This was a trip for me and my honey; just the two of us. We really needed some quality time away from our daily routine. It was much needed, well deserved, and greatly appreciated. Thanks to my Mom who watched our girls for us.
Thursday and Friday were busy... We stayed at my Mom's place Thursday night since she's much closer to DFW and she was watching the kiddos for us. We were up at 3a Friday to catch a 6:45a flight from DFW to Nashville . I slept on the flight there. Susie read. Once we landed, we headed to Avis to pick up a Jeep Liberty (nice to drive, easy to park, great on gas).
Then it was on to the Country Music Hall of Fame. We did the Diamond Package which was great because it was one package that covered Country Music Hall of Fame, RCA Studio B, and Ryman Auditorium. It also came with an audio tour, one of those hand held devices that you press the appropriate number and put it up to your ear to hear the details. After the first stop or two, we quickly realized that if we used the audio tour at every stop in the museum, we'd never get through it all. So we just finished the rest without the audio tour. We enjoyed it much better that way because we spent more time talking and looking at stuff together rather than listening to the audio tour device.
The tour to RCA Studio B was GREAT!!! I'm not an Elvis nut. He was a bit before my time, but I do like his music. This is where he recorded most of his songs. There were many other famous artists that have recorded there as well, but it's mostly known as Elvis' favorite studio. Our guide was great. The stories and the music and old videos they played made you feel like you were there back in the day. It was really cool! This was my second favorite thing to see the entire weekend. Also, fyi... Music Row is simply the part of Nashville where most of the recording studios, including Studio B, are located. Our guide pointed out some of the more important places along the way, so even though they don't advertise it, you get a quick overview of Music Row, which turns out is really all we needed anyway. At least that's what we got with our guide; I certainly can't promise that they're all that informative.
The tour to RCA Studio B left by bus from the Hall of Fame. Ours was scheduled to leave at 11a. We managed to cover the top floor of the Hall of Fame before heading to Studio B and then covered the second floor of the Hall of Fame when we got back from Studio B.
Next we headed to the Wildhorse Saloon for lunch and a drink. We each had a Monte Cristo with potato salad. Awesome potato salad! Tasted like a baked potato, but it was potato salad. I had a Lynchburg Lemonade... yummy. They're very generous with the liquor; at least with our drinks at lunch anyway. This is a pretty cool place. It's huge! Three floors with the area over the dance floor open all the way to the top.
After refueling, it was off to Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. You watch a short video on the history of the building which first opened in 1892 as a tabernacle to serve the city's revivals; neat story. Then you are free to roam around the auditorium, upstairs balcony area, the stage (they even have a couple of acoustic guitars and the Grand Ole Opry backdrop there to use as picture props), etc. There’s lots of neat history in that place. I definitely want to go back there to see the Grand Ole Opry which returns to the Ryman each fall and winter from November through February.
Next we went to Elliston Place Soda Shop. They have huge shakes and malts. You can definitely split one between two or three people. Not quite what I expected from info I'd found on the net, but it was a good treat at a good price. I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to go there had I known what I know now. It really wasn't that special, but now we know.
Next we headed to Bass Pro Shops just to look around. We used to live near the one in Grapevine, TX. This one in Nashville is VERY similar, but it's still a cool store to look around and a great place to get a cheap souvenir t-shirt.
At this point, we were supposed to go have dinner at Fido's and then hit the bars on lower Broadway for a few drinks, some people watching, and good music (hopefully), but we were wiped (not enough sleep the two nights before). We decided to head to the hotel, Holiday Inn near Nashville Airport . It’s a nice place with a friendly staff, clean rooms, comfortable bed, and a good continental breakfast. We will definitely stay there again when we go back to Nashville .
After getting our plans and directions together for Saturday, we decided we were hungry but didn't really feel like going out. We found a menu for Steak-Out, a place that does steaks... delivered! We were surprised at how good they were. I honestly didn't expect much, but it was really good. We each had the 6oz ribeye which was cooked perfectly and had great flavor. We also had a loaded baked potato that was excellent. They kept the potato hot and brought the toppings in separate containers that were kept cold. Even the salad was good, basic ingredients, but very cold and crisp. The way a salad should be. And for desert, they make a mean cookie. I had chocolate chip. Susie had oatmeal raisin, and we sampled each others. They were both great, but I have to give the honors to the oatmeal raisin. The price was very reasonable, around $35 for everything including tax and tip. All in all, it was a great dinner with great company. What more can you ask for?
We got up early and had the continental breakfast at the hotel. As continental breakfasts go, it was good. Then we headed off to Lynchburg , home of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whisky.
Along the way, we stopped at Starbucks for some go-go juice and a souvenir Nashville Starbucks coffee cup.
The drive was nice, lots of greenery. We arrived in Lynchburg and went straight to the distillery, very easy to find with all of the signs posted. We immediately signed up for the next available tour. They're free... yes FREE. Then we looked around the visitor's center while waiting for the tour to leave. There's plenty of cool stuff to look at in there. At the start of the tour, they show you a short video and then you hop on a shuttle van to go to another part of the property where your tour starts.
Our tour guide was Sammy. He has worked at Jack Daniels for 27 years. The last 26 of which he has been a tour guide. Needless to say, he was a great guide! The tour started at the rickyard where they turn ricks of sugar maple into charcoal that's used to mellow the whiskey. This mellowing turns the Bourbon Whiskey into Tennessee Whiskey. Next it's on to the original office of Mr. Jack Daniel himself. There you'll get to see the safe that ultimately caused his demise as well as several other antiques and pictures. The next stop is just behind his office, the cave spring. All of the water used to make Jack Daniel's comes from this limestone, iron-free spring.
Normally, the next stop on the tour is to see the copper stills. We were there in October, which is when they do the annual maintenance on the place. So we didn't get to see the stills up close, but we did get to watch from afar as a crane lowered new copper components down through the removable roof. We went on to the fermenting tanks which were empty at the time due to the maintenance, but that was kind of neat to be able to see all the way to the bottom... they're huge!
Next it was on to the charcoal mellowing area. This is where they use the charcoal that's made back at the rickyard. They grind the charcoal into small bits and pack it into a 10' deep tank. The bourbon whiskey drips on top of the charcoal. It takes 4 days for the first drop of Tennessee Whiskey to come out the bottom of the tank. Sammy bounced the lid up and down a few inches to bring the aroma of the bourbon out. You could definitely smell the corn in it at this point before the mellowing and aging processes. After mellowing, the whiskey is put into barrels.
Jack Daniel's makes their own barrels out of white oak, which swells to seal when wet. They never reuse a barrel. They sell them... to scotch whiskey manufacturers who use them for their aging process... to arts & crafts types to make planters, tables, and other assorted crafts out of them... etc...
The next stop on the tour was the Single Barrel Room. All Jack Daniel's used to be bottled in this room one barrel at a time. They've outgrown this facility, but this same room is still used to bottle Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, which is aged in select areas of the warehouse causing its color and taste to deepen further. You can pick out your very own barrel of Single Barrel if you'd like... for the bargain price of around $10K! They'll even put your name on a brass plate in the Single Barrel Room. They'll also stamp a barrel imprint on the brass plate... and as you buy more barrels, they'll add another barrel imprint to your brass plate. When you get to seven barrels, they stop adding barrels, and for each additional seven barrels you buy, they'll imprint a 7 on one of the barrels on your brass plate. Get it... 7... Old No. 7... By the way, no one knows what the 7 is all about. There's lots of speculation, lucky number 7, the 7th recipe, etc...
About the warehouses, the next stop on the tour was the Barrel House. Built in 1938, it is the oldest aging house at the distillery. It's also the smallest. It's three stories high with three layers of barrels on each story. It has room for 6,059 barrels. The smell in here was definitely different that at the mellowing area. Much smoother, no corn or grain smells... just good old Tennessee Whiskey. I honestly think I got a tiny buzz just smelling it. It was a wonderful fragrance. By the way, in case you're wondering, they have a total of 75 warehouses scattered throughout their 1500 acres. That's a lot of Jack Daniel's!
After the Barrel House, it was on to the last stop on the tour, the White Rabbit Saloon, where we enjoyed a glass of complimentary lemonade. No, not Lynchburg Lemonade, just regular lemonade. It was good lemonade though. You see, Lynchburg is in a dry county, has been since prohibition. So after all of this touring, you can't go buy a drink. But that's okay; Jack Daniel's has gotten a law passed that allows them to sell a commemorative bottle to those who go through the tour. Before leaving, we bought a slice of the Jack Daniel's Cake and a few of the Whiskey Balls... excellent!!!
If you can't tell from my comments, this was the highlight of the trip for me. Don't get me wrong, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and RCA Studio B were all very cool, but this was the highlight for me. I love learning how stuff is made or how stuff works, and I happen to like Jack Daniel's.
By the way, go early. I'm very glad that we got there when we did around 9:30a. It was packed by the time we left around noon. From the distillery, we headed into downtown Lynchburg just a few miles up the road. We had lunch at the BBQ Caboose Cafe. That was tasty. Be careful though, they don't take credit cards. I'm just glad I had some cash on me. After lunch, we walked through some of the shops on the square, picked up a few souvenirs, and then headed back to Nashville .
We stopped at the hotel to change for dinner and then made a quick stop to mail some souvenirs home since we were not checking luggage and we didn't have much space in our backpacks to carry the souvenirs with us.
From there we headed to the Grand Ole Opry House. We tried to squeeze in a quick stop there, but parking was horrible and we just didn't have time. Oh well, we'll see that next time. We had to head over to the General Jackson Showboat for dinner on a paddle boat while cruising the Cumberland River to downtown Nashville and back. We did the outside seating with dinner buffet. The food was good... not great, but definitely not bad either. They also have tickets for dining room seating which includes live entertainment. We watched a bit of the show from outside a side door. Looked like it might have been pretty good, but those seats were a bit out of our price range. By the way, be careful when you order a drink. When we boarded, we were greeted by a waiter who asked if we'd like a drink. We each ordered one and he brought them back in souvenir glasses which I was not asked about and didn't really need. Two drinks... $23... Watch out! All in all, it was okay... not spectacular, but not bad either. The view of downtown Nashville at night from the Cumberland was nice and I've never been on a paddle boat before, so I can now mark that off my list of things to do.
After dinner and the paddle boat ride, we decided to head to lower Broadway to do a little bar hopping. We started out at Legends Corner Bar. It was VERY crowded, packed is more like it. But we did make it in and were able to order a drink, look around the place a bit, and listen to some live music. Next we headed to Second Fiddle. Although very busy as well, they weren't quite as crowded nor quite as loud. It was fairly easy to get to the bar and get a drink there. I really liked this place. Cool decor and the band here sounded a bit better to me, but that's just my opinion. From here, we walked the rest of the way down lower Broadway just looking at the places along the way. Then we walked back up the other side, back to the car, and back to the hotel.
Sunday we got up early enough to head to Fido's for brunch before having to be back at the airport to catch our return flight. This place was great!
They were named the Best Coffeehouse in Nashville from 1997 to 2005 according to the Nashville Scene. In 2006 they earned 2nd Best Coffeehouse finishing just behind their sister store Bongo Java. They were also named Best Breakfast in Nashville in 2006 by CitySearch.
I see why they've won these titles. The coffee was the best I've ever had and the brunch was awesome! I had the steak scramble. It was delicious!
From Fido's, it was back to the airport to drop off the Jeep Liberty that we rented from Avis and catch our return flight back to DFW.