Hey–new blog! I started writing this post several weeks ago for the other blog, but then I decided to save it to be the inaugural post on this, my brand spanking new travel blog. Exciting! Congratulations, Nashville!
I feel like I start all my travel posts this way, but we’d never been to Nashville before even though it’s only four hours away. We have been to Disney World and Cape Cod approximately 400 times each, and now we’re finally branching out!
Dave just turned 40 in October, and we took this trip to celebrate. I actually booked it way back in the spring, when I found out Jason Isbell would be playing at the Ryman Auditorium the weekend after Dave’s birthday. Perfect timing! So I bought tickets and found us a rental house and then we waited for a long time. And in the meantime, we bought a trailer, but by then the rental house was booked and paid for, so the trailer stayed home for this trip. Sorry, trailer; we’ll take you to Nashville some other time (though there’s a pretty scary mountain pass on the interstate between Chattanooga and Nashville; I didn’t mind so much that we weren’t towing a trailer this time).
We found our rental house through Airbnb. It was our first Airbnb experience, and everything went super smoothly. The house was in a nice little neighborhood in East Nashville, was reasonably priced (we’d originally looked at hotels downtown, but the weekend rates were insane), and worked really well for us.
It was a quick trip; we left when Dave got home from work on Friday, and then left to come home around lunch time on Sunday, but we saw as much as we could in the time we had.
You know, I kind of feel like I sometimes don’t pick the most obvious destinations when we go on trips.
I always look for history-focused places to go, because education! And also I like them.
(Aside: Awhile back this blog post, “Vacation or Trip? A Helpful Guide for Parents,” was circulating amongst my facebook friends. And one of the criteria for a real vacation was that it not involve forts or aquariums. And I was all, “OMG–why would I want to go on a vacation with no forts or aquariums?! I LOVE forts and aquariums. Especially forts.” And I do. More than my kids do, and probably more than the vast majority of people in the world do. So real grown-ups can keep their vacations. More forts for me!)
So the big place to go in Nashville for history is really Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage. And I want to go there, I really do! But it’s an expensive guided tour of a historic home, and expensive guided tours of historic homes and toddlers are not the best combination, generally speaking. So we opted to save The Hermitage for another trip and check out the far less famous Fort Negley instead.
If you’ve never heard of Fort Negley, it’s probably because it doesn’t have whole lot of historical significance as a fort….as far as forts go, anyway. The Union took control of Nashville early on in the Civil War, and they built Fort Negley to help defend it (with conscripted laborers, mostly newly freed slaves, many of whom died during construction, and almost none of whom were ever paid for their work), but it was never attacked.
Efforts to preserve the fort over the years are the more interesting parts of the history for me. The site fell into ruins after the war and stayed that way until the WPA started restoration efforts in the 30’s. I’ve read conflicting reports of what happened next, but near as I can tell the site was left to fall into disrepair again shortly after the restoration was completed, due to lack of interest or lack of funds or WWII or some combination thereof. What you can see today is not the entire recreated fort that the WPA built, but the stone foundation, which is maybe partially orginal but mostly what the WPA did. Originally there was a wooden palisade wall on top of the foundation, but there’s no evidence of that anymore (and, as far as I can tell, no intentions of rebuilding it).
Today the site is maintained by the city of Nashville. There’s no actual fort anymore, but there is a nice visitor center and a walking path that takes you around and into the ruins. There’s no admission fee, and there’s plenty of free parking, as it’s a little ways out from the crowded downtown areas.
The visitor center usually shows a film on Fort Negley’s history, I believe, but the weekend we were there there was some kind of butterfly-themed event going on, and they were showing a really, really long movie about butterflies instead. We passed on that, and just spent a few minutes checking out the exhibits in the building (some historical information plus artifacts found at the site, mostly) before heading out to walk around.
Fort Negley turned out to be a great pick for us; the path was short enough for Abe to handle mostly without help or complaining, but there was enough to see that we felt like it was worth the trip. There are interpretive signs all along the way telling you about the construction and design of the fort, Nashville’s role in the Civil War, and the WPA restoration.
But mostly, if you’re a kid, you just run around and look at all the cool rock walls and stuff:
There are some nice views of downtown Nashville, too:
There are also lots of these things falling from the trees, at least in October:
We asked at the Vistor Center and were told they’re called horse apples or Osage oranges, and are planted in the area as ornamental trees. I’ve never seen them around us. If you kick them in Crocs, you can really hurt your toe. Milo discovered:
There are a few geocaches on the site; we found one:
Next to the visitor center, they have a big area where kids can dig for fossils:
All in all, it’s definitely worth a stop, even if it’s not the most famous historical site in Nashville.
Nashville’s Parthenon is a full size replica of the Parthenon in Athens, built for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition. It houses an art museum, but we skipped that part because toddler. Still, we’re not really sure that we’ll be getting to the Parthenon in Greece anytime soon, so we couldn’t pass up a chance to swing by and see this one.
And I’ll leave it there for now and save the rest of the trip for the next post.
Thanks for reading my inaugural new blog post! Eventually I’m hoping to get a lot more features on here, like an interactive map and whatnot. But for now I figured I’d better jump in and get some posts up already!