The Best Ever Birthday Weekend Awaits!

I’m not exactly sure what surprises await me starting tomorrow – but I thought it might be fun to share some of the possibilities with you. Oh – and most of these activities are FREE!

June 15-17, 2018

It’s not uncommon for women my age to stop celebrating, and start dreading, birthdays. Who am I kidding – it’s not uncommon for anyone my age to start dreading birthdays. But when you live in Music City, you’ve got friends in town and your thoughtful spouse has planned a weekend of activities in observance of your birthday – well, there’s nothing to dread about that, is there?!? Continue reading “The Best Ever Birthday Weekend Awaits!”

Après-Halloween: Mellow Fun in the Midstate

I’m looking for some less-hysterical, more mellow forms of entertainment in this lull between Halloween and Thanksgiving…

International visitors recently asked me why there weren’t more Halloween decorations in places like the Opryland Hotel, or in shopping centers. My response was that, unlike Christmas, Halloween is not a season. Now I think I was wrong. I started seeing photos from costume parties on Facebook in mid-October, and this past weekend was a whirlwind of Halloween activities – I’m ready to put away all the nonsense, even though Halloween is tomorrow!

I’m looking for some less-hysterical, more mellow forms of entertainment in this lull between Halloween and Thanksgiving, because I know that the Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/New Year season is fast approaching.

Here are some activities I’ve found for the beginning of November:

Wednesday, November 1 – Music City Roots at The Factory in Franklin 7pm – 9:30pm

Music City Roots is Nashville’s acclaimed Roots and Americana radio show. For the past few years, they’ve broadcast live from The Factory at Franklin, a multi-use shopping, dining and entertainment destination on Franklin Road at Liberty Pike. Tickets range from $10 – $25, and are available at the door. Seating is first-come, so plan to arrive a bit early. This week’s artists include Guthrie Brown, Hannah Fairlight, Donna Ulisse and Amy Black.

I recommend heading to The Factory early to window shop and perhaps get a bite to eat at Mafioza’s or at Saffire Restaurant.

Thursday, November 2 – Blair Jazz Choir at Turner Recital Hall 8pm

The Blair Jazz Choir explores vocal jazz standards as well as vocal jazz arrangements of traditional tunes. A mix of straight-ahead swing, Latin and ballad grooves will be represented in the repertoire of the newest jazz ensemble at Blair. This event is free and open to the public. Parking for the event is also free in the West Garage on the Children’s Hospital campus (2500 Children’s Way).

Friday, November 3 – Belmont School of Music performance of “Die Fledermaus” at Troutt Theatre 7:30 pm

Belmont is consistently ranked as one of the top ten music programs in the U.S.; catching their student performance of this Johan Strauss opera is a great way to catch a performance by an up-and-coming musical talent. Die Fledermaus (“The Bat”) tells a story of marital infidelity, revenge and the effects of champagne consumption. Tickets are just $10 ($5 for seniors). It just so happens that the Troutt Theatre is across Belmont Blvd. from some of Arnold Myint’s good restaurants – make an evening of it!

Saturday, November 4 – First Saturday Art Crawl in Downtown Nashville

The  First Saturday Art Crawl Downtown is a monthly visual arts event in the historic arts and entertainment center of downtown Nashville. On the First Saturday of each month, an alliance of art galleries and museums collectively invite the public to explore Nashville’s vibrant downtown art scene. Prior participants have recommended parking at the Public Library Garage and then starting at the North end of the map. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring an umbrella in case of rain.

Sunday, November 5 – “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” at the Belcourt Theatre (Time TBD)

This film, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman,, is described as “a sensational thriller brimming with unsettling humor and creeping dread, steeped in Greek tragedy, existential horror, Hitchcockian psychodrama, and riveting suspense.”  If you go to a matinee screening, take the edge off afterward with a trip to one of chef Maneet Chauhan’s restaurants in the Gulch.

Nashville Fun With Out-of-Town Visitors

These family-friendly suggestions are for the weekend of October 16-18, and may represent a bit of a splurge for the purpose of entertaining out-of-town friends.

This summer, we were overjoyed when my brother-in-law moved his lovely family back to Middle Tennessee from California. Now that they’ve settled in, they are getting excited about hosting California friends for a long weekend in our area, and have asked for some suggestions on things that might appeal to a couple of preteen boys, as well as their parents. These family-friendly suggestions are for the weekend of October 16-18, and may represent a bit of a “splurge” for the purpose of entertaining out-of-town friends.

Friday evening, October 16 –

Did you know that kids are welcome at The Bluebird Café? Well, I had no idea! When I told my nephew about the “Shhhhhh!” policy at The Bluebird, he promptly responded that he and his friend could text. <sigh> Reservations for Friday and Saturday shows can be made online, starting the Monday of the show.

Even though The Bluebird is iconic, I happen to think that The Grand Ole Opry is even MORE iconic – and also somewhat more appropriate for the younger folks. It’s still a bit early to know exactly who will be appearing on October 16, but they’ve already announced that Lee Greenwood, Canaan Smith and Nathan Chapman will be performing. Tickets for the 7pm show run from $32 – $48 each.

Saturday –

Daytime – If the weather is fine, drive out for a side-splitting breakfast at The Loveless Café, followed by a short-but-scenic drive on The Natchez Trace Parkway toward Leipers Fork. Lots of celebrities live in and around Leipers Fork – If you’re lucky, you may recognize one! “Downtown” Leipers Fork is a quick visit – a few galleries and shops. Live music starts at Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant around noon – there’s no cover, so you can feel free to stop in to listen for a while.

Afternoon – Head over to Ellington Agricultural Center in the Crieve Hall neighborhood of Nashville, and get a fun dose of history at the Music & Molasses Arts & Crafts Festival. Sorghum molasses making the old-time way is one of the many special demonstrations that can be enjoyed with cooking and tasting at the sorghum mill. Bluegrass Music, Farmer For A Day area for young children, country cloggers, a grist mill, traditional crafts for sale, food including homemade cakes and pies, log cabin activities for children, pony rides, animals to touch, and much more makes this a day of family fun. Tickets are $6 (age 4 and under admitted free).

Or, if the kids are craving something more physical, why not take them to Soar Adventure Tower in Cool Springs? This facility offers ropes course-type fun for kids and adults. “Walk up” prices are $35 for children ages 4-7, $40 for youth ages  8-17, and $45 for adults 18+. A typical visit to SOAR Adventure Tower lasts 2-3 hours.

Evening – Head to historic downtown Franklin and pick from any one of the great restaurants there. Mellow Mushroom Pizza is a safe bet for the kids; you’ll find a good variety of offerings at Puckett’s Boat House, just a few blocks from the square.

Sunday –

Head to The Gulch in Nashville for brunch at Biscuit Love (one of our hottest new restaurants-that-used-to-be-a-food-truck) – then take a few minutes to window shop (or buy!) at Lucchese Boots or Two Old Hippies. (The latter location has been featured a few times in the show “Nashville.”) Then, why not head over to Nissan Stadium to watch the Tennessee Titans take on the Miami Dolphins? Tickets are still available for the game, which starts at noon. Prices range from $38 a seat to upwards of $250. After the game, walk across the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge to get dinner and enjoy the music at one of the restaurants along Honky Tonk Row.

After all that activity, your friends (and you) will be exhausted!

Get Your Happy Self to Downtown Nashville

Wouldn’t it be a waste to keep all that happy energy at home this weekend?

Yesterday, as I was driving through 12South at lunchtime, I watched a pickup truck pull into a lane occupied by a Porsche. Nobody was hurt, but some body shop will get a few thousand dollars’ worth of business. The really remarkable thing was that, as the drivers pulled off to a side street to exchange information, they didn’t look angry – they weren’t cussing – the driver of that dinged-up sportscar looked as peaceful and pleasant as can be.

That’s the effect this kind of weather can have on you. We’re all smiles in Nashville these days. Okay, granted, we’re all smiles in Nashville a lot of the time (it’s our thing), but when the summer heat and humidity finally break, and our morning walks are almost jacket-worthy, and the sky is refreshingly blue…and we know that Fall is just around the corner but we’re still busy celebrating Summer…well, it just makes us really happy. As the saying goes, “Ain’t it good to be alive and be in Tennessee!?!”

Now, wouldn’t it be a waste to keep all that happy energy at home this weekend? Yes – yes, it would. So this weekend, you should get your happy self to downtown Nashville. You might not have tickets to any of the Americana Fest concerts, you may not want to pay to spend the day rubbing shoulders with celebrity chefs at the Music City Food & Wine Festival, the German-themed Volksfest at the Nashville Farmers Market might not be your cup of bier (you see what I did there?), hanging out with emerging businesses at the SoBro Fest, Jazz on the Cumberland River might not Sound Like Fun to you, spending a couple of hours inside at the Home Decorating and Remodeling Show may not be of interest, and you may be bored with the idea of a Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party.

What are you, nuts?!? The point is, ALL of these are special events going on – most of them outdoors, a few of them free! So how does this sound for a weekend plan…put on your walking shoes, catch a bus or rideshare downtown and just start enjoying yourself! Maybe you can stop into a souvenir shop and get a new Nashville t-shirt. Perhaps this will be your opportunity to try one of the downtown restaurants that get so crowded. If your timing’s good, you can pause on the narrow strip of lawn by the Gateway Bridge and listen in on Steve Earle’s set at Ascend Amphitheater. Or now is the time you can go check out Trisha Yearwood’s and Garth Brook’s new stars at the Music City Walk of Fame Park.

This is one weekend where the idea of heading downtown with no particular place to go Sounds Like Fun to me. Perhaps I’ll see you…and we’ll both be smiling!

Preserving Summer in Middle Tennessee

For those of us who are not quite ready to declare summer over, this weekend offers some good entertainment options.

Although daily temperatures are still topping 90 degrees here in Nashville, this wonderful summer is winding down fast. Kids are back in school, and college campuses will soon be bustling again. For those of us who are not quite ready to declare summer over, this weekend (August 15-16) offers some good entertainment options.

When it comes to county fairs, the Wilson County Fair is widely accepted as the biggest and best in Middle Tennessee. In

A proud moment for me - my homemade salsa won a blue ribbon in the Wilson County Fair!
My homemade salsa won a blue ribbon in the Wilson County Fair!

fact, in some important aspects (like attendance), it’s even bigger than the upcoming Tennessee State Fair. Whether you enjoy rides on the midway, or admiring the talents of local artisans and gardeners, or marveling at the variety of livestock and poultry – this is a county fair for you. The Wilson County Fair swings into full gear on Friday, August 14 and will continue through August 22 with a variety of activities and events each day. Gates open at 5pm on weeknights, at 10am on Saturdays, and at noon on Sundays. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for children aged 6-12. Children age 5 and under are admitted free. If you don’t mind staying at the fair until 9pm, there is also a unique opportunity on Saturdays to ride the Music City Star train round trip from Nashville to the fairgrounds for $21 adults/$16 children 6-12.

Seeing all the lovely home canned goods at the fair may put you in the mood to do some preserving of your own. On Saturday afternoon (3-5pm) at the Nashville Farmers Market, you can sign up for a home canning “immersion workshop” to learn the basics of preserving fruits and vegetables. The class costs $45 – all supplies are provided, and you will go home with a couple of jars of canned goods.

Sunday, then, is the day to put your new canning and preservation skills to work. Head back to the Nashville Farmers Market, or your favorite local produce stand, to pick up the ingredients you’ll need to make delicious and lovely jars to enjoy or share through the seasons ahead. I’m thinking that pickled peaches (or possibly habanero pickled peaches) will be my focus this weekend!

A Pull-Out-All-The-Stops Weekend of Concerts and Fun in Nashville

This weekend, even the most cynical and tourist-weary Nashvillian would find something going on worth braving the heat and the crowds.

I think sometimes I give my readers the wrong impression. In this blog, I rarely talk about big concerts and haven’t yet mentioned having fun at the downtown honky-tonks. Well, that is about to change…because this weekend (July 30 – August 2) is crammed full of epic concerts and other stuff to do downtown. Even the most cynical and tourist-weary local would find something going on worth braving the heat and the crowds. (Truthfully, I spend a lot of time downtown attending concerts. But almost no time in the honky-tonks!)

Thursday night marks the last weekly concert of the 2015 Bluegrass at the Ryman series; Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder are sure to bring the season to a foot-stompin’ close. This is not new music, but these sweet songs require a level of technical prowess that transcends generations. If we’re lucky, songstress Sharon White (of The Whites, aka Mrs. Ricky Skaggs) will grace the stage for a song or three; she’s been seen flat-footing in the aisles when she’s not on stage, so she’s sure to entertain either way! Tickets are an unheard-of bargain at less than $30, thanks to sponsorship by Springer Mountain Farms Chicken. (Season tickets for next year typically go on sale immediately after the last concert of the season – plan ahead and you’ll be rewarded with six Thursday night concerts in 2016.)

There is an event on Friday night that already has me star struck. I’m so excited that I can barely think of anything else. Because on Friday – at The Ryman – I am going to see one of the hugest songwriting talents, who is also an incredible singer, and funny, and gorgeous – Dolly Parton! I don’t have great seats or anything, but I don’t care. There are a couple of other big concerts in town Friday night (Eric Church in the inaugural concert at Ascend Amphitheater, and Shania Twain at the Bridgestone Arena), but I didn’t have a moment’s hesitation choosing.

I was ordering at Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish (as seen on Shark Tank) today when I picked up a flyer that looked interesting – advertising the inaugural Hot Shots 2015 Hot Chicken, Whiskey and Bourbon Festival on Saturday, August 1 at Bridgestone Arena. I was shocked that I hadn’t previously heard one thing about this fundraiser for the Nashville Predators Foundation. Never mind that I missed out on early bird pricing, I still think that $65 ($70 at the door) per person for unlimited whiskey & bourbon tasting, hot chicken provided by 12 different local vendors, a souvenir glass and a ticket voucher for a 2015-2106 Predators game represents a pretty good deal. For those who won’t be tasting whiskey, a chicken-only ticket costs $20 less. The festival runs from 1pm to 5pm.

How fortunate that I’ll already be downtown on Saturday evening – I can just take a leisurely stroll of about 4 blocks (perhaps stopping in for refreshment at Acme Feed & Seed – “the honky tonk for locals”) to attend the Chicago/Earth Wind & Fire concert at Ascend Amphitheater. For this tour, I’m told that both bands will share the stage at the end of the concert. I predict that may be the precise moment when my head explodes. Hopefully I can keep it together enough to catch my rideshare home.

I already know that Sunday is going to need to be a “chill” day, so fortunately I’ve got some low-energy options lined up. First, brunch at Le Peep Grille in Belle Meade (thanks to a Groupon I purchased several weeks ago). Then, I’ll prepare to “get my Zen on” at the Nashville Pond Society’s Parade of Ponds, featuring backyard ponds in East Nashville, Inglewood and Madison. Home again, to reflect on the awesomeness that is life in Nashville, rejoice that I live in this fine city, and begin planning another weekend that Sounds Like Fun.

Events to Get You Out of Your Nashville Summer Weekend Rut

Are you stuck in a rut, doing the same activities every summer weekend?

Are you stuck in a rut, doing the same activities every summer weekend? With all the growth and change in Music City, there are new happenings being planned all the time. This weekend (July 25-26), I’m planning to make first-time visits to two events that Sound Like Fun.

Beginning July 25th, the Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party is a new outdoor music series raising funds to help preserve one of the city’s most unique landmarks, the Cornelia Fort Air Park at the Shelby Bottoms Greenway. The music series will continue once a month through October, offering music from local bluegrass bands. This Saturday’s band is Sheriff Scott and the Deputies, described as bringing a “dark urban message from the bluegrass frontier.” Musicians are encouraged to bring their stringed instruments for some impromptu bluegrass jam sessions; a concert will begin at 8pm featuring a local bluegrass band. Admission is $10 and includes one local craft beer from Yazoo Brewery (two beers for musicians with a stringed instrument!), $5 for ages 12-20 and children under 12 are admitted free! Pickin’ starts at 6, band starts at 8 and party goes until 10pm.  Bring your folding chairs and blankets, but don’t bring outside food or beverages. You can bring your dog (on a 6′ leash), but be aware that there is not much shade available and it’s likely to be hot outside. All proceeds from the event series will go towards revitalization projects at the Cornelia Fort Air Park.

Sunday evening, July 26th offers a lovely opportunity for a family picnic dinner and lawn dancing on the grounds of the historic Carnton Plantation in Franklin, at the Carnton Sunset Concert Series. (This series has been going on for years; I don’t know how I missed it!) The Vinyl Radio band will be covering classic rock hits of the 70s from 6pm to 8pm. Gates open at 4:30 – bring your lawn chairs or blankets, and pack a cooler (alcohol is permitted) or buy your dinner from one of the food vendors. No grills or pets, please. Adult tickets are $10 in advance (see website for locations)/$12 at the gate; tickets for children 6-12 are $5 each (age 5 and under admitted free).

I can only imagine how relaxed and refreshed I’ll feel come Monday morning after treating myself to these summer weekend events!

Berry Hill / Melrose is the Place to Be – Dead or Alive!

Whether you are planning to spend a day or a weekend (or longer!) in the Berry Hill/Melrose district, here are some suggestions for places to visit, shop and dine.

Native Nashvillians past a certain age still recall when the impossibly large and elegant 100 Oaks Mall was opened in 1968. It was the place to be seen, when Bobbi Brooks was the clothing brand to be seen in! Now that the mall has changed its focus (yes, there are still shops on the exterior perimeter, but the main focus of the mall itself is outpatient services affiliated with Vanderbilt Medical Center) the excitement has shifted to the neighborhoods adjacent to the mall – Berry Hill and Melrose.

Berry Hill has been home to an eclectic variety of shops, offices and restaurants for many years, but its popularity has surged recently. And, while it’s hard to say whether the phenomenal growth in Melrose is more directly related to the popularity of Berry Hill or 12 South (its neighbor to the west), all of the sudden the Melrose area is a fun area of town again!

Whether you are planning to spend a day or a weekend (or longer!) in the Berry Hill/Melrose district, here are some suggestions for places to visit, shop and dine:

Breakfast

If you’ve got kids, breakfast at the Pfunky Griddle on Bransford Ave. is a great way to start the day. This fun eatery provides you with all the ingredients your heart could desire to cook your own breakfast – right at the table! Then – best part – they clean up after you!

Looking for a great value at breakfast? Athens Family Restaurant on Franklin Pike has been voted Nashville’s number one breakfast restaurant, serving breakfast any time of day (and through the night Thursday through Saturday!). Order an egg & cheese sandwich for just $3.99 – or loosen your belt and get The Hercules Platter (steak, eggs, home fries, toast & pancakes) for $14.99. You even can order fancier fare, like the Crab Cakes Benedict or Eggs Viennese (a low-carb treat featuring lox and cream cheese).

If you have a taste for high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients, give Fenwick’s 300 a try. One of Melrose’s newest restaurants, the “300” refers to a perfectly bowled game – an homage to the Melrose Lanes bowling alley that occupied part of the building from 1945 to 2005 (they preserved one lane in the bar area). This is a restaurant to get breakfast with a creative twist – and a custom coffee beverage created by the in-restaurant Bongo Java coffee bar. Fenwick’s 300 is located in The Melrose building on Franklin Pike.

So now you’re fed, and you’re looking for something to do…

GasLamp Antiques Mall has gotten so big and popular that they’ve now opened a second location, GasLamp II, just half a block from the original on Powell Place. With over 160 spaces, the sheer variety of available merchandise boggles the mind. This Saturday (June 27), both GasLamp locations will be hosting a Freedom Fest, serving cold lemonade and savory barbecue – and many of the dealers will be offering special summer savings.

This June 26-28 weekend is also the weekend for the monthly Nashville Flea Market at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Considered one of the top ten flea markets in the U.S., each month 800 to 1200 vendors peddle merchandise representing every category imaginable (except animals – not permitted).

You may already know where many of Nashville’s current music stars live – but have you ever taken a tour of the stars’ final resting places? Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetary, flanking Thompson Lane, is where a good many country legends are buried. Take a tour of the grounds, and you’ll find markers for the likes of Porter Waggoner, Marty Robbins, and George Jones. Head into the mausoleum to find Tammy Wynette (real name Virginia Richardson) and Jerry Reed (Jerry R. Hubbard), among others. The burial park even has a “famous grave locator” website so you can plan your tour.

When it’s sizzling outside, many Nashvillians head to the movie theater, and the Regal Hollywood 27 is a perfect place to catch a summer blockbuster while waiting for the sun to set. Located next to 100 Oaks Mall, this is really a building that you can’t miss – with an impressive neon display that beckons evening drivers on nearby Interstate 65. Many action films are also available for viewing in 3D or RPX (Regal Premium Experience).

Need to relax? I mean, REALLY relax? Try booking one of the sensory deprivation tanks at FLOAT Nashville on Greystone Road for a 90- or 120-minutes session. These tanks are filled with skin-temperature water that has enough Epsom salt mixed in to make a body float on the surface. No light. No sound. It’s the most effortless thing to do to rid the body of pain and stress. The folks at FLOAT Nashville think that, once you’ve tried it, you’ll become a regular (and enjoy significantly discounted prices)!

It’s dinnertime

I realize I didn’t give you any lunch options, but all of the breakfast places I mentioned also have lunch menus, so I’m skipping right to some suggestions for dinner.

You can get a quick, healthy, casual meal made-to-order at Baja Burrito on Thompson Lane. Think Chipotle, but more fun and authentic. This is a favorite for families with kids.

Also on Thompson Lane, The Yellow Porch has a vibe that’s somewhat more refined – you can enjoy a nice wine or cocktail while considering menu options ranging from Shrimp & Crab Stuffed NC Trout, to Cardamom & Ginger Rubbed Lamb Chops, to a well-prepared Filet Mignon.

If you’re really puttin’ on the Ritz (and have made reservations), dinner at Sinema restaurant is sure to be a memorable experience – you are likely to glimpse celebrity executive chef Dale Levitsky (a former Top Chef contender), and you just might see one of Nashville’s other celebrities. Word of caution – do not approach a celebrity trying to enjoy dinner – it’s just not the Nashville way. If you happen to catch a celebrity’s eye by accident (not because you are staring or trying to take a selfie with them in the background), it is acceptable to smile discreetly and nod – as if to say “Yes, of course I know who you are and I like who you are, but wouldn’t dream of interrupting you.”

After dinner

If it’s just the adults, why not stop off at The Sutler for a nightcap? If you’ve got energy to spare (because you spent the afternoon in a sensory deprivation tank), you can stay upstairs and catch some live music. But head downstairs for a more romantic vibe with better drinks!

Whoa – that is one very full day that offers something fun for everyone! Great job, Berry Hill / Melrose!

Nashville Cats!

This weekend, at the State Fairgrounds, the Music City Cat Club is holding their first-ever Music City Cat Show.

May 30-31, 2015

they complain but never
worry,
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can’t
understand.

their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
a day
without
hesitation or
remorse.
– from “My Cats” by Charles Bukowski

Even folks who don’t much care for the personality of a cat have to agree that cats are among the loveliest of creatures. This weekend, at the State Fairgrounds, the Music City Cat Club is holding their first-ever Music City Cat Show.

They have a great show planned for exhibitors and spectators alike, including 3 specialty congresses. First, for you “Wild Things” TICA AB judge Stephanie Smith will be judging a ring full of  miniature versions of the big wild cats: Bengals, Ocicats, Savannahs, and Toygers. She will compare each against the written breed standard and choose her best of the best in this category.

Next TICA Specialty Judge David Nudleman will be taking on the “Hairspray” congress. This group is made up of some of the “hairier” breeds including the Ragdoll, the Persian, and the Himalayans.

And finally on Sunday, TICA Allbreed judge Barbara Ray will be judging the “Crooner” congress. This all natural breed congress is made up of the Main Coons, the Siberians, and the Norwegian Forrest Cats. All of these congress are on top of the already jam packed 12 ring 2 day spectacular!

Cat lovers can also do a little shopping at the show… vendors that will be selling everything from cat toys to scratching posts, and some surprises in-between.

The show runs each day from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is $5 for adults; $4 for seniors/student/military; and free for children aged 12 and under. On site parking is available for $5.

Wouldn’t it be great if the Music City Cat Club had a well-attended show in their inaugural year?

Best of the Fests – Tennessee Renaissance Festival

For four glorious weekends each May, the grounds of Castle Gwynn in Arrington, TN are magically transformed to become the 16th century village of Covington Glen, as the Tennessee Renaissance Festival comes to town.

For four glorious weekends each May, the grounds of Castle Gwynn in Arrington, TN are magically transformed to become the 16th century village of Covington Glen, as the Tennessee Renaissance Festival comes to town. After many years of intending (but failing) to attend, I finally made the trip this year. My royal decree? This is one event near Nashville that Sounds Like Fun for young & old, hipster & redneck, fantasy buff & history buff. In fact, the crowd last Sunday was one of the most diverse I can recall seeing at a single event. Adult admission is $20 a head ($18 if purchased in advance); Children ages 6-12 can enter for $7 apiece. Parking is free. (You read that right. It’s free!)

Here are my top 6 suggestions for enjoying yourself at the Renaissance Festival:

  1. Bring your kids – in costume! Break out parts of last year’s Halloween costume and spend a little time and creative energy turning it into a Renaissance-era masterpiece. Fortunately, there’s a lot of leeway in this genre – your child can come as a fairy or gnome, or Viking or pirate, or princess or wildling or wizard. You can buy face paint, elf ears, crowns … really anything you might need to complete the look. There’s a children’s costume contest each festival afternoon at 12:30. Most entertainment is G-rated; the bawdier stuff will go right over the little kids’ heads. For bigger kids, there are human-powered carnival rides that look every bit as exciting and dizzying as the Tilt-A-Whirl at the State Fair.
  2. Come in costume yourself! The family that plays together stays together, y’all. Imagine your child’s (or grandchild’s) delight when the whole family unit comes to the Renaissance Festival dressed up in the spirit of fun. I’m not saying that renting a costume is necessary, but some riding boots, a vest and a jaunty cap can transform Dad into a respectable tradesman; Mom almost certainly has a maxi skirt and a tunic top that be pulled into service for the day. You won’t be the only adults dressed up – in fact, so many people dress up for this that it can be difficult to tell the citizens of Covington Glen from the visitors!
  3. Eat a smoked turkey leg. It’s messy, it’s hot, it’s primal. (It’s also gluten-free, carb-free and Paleo!) There is an abundance of standard carnival food choices, so if you really must have a hamburger or pizza, you’ll find it. But I do recommend gnawing on a $9 smoked turkey leg to help you get into the spirit of the day. And, if you’re over age 21, wash it down with a cold beer or hard cider. ($6; $7 premium brands)
  4. Watch the shows. You could easily spend an entire day at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival and not see the same show twice. Slapstick comedies, entertaining characters, exciting sporting events and talented musicians fill the town. The shows begin on time, so check the schedule or you may miss something!
  5. Be comfortable. Fortunately, there’s plenty of tree cover in Covington Glen, so you don’t have to spend your day roasting in the strong May sunshine. The jousting grounds has no tree cover, so you may want to bring (or buy) a pretty umbrella to shade yourself while watching – but the rest of the festival grounds are shady and relatively cool. The grounds are also a bit hilly, though – the few women I saw wearing heels looked as if they were regretting that decision.
  6. Obey the (very reasonable) rules. No pets, no firearms, no outside food or beverages. Swords or knives worn as part of a costume must be “peace tied.” Parents should take steps to make sure their children can contact them in case they get separated.

I know I’ll be back to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival – I hope to see you there! (I’ll be one of the ones wearing elf ears.)