A road trip to Florida has been on our family agenda for a long time. It's a great Canadian tradition - being sick of the winter cold, to get the entire family in the car and hit the road usually during the Spring Break in search for sunny weather, palm beaches and the magical world of Disney. But for us – we mostly wanted to explore more of America, to go back to the places in Florida that my husband had traveled alone almost fourteen years ago, and most importantly to have quality family time spent together, creating memories and experiences before our son is old enough to prefer to travel with friends instead of mom and dad. Besides, we love good road trips and we love traveling.
With no special preparation and planning (contrary to any advices), except a visit to the local CAA office, which I highly recommend, and of course car safety checks, we chose the best winter route I-75 to reach the Sunshine State and I-95 for our way back to Toronto. I have to point out that roads in the USA are excellent, with plenty of service facilities - rest areas, gas stations, food (keep in mind mostly fast food joints), lodging exits and welcome visitors centres.
After a 1200 km drive (using I-65 as well) and a night in a motel outside the city limit of our first desired destination, we were ambling through the wet historic district on Broadway Avenue in Music City,
There is no doubt that the very soul of this city is music and it is the centre of the universe for honky-tonk fans. You don't have to frequent the countless bars and honky-tonks to hear live music - the tunes and lyrics are coming from every open door of the old structures and from the guitarists performing at every corner of the streets even on this rainy Saturday morning when the light drizzle added its own sound and beauty to the already vibrant Nashville downtown. One can't stop thinking that the band he or she was just listening to might just be the next big thing. Music here is written, recorded and performed every day. For my son's entertainment, it was the weekend of the 2015 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament and hundreds of Kentucky Wildcats fans wearing blue jerseys created a festive and celebratory mood. But as the friendly locals assured us, no matter when you visit, there is always something special going on in Music City. Moreover, the city has fast gained reputation among foodies to take a trip solely for eating.
With so many interesting sights to be seen in such little time, navigating and choosing the best picks was the biggest challenge of our road trip. I wanted to see everything, to know everything, to taste every meal that locals love to eat. My son had his own preferences, my husband was the accountant taking care of the spending. So, reading travel guides, gaining information, discussing it and staying flexible and ready to compromise were the keys to making the most of our road trip experience.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a must for every music fan. Walking at least a hour and a half through two floors of exhibits, videos, memorabilia - instruments, costumes, automobiles - you can learn everything about the history of American country music. The museum also offers a tour of one of the most famous studios in the world, Studio B, where Elvis recorded more music that anywhere else.
Ernest Tubb Record Shop deserves a peak inside. Opened in the 1940s by singer-songwriter Tubb, it is a Nashville landmark where music still lives. Singing along tunes of a favourite song while looking at the photos that line the walls, you can feel the spirit of the past. Plus, you can also come across some rare vinyl, CDs, books, or perhaps little kitschy souvenirs of your trip.
The Parthenon is a sight of Nashville not to be missed, especially driving with a teen, who appreciates music a lot, but who is not a big country music fan. The Parthenon is located in the lush Centennial Park and is a full-scale replica of the ancient temple on the Acropolis in Athene, Greece. Nashville is also known around the country as the "Athens of the South." I highly recommend a tour inside the museum (admissions: adult $7.00, children (4-17) $5.00), since you don't want to miss the impressive 42-foot-high sculpture of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Made of gypsum cement with chopped fiberglass by Alan LeQuir from Nashville, the statue is gilded and painted with 8 pounds of 23.75 carat gold. You can also enjoy a stunning art collection of paintings by American artist, donated to the Parthenon by native Tennessean James M. Cowan.
Goo Goo Cluster is an original candy bar, made with real milk chocolate, peanuts, caramel and marshmallow, invented in 1912 in Nashville. Often advertised as "the South's favourite candy", it is a candy staple in Nashville. In the store you can watch goo goo clusters be made by hand right in front of you.
and we unanimously decided to stop and spend good two hours strolling along the riverfront of this charming place. We had lunch at family friendly restaurant Mellow Mushrooms, the originators of Classic Southern Pizza, according to their website.
Bluff View Art District, overlooking the Tennessee River is a historic neighbourhood with lovely small paths, hidden sculpture gardens, galleries, cafes and restaurants, giving a genuine pleasure in being experienced. If you are into European style desserts, pastries, coffees, breads and sandwiches as we are, you will be utterly satisfied with Rembrandt's Coffee House.
It was already late afternoon and obviously, we would be in Atlanta at night. We would make a night-car-tour in the Big Peach and would continue our way on the road until we chose a hotel to stay overnight.