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As I mentioned in my last post, I love mountains and outdoors kinds of places.  When I heard my hockey team would be playing in Huntsville, Alabama this January and flying through Nashville, I quickly booked a car and took off in my own direction.  I hadn’t really spent any time on my own in Tennessee or Nashville before, but this time I made sure to see some good stuff.  Here is what I have done in the last year (out of three trips to TN) and some other bonuses:

1. Great Smoky Mountains

great-smoky-mountains-national-park-morning-haze-at-oconaluftee-dave-allen

The Smoky Mountains are my idea of perfect mountains.  When I rented my car from Nashville, I drove due east through Knoxville and turned south towards Cleveland, TN.  There, I ran along the border with North Carolina and the Cherokee reservation.  I’m so envious of my Cherokee friends for having such beautiful mountains at their doorsteps… All I can say is take a trip some day and hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway!  You will not be sorry – there is always a view.

2. Nashville

broadway

I never knew it until this year, but I really love Nashville.  There’s just something so fun about the town and it’s always lively.  If you don’t mind country – and especially if you love it – you will enjoy the non-stop music coming out of every honky-tonk.  Good beer is never far away either and there are great photo ops at every turn.  Top things I think to try if you want to get the best and not necessarily the most touristy:

Walk along the river.
Go take a break down by the old train station and Fort.  You’ll be surprised how many people are there, and maybe you’ll see the beer cycling cart hanging out there, too.

Take a stroll down Broadway.
This is where all the life is, including the steady stream of cowboy and cowgirl boots and hats that roll through even in January.  Maybe even catch a Nashville Predators game at Bridgestone Arena.  I had a total blast seeing Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Hunter Hayes (drool) at the arena for the FINAL night of the Red Tour – and I am not ashamed!

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One of many shots from the concert.


Seek out the unique restaurants.
Go for something simple, like Diana’a Sweet Shoppe on Broadway.  Classic floats and good food, cute setting.  Not far from there is Savannah’s candy shop, a real old-fashioned treat with toy trains and barrels of candy and people making the sweets right in front of you.  Similar is the quirky candy and soda shop with tin sign paraphernalia: head up 2nd Ave N and experience Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy.  You’ll find the most bizarre sodas and the friendliest people.  Not wanting a fizzy drink…that isn’t beer?  I’ve had a few brews at the Brewhouse Downtown.  They’ve got quite a selection and some good food too.  But maybe you’re in Tennessee and you want to hit up some whiskey?  Head over towards the shopping in the Gulch to the Whiskey Kitchen.  It’s been a wait when I went there in the past, but you’ll be pleased with the mixed whiskey drinks, beer cheese soup, and plethora of appetizers, courses, and desserts.

3. Bristol, TN-VA

Bristol

Bristol may be known for its raceway, but did you realize the town of Bristol’s main street is in fact the border of TN and VA?  Some of my family and I made a stop on the way back from Grandfather Mountain last year to see this quirky town.  The eastbound lane of the main street (State) is lined with TN flags while the westbound lane represents VA.  I wandered through an antique shop with a friend looking for an old TN license plate and we got a kick out of my mom texting me “Where are you?” and me saying “VA side, you?” “TN.  Meet you soon.”

4. Lynchburg

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On my way back from Huntsville, I swung through to see Lynchburg in the dry Moore County.  Despite being dry, it hosts the enormous Jack Daniel’s distillery where I had a tour and gained a whole new respect for Jack Daniel’s.  My favorite mixed drink is now officially Jack & Ginger.  I even stopped after my tour for discounted gear in town and bought a few boxes of whiskey-coated nuts!  Did you know Jack Daniels technically killed himself by kicking a safe and later dying from gangrene?

5. Bonnaroo

bonnaroo

This is a little bit of a cliche thing to do, but pretty much everyone I know at some point ends up taking the quick weekend trip down to Manchester for the enormous concert at Bonnaroo.  If I hadn’t been living in Slovakia this June, I would’ve probably made my way to the concert just to see Mumford & Sons.  It may be a bit of a hippie (or hippie-wanna-be) fest, but if you like the music then it’s a reason to head into the great state of Tennessee!

So these are just a few quick things that I know in TN.  I’ll be heading to Knoxville in not too long for a tournament and will surely pick up some more tips.  But, in terms of discovering, all I did was pull out FourSquare and make some quick Google searches to locate the great things that I found!  Enjoy, and feel free to share more ideas!