I sent my son to grade school, and he came back a history buff, excited to find that three U.S. Presidents hailed from his home state. When I mentioned that President Andrew Jackson once lived just a few miles away, he was intrigued.
When presented with the opportunity to tour The Hermitage over spring break, I wondered if my little history prof would enjoy it. While my kids love to learn, they also tend to melt into whiny puddles if asked to walk too far, so I was curious how long we would be able to tour the spacious grounds.
We started our day in the Kitchen Cabinet Cafe — a simple, slightly overpriced establishment that was happy to provide peanut butter and locally made jelly on artisan bread. I was happy to discover that The Hermitage also allows outside food and drink for picnic lunches.
After lunch we picked up our audio devices for the self-guided grounds tour. I LOVED these devices, and so did my kids. The devices were durable and easy for my 5-year-old and 7-year-old to operate on their own. As we walked down the path towards The Hermitage mansion, we listened to the numbered commentaries along the way, occasionally stopping to discuss what we had heard.
I began by listening to the adult tours, but eventually I started listening to the kid tour so I would know why my children were laughing hysterically. They loved the commentary from “Poll the Parrot” as well as the imagination encouraged by the tour. The audio devices had the added benefit of entertaining the kids while we waited in line to tour the mansion. They listened to their favorite tracks over and over, while I listened to additional commentary from other sections of the grounds.
I was expecting boredom and sighing throughout the mansion tour, but I forgot the wonder of children discovering something new. They had never toured an antebellum home. The ornate wallpaper and furnishings fascinated them, but the highlight was the study containing a gun once owned by Andrew Jackson, Jr (“Mommy, is that a REAL GUN? The real one they used a long time ago?”).
We walked out to the First Hermitage structure and explored the spring house, gardens, and slave cabins. Another highlight was finding a cotton boll in the hands-on cotton field. We ended our day with a walk through the museum portion of The Hermitage, where the kids were enthralled by the swords and artifacts as well as a strategic simulation of the Battle of New Orleans. We spent over two hours at The Hermitage that day, and my oldest son wanted to stay even longer (but the little one was worn out).
One of the most important parts of our Hermitage tour was the sobering opportunity it provided to discuss the brutality of slavery with my children. We talked about the choices we have in how we treat people, and how sometimes someone makes the wrong choice — even if they are a President of the United States. The Hermitage shares profiles of specific enslaved workers from Andrew Jackson’s time, and even more information is available on the website as they continue research into this neglected part of the past.
After a lovely first visit to The Hermitage, we made an extra trip to try the new multimedia tour option. I’m not sure I would recommend an upgrade to the multimedia device for most families, although it does provide interesting visuals and additional commentary. However, I’d say the multimedia tour is perfect for a reluctant preteen who is SO OVER a family trip. Get your teen or preteen the upgrade, and put them in charge of delivering supplementary info to the rest of the family. Everybody wins!
I’m so glad we added The Hermitage to our Nashville repertoire. Now that we’ve been once, I think we’ll go back occasionally for special events such as Spring Plowing and Planting and Fall Fest. If you are considering a trip to the Hermitage, I suggest making a day of it. Tour the house and gardens, then enjoy a nice picnic lunch before heading to the First Hermitage and Field Quarters. Families might want to consider the Family Pass option available for discounted admission. Nashville residents will find the yearly membership a great way to enjoy additional Hermitage attractions such as the Vintage Base Ball League and the War of 1812 Anniversary events.
For more information on visiting The Hermitage, plus educational resources, maps, and podcasts, visit TheHermitage.com.
I was provided with complimentary admission to The Hermitage for my family in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.