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A Family Sharing Good Times in Nashville

Author: sightseeingsue (More Trip Reviews by sightseeingsue)
Date of Trip: April 2006

Nashville, Tennessee was the destination for 13 of our family members to celebrate my mother-in-law's 70th birthday.

Nashville is one of my favorite cities to escape to, and I usually do when I get the opportunity. Living near Grand Rapids, Michigan, it's only a 9-hour car trip to get there or a short 1-hour flight. Being appointed the families social/trip director, I didn't have a difficult time convincing the family to make this our destination. Thirteen family members from three different states coming to town for a weekend celebrating our Matriarch's 70th birthday.

I'm a Michigander, so going south (warmer temperatures) seemed appealing, 6 hours from northeast Georgia was an easy drive, and it offered a large airport for our flyers. Nashville was the ticket.

Being here many times before, I made a list of things to do that might appease everyone. For the music lovers, they need go no farther than downtown to Honky Tonky Highway to catch a live performance at the Stage, Second Fiddle, or the famous Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Scoring tickets for the Grand Ole' Opry Show, attending one of the many dinner theaters, or a visit to the Wildhorse Salon for line-dancing lessons would make this a night to remember.

If some preferred more historical attractions, I included Belle Mead Plantation, The Hermitage, Belmont Mansion, or Travelers Rest Plantation to go explore. Museum lovers could tour the Ryman Auditorium, Parthenon, Country Music Hall of Fame, or one of the many Art Gallery's in town. We would be staying near the Opryland Hotel so just planning a visit to his massive resort for a few hours would satisfy most. They could take a ride on a flatboat, scroll through the gorgeous atriums, view sparkling waterfalls, catch the laser-light show, shop, or dine at one of the many great restaurants they offer. Opry Mills Outlet Mall was within a mile, so this would make the list for the shoppers.

Eating would be a priority and with so many different places to choose from I wouldn't have a problem here except finding a place everyone would agree on. We had to try the Aquarium, couldn't pass up Findley's Irish Pub, and agreed on Santa Fe Cattle Company for the group meal. Had more time been an option, B.B. Kings restaurant for their ribs, Loveless Café for some down-home cooking, or Stock-Yard would have been enjoyed. Next Time. Regardless of when, preference in music, or adventure level, don't miss a visit to Nashville. A definite must!

Regardless of what month you travel to Nashville, you will find festivals, concerts, award shows, sporting events or tours that will be available during your stay. I suggest ordering Nashville's free travel magazine for a detailed list of what's going on and when. This free publication will provide dates and times, fees, locations and some additional information on what is going on. An example might be some of the numerous holiday shows offered in Nov. and Dec. or details about the Tennessee Renaissance Festival held every weekend in May. One of the biggest crowd pleasers found in June is the CMA's Music Festival. I don't go anywhere without first reading reviews, checking out websites (like this one) and doing a little research before I head out on a vacation. However, if you don't have time, don't worry as you will still stumble upon hours and hours of cool stuff to keep you interested in Nashville.

If music is your passion then just walking downtown is all you will need to do to enjoy jazz, bluegrass, country, or rock. There are countless bars, with live performances going on all day long. Seeing a performance at the Grand Ole Opry, visiting the Opryaland Hotel, getting line-dance lessons at the Wildhorse Saloon, or taking a tour of the Ryman Auditorium would be my top picks while in town. In the spring or summer months when the weather is warmer spend the day at one of the Plantations and take in some of the history of this town or take a ride on the General Jackson Riverboat for a relaxing adventure. But my best tip or suggestion would be to spend as much time as you can exploring all Nashville has to offer, if you can't see it all in one visit (and you won't for sure) then return again, and again and again. This truly is a fun, friendly place to visit.

Having a car is the best way to get around this city. It has a fairly easy expressway system to navigate, but due to its explosive growth in recent years you won't have an easy time getting around town without avoiding major construction areas. But don't let this stop you from visiting here -- just plan on a little more time getting to where you are going. Nashville is no different than most large cities and experiences major rush hours during parts of the day, so be aware. Expressways are bumper to bumper for the early morning rush hour or for the evening's drive home. If staying at one of the resorts (such as Opryland Hotel) for all means use their shuttle service. They have rides to many of the downtown attractions such as the Wildhorse Saloon, Country Music Hall of Fame, or Ryman Auditorium and are very practical, reasonable priced (some free) which is especially helpful for the unfamiliar drivers to this area. I do recommend taxi service for people coming to town without their vehicles, or rental cars. Now after having said that, I do want to report that I did have one of the worst rides ever by a taxi driver in this town once before. I sure hope he's not driving in this town any longer. Aside from that one bad experience I would probably use a taxi service again if need be as I am sure most taxi drivers are safe curiosity drivers...(I said most, not all). And one more word of advice: If having to choose from your Mapquest directions or a local living in the areas advise (ex: hotel desk-clerk) take the locals advise. I thought my directions looked easier, while the hotel's desk-clerk suggested avoiding the heavy construction by going another route. Man, I sure wished I'd listened, I did however take his advice on the way back.

Aquarium -- for me, the food at a restaurant is only half of the dinning experience; the other half is its atmosphere. Being fascinated by aquatic life, I found watching 100 different species of colorful tropical fish swim freely in a 200,000 gallon aquarium very soothing. So that being said, I would recommend dining at the Aquarium for the ambiance rather than its food.

Aquarium is located in the Opry Mills Outlet Mall near the cinema. As you enter the restaurant, you will be greeted with a fairly good-size aquarium filled with multicolored coral and reef and brightly colored fish swimming amongst the tank, then directed to walk underneath a tunnel, which is yet another aquarium filled with vibrant colored fish, to wait till you can be seated.

Both times we came here (2pm), we found no line at the door. Our first time, we just wanted to take a peak inside, but once our eyes fixed on the floor-to-ceiling centerpiece aquarium, we were hooked. Table, please.

Once seated, our overly friendly waitress did her spiel to try and educate us on some of the species found in the tank, went over some features of the menu, and talked about how they know all this, which is due to the lengthy training required to work here. She took our drink orders and said she would return soon.

The menu's full of seafood dishes, but also offers steaks, salads, chicken, pasta, and a menu for little pirates. We weren't starving but wanted a light snack, and so decided on shrimp and crab dip ($10.99) and possibly one of their scrumptious dessert. We placed our order, sipped our drinks (apple martini $7.99), and got lost watching the sharks, rays, eels, and other various coral life for a moment. The food took forever to get, almost 40 minutes. How long could it take to make seafood dip?

The generously portion dip and bread finally were served. It came out warm, creamy and decent tasting. The drink-tini was expensive ($9) but hit the spot.

Our second visit was for lunch the next day, and we invited a few more people to join us after telling them about our previous days visit. The table for seven ended up being a table for 13 once the rest of our other family showed up in town. Our friendly waiter was more knowledgeable about the fish than the menu but handled the arriving guests efficiently. Drinks were kept flowing.

Several appetizers were ordered to start. Fried calamari ($8.99), chicken lettuce wraps $(14.99), and shrimp dip. All were large portions that were good. Some of our meals consisted of pasta-stuffed chicken, fried stuffed shrimp, fish-and-chips, Jamaican jerk chicken, and a burger. The entree price ranges were $17 to $28.

Everyone agreed that the food alone wasn't worth coming in for, but with the aquarium's spectacular backdrop, it was well worth the trip and every penny. If you aren't hungry, sit at Dive's bar for a beer or exotic cocktail and an awesome view.

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