Cleveland, OH is a great midwestern city with deep roots in the industrial history of the US. The steel mills and major auto manufacturing facilities which the city was built around are still here, but a modern revitalization of the city is being built around the medical industry. Some of the best medical institutions and businesses in the nation call Cleveland home. The dichotomy of rust belt industrialism meshed with the sophistication of an advanced medical industry makes Cleveland an exceptionally diverse area.
The rough edges of the city spawned the rock & roll music industry with the first rock concert known as the Moondog Coronation Ball held at the Cleveland Arena on March 21st, 1952. The success of that show brought rock & roll to the forefront of the music industry and the rest is history. The importance of Cleveland's role in the development of the genre was rewarded in 1995 when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opened its doors on the downtown lakefront. This is a great facility to visit if you are a fan of the genre. It has many artifacts from a broad range of artists which played a role in the development of rock and roll music.
Located right next door is the Great Lakes Science Center and First Energy Stadium. The Science Center is a great visit, especially with kids, since they focus on interactive exhibits that get the kids involved in the learning experience. The stadium is great if you are lucky enough to be in town for a Browns home game. Yes, the Browns have been in a rough patch for what seems like an eternity, but the fans here are as dedicated as they come and that makes every game an event worth visiting.
On the more sophisticated side, Cleveland has an excellent arts and museum community. Most of that action is located around the University Circle area. There you'll find the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum, and Severance Hall, which is home to the amazing Cleveland Orchestra. All are within walking distance of each other and all are excellent facilities. Playhouse Square is also an exceptional area for the arts with beautifully restored historic theaters offering live performances of many theatrical productions.
The trip to Nashville, TN is an easy drive through the rolling hills of the midwest. The route starts by heading south on I-71 through Columbus and on to Cincinnati and Louisville, KY. From there, you'll pick up I-65 south which will take you all the way to Nashville, TN. Easy as pie.
The Ohio State Reformatory is a historical state prison located south of Cleveland in Mansfield Ohio. Why would you want to visit a prison originally opened in 1896 to house lower-level adult criminals? First off, the stunning castle-like appearance of this prison is something to behold. It was designed to be as beautiful as it was intimidating.
Second, there is a broad range of paranormal activities believed to occur here. It is a hot spot for ghost hunters and the castle-like appearance further adds to the ghost-chasing experience. The organization that maintains the grounds offers general ghost tours as well as access to the facility for those who want a more personalized or professional experience. Most importantly, this prison was the backdrop for the prison scenes in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, a film many consider one of the best movies of all time. There are Shawshank tours provided which will guide you through key filming locations. There is also a film museum that has several artifacts actually used in the movie on display.
Regardless of whether you are chasing ghosts or living movie history, this building is a unique and interesting stop.
Charles Mill Lake Park Campground has a beautiful campground just off of I-71 near Mansfield which makes for a great base camp to visit the reformatory.
The Krohn Conservatory is located in Eden Park near downtown Cincinnati. The conservatory is an indoor botanical garden facility that houses a stunning array of plants and flowers from around the world. Throughout the year they host a number of flower shows featuring different themes. After each show, many of the plants are offered for sale and there are plant experts available to instruct you on how to care for your new plant.
Each summer, the conservatory also becomes a themed butterfly show. For example, the 2020 butterfly was to be the “Butterflies of Bali”. During these events, thousands of butterflies fill the building and can be seen flying from plant to plant as you tour the facility.
FMCA campground is a great place for a stay over to see the sights around Cincinnati. It is located just east of the city and is just a short drive downtown.
Just about anyone who has grown up in America and played America's favorite pastime is very familiar with the name Louisville Slugger. If you are one of those who hasn't, don't fret because a visit to this factory and museum will lay it all out for you. The Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum is located in the museum district of downtown Louisville. The factory has a storied history dating back to the 1850s and this facility does an excellent job walking you through that history. In addition to the historical and museum displays, there are also public and private tours of the factory where you can see the bats actually being made. This is an excellent stop for any baseball fan or person interested in sports or industrial history.
Louisville North Campground is located just across the river from the Museum District. It provides quick access and a decent place to stay over while visiting the area.
Mammoth Cave National Park is a great park that provides tours of the largest cave system in the world. Unlike many parks in the national park system, there is no entrance fee to get into this park. They generate revenue to support the park through the myriad of tours available from the main visitors center.
Only the Discovery tour is self-guided and it requires purchasing a ticket to enter the cave complex, so all access to the cave itself is fee-based. The best tour is the Violet City Lantern Tour which takes you on a lantern-lit three-mile historical tour of the main cave. This is a long one with some steeper sections, but overall not terribly difficult. At the end of the tour, you emerge back on the surface to a waiting bus that shuttles you back to the visitor's center. If this tour is too long or strenuous there are a number of shorter easier options available.
There is a lot to do above ground as well. Hiking, cycling, camping, and paddling are all great surface activities here. Access to these activities is free and there are thousands of acres of rolling hills and rivers to explore.
One of the best RV parks in the are is the Singing Hills RV Park & Campground. Located on the main road into the park, it is a great family operated park offering a great balance between quiet county camping and access to the local resources.
The National Corvette Museum is located around 25 minutes south of Mammoth Cave National Park in Bowling Green, KY. The museum is just off of I-65 and can be visited by RV, or leave the RV at Mammoth Cave and day trip it down here. However you get here, you'll be treated to an outstanding series of exhibits detailing the history of America's sports car.
There are several outstanding examples of Corvettes on display dating back to its introduction in 1953. This includes many one-offs, prototypes, and even privately owned vehicles that are on loan to the museum. One of the most popular features of the museum deals with the sinkhole collapse which occurred on the morning of Feb 12, 2014, while the museum was closed for the night. A 30-foot deep sinkhole had formed under the main showroom floor causing the floor and eight rare Corvettes to fall to their destruction at the bottom. Security camera footage caught the whole event on tape and many people around the world followed the recovery of the cars and rebuilding of the showroom online. There is now an extensive exhibit covering the event. Several of the damaged cars are still on display and the showroom floor has a glass window to see down into the hole beneath. A yellow outline on the floor also shows the area which fell in.
Across the street from the museum is the Bowling Green Assembly Plant where the Corvettes are made. There are times when factory tours are available from the Museum. Check with the museum for dates and availability.
Nashville is one of the best cities to visit in Tennessee. It is a rapidly growing area rich in culture and history with a vibrant and relatively safe downtown. Nashville is of course all about county music. To experience the music side of the city there are a couple of areas to head. First, is the area around the Music City Walk of Fame Park. In this area, you'll find the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Music City Center, The Johnny Cash Museum, and all the Honky Tonks along Broadway. The area is a great place to walk around and take in the sights. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a huge repository of country music artifacts and well worth a visit. The Broadway area is not the most family-friendly area in town, but during the day it's generally not too bad. If you have kids, there are better places to be as the evening sets in.
One of those places, and the other area you should visit, is the Grand Ole Opry. This live music hall is the most prestigious performance venue in the city. There are performances from top acts nearly every night. Even so, the popularity of the venue means getting tickets on short notice can be challenging. If you wish to see a show here, buy your tickets well in advance.
There is more to this city than music. There are several great historical sites in the area including the Belle Meade Plantation and Andrew Jackson's Hermitage Estate. Both offer interesting views into local and national history.
For a cultural experience try the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art. These beautiful outdoor gardens are spread over a gorgeous park-like setting. The main mansion building is equally beautiful and houses a collection of art for your viewing. They have numerous special events here on the weekends that can make for a great family outing, check their schedule of events online for details.
Safe Harbor RV Resort is the best RV park near Nashville. There are closer parks, but none as nice as this facility. It is located on a narrow peninsula on the J Percy Pierce Reservoir a few minutes east of downtown Nashville. It provides a beautiful, quiet and convenient base camp for a visit to the city.