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!

5 Great Ideas to Do Valentine’s Day the Nashville Way

There are occasions when we need to reaffirm our loved ones with gestures of affection, and Valentine’s Day is one of them. Here are some of my favorite “alternative” ideas for celebrating Valentines Day in Nashville this year without selling out.

I’m not really a big fan of Valentine’s Day. I don’t like the pressure to overspend on high-profile gifts or prix-fixe dinners at overbusy restaurants. And giving stuffed animals to adults is ridiculous. And I think red clashes with pink. But there are occasions when we need to reaffirm our loved ones with gestures of affection, and Valentine’s Day is one of them. Here are some of my favorite “alternative” ideas for celebrating Valentines Day in Nashville this year without selling out.

Old Tradition – Valentine’s Card           New Tradition – In-Store Card Swap

I feel like I’m sharing a very special secret with you now. My husband and I haven’t bought any kinds of cards for each other for years. Instead, we pop into a card shop (or drugstore, or even grocery store), stand in the aisle reading cards, pick the PERFECT cards for each other, exchange them with each other….and then put them back on the shelf! It’s a fun little activity that means a lot more than it costs, because the really meaningful part is choosing just the right card (and, of course, the cost is nothing)! Fair warning – if you wait to do this activity on Valentine’s Day – or even the day after – the card selection will be picked over. But sometimes that just adds to the humor.

Old Tradition – Dinner            New Tradition – Brunch

The fact that Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year makes it a) difficult to get a decent dinner reservation, and b) easy to find a great spot in Nashville to have brunch instead. Some of Nashville’s hottest new restaurants are open for brunch on the weekends – why not try brunch at Sinema, The Farm House or Husk? Or, for a more casual meal, maybe you could try Fenwick’s 300 or Biscuit Love. Much less intimidating; much more fun!

Old Tradition – Champagne & Chocolates                 New Tradition – Master a New Cocktail at Home (& Chocolates)

There are a couple of problems with champagne. First, even among wine drinkers, it’s rarely the wine of choice. Second, there is something about the effervescence of champagne and other sparkling wines that promotes tipsiness, even among responsible imbibers. So, my recommendation is to forget about the bubbly and opt instead for some interesting ingredients for a make-at-home cocktail. Bang Candy in Marathon Village makes some intriguing simple syrups (my current favorite is the lavender mint), you can pick up excellent spirits at 12th & Pine Beverage Co. in the Gulch, and fresh fruits, herbs and other ingredients around the corner at The Turnip Truck. (While you’re at The Turnip Truck, you might as well pick up some high quality chocolate. Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to have chocolate!)

Old Tradition – Jewelry                                  New Tradition – Custom Playlist

I think music trumps jewelry in the romance department any day. I know that lots of ladies like getting jewelry, but the mass-produced “named” pendants (I’m looking at you, “Hearts on Fire”) are hopelessly old-fashioned and just not very pretty. Remember back in the day when you could make a mix tape for your loved one, with a hand-picked selection of meaningful songs? Well, this is simply an updated version of that idea. In my opinion, the only way you could score higher on the romance list would be to write a song yourself. THAT would be a killer gift, if you have a killer gift for writing songs! So, put your iTunes account to good use and create a special Valentine’s playlist to load to your valentine’s phone (or iPod). Bonus – you can listen to the playlist while mixing your custom cocktails at home – and perhaps awaiting your pizza delivery.

Old Tradition – Roses               New Tradition – Tulips

Walking through the floral section at Kroger today, I was amazed at the beautiful selection of live, potted tulips. Whole Foods usually has fresh cut tulips, too – as inexpensive as $10 a dozen! Since you don’t have to impress your valentine’s coworkers this year (another advantage of February 14 falling on Saturday), pick up some pretty, perky tulips. If you feel that you MUST spend more on a floral arrangement, head over to Color in Green Hills and find a pretty, perky container to use as a vase! Just avoid the ones that have red and pink hearts on them. (I’m kidding – you wouldn’t find such an abomination at Color!)

I hope these ideas will help you get through Valentine’s Day feeling that you’ve sold out to meaningless commercialism. Enjoy!