Kansas to Tennessee!
When we first left Kansas we had our first official destination in mind: Virginia. We have been to Virginia several times before on road trips so we decided to go a new way… through Tennessee! Yeehaw ya’ll! Watch the vlog here:
Mammoth Spring State Park in Arkansas: $0
As we boondocked our way south we stopped at Mammoth Spring State Park in Arkansas to stretch our legs. It was a great stop! It is the home of the largest spring in Arkansas and third largest in the world. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. There is an easy 6/10 mile paved walking path that loops around the park. On site is a dam/waterfall that you can walk over to check out the old (but soon to be functional again) hydroelectric station. There is also Frisco depot, a railroad depot built in 1886 that has free guided tours that includes a caboose!
As we continued south it was like the trees were multiplying. By the time we got to Tennessee we were surrounded! It was gorgeous! We only stayed in Memphis for one night but we got in a lot. We drove around to get a feel for the downtown area before we walked down Beale Street in search of live music because, you know, when in Tennessee…! We didn’t stay long because it was definitely a scene for adults, not kids (I would totally go back for a date night though). We did find some live music before we left though, so MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! You can hear it on our YouTube video 🙂 ($10 for parking).
We went to the Lorraine Hotel, the place of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. It was a sobering place but one we thought was important to visit and to share with the kids. We went too late in the day to see the Civil Rights Museum that was established on the site but a nice couple we talked to outside said that it would have been a tough place to take the (little) kids into anyways. I do recommend having a quick pow-wow with any littles that might be with you about proper behavior at a site like this before you get there. It’s not a good place for messing around and being loud – instead it initiated some great conversation and questions for all four of the kids. A must see, for sure.
Finally, a quick drive by of Graceland! We had looked into getting tickets to go see it but it is very pricey. We can appreciate his legacy for sure (I mean, he IS the king), but personally we wanted to save the dough for something that was more us. You can’t see much when you drive past, but we thought it would be something like a sin to not at least peek at it! We did listen to all his top hits on the way back home so the kids got all kinds of culture that day!
One heads up – there are some dicey parts of Memphis. Make sure you know where you are going so you don’t make any wrong turns like we did!
The next day we made it to Nashville! We explored Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park. It is totally worth a couple hours of exploring! There is a cool timeline of Tennessee’s history that goes back to “A Billion Years Ago!” History buffs could spend a couple hours walking and reading. There is also a cool cluster of tall pillars with chimes that play every half hour as a tribute to country music legends both living and gone. There is a large splash pad that was pretty popular and a giant map of Tennessee to walk around. All of this is at the base of the hill that houses the Capital building. Right across the street is Nashville Farmers Market and food court with lots of yummy choices for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
We ended the day at Centennial Park – a different one! We were treated to music from an area band that was using the park to practice for an upcoming regional competition. Our boys both play instruments so it was especially fun to see some young musicians having fun with their music. The coolest part of the park was THE PARTHENON! I mean, it was seriously cool! It is a to-scale exact replica of the one in Greece. That may have been my one chance to see “The Parthenon” and my high school AP art history teacher Mrs. Baldwin was jiggling around in my brain!
The next day we swam in the went to the Grand Ole Opry. We couldn’t go inside but we spent an hour or so walking around outside. I am not sure how festive it usually is but we were there before a Carrie Underwood concert so it was hopping! There were venders, games, and live music. It was super hot that day so we cooled off by cruising the small indoor mall that shares a parking lot with the concert hall. There is a movie theater and aquarium-themed restaurant in addition to the stores. Oh, and Starbucks. 🙂
The road leading away from the Opry House had a stop that you can’t miss if you were a child of the 70’s and 80’s. Cooter’s! It is a Dukes of Hazard shop and museum. Mike took the opportunity to give his kids yet another valuable lesson in American culture. Haha!
Memphis area: We stayed one night in Tom Sawyer’s Campground in West Memphis, AR. We were on the Mississippi River and saw some mind boggling big barges! There was nothing fancy about the campground itself, but it was a good price, had water and electric, and it was secure.
Nashville area: We stayed in two different state parks because we rolled in without a reservation and that was our penance! Both campsites were on the Priest Lake. The first night we were at Seven Points campground and the second night we slept at Anderson Road campground. We got there early enough in the day to go play at the small swim beach and playground before heading into the city. Loved it!
Make sure to check out our map for exact locations!