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I know what I did last summer in Tennessee!
Hello everyone! I am back, fully well-rested from a wonderful 3-week vacation touring the lovely state of Tennessee. Here's a quick recap:
(FCC Disclosure: I mention various companies and products in this blog post. I have no financial interested in any of them, nor have I received any compensation to mention or endorse them here.)
Our first stop was Lynchburg, TN, home of [Jack Daniel's], America's oldest whiskey distillery. Our tour guide, Ron (who both looked and sounded like [John Goodman]) took us first to see how they burn wood to make charcoal, then the natural water spring which supplies the iron-free water used for the whiskey. We then got a whiff of the mash at various stages of fermentation. Lastly, we had samples of Original No. 7, Gentleman's Jack, and Single Barrel.
(A word of caution: Domestic airlines only allow FIVE LITERS of Bourbon, Whiskey or Rum in your checked luggage. That is only six bottles at the 750ml size, of beverages that are between 24 to 70 percent alcohol by volume [ABV]. Anything above 70 percent is considered too flammable to take on the plane. Excess bottles can be custom packed and shipped, but can be quite expensive. Nearly everyone we met drove all the way to Tennessee instead of flying, and now I understand why.)
While in the area, we had a nice lunch at [Miss Mary Bobo's], a boarding house turned into a restaurant. They only serve one meal a day at 1pm, by reservation only. And we were paired up with eight others and served food "family style" a large round table with a [Lazy Susan].
Jack Daniel's is not the only attraction in the area. We also visited [Falls Mill], a grist mill that grinds corn, wheat and rye for the other distilleries. Mo and I visited [Prichard's Distillery], where they make Whiskey, Rye and Rum. We highly recommend their molasses-flavored "Sweet Lucy"!
We stopped at the famous historic landmark, the [Chattanooga Choo Choo], which was formerly a train station, and now renovated into a hotel. We asked to see the inside of one of the train cars converted into a hotel room.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
We stayed in a cabin in the [Smokey Mountains] near Gatlinburg. In addition to pleasant rides through the National park, we also walked around the small town, looking at all the shops and amusements.
The next town over is Pigeon Forge, and driving down the main parkway is like Las Vegas in a slightly alternate universe. One person called it the Redneck Riviera!
We spent two days at Dollywood theme park, named after its founder, famous country singer Dolly Parton. We arrived after 3pm the first day, so they gave us the second day free!
In addition to roller coaster rides, artisan shops and restaurants, we found zip lines! Mo and I put on harness, attached to a pulley, and zipped over roller coasters, trees and rivers throughout Dollywood park. It was a lot of fun!
We also went to Dolly Parton's other attraction: Stampede. This was a dinner show with horses. It was similar to the Excalibur show we saw in Las Vegas last year during the week of Edge 2013 Conference.
On our way from Gatlinburg, we stopped into Knoxville to have lunch with clients. We had a choice to make, we could either drive up into Kentucky and visit the distilleries in the Bourbon trail, or drive straight to Nashville and spend more time there. We opted for Nashville, saving the Bourbon trail for a future trip.
Our final stop was Nashville, known as Music City. Our hotel was on Broadway, walking distance between Vanderbilt University and the [honky-tonks] downtown.
We had purchased advanced tickets for the [Grand Ole Opry]. This is not your typical concert. Instead, you have no idea who will play until just a few days before. The three hour show had about a dozen different musical acts, some famous, some new to the country music scene.
We went to the Johnny Cash Museum. People with ticket stubs from the Grand Ole Opry get in for a discount!
Searching [TripAdvisor] for things to do in Nashville, I found [The Escape Game]. You pay them money to lock you up in a room with a bunch of strangers, and then collectively as a team you need to figure out how to escape by solving puzzles and clues.
Each room has different themes. First, we tried the "Underground Playground". You know that TV show [Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?] Well, the majority of our so-called team were not in this case, and after 60 minutes the referee told us we had failed and unlocked the door.
We had so much fun that we came back two days later to try a different room. This time we tried "The Heist" which is all about art theft. The strangers we were teamed up with were very motivated to get out of the room in time, and we succeeded, getting out in just 54 minutes!
Mo and I had a great time, but are glad to be back home!