2018 Heartland Pioneer
2018 Heartland Pioneer
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 to. First is the area around the Music City Walk of Fame Park. This is where the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Music City Center, The Johnny Cash Museum, and all the Honky Tonks along Broadway are located. 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 is well worth dedicating a few hours to. 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 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 it is best to buy your tickets well in advance.
But 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. One of the best times to visit is in the spring during the tulip bloom. During this time the park is awash in color from the thousands of blooming tulips throughout the park.
Safe Harbor RV Resort is the best RV park near Nashville. 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.
Memphis is home to a legendary culinary establishment that has drawn the likes of the king of rock-n-roll, US presidents, Hollywood celebrities, top musicians, and major sports stars.
Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous is a historic and iconic BBQ rib joint located off a back alley in downtown Memphis. They have been serving up their famous ribs to the rich and famous and everyday folks since 1948. You can smell the ribs cooking in their charcoal ovens as soon as you round the corner to the alley. Walking down the steps to the dining area is like descending into the depths of BBQ mythology where the gods of dry rub roam free. The walls are covered with old art and the signed photos of the famous people that came before you. You can even peek back into the kitchen and see where the magic happens.
This is a very unique place. Yes, the food is great, perhaps the best dry-rubbed pork ribs you'll ever have, but it is so much more than that. It has history, it has character, it has personality. The average employee here has dedicated enough of their life to the place to have been born, graduated high school, and headed to college for a degree in the BBQ arts and it shows. There may not be another restaurant in the country that stands as a monument to their respective food genre like Rendevous does. It is a must-visit when passing through Memphis.
T.O. Fuller State Park has a good campground in the area for an overnight stay. It's located in a fairly urban area, but you wouldn't know it from the inside. It's quiet, well maintained, wooded, easy to navigate, and close to the downtown attractions.
The National Civil Rights Museum is a complex of new and original buildings located at the site of the old Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis, TN. This is the site where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968. The exterior of the hotel and the two rooms he stayed in are preserved as they stood on that day. His car is even still parked outside the room.
The remainder of the building has been converted to host several exhibits, films, and recordings covering the events of that day. The Legacy building is a newer addition to the hotel complex which houses historical artifacts pertaining to the civil rights movement dating back to the 17th century. Memphis has a strong cultural base fostered by its history as a Mississippi River town. That diversity can be found in its food, music, and cultural heritage. This museum is an excellent example of that and it should not be missed.
The home of Elvis Presley is located on the southeast side of Memphis. His Graceland Estate is part of a large complex that includes the Graceland Mansion and grounds as well as an auto museum, his airplanes, and an exhibition center. There are also a number of support complexes including places to stay and restaurants.
There are a number of tour options available which include everything from the basic Graceland Tour to full expert-guided small group VIP tours. The higher tier tours can get pricey, but they offer access to more features in the facilities, a more in-depth experience, and can include meals. It's pretty easy to spend an entire day here experiencing the life of this musical legend.
Graceland has its own RV resort you can stay at. It's a bit pricey compared to somewhere like the T.O. Fuller State Park, but it's very nice and provides very easy access to the Graceland facilities.
Downtown Little Rock is home to a great walkable district that features outstanding shopping, food, entertainment, and historical facilities. The River Market covers the riverfront area from the William J. Clinton Presidential Bridge to the US-70B bridge. In this area, you'll find boutique shops, a farmer's market, and pavilions where you can shop for everything from souvenirs to commemorate your trip to fresh produce to hot international foods at one of many food stalls.
A few blocks to the east is the William J Clinton Presidential Library which details the life, presidency, and legacy of our 42nd president. A few blocks to the west you'll find the excellent Old Statehouse Museum, where you can experience Arkansas history within a stunning building circa. 1833.
All along the riverbank in this area is a beautiful park with walking trails, an amphitheater that hosts live music events, and a splash pad for the kids. Local artists and musicians are often found here entertaining visitors to the park. This area makes for a wonderful day out in a great little city.
The best place to stay the night here is the Downtown Riverside RV Park. This excellent facility is literally right across the river from the River Market Area. You can even walk across the river by foot on the William J. Clinton Presidential Bridge which has trails that connect to the campground.
Hot Springs National Park provides a unique park experience. The focus here is on the naturally occurring mineral hot springs in the area and how those were utilized for therapeutic purposes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That history is best seen in “Bathhouse Row” which is a couple of city blocks long in downtown Hot Springs. Along Bathhouse Row stands several bathhouses that used the local hot springs as sources for hot mineral waters.
The mineral water actually starts as rain which falls in the local mountains. It is channeled by the local geology deep into the ground where it is heated. That heat then forces it back up to the surface where it comes out from the hot springs. The round trip journey takes about 4000 years. So, if you drink some of the water from the corner fountain (it's free to try and pretty tasty), that water fell as rain in the area about the time the Babylonians were developing their math system.
The bathhouses were patronized by wealthier folks during the late 19th and early 20th century because it was believed at the time that the water could “cure” all sorts of ailments. A couple of the bathhouses are still active as private businesses if you'd like to experience the benefits of this therapy on your own.
The park has no entrance fees and the visitor's center is located in the Fordyce Bathhouse, which makes a great first stop on your visit. There you can take an excellent free ranger-guided tour of the bathhouse or you can explore on your own. The tour covers many of the rooms and facilities in Fordyce and gives some very interesting insights and history regarding the many features of the building.
Behind Bathhouse Row is the Promenade. This beautiful paved walking path makes for a great family walk on a sunny afternoon. It also provides access to some of the trails which lead up the mountain behind Bathhouse Row. If you choose to hike those trails, there is a fire tower at the top of the mountain which provides excellent views of the valley below. There are also a number of hot spring features in the area including the beautiful hot spring above ground in the park.
The best place to park is the free parking garage on Exchange Street 1 block west of Bathhouse Row. It's a short, easy walk to the visitor's center from there.
A great place to eat is The Grateful Head Pizza Oven and Beer Garden. It is located on Exchange Street just north of the Parking Garage. They have outstanding pizzas which are served in a beautiful wooded patio environment.
All along Bathhouse Row, across the street from the bathhouses, there are also numerous small shops and boutique stores to visit.
The best place to stay is Catherine's Landing RV Resort. This is a large upscale RV park located right on the river. They have a beautiful pool, a splash pad, a huge pavilion/entertainment complex, and a lot more. For a classic camping experience try Lake Catherine State Park. If you're lucky you may be able to land one of their lakefront campsites which provide an incredibly beautiful camping experience.