumping hours.  Your first several minutes is spent on the ground to learn important safety procedures and trapeze techniques.  Then you’ll have at it, twirling and flying through the air with the greatest of Texas ease adrenaline at your service!  Anyone in your party who’d prefer to keep their heart inside their chest could hang out at the adjacent arcade/go kart mini-golf park.

OutdoorsMiscellaneousSoar among the treetops at Trinity Forest Adventure Park on your own or with a guideNo less than eight ropes courses beckon, at heights up to 50’ tall!  Keep your heart pumping furiously by participating in military-style obstacles such as wobble bridges, and see how stealthily you can slink about on tight ropes, ladders, cargo nets, zip lines, and more.  Allow at least three hours for this spirited excitement!

 

Live It Up in Dallas, Texas
Dallas skyline

Downtown Dallas provides plenty of opportunities to get totally amped up in the city.  Below are just a very few highlights!  Experts recommend taking the DART train to avoid parking headaches.  Here are some awesome things to do:

OutdoorsMiscellaneousWork out your legs -and- your brain by signing up for the Outdoor Trivia Race in the Dallas Arts District  You have an important deadline to reach in 90 minutes: you must save the city from an invasion of deadly germs, wielding only your wits and your cell phone.  Once you’ve proven your mettle on the bacteria-laden battlefield, you can boast bragging rights amongst your group and online!   I love how this unique city exploration game is like an ordinary walking tour on steroids!

IndoorsMiscellaneousGood eatin'The Perot Museum of Nature and Science downtown is another not-to-be-missed science museum.  State-of-the-art video and 3D computer animations provide thrilling, life-like simulations where visitors can exercise their brains through hands-on activities and interactive games.  A particular draw is the tornado simulator – yes, north Texas is prime tornado country – and right here you get to experience the adrenaline of living through one. Other permanent exhibits explore life as a bird (or, closer to home – life as a human), the expanding universe, sports, and engineering/innovation.  After your visit, try some amazing Tex-Mex.  Skip just past the Tex Mex-inspired El Fenix across the street*, and make a beeline towards authentic Mexican (interior Mexican) Meso Maya right next door.

Live it Up in Dallas Texas
Braniff 727

IndoorsTranspoBack to the ‘burbs: How stimulating is simulating?  Hmmm… did someone say flight simulator?  Give piloting a whirl and visit some neat aircraft at the small but mighty Frontiers of Flight Museum near Dallas’s original city airport, Love Field.  The sadly extinct Braniff Airlines is memorialized here along with the still crankin’ Southwest Airlines.  Also on hand are relics from the Hindenburg, and the entire Apollo 7 space capsule!  A particularly neat display shares the evolution of flight attendant fashion.  I know the first place this aviation buff is heading next time I’m in Dallas!

Live it Up in Dallas Texas

OutdoorsGood eatin'CultureFinally, I’d like to recommend a fun juxtaposition to the tightly buttoned, straight laced city that you’ve explored so far.  The other side of the conservative coin lies deep within a quirky, anything goes, artsy fartsy east Dallas neighborhood known as Deep Ellum, the happenin’ incubator of north Texas’ best jazz and blues musicians.  It’s fun to locate the district’s murals and sculpture, which promote a unique Texas aesthetic.  You can admire them at length while you chill out and chow down on some of the city’s most innovative eats.  The people watching in this colorful, counterculture enclave can’t be beat!


What is your favorite thrill-seeking activity?  Let me know in the Comments!


*I am not discouraging you from eating Tex-Mex.  I love it, myself.  If you should find yourself anywhere near a Chuy’s, in Dallas or elsewhere, give ’em a shot!  They serve some consistently excellent Tex-Mex specialties in a super fun, kitschy ambiance!

What’s So Peachy About Atlanta, Georgia?? (Hint: A LOT!)

If you’re like me, you’ve changed planes at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport a time or two in your life.  The busiest airport in the world, ATL’s enormous concourses always buzz with frenetic travelers on the go.   While making your way through the hectic airport, have you given a second thought to the city of Atlanta itself?  Why are all the city streets named after peach trees, for example?

We all learned in school that the Civil War’s General Sherman ordered the vital railroad hub of Atlanta burned to the ground.  Now, 150 years later, “Hotlanta,” so nicknamed because of its hot and humid summer climate, boasts its importance as a center of transportation once again, as hub of two of America’s largest airlines, Delta and Southwest.

A city on fire… again!

The city is not just literally balmy, however; it’s on fire figuratively as well.  Atlanta is legit a hotbed of outstanding activity!  It’s no wonder that the city’s motto is Resurgens, Rising Again.  (Nothing to do with peaches, alas.)

So for those of you lucky enough to venture away from the airport, I present the following “peachy” things to do.  There are three main clusters of activity described here: the tourist area downtown known as Pemberton Place, the nearby Civil Rights history centered around MLK, and last but not least — sorry! — Hartsfield-Jackson airport!


Pemberton Place

Luckily for Atlanta tourists, most of the city’s noteworthy attractions are situated in this 20-acre downtown cluster.

Georgia Aquarium

IndoorsMiscellaneousOne of the world’s largest aquariums, the Georgia Aquarium is home to well over 100,000 critters.  You’ll want to arrive first thing in the morning, or after 4pm, when ticket prices drop if you buy them online.   Guests rave about the indoor dolphin show, and thrill to rambling through the huge tank with sharks and manta rays circling all around them.  Highlights of this aquarium include opportunities to interact up close with a variety of sea creatures including the whale sharks.  These endangered animals are the world’s largest living nonmammalian vertebrates; you would make a tasty but rather small snack for them, as they are many times larger than you!  Animal Encounters allows guests to hang out with their choice of dolphins, penguins and sea otters.

OutdoorsCultureAdjacent to the Aquarium is the world-renowned Centennial Olympic Park.  Home of the 1996 Olympic games, this beautiful 21 acre urban greenspace is now filled with walking paths, water gardens & the Fountain of Rings.  To learn more about the cool events going on here, your first stop should be its official Visitor Center, located adjacent to the Fountain of Rings on the south side of the park.

 

IndoorsCultureNo visit to the New South (“Too busy to hate on anyone”) would be complete without a stop at the Center for Civil and Human Rights.  Amongst its highly interactive, thought-provoking exhibits is the Woolworth lunch counter experience.  You must be at least 13 to participate – it’s that intense.  This brutal re-enactment of the hate experienced by four African American men just wanting to enjoy a meal really stands out in its stark effectiveness.  Now that you’ve pondered the human rights journeys of the past, consider the future.  Be sure to visit the Technology display to understand how tech can be so life-changing – in both good and terrible ways.

CNN Center Atlanta

IndoorsMiscellaneousCurrent and future broadcasters, journalists, media stars and news junkies should sign up for the CNN Atlanta Studio Tour.   The Cable News Network, on air since June 1, 1980, was the first all-news all-the-time television channel in the United States.  There are three tours to choose from: Behind the Scenes, HLN with Robin Meade, and the VIP Tour.  Guests note that this last option is by far the best, as in addition to visiting the control room, newsrooms, special effects studio, and more, you are taken to witness an actual studio broadcasting live on air!  After any given tour, stop at the lobby food court for your choice of a delicious meal and awesome people watching.

World of Coca-Cola Atlanta

IndoorsMiscellaneousThirsty soft drink enthusiasts will enjoy the World of Coca-Cola.  This museum, a paean to America favorite sugar-laden carbonated beverages, features a fun variety of interactive exhibits, including a really cool 4-D theatre experience.  It’s fascinating to consider how Coke, a humble pharmaceutical tonic concocted right here in Atlanta, became such a behemoth of international corporatism.  Rest assured, your thirst will be fully slaked by your choice of Coke product proffered upon entrance to the museum.  But also try a taste here of the dozens of distinct varieties of Coca-Cola produced for consumers the globe over.


Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Site

Martin Luther King, Jr Atlanta

Atlanta is the proud home of the Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Site.  Fortunately, this is a very concentrated area east on I-85 from Pemberton Place, and it’s easily reached via Uber or public transportation.

Ebenezer Church at Martin Luther King Atlanta

IndoorsCultureThe Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta is a small church with a grand history.   You’ll visit the historic site of the church; its iteration across the street is a dynamic place of worship today.  Anyway, at Ebenezer you’ll want to take a few minutes to sit in the pews and listen to Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermons.  Close your eyes and imagine him here, as he was only 50-odd short years ago, leading the congregation with his powerful messages of hope and inspiration!  In the basement, watch a video of Dr King’s sister narrating her family’s poignant story.

OutdoorsIndoorsCultureThe onsite National Park and Visitor Center are home to Dr King’s birthplace and graves.  Commit to spend at least a couple of hours here to fully appreciate Dr King’s legacy and impact on civil rights in the current era.   You will be so moved, I promise!


ATL – Hartsfield Jackson International Airport of Atlanta

Last but not least, let’s re-visit the neighborhood of Atlanta’s gargantuan Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) for its variety of fascinating activities.

Hartsfield Jackson International Airport Atlanta

IndoorsOutdoorsI’ve already confessed on this website how much I love airplanes and air travel.  The Atlanta airport, with multiple runways in constant use by every variety of aircraft imaginable, is America’s mecca of plane spotting.  You could visit an airport parking garage and uncomfortably camp out on its top floors for good runway views.  But I’m sure you’d rather “camp out,” legally and in style, at the Marriott-branded Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Hotel.

This pyramid-shaped hotel is situated right on the northern edge of Hartsfield-Jackson’s slew of runways and concrete aprons.  Request a runway-view room, for which you shouldn’t be charged more than an additional $20 per night.  Then you can either relax on your very own balcony to enjoy all the plane spotting, or splash around in the indoor glass pool to do so.

Spirit of Delta 767 Atlanta
The Spirit of Delta Boeing 767 aircraft, Delta Flight Museum, Atlanta

IndoorsTranspoEndlessly fascinated by flight, I would make my first Atlanta stop a visit to the Delta Flight Museum, right on the airport grounds.   Historic aircraft dating back as far as the 1920s are on display.  More recent airliners include the airline’s awesome Boeing 767, known as “The Spirit of Delta.”  Take a tour of a 747 and defy death by a walk on its wing!  And forget your Xbox 360: a dedicated 737 flight simulator is open to the public.  Please be extra sure to visit the museum’s website before you go due to its restricted hours of operation.

Porsche Experience Atlanta

IndoorsOutdoorsTranspoPerhaps you’re a speed buff, but prefer the four-wheeled variety.  If so, dig out your wallet and take advantage of the city’s most breathtaking way to kill an hour and a half, the Porsche Experience Center Atlanta.  The website explains all the details, but basically, anyone at least 21 with a valid driver’s license can sign up to race drive the German manufacturer’s amazing sports cars for a 90 minute session around the facility’s proprietary racetrack.  Expect to pay as much as $1,000 for this splendid opportunity.

Younger folk need not despair: you’re welcome to sit shotgun while a Porsche-certified veteran driver maneuvers you around the track.  Another option for the youthful set is a 30 or 60 minute session in the driving simulator lab.  All visitors can enjoy the Heritage Center, a celebration of the vehicles’ unique history.  Also onsite are a retail store and two dining establishments.


 

I have barely scratched the surface of all there is to do in this vibrant city.  I would love to know whether you have visited Atlanta before, and what appeals most to you?  Tell me more in the comments!

Rockin’ (and Rollin’) – Things to do in Memphis, Tennessee

  Memphis – a city that exemplifies the word Resilience.  The “birthplace of the blues” was founded upon a bluff along the Mississippi River.  The cliffside location made for easy transportation up and down the river, and unlike elsewhere in the vicinity, it would not flood.  Resilience to the forces of nature.

shackle

Resilience to the forces of oppression would be found in the mid 19th century, within a remarkable “way station” along the Underground Railroad.  The slaves fighting back.  Resilience in the face of evil.

Post-Slavery Mosquito-Borne Yellow Fever

The years after slavery brought poverty and horrific sanitation conditions to the city.  Memphis could not withstand the onslaught of Yellow Fever.  Thousands died, and while wealthy whites were able to flee the scourge, poor blacks could not.  Luckily for them, the deadly plague was far less fatal than it was for other peoples.   The theory goes that continuous exposure to the disease amongst their African ancestors back on the continent was passed down to them and protected them.  Immunology passed down from parent to child.   Resilience.

The Era of the Struggle for Civil Rights

Shortly after the horrors of this massive Yellow Fever outbreak, a revolutionary sewer system and fresh water aquifer brought relief to the city.  Memphis managed to pull through in no small part due to the heroic efforts of its surviving African American residents, many of whom helped allay the suffering of both whites and blacks.  When it was all said and done, however, Memphis still refused to confer civil rights upon everyone.  Blacks continued to be paid far less than whites.  Their education was poorer, and they were kept from voting.  Their civil rights struggles persist to the present day.  Thankfully, they don’t give up.  They are resilient.

Birth of the Blues

blues guitar in Memphis

I bring up the resilience of the city to help explain its history as the birthplace of blues and rock.  It’s been said that only those who suffer create noteworthy music.  Listen closely to early blues and rock.  Sure, “I’ve got the blues” is a struggling musician’s outlet to express despair.  But pay attention too, to their defiant, rebellious cries for hope and joy.  These musicians, ever resilient, form the backbone upon which Memphis pride passionately stands today.


Jailhouse Rock Elvis Presley Memphis
Elvis the Pelvis

CultureEveryone knows Memphis is the home of Elvis Presley.  The “King of Rock and Roll,” Elvis gave your great-grandparents the vapors when their children (your grandparents!) eagerly watched him gyrate on TV.  The King was quite the living legend in his day with his blues and gospel-inspired rock music.  He made his Memphis home at Graceland, a major American tour attraction.

If you’re in Memphis with your grandfolks and they want to visit Graceland, by all means, go!  Over 600,000 people a year enjoy checking out the King’s amusingly retro shag carpet, TV,  airplanes, vehicles and more.  Your grandparents will especially revere his grave site on the property.

Having noted all the above, I would not recommend a stop at Graceland if you are on a tight schedule or budget.  The kitsch factor is fun, but visitors complain the tours are highly overpriced, and you don’t get to see the inner sanctum of the residence (Elvis’ upstairs living quarters).

Sun Studio Memphis

CultureIndoorsInstead, visit the studio where the King’s voice and music first burst onto the scene.  The epicenter of the birthplace of rock and blues is a much better stop for music lovers.  Sun Studio is this place.  The renowned recording studio is still in full use today, at night.  During the day, the facility hosts scores of tourists gawking at the instruments, costumes, memorabilia and music of a bygone era.  Grandma can always revel in the fact that Elvis haunted these very same walls.    Bonus: delicious milkshakes served here!

CultureIndoorsIn conjunction with Sun Studios, you definitely should check out the Smithsonian-sponsored Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum.  According to their website,

This museum tells of the musical pioneers and legends of all racial and socio-economic backgrounds who, for the love of music, overcame obstacles to create the musical sound that changed the world… A digital audio tour guide takes visitors at their own pace through seven galleries featuring 3 audio visual programs, more than 30 instruments, 40 costumes and other musical treasures.

IndoorsMiscellaneousThe Gibson guitar factory across the street is a wonderful adjunct to the Rock ‘N Soul Museum, even if you don’t play guitar.  Watch master luthiers in action and pick up your very own guitar in the gift shop.


While in town, take some time to visit some inspiring attractions dedicated to the fight for Civil Rights.

CultureYour first stop should be the Slave Haven / Burkle Estate Museum.Slave Haven Memphis  This stop on the Underground Railroad should only take an hour or so of your day.   You’ll discover what many heroes of the time (including abolitionist Jacob Burkle, a German businessman whose home you’ll tour) did to help runaway slaves find freedom at long last.

 

 

 

 

Lorraine Motel Memphis

CultureMove on to the incredible, heart-rending exhibits at the National Civil Rights Museum, housed in the former Lorraine Motel.  This is the very site where Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.  His motel room has been left as he himself left it nearly 50 years ago.  Plan to spend several hours here because the exhibits span a lengthy timeline, from ancient slavery practices to the push for Black Power and ongoing civil rights activities.  You will definitely want to set aside some time for quiet reflection here.

Good eatin'Hey, you’ve gotta eat.  While you’re in town, you must try some of the best barbecue in the bbq ribs Memphisworld!  One of the most exemplary joints stands right across the street.  Central BBQ is renowned for its yummy smoked pork, chicken, turkey, ribs and more.  The atmosphere is casual for such serious barbecue.  Do not miss it!

 

Tom Lee Park Memphis

OutdoorsMiscellaneousOutdoors lovers will be in heaven alongside the mighty Mississippi River that borders the city.  If time permits, stroll Beale Street – you’re too young to go to the clubs, but you’ll experience the blues up close in its natural habitat!  Then stop at Beale Street Landing, with its lovely views of downtown, Tom Lee Park, with its paved walking path parallel to the river, or the Mud Island River Park, showcasing a scale model of the Mississippi near the Mississippi River Museum.  Hopefully you’ll have time for all three!

Good eatin'You’ll be famished afterwards, so what better time to try out the nearby Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken?  Each crunchy breast, wing, leg and drumstick is spicy, but not too hot!  There is usually a considerable wait but it’s so worth it!

Indoor Go Kart racing Memphis

IndoorsTranspoNow let’s talk about Rollin’ in Memphis.  For simple yet heart-pounding excitement, race indoors in the 40,000 square foot indoor go kart track at the Autobahn Indoor Speedway.  Separate courses are designed for the thrill of adults and well as youngsters.  Considering you must wear a helmet, and the European-designed electric vehicles’ speeds can go up to 30, 40, or even 50 miles per hour, this is no baby bumper car ride!


How have you overcome the obstacles in your life (and off the raceway)?  Do you have any creative outlets, and how do they help?  Let me know in the comments!

The Wright Stuff – Dayton, Ohio

Not gonna lie – I LOVE flying.  It was totally the shizz back before deregulation in the 70’s.  Even cattle class passengers enjoyed endless leg room, free food that wasn’t as bad as people will tell you it was, no nickel-and-diming for every little thing; heck, smoking in the lav was okay!  Eek!  Well, maybe flying wasn’t perfect, but it was a beyond magical experience for a young girl like yours truly.  My daughter loves flying too, even though nowadays passengers are treated like third-rate cattle with a coinpurse attached.  Hard to imagine that the Wright Cycle Co. in Dayton, Ohio is where it all began.

CVG airport observation area
CVG airport observation area

As I look forward to a new journey by air soon, I sometimes wonder if the Wright Brothers ever could begin to imagine air travel in the 21st century.  I think I’d rather sit cramped in the rearmost middle seat any day than have to lie prone on top of a flimsy biplane wing, because at least I’d get a few frequent flier points and a pack of pretzels for my troubles.

Time Travelers?

Seriously though, how cool would it be though if the Wrights could come time travel to the present?  I’d give anything to know what they’d think about our complex jet engines and sleek, aerodynamic fuselages.   How would they marvel at their humble flying machine making the innovation of the sound barrier-breaking Concorde possible?  Most importantly, how indignant would they feel to have to remove their jaunty caps and tweed jackets in the TSA slow lane?

North Carolina may stamp “First in Flight” on their license plates; their Kitty Hawk field, where the Wright Brothers first slipped the surly bonds of earth, is a pretty cool place.  However, the preface to this very flight occurred right here in Dayton.  If you’re a fan of aviation to any degree at all, this should be a very cool place indeed for you to explore!

 


Dayton Carillon Park

OutdoorsCultureA park is a park is a park, unless it’s this 65 acre historical overview of Dayton during the Wright Brothers era, Carillon Historical Park. Entertaining exhibits of Dayton’s role in the technological revolution at the turn of the 20th century compete with the sight of the well-tended grounds.

The Wright Brothers center within the park includes a reproduction of their cycle shop, interpretive materials including films of early flights, and a room devoted to display of a Wright II Flyer, the world’s first practical airplane, built by the Wright brothers in 1905.  I would recommend the Aviation Heritage NHP for Dayton visitors with limited time who wish to focus on the aviation history aspect of their visit.  But if you wish to examine additional facets of the history of the area in a beautiful setting, this is the place to be!

 

OutdoorsIndoorsCultureHow did the workings of the humble bicycle evolve in Orville and Wilbur Wrights’ heads into the prototype of a successful flying machine?  Ponder the answer at The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center.  This is where it’s real: enter the world of the Wright Brothers in their restored print shop and subsequent bicycle shop, and just try not to get inspired to turn your dreams into reality!  A cool exhibit chronicles the parachute’s invention in Dayton up to its use in the space program.  The Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center, a short drive away, allows you to see the field where they tested their airplanes.  No skydiving offered here, alas.  A visit to both Centers is a terrific way to prepare for the pièce de resistance – a visit to the Air Force Museum, as described below.

 

Air Force One at USAF Museum

IndoorsOutdoorsTranspoIs there a larger, more comprehensive military aviation exhibition facility anywhere in the world to compare to the National Museum of the United States Air Force?  Not a chance.  This is the place to check out if you’re the least fascinated with air and space travel, civilian, military or otherwise.  The museum is laid out in historical sequence. You’ll start your visit with the Wright Brothers in Building One, and finish up in Building Four with displays showcasing the future of aeronautics.

Among the countless aircraft on display is President John F Kennedy’s Air Force One plane, a  Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000.  This is the vehicle that transported his body back to Washington from Dallas after he was tragically shot. If you’ve ever seen the iconic black and white photograph of the inauguration of President Lyndon B Johnson with the  widowed Jackie Kennedy, this is the very plane in which this event occurred.  Anyway.  Kids and their families will all love the IMAX theater for movies, and flight simulators for those who want to try their hand at flying.

 

IndoorsTranspoNow that we’ve looked into all the amazing aviation history on display in Dayton, you may wonder if aeronautics is the only form of transpo anyone cares about in town.  Not hardly!  PackardSo if you prefer historic cars to planes?  Dayton’s down with that.  Visit America’s Packard Museum at the Citizens Motorcar Co., a renovated art deco Packard dealership from years past.  In addition to housing more than 50 lovingly restored vehicles and accessories from years ago, you’ll see fascinating exhibits detailing Packard’s many contributions to the war effort.  Pony up a little coin and take a ride with a staff member in one of the cars! What a neat way to participate in the theme of retro transportation this city celebrates!

 


OutdoorsTranspoCultureSeasonal  Dayton takes outdoor fun to the next level and it’s either free or very low cost!

Terrific views of the Great Miami River aren’t the only thing on offer at RiverScape MetroPark!  The heart of RiverScape is a big white permanent pavilion, which becomes the home of an enticing ice rink in winter.  In the summer you’ll find a vivacious cultural festival going on more often than not, along with a fun water play area for the whole family.  So no matter the season, this is always a rewarding place to visit.  Be sure to take in the views of the river from one of the many swinging benches along the river.  Whenever you visit, be sure to stop by here during lunch, when food trucks and live music are on offer.

MetroParks Mountain Biking Area (MoMBA) – The thrill of Mountain Biking is available for all experience levels on several exciting trails.  You don’t have to bring your own bike; you can rent them along with helmets here at MoMBA on Saturdays from 10AM to 1 PM – first come, first served, so get here early! Enjoy over nine miles of dedicated single-track trails in the beautiful wilderness not far from town, and bring the whole family.  There are bike rentals available for small children along with trails suited just for them.  Be sure to check the weather, and the website, before you go.  What a fabulous way to get in some exhilarating exercise!

The Riding Center at Carriage Hill MetroPark provides opportunities for everyone in the family to participate in a variety of horseback riding activities. Safety and proper horsemanship skills are taught, and weekend trail rides offered Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 2 PM, June through October, at the park’s Riding Center.  Seven miles of wooded bridle trails provide a serene, scenic backdrop to your ride.  Check the website for important details.


Stay Inside Awhile

Scene 75

IndoorsGood eatin'Just wanna kick back and find some legit fun while you’re in town?  One of North America’s largest and most spirited indoor entertainment emporiums lies north of downtown Dayton, just off of Interstate 75.  Scene 75 offers pizza, burgers and salads to slay your hunger before or after you’ve slain your enemies.  Take part in the competitions of your choice, which may include the multi-story laser tag arena, go-kart track, arcade, blacklight mini-golf course or Valkyrie experience.  But why stop there?  According to Scene 75, the one-of-a-kind Chaos Room is designed to “immerse yourself in your favorite video game on 15 ft HD projection screens with surround sound.”  Personally, if I feel like entering a chaos room I just tiptoe gingerly into my kids’ bedchambers, but what do I know?

 

What do you most want to do in Dayton?  Let me know in the comments!

Museums, Skyscrapers, Sports & More – Chicago, Illinois

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Chicago, the Windy City, lies along the shimmering west coast of Lake Michigan.  Best known for its towering skyline, deep dish pizza and bitterly cold winters, the city is the third largest in the United States.   Numerous trade associations hold annual meetings here every year, so I expect a lot of families accompany conventioneers and seek something to do while the conventions are taking place.

Such a large population center means that there should be a TON of cool things to do, and Chicago delivers.  The challenge for me as your Totally Teen Travel tour guide is to NARROW down the possibilities.  Unless you actually MOVE to Chicago, there is plenty for everyone to do during any given time spent here!  Even locals might argue they’ll never get around to everything!

Segway tour of Chicago
Multiple Segway tour companies

Unlike most cities about which I’ve written, there are multiple appealing attractions and things to do within their own type of category.  For example, Chicago has dozens of compelling world-class museums you can visit.  How the heck do you narrow the list down?  And who doesn’t want to experience the amazing Chicago skyline?  Which viewing opportunities are the most intense?  And how to best get into the sports the Windy City is so famous for?

 

What I will do here is recommend the most teen-friendly attractions in these categories.  But I suggest you go a step further and research ALL the exciting possibilities available to travelers on Chicago’s online visitors’ bureau.  Scroll down a bit and on the right side of the page you can “create a personalized itinerary” via the Utrip Trip Planner.  Input the requested information and voila!  Recommendations based on time of year, budget, age of participants and more are provided.

Why not save some serious coin while you enjoy all Chicago has to offer?  Massive savings are in store with the Go Chicago card.  Click on the banner below and check out all the discounts!

 

 

MUSEUMS (YES.  MUSEUMS)

Art Institute of Chicago
Entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago

More than anywhere else in the USA, I strongly encourage you to visit at least one Chicago museum based on your interests, background, or career plans.  There is something spectacular for everyone here, truly.  Even if you get dragged to your twin brother’s idea of a great museum, I’m confident you’ll still enjoy yourself immensely (and learn a lot, too!).

Here’s just a tiny representation of the museums you can choose from:

Many more exhibits, events and possibilities can be found, again, at the Visit Chicago website.

Now that I’ve gotten museums out of the way… there are plenty of other options for your trip to get totally lit.

 

SKYLINE FUN

Chicago’s skyline is spectacular, and only outdone, arguably, by the world-famous New York skyline.  There are several ways to enjoy the view, “big picture” style as well as up close.

Cycling along Lake Michigan Chicago
Cycling along Lake Michigan
  • Work out your quads as well as your vision via Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.  Not only will you experience lovely skyscraper views along the shore of Lake Michigan, but you will also pass through many beautiful parks, two of which are Jackson Park, with its University of Chicago, and Grant Park, featuring the famous Buckingham Fountain.  Millennium Park and Lincoln Park with its free Zoo are also on your path!  Rent your bike at Bobby’s Bike Hike – 540 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago IL 60611.  Ask for maps and helmets, or why not just sign up for a guided bike tour.

    Navy Pier, Chicago
    Fireworks on the Navy Pier
  • Promenade along the Navy Pier for spectacular skyline views and tons of cool things to do. This is where you’ll find the Children’s Museum, Imax theatre, classic carnival-style rides, plenty of restaurant options and the climate-controlled Centennial (Ferris) Wheel, which offers pristine views of the lake and skyline.  Stick around for the gorgeous sunset, and fireworks at specified days and times.
  • Want to round out your skyline experience from within the concrete jungle itself? Like, from the tip top of a skyscraper?  Then I recommend 360 Chicago.  Check on local sunset times, and plan to be here late in the day (while the sun is still out) to enjoy daytime, twilight, and night time vistas, each of which is guaranteed to take your breath away.
    • Now that you can’t breathe, take your death defying to new “heights” (no pun intended).  Sign up for the heart-pounding TILT experience!  You stand facing the views and are engineered safely to stand OUT and ABOVE the Magnificent Mile, over 1000 feet below!    See it to believe it at the 360 Chicago website.

 

SPORTS, OF COURSE

It should go without saying that Chicago is a sports lover’s town.  What kind of cool stuff is there to do for youse guys besides attending a Bulls, Bears, Sox, or Cubs game?

Wrigley Field Chicago
Entrance to Wrigley Field
  • Wrigley Field is the historic home of the beloved Chicago Cubs. Yes, this is the same Wrigley who probably made the chewing gum you love so much.  The ball park is over 100 years old; hopefully the gum you’re chewing right now isn’t.  Anyway, a tour of this mighty piece of sports history bestows a nostalgic feel for the sport of baseball as it was enjoyed back then.  Enjoy baseball the way your great grandparents did!  Depending on whether there is a game scheduled that day, there are different spots (dug out, press box, home base, etc.) within the ballpark on display.
  • Going back to the museum thing: Another Windy City museum to relish involves great fun with cool sports memorabilia and tons of interactive activities.  Here’s what to do: Have a delicious meal of American comfort food at Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch.  While dining at the ‘Stretch, ask for free tickets to the adjacent Chicago Sports Museum!   No need to be a sports fanatic to have a rollicking good time here.  Do check the online calendar first to avoid disappointment if the museum’s closed for a private event.
iFLY excitement Chicago
iFLY excitement
  • Defy death once again (you did TILT… right?) at iFLY, one of a few nationwide spots for indoor skydiving!   After a short but comprehensive training session, you’re instructed to lean into a fierce wind that lifts you off your feet just a few feet off the ground.  Like Superman, you’ll soar (in place), floating on a big column of air.  It’s completely safe, they say.  But then, they make you wear a helmet and goggles, so maybe not?

I would warn you that you will find this experience completely off the chain!  Follow up on  your newfound love by making a competition out of it.  Yes!   This thrilling new sport is  known as “bodyflight.”

 

What else would you recommend teens to do in the Windy City?  Let me know in the comments.

Have A BLAST in No Time Flat! Indianapolis

Having driven through Indiana a few times (with so many Interstates passing through, it is aptly known as the “Crossroads of America”), my most lingering impression of the state is pure, plain, barren, sleep-inducing flatness.  Flat farm fields.  Flat, stick straight roads that go on for miles.  Flat. Flat. Flat.  Oh look, a tree.  Wake me up when we get to a beach or a ski slope or a curve or something.

Indiana’s vivacious capital, Indianapolis, manages to dispel the Flat = Boring myth.    The city goes all out to entertain visitors with a terrific choice of activities both indoor and out.  Many of these fun undertakings center around the glory of sport.  Obviously sports aficionados will have entered heaven in all there is to do for them here.  Fortunately “Indy” has taken us non-fans into account when designing their attractions, because they offer a wealth of appealing options for us to do as well.   Flat can be a blast!  Read on and you’ll see!

 

Indy 500 racetrack
Could this be you?

OutdoorsCultureWould any trip to Indy be complete without a visit to the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500?  If you don’t know much about this historic race or its incredible track, head over to their website immediately.  The video visuals are simply stunning!   Then plan your visit to the facility’s museum, and ask to schedule a VIP grounds tour for some incredible photo ops at the winner’s circle, a chance to check out the pit stop, and so much more!   CONFIRM this tour a day or so before your visit because last-minute changes to their schedule could mean a sudden cancellation of the tour.

♠ The best-heeled amongst you may even arrange to drive a real Indy car around the track!  Sign up with the folks at Indy Racing Experience online for the package of your choice.

 

OutdoorsCultureIndoors

Newfields (“A Place for Nature and the Arts”) encompasses the Indianapolis Museum of Art as Lilly House Indianapoliswell as beautifully curated gardens and a magnificently restored historic mansion known as the Lilly House.   You could easily spend an entire day here exploring the exhibits and touring the grounds.  Especially enticing is Winterlights, when over a million lights are strung along the pathways, lending the holiday season an over-the-top magical sensation as you amble around, mouth agape at the dazzling beauty.  Don’t forget your mug of hot apple cider or cocoa and plate of s’mores.

 

IndoorsIf little sister Sasha drags you along to the Children’s Museum Indianapolis, don’t be upset.  This is the largest children’s museum anywhere in the world, and it offers great fun for everyone of any age!   If nothing else, there are a million opportunities to crank up interest in your Instagram by the photo ops offered here.  Who do you know who can post a pic of themselves as if they had been shot out of a cannon, for instance?   Other cool stuff to do is on hand.  Prove you’re a winner by outracing your opponents on the outdoor speedway track.  Show off your superlative fashion sense in the American POP exhibit.  It’s all here, along with a LOT more to keep you entertained for hours, and you can plan ahead by visiting their website!

 

IndoorsMiscellaneous

Escape Room Rob a bank or break out of jail – with your parents’ permission, of course – at Indianapolis’ interactive escape attraction, The Escape Room Indianapolis.  You’ll have to brainiac your way into figuring out how to exit the themed room of your choice, so be prepared to use those SAT smarts you’re so proud of.  And just like those standardized tests we all know and love – you get the added pressure of the clock ticking to boot!  This highly-rated attraction is located above the Old Spaghetti Factory, so dinner is easy to “factor” into your break out plans.

 

IndoorsMiscellaneousIf you know anything about Indiana, you know its residents, nicknamed “Hoosiers,” are rabid fanatics of basketball.  Nothing wrong with that!   You can visit the ground zero of this mania by taking a free self-guided tour of the Hinkle Fieldhouse.  This “cathedral” of Indiana basketball, a co-star itself of the movie Hoosiers, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.   See where all the “hoop”la began, right here at the Hinkle, located on the campus of Indianapolis’ Butler University.  This is a must-visit for any fan of college basketball.

 

OutdoorsCultureOn a beautiful day, or really, any day that isn’t frigid cold, you must take some time to visit the White River State ParkWhite River State Park.  This incredible scenic outdoor wonderland is located just west of downtown.   Instead of walking along the well-kept river banks, you can rent bikes at Wheel Fun Rentals or even a Segway from Segway Tours of Indiana.  Concerts happen at this pedestrian delight at various times, or you can check out museums such as the Indiana State Museum or the Eiteljorg Museum (home of some great Western-themed art).  The NCAA Hall of Champions is yet another museum in the Park, and it features some sensational interactive exhibits.

 

Cobblestone street

OutdoorsA different kind of stroll that has you walking back in time can be found in the Lockerbie Square District, the oldest surviving neighborhood in Indy, which features cobblestone streets and lovingly restored houses in sizes from cottage to mansion.  It’s just up the road from downtown Indy’s other fascinating historic district, Chatham Arch, which sprawls in comparison, but is still doable on foot.  Now that you’ve fed the history buff inside of you, take care of your stomach at one of the myriad of terrific local dining options lining Massachusetts Avenue.

 

Seriously Entertaining – Nashville, Tennessee

My 14-year-old daughter, who is teaching herself virtually every instrument known to mankind, joined me a few months ago for a quick but fun trip to Nashville.  Tennessee’s capital rightly calls itself “Music City.”  You can’t swing a saxophone in any direction whatsoever without hitting someone playing music, usually live, in virtually any location, formal venue or park sidewalk.

It’s no exaggeration to say music (not just country music, either) is serious business here.  Naturally this place was like Nirvana for her and her love of music.   I bet it will be yours, too.  Rock on.

 

MiscellaneousThe first stop to make when you hit town is the Visitor’s Center adjacent to the Bridgetown Arena at 501 Broadway.  Awesome Nashville swag is available for sale by very friendly, very helpful staff who want you to have a great time.  They stage live music right here amongst all the Music City brochures, mugs and t-shirts, and if you are at all talented you can book yourself a gig on their website!  If you aren’t, you can still make believe it thanks to the props they have set up next to the faux stage.

 

CultureIndoorsNo matter your feelings on museums, this is one to check out.  Music City’s Musician’s Hall of Fame, located in the Historic Nashville Municipal Auditorium, imparts the thrill of knowing that so many legendary artists have performed in this very space.  Within the museum are musical instruments on display that many lesser-known musicians played, but for music that you’ve surely heard before.  The sitar on that Beatles hit?  You’ll admire it here, not far from one of Jimi’s workaday guitars.

Yes, Mr Hendrix’s guitar (one of many he would have played in his short life, but still) is lovingly displayed with all due reverence behind bulletproof glass.  Finally, the most exciting part: the large sections within the GRAMMY Museum Gallery in which you can play instruments, compose music, produce music, and much more, all on your own (with guidance from the exhibits themselves).   Feel like a rock star for a couple of hours in this place!

 

CultureIndoorsCountry Music Hall of FameIf you’re really into country music – and even if you’re not – you’ll surely get something out of a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  In the beautiful Hall of Fame itself are permanent and temporary exhibits of all your favorite country music stars past and present.  Do sign up for the tour of RCA’s historic studio B, the “Home of 1,000 Hits,” while you visit the Hall of Fame.  Luminaries like Elvis Presley put Nashville on the map thanks to their recording sessions here.

 

Broadway Fireworks Nashville
This is Broadway, folks! One massive party on Broadway Street in Nashville

IndoorsCultureGood eatin'Veterans to Nashville won’t let you leave until you’ve checked out the Honky Tonk scene on Broadway.  It’s all neon all the time to complement the music, food and dancing on this iconic street!  Each venue has different policies for admission for anyone under 21 but if it’s daytime or early evening, you should be okay; just ask the staff at the door.  One recommendation for lively fun and tasty food in a spacious, energetic Music City atmosphere is the Wildhorse Saloon. All ages are welcome until 9:00 pm nightly for live music, dining and dancing.  Learn the newest line dancing steps demonstrated here, and amaze your friends back home with your trendy self.

 

OutdoorsSeasonalNow that you’ve experienced downtown Nashville, you probably need some room to roam alongtreetop with some fresh Tennessee air.  Your best bet: head over to Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort.  This scenic hideaway of cabins and RV spaces features an exciting variety of adventurous activities from which to choose.  Your folks will probably be content to rent a pontoon boat for some leisurely relaxing and fishing.  Fine, but make sure they set aside ample time to join you in rocking the Treetop Adventure Park, an obstacle course in the treetops, and the refreshing Waterpark.  The website has all the deets so check it out first.

 

CultureOutdoorsWhat’s up with the controversial views Americans have about their Commander-in-Chief?  Well, their 7th one, anyway?  Find out when you step back in time at the Hermitage, home of the 19th century’s “People’s President,” Andrew Jackson.  The grounds, as beautiful as they are, provide a bittersweet backdrop into the workings of a southern cotton plantation, slavery and all.   Rustic slave cabins scattered about the landscape contrast with the majestic mansion.    Fascinating interpretative signs which provide an explanation of daily life here skirt the leafy, tranquil countryside.

 

Grand Ole Opry Nashville

CultureIndoorsExperience a part of Nashville’s musical heritage when you tour the Grand Ole Opry.  No less than three backstage tours are offered here, the Ground Zero of America’s country music origins.  Performances have been broadcast on radio, and then TV and now Internet, for almost a century.  Take one in while you’re here; check the website for backstage and show information.  And whatever you do, get here early to fight for the limited parking spaces.  Better yet, summon back that Uber driver you had ferry you around downtown!

A really unique hotel, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, lurks next to the Grand Ole Opry, and if you’re in town on a convention you may be lucky enough to stay there.  If not, though, the hotel is still worth a visit, especially when the weather is less than ideal.  The highlight of this facility is its multi-story enclosed atrium, around which the guest rooms cluster alongside dining options and boutique shops.  Luckily there is no charge to marvel at the property’s lush waterfalls as you amble through its nine acres of indoor gardens.  A Delta Riverboat Cruise, all indoors, is even offered for a nominal charge.

 

OutdoorsSeasonalTranspoYou can book a single or tandem (double) kayak at River Queen Voyages and spend the better River Queen Voyages Nashvillepart of an afternoon riding some sick Cumberland River waves.  Kidding about the waves.  But yeah, the journey involves plenty of soothing immersion into nature when you’re not basking in the majesty of downtown Nashville’s skyscrapers from a unique river vantage point.  You can choose a canoe if you prefer, but either way this is a great way to get some cardio action in while admiring the scenery.   Read the FAQ’s here thoroughly before you go!

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