Historical Astoria

I love a crisp autumn day—fiery leaves aiming for the ground under a blue sky, the cool air challenging the sun’s warmth on our faces.

But enjoying this time of year is even more fun while exploring a few special places in a picturesque seaside town. One such place I recently paid a visit to: Astoria.

Originally one of the oldest settlements on the West Coast—named after John Jacob Astor—this Oregon jewel carefully preserves its amazing past, proudly sharing it with today’s visitors. Just passing through for the day, my husband and I fancied a walk and made a stop or two…

Back in time

The first noticeable—very picturesque—feature in this coastal-river town is only 50 years old: the Astoria-Megler Bridge. Surprisingly, this pair of small towns is home to one of the longest truss bridges in the nation.

Replacing a ferry system that was always hampered by crazy currents, fog and other weather-related challenges, this attractive span does its part to connect two states, along with a road that connects three countries. Not bad for 1966! We could see it from just about anywhere in town; it likes to photobomb…

Tea time

What does a successful local river bar pilot and businessman do for retirement? Build an 11,000+ square foot Victorian home of course! Captain George Flavel wanted something stylish that he and his family could enjoy, entertain, relax and come home to after visiting the world. Sporting 12-14’ ceilings on the first two floors (and in the basement), I’d say they enjoyed plenty of elbow room…

Now maintained by the Clatsop County Historical Society (and on the National Register of Historic Places), this beautiful structure known as the Flavel House entertains visitors from all over the world. And if you’re up for tea and scones (like me—always!), I suggest booking a tour…

Entering through the front door, we were escorted to the dining room and conservatory. Taking our seats at the table, I couldn’t help but look around at the ornate wooden walls, floors and furnishings. Enjoying our delicious tea and scones (as any Victorian era group would), we listened to our guide take us through what a typical day was like for this home’s original occupants.

After enjoying one last cuppa, we continued the tour on foot, climbing the sturdy winding staircases up and up. Walking through each room and peering through the many windows, I loved seeing the accessories: the steamer trunks fit for world travel, the art and the fireplaces. And the “hidden” toilets. I guess no one was in the mood to see that particular indoor plumbing feature…

We ended the tour at the Carriage House, where we watched a short video on the Flavel family history in Astoria. I also paid my respects to the gift shop on our way out…

Maritime

Strolling along Riverwalk, we found ourselves enjoying the past coming together with the present. Like watching the town’s historic trolley making its way along the water’s edge while the epic bridge quietly guards from above.

We happened upon several historical markers along the walkway, but there’s one that impressed me the most: Maritime Memorial Park. One would expect a maritime city to have such a special and beautiful way of honoring Astorians who died at sea. But seeing two workers adding new plaques made me realize that a life at sea remains a challenging way to make a living.

Astoria’s river-meets-ocean locale was a perfectly picturesque stop for us, before continuing on our way. But I would love to return for a long weekend, just so we could explore a little more. Its beauty and history transcends all seasons. J ⚓️

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Mount Rainier’s Railroad

Perhaps you’ve heard that “Necessity is the mother of invention.” But I never would have guessed it invented time zones.

What began in Ancient Greece as a way for animals to pull heavy items or large quantities with ease, today’s trains move everything from products to people all over the world.

So when the first iron horse rolled across the tracks of Great Britain (way back in 1804), travelers from all over quickly realized one thing: schedules! Yes, crossing vast countryside meant wanting to arrive at a specific time. Hence the creation and unification of time zones.

Catching up to today, my husband and I just had to keep an eye on the time in our zone: an 11:30 am departure with the Mount Rainier Railroad

Elbe’s junction

Thanks to a coworker’s very special birthday gift, we found ourselves looking online at this heritage railroad company’s very seasonal event options. Wine tasting in September, brewing up October…the Great Pumpkin and The Polar Express—goodness! Gotta narrow it down to one. Letting our own existing schedules decide, we chose wine…

Arriving at the train station early, we checked in, then began to look around. One of the smallest churches in the country was tough to miss: the Elbe Lutheran Church—founded by German settlers and on the National Register of Historic Places—shares the same parking lot with Mount Rainier Railroad. And across the street—coffee!

Ready for a little java, we headed over to DeWitt’s Elbe Junction. What a fun store—plenty to peruse here. Lattes and biscotti in hand, we seated ourselves at a small table between two cozy rocking chairs and enjoyed the moment.

Mount Rainier’s RR

Finishing up our late morning treats, we headed back to the train station just in time to watch the beautiful vintage rail cars pull forward. Originally servicing Pacific Northwest logging camps of the early 1900s, this American Heritage Railways member now takes curious travelers to themed events by going back in time…

Boarding our coach, we found our table set and ready for our tasting event: one souvenir wine glass, six drink tickets and a mini meat and cheese tray. Perfect!

Our conductors—dressed in vintage style (complete with pocket watch)—posed for pics and answered my funny questions. Like: which way is the mountain? (In my defense, there was just enough cloud cover combined with a few curves of the track for me to lose sight of the tallest mountain in the state…)

The scenery was stunning—lots of forest and river views with every twist and turn. A staff member poured us a sample from one of the featured wine vendors awaiting our arrival at the tent.

The conductors—eager to share the great vistas with all passengers—invited everyone to make their way to the open air train car. They did not disappoint—plenty of viewing room on both sides of the car. I managed to arrive just in time to cross the Nisqually River with the mountain base making an appearance. Gorgeous!

Mineral’s party

Arriving in style, we stepped down from the train and into Mineral. A former mining town turned logging camp, this small community is now home to Mount Rainier’s logging museum and event locale.

Stretching our legs, we wandered a bit before visiting the wine and food tents. The museum’s featured artifacts are outside: logging equipment, including a very old ski plane. A few vintage steam engines were covered from the elements, but granted access to interested event patrons.

Back to the party! A live band played near the base of a Paul Bunyan statue (absent Babe). Showcasing Pacific Northwest vintners and brewers, five wine tents and one cider tent poured one sample per drink ticket. We chose varietals and vendors that were new to us, and all were delicious.

Shaken Bar Room and Bistro, also local, catered the event, providing finger foods like mini tacos and fresh fruits and cheeses. Very yummy stuff that kept our tummies happy. We headed back to the logging museum/gift shop and purchased a few bottles of the wines we liked best. And before we knew it, the whistle was blowing: time to make our way back…

Waiting for us at our table was a chocolate steam engine. Not too big—just the right amount of sweetness to end our vino focused meal as the train took us back to Elbe.

Truly a fun way to spend a few hours, I recommend you take this train ride back in time. A dose of history and fun near the base of Mount Rainier—in the train inspired time zone called the Pacific. Toot-toot! Just don’t be late… J 🚂

 

“…one small step…”

Funny thing about space. It’s a void, measurable only by using objects found in its borderless arena. You can’t see it, but you can travel through it, aiming for something that’s actually visible. Like the next gas station. Or maybe an all night diner. Or perhaps the moon…

This July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic landing on the surface of our Earth’s only natural satellite. Through September 2, the traveling exhibit Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission, has set up camp at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

With a friend’s recommendation, my husband and I made the trip across town to see the creative inventions of yesteryear’s ambitious would-be air and space travelers. Just what was their inspiration? How did they manage such a monumental feat? Time to find out…

Fiction’s future

The Museum of Flight is a popular attraction any time of year, so I purchased our tickets online several days in advance. Selecting our target entry time for a morning slot, we queued up with the rest of the AM arrivals.

Once inside, we headed straight for the Apollo 11 exhibit. While I did expect to see NASA equipment, I was entertained by the inclusion of everyday memorabilia from the 1960s—and pleasantly surprised to see the representation of two famous authors: American born Ray Bradbury and French born Jules Vern.

First published in 1865, “From the Earth to the Moon” shared the incredible imagination of Mr. Vern with science fiction fans all over the world. Given the premise and details of his story, it seems to me like he was predicting the future.

Mr. Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” published first in 1950, gave sci-fi fans the chance to imagine what life would be like on the surface of Earth’s next door neighbor long before NASA’s InSight touched down on the Red Planet.

Seeing the acknowledgment of these two authors at this exhibit reminded me just how important a factor imagination is to the science of discovery. How much these and other stories inspire space exploration. But to accomplish that, we needed inventions. And guidance. And a little motivation…

Future’s past

There’s nothing like a friendly (?) competition between Cold War countries to inspire a race into space. In October of 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into orbit—surprise! Not happy about not being the first to do so, the United States introduces the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to the world the following summer.

Three years later, President Kennedy declares when the US will reach the moon: within ten years. But—how? Time for NASA to roll up its sleeves…

When planning an expedition to some great unknown, sending a scout—someone or something—ahead first to gather a little intel can prove very helpful.

When scouting the moon for possible landing sites, NASA sent a total of five different lunar orbiters (built by Boeing) to photograph the surface up close. In August of 1966, Earth photobombed one of the pics. Us earthlings had our first glimpse at our home planet from the moon’s point of view. Less than two years later, three astronauts would experience that lunar viewpoint too—and plant a US flag on the moon’s surface…

Thanks to the Saturn V Rocket—and a whole lotta designing, planning, engineering, training, construction and practice, Neil Armstrong would become the first person to set foot on the moon. Buzz Aldrin soon joined him, while Pilot Michael Collins maintained the mothership in lunar orbit for their return.

Four days after the astronauts’ boots made their moon marks, the trio’s return capsule splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean. And the world would never be the same…

Seeing famous artifacts that returned at the end of a mission—like the Apollo 11 command module—or things recovered from the seas years later—was truly amazing. But my favorite item (aside from the moon rock) had to be the framed front page of the Seattle PI’s August 26, 1966 sunrise edition: THE EARTH AS SEEN FROM THE MOON. Transmitting photos via satellite is a pretty quick trick nowadays, but back then—from the moon?

Tomorrow’s present

Leaving the exhibit, we launched ourselves into the museum’s main building. A two-level metal and glass hanger, this structure features various forms of air transportation from years gone by, now suspended from the ceiling or parked on the floor. Other than the mail delivery prop planes, my favorite item had to be the flying car. Sadly, this prototype never got off the ground, so to speak…

Attached to the glass hanger stands a bit of history all on its own. The Red Barn, Boeing’s original airplane factory, now showcases equipment once used to construct canvas and wood framed wings, along with other early aircraft parts.

Photos, promo posters, and lots of memorabilia, reflect the hard work, dedication and dreams of yesteryears’ factory workers, engineers, pilots and their passengers. This part of the museum helped me remember that no matter what the current year is or the available technology, timeless qualities—like dreams and dedication—are what will fly us into tomorrow. Always.

Neil Armstrong’s “…one small step…” truly was and remains today “…one giant leap for mankind.” What will our future giant leaps represent? One can only imagine… J 🚀🌝

 

The Wild West

“Wide, open spaces.” “Riding off into the sunset.” “Go west, young man.” When you hear these old familiar phrases, what comes to mind? For me—rugged terrain, dusty trails, ghost towns, saloons, wooden facades, careworn faces, tumbleweeds…and land. Lots of land, as far as the eye can see. Over the last couple of centuries, the quest to defend or claim the land “out west” has flavored our history books, stage and TV shows, and of course the silver screen.

Legends—part truth, part romance—helped immortalize the historical events that shaped this southwest corner of today’s United States. My recent visit to southern Arizona gave me a chance to see for myself how this desert way of life preserves some of its past in the present..

Whimsical history

Ever heard of the O.K. Corral—or Boothill? Well, a shootout near one lead to a few burials at the other, all in the city of Tombstone, “The town too tough to die.” A three-hour drive south of Phoenix placed us squarely back in time—1881 to be more specific. Our first stop: the Boothill Graveyard.

It’s first official name was the Tombstone Cemetery, giving a final resting place to many of the town’s early inhabitants. From 1878 until the late 1880s, law abiding citizens and criminals alike were buried here until a new cemetery opened in a different part of town. Very soon, the incoming population of what became known as “the old cemetery” slowed down considerably.

After decades of neglect, tremendous effort on the part of many local individuals and historians brought this burial site back to life (so to speak), replacing what was left of the old wooden markers with stone lookalikes. The name Boothill, most likely a product of the early western cinemas, stuck.

Walking the cemetery, plot guidebooks in hand, we learned a bit about how and why some of Boothill’s occupants met their demise. The harsh terrain surrounding this place was a grave reminder to me of just how tough day-to-day living could be, all those years ago.

Our guidebook indicated a few slightly familiar names located in Row 2: the Clantons and the McLaurys. Three of them died October 26, 1881—shot to death—in a vacant lot just behind a rather famous landmark: the O.K. Corral.

In 1877, Tombstone became a boomtown, thanks to its founder Ed Schieffelin and his discovery of silver. Even in the days before cell phones and social media, news traveled fast—that is, when instantaneous potential wealth was at stake.

Prospectors and other opportunists arrived by the hundreds, ready to seek their fortune. And this eclectic collection of people, massed in such a concentrated area, experienced their fare share of trouble. Enter, stage left, a trio of brothers: the McLaurys and the Clantons—the cowboys, and the Earps, along with one Doc Holliday—the law.

Weeks of heated arguments between the two sides culminated in a gunfight that somehow became famous. The location: a vacant lot behind the O.K. Corral. After just 30 seconds, Frank & Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton were dead. We timed our visit just right…

Entering the O.K. Corral’s arena, we purchased tickets that also included a 24-minute multimedia presentation of the town’s history, along with a live outdoor stage re-enactment of the gunfight. We climbed into the grandstands and took our seats, awaiting an infamous fight.

As instructed by “the law,” we cheered for Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil & Morgan, and Doc Holliday. And booed “cowboys” Frank & Tom McLaury, and Billy & Ike Clanton. Before the first bullet flew, Ike managed to run to safety, but the rest of his clan were not so lucky.

Post “gunfight,” we enjoyed the theatre and the museum grounds, as well as walking around Tombstone, visiting its many shops and other attractions. We even stopped by their local newspaper office—now a museum too—with plenty of printed history and items to peruse.

Leaving town, we had a newfound appreciation for our automobile, giving us the opportunity to ride off—comfortably—into the sunset…

Wild beauty

Have you ever seen a saguaro cactus? As in up close? Found only in the Sonoran Desert, this monumental symbol of the Southwest can grow to over 40 feet tall and live close to 200 years. Scottsdale’s Pinnacle Peak Park fast became my favorite way to walk among these beautiful giants.

Entering the trail head, we began our climb toward the peak. Expertly maintained, the path wove us through a terrain featuring several different cactus types, along with many other desert dwelling plants and shrubbery. The trail also provided our mini hike with rock formations, informational placards—and one stunning view after another!

But, for me, the stars of the show were the saguaro. Striking in every way, their stillness was almost statue like. Given their height, they could very well dominate their surroundings—only they didn’t. Instead, saguaros were living in harmony with their trail neighbors—flora and fauna alike.

Western eatery

Whenever I’m in this part of the world, I use my internal divining rod of hunger (and my phone’s GPS) to locate the nearest In-N-Out Burger. This restaurant chain of fresh deliciousness has fed hungry burger fanatics “out west” since 1948. And—yippee!—there’s one in Scottsdale!

It’s a simple menu too: just three combo meals offered, but served up perfectly every time by a truly friendly and professional staff. And their eateries are always clean, inside and out. My go-to order: Combo #2 Cheeseburger, fries and a drink—usually iced tea for me… as always, it hit the spot.

There’s something magical about Arizona’s wide open spaces. The rugged beauty, the wild history and the sheer grit people needed (all those years ago) just to survive. Be it silver, lots of land or other opportunities, I wonder—in the 1800s—what did the residents think of their surroundings? If only the old saguaro could talk… J 🌵

 

 

Brewing a nation

Along the Oregon Coast, nestled around the Yaquina Bay, sits the picturesque town of Newport. Any time of year, you’ll find plenty of activities to do here, indoors and out. And plenty of fantastically fresh—very delicious—seafood to enjoy as well.

But with every great plate of Dungeness crab or mouthwatering wild caught halibut you’ll savor, you owe it to yourself to pair your dining experience with another favorite local item: an ale from Rogue.

Doing things a little differently than most, Rogue Ales & Spirits has built quite a name for itself, winning countless awards since 1988. I mean that literally. I couldn’t count them. Their giant ceiling mounted scroll of awards no longer keeps track of Rogue’s most recently acquired honors—their success and popularity are that strong. And growing. Just how did I come by this bit of knowledge? By taking a recent tour of this would-be rebel nation…

Micro

Microbrew is a word that first entered our language in the mid 1980s. Simply put, it’s a beer produced in limited amounts, focusing more on quality rather than quantity. But what really makes a particular microbrew special is a combination of unique ingredients that result in a one-of-a-kind flavor —something truly delicious when paired with food, or enjoyed by itself.

Walking the production floor with Aaron (our tour guide), we quickly picked up on Rogue’s wildly inventive approach to crafting its prize-winning microbrew recipes. And an even wilder approach to naming themfor example, Rogue Yellow Snow Pilsner. No joke. (And it took silver in last year’s World Beer Championship.)

Food… all their menus feature absolutely fantastic pub grub. Prior to our tour, we enjoyed a beer flight and a basket of Pub Pretzels & Dips. Yummy stuff! The mustard dip—spiked with Rogue IPA—was my favorite.

Macro

Looking at the bigger picture, Rogue has expanded to include three locations in Newport, three in Portland, one in Astoria (where it all began for them) and one “up north” in Issaquah, Washington. They distribute their craft brews to all 50 states and to 54 different countries. Their bottling machine fills 300 bottles per minute, which helps keep up with the demand for more…

In the mood for a shot of whiskey? Or maybe a shot of gin? Rogue expanded their production in 2003 to include their own varieties of whiskey and gin—award winning, of course. Most impressive.

But what really impressed me is this company’s commitment to the local community. Take, for example, Newport’s skate park. When the staff at Rogue learned that local skateboard aficionados were making due with an abandoned swimming pool, this local brewery sponsored a construction project to build a real skate park. City park officials joined the party, and now skateboarders have a pretty cool place to roll.

Since 1989, Rogue’s community involvement has become extensive and far reaching. Back in the day, encouraged by local prominent business woman “Mo” Niemi, Rogue feeds the local fishing employees year round, especially between fishing seasons.

Mo was also Rogue’s first landlord, agreeing to rent out a small inn and bar to the up-and-coming brewer, provided they 1) continue to care for the local fishing community, and 2) hang a photo of her choice in every one of their bars. Only after agreeing to her terms did they discover that her photo of choice featured Mo herself sitting naked in a bathtub…

Looking to their future, Rogue—in conjunction with Oregon State University—takes on summer interns, many of who become full time employees after graduation. Sales from their Hot Tub Scholarship Lager help fund the Jack Joyce Scholarship (named after Rogue’s founder), which in turn helps OSU Fermentation Science students manage the costs of their education.

Solo

Their own farms. Growing and harvesting everything from hops to honey, Rogue’s Oregon farms produce flavorful local ingredients for their beverage—and pub grub—items. Honey is a key ingredient in Rogue sodas. I enjoyed sampling their root beer during the tour so much, I ended up purchasing two bottles. And I don’t drink soda!

Their own cooper. Yes, Rogue makes their aging barrels onsite, using—you guessed it—their own Oregon wood. Rogue’s own Rolling Thunder, established 2015, produces all of the barrels used for their brews and spirits. Just another commitment to quality that truly sets them apart from other similar brewers.

It’s own nation… almost. No, really! They tried! But that story is best heard during the tour…

If ever you find yourself in this beautiful region known as the Oregon Coast, I recommend making the drive to Rogue. Unique in every way, their brews, spirits and food are worth experiencing. I’m very glad we did. Cheers! J 🍻🥨

 

COFFEE-wine-CHOCOLATE-bread

Where do vintage typewriters and old metal classroom chairs meet up with handcrafted lattes? It all blends smoothly at VoxxCoffee.

When does a risotto vendor stand next to a hot sauce vendor who’s next to a winemaker sharing a table with a chocolatier? Why, at Enumclaw’s Wine & Chocolate Festival of course!

What do a mountain and a loaf of bread have in common? When you add the name Crystal at the Black Diamond Bakery, everything.

And how did all these items manage to come together? Let’s just say we had a very busy Groundhog Day…

Seattle grounds

Meeting up with friends at a coffee shop is a time honored tradition. Lucky for us latte fanatics living in the Emerald City, such establishments are just about everywhere. Near Lake Union, in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood, one of my favorites has to be Voxx. It was the perfect place for us to start our day.

Entering Voxx and discovering the fun retro décor in sync with the vintage pop music, I can’t help but imagine stepping back in time to the 1970s, and finding myself at a coffee shop geared toward office professionals.

After placing our food and beverage orders, we pushed two tables together near a cushy bench, then grabbed a couple of classroom chairs. Soon, we proceeded to enjoy a vicious game of Exploding Kittens while visiting and noshing on our delectable Voxx treats.

Fueled up on great food and java, we hit the road and headed south, eventually trading in the cityscape for a very rural countryside.

Enumclaw shows

Near the base of Mount Rainier rests a small town that knows a thing or two about how to gather crowds—and entertain them. With wine. And chocolate! And as we soon discovered, a whole lot more. The Enumclaw Events Center played host to the town’s 11th annual Wine & Chocolate Festival.

A friend working the event tipped us off to this yearly celebration that takes place the first weekend in February. Since both wine and chocolate are easy sells for us, we eagerly purchased tickets online.

Knowing just a little about Enumclaw’s country charm and small town size, I was curious about what we’d find. As it turns out, plenty: two ginormous tents, over a hundred booths, a wine store, and a whole bunch of vendors. And live music! Two different stages—one in each tent—and food, and crafts, and people! Hundreds of patrons milling about, wine glasses in hand, taking it all in.

The wine vendors (23 in all) were salt-and-peppered throughout the event, in some cases sharing their booths—pairing up—with food vendors. For instance, Patterson Cellars teamed up with Seattle Chocolates and JCOCO, making for a very popular stop. Thoroughly loving both products, we purchased two bottles of Patterson’s Due Anni, and two bars of JCOCO’s dark chocolate flavors: Boharat Middle Eastern Spice, and Arabica Espresso. Amazing!

Before leaving the tents, our little group also managed to purchase risotto, hot sauce, ceramics and (of course) more wine and chocolate. And we’re already looking forward to next year…

Black Diamond treasures

A few dozen years ago when I was a youngster, my friend’s mom would take us to a favorite bakery of ours as a special treat. The trick though, was to arrive before they sold out of their signature item: Crystal Mountain Bread.

Since 1902, the Black Diamond Bakery has faithfully served its patrons this famous loaf, along with countless other delicious treats. They’ve even added a restaurant! Ready for a sit down meal, we left Enumclaw for the short drive to Black Diamond to give my bakery’s dinner menu a try.

Lots of stick-to-your-ribs menu options. Cool! Finding Yankee Pot Roast on the menu, I was set. From start to finish, out table of companions enjoyed each delicious bite. Just for fun, we rounded out our meal sharing two slices of pie for dessert. Great service and wonderful food. Our server even added our bakery purchases to our dinner tab so we only had one transaction! Truly a yummy experience.

Next door to the bakery, there’s a store that offers some very savory take-home treats: Smokehouse and More. Before piling into our car, we stopped by for a few things. The smell alone will draw you in! We left with a small supply of smoked chicken sausage.

A few months ago, I was passing through Black Diamond, of course making time for a quick bakery stop, when I noticed another neighbor on Railroad Avenue: the Black Diamond Museum. Deciding to hang out a bit longer, I paid the museum a visit.

Showcasing its mining history in an old train station, I was impressed with the care and cleverness with which these early 1900s artifacts and personal belongings were displayed. One discovery I made should be no surprise: that it was immigrants who took to the world of coal. Over the course of several decades, it was their efforts in the mines below that ultimately forged the lives and livelihoods of the town and their families above.

Those of you who enjoy the cult movie “Groundhog Day” know that Phil Connors was not terribly happy about reliving this holiday day over and over again. But for me and my carload of companions, we’d be just fine with a repeat of today’s collection of wonderful events. J 🚙

 

Notes on Nashville

Until my recent autumn visit to Nashville, I’d never heard of hot chicken, seen the Parthenon, or experienced music—great music—coming from every bar and restaurant simultaneously on a downtown street.

And now? Hot chicken is my new favorite, my knowledge of geography and history are in sync, and my impression of the music scene will never be the same.

Let’s start with the music, a legend and a funny song…

Native son

Back in my youngster days, watching evening television meant watching whatever program my parents chose. Thankfully, there were a few shows we all could agree on. From 1969-71, The Johnny Cash Show entertained families like ours all across the country.

His records were a big part of my mom and dad’s vinyl collection. And while the deeper meanings of his lyrics escaped my youthful ears, one of his songs always made me smile at any age:“ A Boy Named Sue.” So, learning we’d be in Nashville for a spell, I knew I just had to visit the Johnny Cash Museum.

A quick walk from our hotel (the Hampton Inn & Suites), this museum was a convenient and entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. Following a timeline of sorts, the direction of our self guided tour took us through his youth, his discovery and fame, and his golden years.

The exhibit items triggered many memories for me, but also provided me with several new-found facts about the life of the “Man in Black.” For instance, not only is he in the Country Music Hall of Fame, but also the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame too.

Walking the streets of Nashville, we quickly learned this town honors not only several equally famous country music stars, but all walks of art, melodic and otherwise. Most obviously though, day or night, from any sidewalk or street corner, we were within earshot of seriously great live music.

National exposition

A centennial mile marker is no small feat. One hundred years of statehood is celebration worthy! But what would be the best, most memorable way to honor Tennessee? Well, in 1897, with a little assistance from the NC&StL Railway and a big desire to establish a true hub of art and culture in Nashville, Centennial Park was born.

And now, it’s time to sync up my knowledge of geography with a little less-than-ancient history. The Parthenon—as in Athens, Greece—was built from 447-438 BC to honor the city’s patron saint, Athena. Hundreds of years later, in 1897 Nashville, a replica of this very famous Greek landmark came into being as part of the centennial celebration.

Serving as a gallery of fine arts during the exposition, the purpose of this new Parthenon was to inspire love, beauty and a true appreciation for the arts. And today? Looking around this city, I’d say the Centennial Park version is a solid monument to that very ideal.

And what a beautiful place it is. We loved walking through the park’s many gardens, stopping every now and then to admire the pond, read the signs, enjoy the statues, and of course, visit the Parthenon. Still featuring fine art—and a ginormously tall Athena statue!—this museum (maintained by the Nashville Parks & Recreation) is fantastic. As in, WOW!

Noshing local

All our appreciation for beautiful music, “modern” replicas and unique museums helped us work up an appetite for yet another art: culinary. Time to showcase a few of Nashville’s foodie hits.

While fried chicken is a well known southern treat, “hot chicken” was a new term for me. But Hattie B’s Hot Chicken brought me up to speed instantly. Talk about delicious! Soooooo moist and flavorful, from the perfectly breaded crust to the very last juicy cayenne peppered bite. Every piece of chicken was this way!

The side dishes too were amazing. Excellent quality and flavor. We visited two different Hattie B’s, both wonderful, and each featuring a unique set of local microbrews—a little something special to help wash down the heat…

Local and sustainable. That’s what our daughter was looking for in a sit down restaurant. Her find? Farm House. Just a five-minute walk from our hotel, this eatery was packed with patrons (on a Monday night…?…thank goodness for reservations). Together we shared an unpretentious atmosphere that featured excellent food and service. What more could we ask for? Well, maybe some candy…

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen was the perfect place to find souvenirs, as well as something sweet to enjoy on the spot. Not much beats the amazing aroma of confections in progress; Savannah’s creative staff was hard at work assembling lots of sweet praline, decorative caramel apples and chocolatey nut clusters.

Back to the music; just so you know we didn’t enjoy tunes only from the sidewalks. We stepped into a bar called Crazy Town for a shot of bourbon and to hear—and see—the live band performing just near the entrance. The musicians put their hearts into each and every song, here and in every other bar we passed by on our way back to the hotel. It really was a nice way to end our stay.

If ever you find yourself looking for a melodic artsy foodie town that knows how to celebrate each moment of the day, I suggest paying Nashville a visit. Chances are you’ll leave with a whole new appreciation for all things art and soul. J 🎶