Weekend getaways can be tricky. You want to go far enough away to experience a change of pace and scenery. But you don’t want to spend your whole weekend just getting there and back. Whether you have a few nights to spend or just one, here are four destinations just around the corner, yet a world away from the daily routine in Nashville.
Peacock Hill Country Inn
If you and your mate can steal only one night away from home, consider this retreat on a 650-acre farm in College Grove, about 30 miles south of Nashville. There are five guest rooms, all with spacious private baths and king beds, in the restored 1850 farmhouse, plus a suite in the detached log cabin. There are also two rooms and a suite in the restored pre-Civil War McCall House, and the three-room Grainery Suite in a redesigned 1880s building once used to store grain.
Rates range from $125-$225 a night and include a hearty breakfast that might consist of an egg dish and fluffy biscuits or Apple Pancake Puff, plus fruit, juice, tea, and coffee. A hospitality bar stocked with snacks and soft drinks is also available to guests at no extra charge. Activities range from hiking the miles of trails on the property to just kicking back on the front porch and keeping a lookout for one of the 35 peacocks that roam the grounds and give the inn its name. For more information or reservations, call 368-7727, or visit the inn’s Web site at http://www.bbonline.com/tn/peacock.
Bluff View Arts District
Folksy Rock City and the spectacular Tennessee Aquarium may be Chattanooga’s claims to fame, but there’s a lot more to this city. The Bluff View Arts District, for example, provides a great getaway for the creatively inclined. The district, just a short walk from the aquarium, is only a few blocks square, but it boasts an inn, eateries, two museums, and several shops. Book a room at the Bluff View Inn (423-265-5033), an upscale bed-and-breakfast with three excellent restaurants and a view of a beautiful modern sculpture garden overlooking the Tennessee River.
Tour the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts, and learn about the eccentric but brilliant collector whose vast antique holdings are housed here. Check out the excellent permanent and changing exhibits at the Hunter Museum of American Art. Browse through the fine contemporary crafts and art at the River Gallery. Enjoy a sumptuous dessert and coffee concoction at Rembrandt’s Coffee House. Walk across the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge to the emerging arts district on the other side of the riverand say a little prayer that someday the Shelby Street Bridge area will turn out something like this. For more information on visiting Chattanooga, call 800-322-3344 or visit the city’s Web site at http://www.chattanooga.net/cvb.
For a weekend that combines small-town charm with the opportunity for some rugged outdoor activity, stop 45 miles west of Chattanooga, turn off I-24, and head for the little town of Winchester. Plan to spend some time poking through Hammer’s, a block-long store on the town square where you’ll find a little of just about everything: men’s dress shirts, overalls, work boots, local honey, fabric, women’s apparel, toys, candy, craft items, home furnishings, and who knows what all. You’ll also want to browse through Expressions, a shop just off the town square that successfully combines books and fine crafts by Tennessee artisans, and Knies Company, a hometown hardware/gardening/home furnishings store.
Check out the Oldham Theater, a vintage independent cinema on the square that still shows flicks. Have a filling roast beef, ham, or turkey sandwich at the Brick Café, but save room for a gourmet feast that night at Pearl’s, a casually elegant restaurant near Sewanee. From crawfish cakes to Pearl’s special salad to the cream cheese brownie finale, this is the kind of place food lovers build their weekend around.
For a little physical activity to offset your fine dining, explore the miles of hiking trails and scenic vistas at the nearby 11,500-acre South Cumberland Recreation Area, go underground at the Wonder Cave, or go for the water sports at Tim’s Ford Marina. Rest up for a night or two at the Adams Edgeworth Inn (931-924-4000) or the North Gate Inn (931-924-2799), two bed-and-breakfasts on the grounds of the 117-year-old Monteagle Assembly. For more information on Winchester, call the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce at 931-967-6788.
Sure, Huntsville has a lot to offer Nashville families in search of a fun weekend getaway, what with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and all. But if you really want to show the kids how high the human spirit can soar, try turning west off I-65 in northern Alabama and head for The Shoals, an area that includes Muscle Shoals, Florence, and Tuscumbia, the home of Helen Keller.
You can tour Ivy Green, Keller’s home, furnished just as it was when she lived there and learned the meaning of language from her beloved teacher Annie Sullivan. On weekend evenings from mid-June to mid-July, you can also see an outdoor production of The Miracle Worker, the drama about Keller’s early struggles and triumphs that’s made even more moving (if that’s possible) by its setting just steps from where the actual events occurred.
In Tuscumbia, you can also visit the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, which pays homage to Alabamians Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, Nat “King” Cole, and others who have lifted the human heart with music. In nearby Florence, tour the simple home of another musical giant, W.C. Handy, the father of the blues. (A music festival in his honor in August draws thousands of fans to the area.) Then take a walk through the work of another 20th-century genius at the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House, also in Florence. A fine illustration of Wright’s Usonian style, the home is the oldest Wright house in the country still occupied by the original owners, who’ll tell you all about how they came to live in a house designed by the greatest architect America has yet produced.
There are several good chain motels in the area, as well as Joe Wheeler State Park Lodge, where all the rooms have outstanding views of vast Wheeler Lake. Restaurants include Dale’s, the deservedly famous steak house also known for its commercially available liquid marinade. For more information on the area, call the Alabama Mountain Lakes Association (800-648-5381), or visit the Web site at http://www.almtlakes.org.
You can also contact Florence Tourism: 888-356-8687, http://www.flo-tour.org.
Or, Colbert County Tourism in Tuscumbia: 800-344-0783, http://www.shoals-tourism.org.
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