Pilgrimage to the Home of Country Music

I hate country music. As a Nashville native, it’s my duty. Somebody has to keep the balance around here.

So you can imagine my surprise when, during my recent trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, I found myself in tears.

The kids and I started our visit with the Nashville Public Library’s String City production. It was an excellent precursor to touring the museum, since I — hating country music — had neglected their education in this area. The kids enjoyed the show, which alternated between straight-forward songs and hilarious skits. I, however, found myself entranced as memories of my childhood came flooding back.

I grew up in the shadow of the WSM tower, watching The Mandrell Sisters with my parents and listening to the Oak Ridge Boys as we ran errands. That was “real country,” my parents would tell you, not the pop music of today. And, of course, there was Dolly.

Dolly was right there in the puppet show, too, singing “Coat of Many Colors” and “I Will Always Love You” with a costume change at the end. And right then, as puppet Dolly brought all the intensity and beauty to the song, I burst into tears. At a children’s puppet show.

My boys, who were not particularly surprised to see their mom doing something weird, were eager to get on through the museum. They had things to see. Namely, Elvis’s Gold Cadillac, featuring 24K gold details and a TV in the backseat.

We picked up a scavenger hunt in the Taylor Swift Education Center. My little guy loved matching the memorabilia to the artist, and it helped him stay engaged. My oldest, however, wanted to breeze through the museum and get straight to the Hall of Fame.

What started with a plan to quickly tour the museum turned into a four-hour trip as my boys discovered interactive touchscreens with details on costumes and listening booths with clips from hit songs. The kids were fascinated by the old gramophones and guitars as well as Webb Pierce’s gun-festooned car, while I loved seeing displays from the artists I had watched as a child. As our time grew short, we ended up racing through the second floor to the Hall of Fame Rotunda, assuring ourselves that we would return for another visit soon.

So here’s the cool part about visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame — for families in Davidson County, and students in the surrounding area, the CMHOF is now FREE thanks to the Community Counts program. Students 18 and under can receive free admission when they bring proof of residence such as a library card, report card, or school t-shirt. Adults can check out a passport offering free museum admission for up to two adults at any Nashville Public Library branch; the number of passports is limited, so I recommend calling ahead to see if any passports are available. Additionally, families in Davidson and surrounding counties who receive SNAP benefits are eligible for $5 family memberships to the museum.

Things to Know:

  • Plan parking ahead of time. I’m still not used to Nashville’s It City status and figured I could park in a nearby lot for $15 or $20, tops. Imagine my surprise in finding I had to pay $30 when we left. A little planning would have saved me a lot of money.
  • Pack a lunch. Since we stayed at the museum longer than I anticipated, we were all hungry and grumpy after only seeing half of the exhibits. We grabbed food at the museum’s way-overpriced snack bar, spending about $40 for lunch. Since museum tickets are good for re-entry all day, next time I’ll pack a picnic lunch and take a midday break in Walk of Fame park across the street. There also are two sit-down restaurants at the museum, but I would recommend them for kid-free outings.
  • Study up. If your family isn’t familiar with country music, a little prep work will make the visit more meaningful. Try to catch the String City puppet show or create a playlist of some of the featured artists.
  • If you have Taylor Swift fans in your family, yes, the sparkly silver guitar is there as well as some lovely dresses.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum reminded me of my heritage as a native Nashvillian, but their inclusive Community Counts program makes me proud to live in Music City today. Visit this Nashville treasure, and spread the word about the affordable programs that make the museum open to all Nashville families.

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A New Year!

Hey, friends! We’ve got some exciting posts in the works for 2017, including vegan fashion options for my leather-free friends and more posts about finding fair trade at stores near you. If you have any topics or products you’re hoping I’ll cover, let me know!

While we’re planning and organizing for the weeks ahead, check out these posts from other writers:

Unfancy Sweater 101

Learn Sweater 101 from Un-Fancy — Taking care of the clothes we have and using them wisely is an important part of sustainable fashion. I love Caroline’s tips for making sweaters last!

 

stylewise-oldnavy

4 Ethical Fashion Brands That Are Better Than Old Navy — Leah from StyleWise explores ethical alternatives to that casual Old Navy style many of us love.

 

peppermintlatte

I keep the peppermint flavor going all winter long, so I love this recipe for a Peppermint Latte with Numi Tea from Life+Style+Justice.

 

rugbytennessee

For the travelers among you, check out Suburban Turmoil’s guide to the town of Rugby, Tennessee’s Best-Kept Secret.

I hope your year is off to a lovely, gentle start. See you soon, friends!

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History Without Whining: A Day at The Hermitage

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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.

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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.

Han at the Hermitage

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. 

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