Sean and I are a couple who likes to tour museums, browse antique shops, visit vineyards and parks, experience a thrill ride or two, take ghost tours, and enjoy pub fare and barbecue. St. Louis and Paducah are two of our favorite cities to visit, but we wanted to go somewhere different for our ninth anniversary. The problem? We had absolutely no idea where we wanted to visit. Therefore, we chose to use Pack Up+Go to plan our trip.
Pack Up+Go is a travel agency that plans a vacation based on your budget and preferences. The little catch is that your destination is a secret (or it’s supposed to be) until the day you embark.
Sean and I selected our budget, answered the questionnaire, and waited to discover our destination. However, we didn’t wait until our departure date (July 5, our anniversary) to open our package. We wanted our families to be present when we learned where we were going, so we chose our Fourth of July gathering for our big reveal.
Nashville? The country music capital of the nation? Okay . . . I enjoy classic country music (60’s, 70’s, some 80’s), but neither of us are country music fans. Oh, well. We chose to be surprised, and we were. For better or worse . . . Nashville, here we come!
Day One: July 5
Parengo Coffee: Sikeston, MO
The first stop on our itinerary led us to a town we have visited many times, but we never knew about this little coffee shop. The coffee was delicious, and the shop had a quaint, peaceful vibe. However, the online menu mentioned food; the place was tiny, and I saw no actual food prep area. The pastries we selected were merely average.
Blackhorse Pub and Brewery: Clarksville, TN
We arrived in Clarksville around noon, and Blackhorse was recommended for lunch. This was one of the best meals we enjoyed during the entire trip.
Customs House Museum: Clarksville, TN
After enjoying lunch at Blackhorse, we crossed the street to this amazing museum. From artifacts and artwork to model train layouts, this was one of the most entertaining museums we visited. It was also one of the most reasonably priced.
21C Museum Hotel: Nashville, TN
After driving in circles several times and parking in the incorrect (and expensive!) parking garage, we finally arrived at our hotel. The hotel was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Although the room was posh and relatively comfortable, the hotel/museum had an eerie Twilight Zone vibe. For example, there was a room that played a video of a donkey walking, and the swivel chairs gave the impression of riding the donkey. Each elevator played a video of an animal in its natural habitat, and another video of the animal viewed through a kaleidoscope. The first two floors of the hotel housed the museum galleries which displayed an odd assortment of artwork and artifacts.
We found our room on the seventh floor, room 711. On Thursday, July 6, we left the room early that morning, and the hallway was clear. When we returned late that afternoon, a blue penguin statue stood near our door; we have no clue as to the reason.
The restaurant was another quirky part of the hotel. Huge hare statues hung from the columns and rafters, bound in place by thick ropes. If there is a clue to the décor in the restaurant’s name (Gray & Dudley), it is lost on me.
Sea Salt: Downtown Nashville
Sea Salt is a French-inspired restaurant that the hotel clerk recommended to us. We ate relatively early, so we were the only patrons in the restaurant when we visited; it was a very quiet place. I enjoyed the chicken I ordered, but the highlight of the meal was our appetizer. They were the best French “frites” (basically fries) I’ve ever eaten.
Day Two: July 6
Frothy Monkey: Downtown Nashville
We took advantage of the location of our hotel, and visited restaurants and museums within walking distance. We selected this restaurant for breakfast. It was a mixed bag of results: cozy yet crowded atmosphere, I enjoyed my coffee and disliked the whole-wheat pancakes I ordered, and Sean enjoyed his omelet but not his coffee because he didn’t get what he ordered.
There were a few things we wanted to do that were not within walking distance, so we used Lyft for the first time. Lyft is like Uber (which we’ve never used), and it was a convenient, stress-free way to enjoy the city. We will definitely use it again if the occasion arises.
Centennial Park: Nashville, TN
We chose this park because we wanted to visit the Tennessee Parthenon. It is a replica of the actual Parthenon with artwork and artifacts displayed. A towering statue of Athena filled one area of the museum. It was definitely worth the money for admission.
The park consisted of beautiful gardens, walking trails, and statues. It also displayed a steam engine and a plane.
Once we left the park, we headed to the zoo because it was the furthest away from the hotel. We wanted to get all of our Lyft riding finished at one time.
If you’ve visited one zoo, you’ve basically seen them all; however, the Nashville Zoo differed from the St. Louis Zoo in a couple areas. It was WAY smaller: no bear exhibits, big cats, or anything like that. I’m assuming this is because it was relatively new. It was also WAY more expensive. The St. Louis Zoo is free except for parking. We paid sixteen dollars a piece for admission in Nashville.
The one thing the Nashville Zoo had that St. Louis doesn’t is a plantation house and grounds included in the zoo. A lovely garden previously maintained by a retired schoolteacher (now deceased) bordered the plantation grounds.
The Diner: Downtown Nashville
After the zoo, we returned via Lyft to downtown Nashville to eat lunch. One of the Lyft drivers suggested The Diner, a six-story restaurant with themed floors. We ended up on the fourth floor. This was an excellent choice; the spicy chicken wrap and cheese steak we ordered were delicious!
Johnny Cash Museum: Downtown Nashville
Since Nashville is the country music capital of the nation, it boasts several country music museums and venues with the most popular being the Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Our budget for this wasn’t extensive since neither of us are country music fans. We opted to visit the Johnny Cash museum, which we assumed was one of the least expensive since it was small, and the Ryman.
Unfortunately, we made a mistake. The Johnny Cash museum was definitely more expensive than we budgeted, and quite frankly, a disappointment. It housed several artifacts relevant to Cash’s life, but only a few were interactive. Also, the tiny museum was extremely crowded and therefore overly heated.
We did enjoy seeing the artifacts and watching a presentation about all the television shows and movies in which Cash starred. However, we didn’t get our money’s worth; and, since it went over our budget, we opted not to visit the Ryman. We weren’t too disappointed, though. After we left the museum, we ate dessert at the Goo Goo Shop, home of the Goo Goo Cluster. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in our hotel and touring the eccentric hotel museum.
Wildhorse Saloon: Downtown Nashville
For dinner, we wanted a good barbecue. We researched it, and the Wildhorse Saloon supposedly had one of the best barbecues in Tennessee. We went; it didn’t. We should have used Lyft again and gone to Edley's (the #1 barbecue in Tennessee) or returned to The Diner.
Day Three: July 7
Another Broken Egg: Downtown Nashville
Our quest for scrumptious breakfast food finally proved successful with this stop! The blueberry lemon goat cheese pancakes I ordered were the best I’ve tasted. The coffee was simple, yet tasty.
Hot, tired, and frustrated with having to pay out the wazoo for anything we remotely wanted to do, we decided to forego our visit to The Hermitage (it would have over-extended our budget) and head home.
In conclusion, Sean and I made the most of our anniversary trip. We arrived at an important conclusion: unless you are into bar-hopping and paying exorbitant prices for entertainment, Nashville is not for you. It definitely isn’t a city for us!
Will we use Pack Up+Go again? Quite possibly. We liked not having to choose a destination and the suspense. Besides, they won’t send us back to Nashville; that’s part of their policy!
Will we ever return to Nashville? Not unless we have a specific reason for doing so!