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Nashville See And Do

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Belle Meade Plantation
5025 Harding Road
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 800 270 3991 (toll-free)
Tel: 615 356 0501

For over a century, horses were the name of the game at this former thoroughbred nursery, a 30-acre plantation on the north edge of the elegant Belle Meade neighborhood. Iroquois, the first American horse to win the English Derby and the sire of generations of Kentucky Derby winners and racing phenoms (including Funny Cide and Secretariat), made this farm famous more than 100 years ago; today, even though there are no horses to be found, the plantation is a popular draw for history buffs. The 45-minute tour of the main house, led by guides in 19th-century garb, is a must, if only to enjoy the well-preserved antebellum decor.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 9 am to 5 pm, Sundays 11 am to 5 pm.

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Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
Manchester , Tennessee

Each year in mid-June, tens of thousands of music fans brave sun and sweat at the 'Roo, a four-day rock fest featuring more than 100 well-known bands and performers. Held on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, about an hour southeast of Nashville on I-24, Bonnaroo is quickly becoming one of the most notable rock festivals in the United States. Acts originally leaned toward roots-y and rock-y country acts, but now span a range of musical styles: Everyone from Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. to country legend Willie Nelson has played here. The few nearby hotels book a year in advance of the festival, and most revelers camp out in tents or sleep in cars (there are public bathrooms and showers). If you're not a 24-hour party person, stay in Nashville and buy day passes rather than a four-day ticket.

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Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art
1200 Forrest Park Drive
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 356 8000

When garden-club doyennes dream, Cheekwood is what they see. This 55-acre spread on the edge of Belle Meade contains a dozen gardens planted to ensure colorful blooms no matter the season. Cheekwood's art museum has a permanent collection featuring contemporary stars like Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, and Red Grooms, one of Nashville's native sons. The Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail is a great synthesis of Cheekwood's strengths: Modern sculpture lines a one-mile path covered by indigenous shade trees. But the property's crown jewel is the Cheek Mansion, a stately Georgian Revival home that serves as the site of the annual Swan Ball, one of Southern high society's grandest events. The views of the formal gardens from the moss-strewn limestone verandas are lush, romantic, and a must-see.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Sundays 11 am to 4:30 pm.

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CMA Music Festival
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 800 262 3378

The CMA Music Festival draws 200,000 country fans to Nashville—the largest gathering of its kind on the planet. During the four-day festival, held each June, the Country Music Association draws entertainers to perform and hold autograph meet and greet parties at downtown clubs and on temporary stages erected on the banks of the Cumberland River. The biggest stars—think Carrie Underwood and Kenny Chesney—take the stage in the evening, at nearby LP Field. Hotels are booked months in advance and locals avoid the area at all costs during the "invasion," though it does make for some fine people-watching. Hard-core fans should purchase a four-day pass, which includes access to all daytime activities, night performances at LP Field, and the autograph line; for those who want to catch a specific act, tickets to individual shows are sold separately about a month in advance. (One drawback: A single-show ticket won't get you access to the autograph line.) The four-day passes sell out quickly; they go on sale a year in advance, so plan your trip early to ensure you score a ticket.

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Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
222 Fifth Avenue S.
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 416 2001

Country music fans are in heaven here, surrounded by photographs, videos, and other memorabilia depicting the evolution of "hillbilly" music from the 1930s to the multimillion-dollar industry it is today. Even folks who claim to dislike country are likely to find themselves amused by the iconic relics on display: "Rodeo Tailor" Nudie Cohn's designs for Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, and Marty Stuart; Webb Pierce's white Pontiac Bonneville featuring steer horns on the front grille, a dash customized with 1,000 coins, and six-shooter handguns where the door handles should be. The rest of the museum tour includes video presentations and interactive displays. (Not sure you can remember what Kitty Wells's voice sounds like? Touch a computer screen and a song cues up.)

Open daily 9 am to 5 pm. Closed Tuesdays during January and February.

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Frist Center for the Visual Arts
919 Broadway
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 244 3340

The lack of a broad permanent collection allows the Frist Center to operate like a large gallery for a rotating roster of big-name installations organized by other museums, ranging in topic from Pre-Raphaelite paintings to contemporary light displays. Housed in a marble Art Deco–era post office, the center offers programs for all ages (kids under 18 visit gratis) and is a hot spot for young professionals wanting a cheap date-night option, thanks to the frequent periods of free admission (check the Web site). During the summer, a "Frist Friday" ticket includes live local music at sunset on the manicured back lawn, hors d'oeuvres, and access to galleries.

Open Mondays through Wednesdays 10 am to 5:30 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 10 am to 9 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 5:30 pm, and Sundays 1 to 5 pm.

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Leipers Fork
Williamson County

Leipers Fork has a shabby-chic appeal—with the emphasis on chic: This bucolic country village of just 500 is home to some of Middle Tennessee's wealthiest residents, including country-music moguls and a few Hollywood stars, such as Ashley Judd. Despite the high-dollar real estate (farms around here sell for tens of millions), the draw of the Fork is its down-home charm. Highway 46 (also known as Old Hillsboro Road) is the main thoroughfare, and it's lined with galleries featuring work by local artists and quaint antique stores offering high-end American and European furniture and accessories. Leipers Fork is also a popular pit stop for those hiking or driving the nearby Natchez Trace—the terminus of this 444-mile scenic parkway is just 14 miles north of town—or simply looking to ogle prime real estate. For a real (and literal) taste of area hospitality, stop by Puckett's Grocery Store, a triple-threat supermarket/performance space/meat-and-three restaurant located on the main drag. Order the fried catfish—crispy and delicious—and enjoy live music from local artists both famous and on-the-rise on Friday and Saturday nights (4142 Old Hillsboro Rd.; 615-794-1308; Too tired to drive back downtown? Book a room at the Namaste Acres B&B.

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Ryman Auditorium
116 Fifth Avenue N.
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 889 3060

The ghost of Hank Williams is said to haunt this storied auditorium, often called the "mother church of country music." The Ryman is indeed a former house of worship, but it's the music that made it one of the world's most famous performance halls. Once the home of the legendary Grand Ole Opry (during winter months, GOO still sets up shop under the velvet curtains), the Ryman now hosts all sorts of acts, from rock groups like R.E.M. to gospel singer CeCe Winans. The acoustics are insanely good, thanks to the amount of bare wood in the house (don't come expecting seat cushions). Insiders say the prime seats are those in the middle of the balcony, about 12 rows back. If you can't catch a gig, it's worth taking a self-guided tour during regular business hours. It costs a bit more to go backstage, but it's well worth it to stand on that sweet spot in the center of the stage, like Johnny, Dolly, and countless others before you.

Open daily 9 am to 4 pm.

The Warner Parks
50 Vaughn Road
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 370 8051

The Edwin and Percy Warner parks—a.k.a. the Warner Parks—are less than a ten-minute drive from downtown and offer opportunities for walkers, runners, bikers, strollers, and even horseback riders. Of the 10 miles of trails, the most popular is the 2.5-mile Warner Woods loop. Percy Warner, which has an entrance adjacent to the Belle Meade neighborhood, is a big draw for West Nashvillians who like to drop by for a jog after work; on the south side of the park is the equestrian center and Nashville's only public riding trails for visiting horses (there are no on-site horse rentals). Parking is a pain in the late afternoon; the least crowded time to go is in the late morning on weekdays. The Nature Center in Edwin Warner offers educational programs for families and kids as young as 3.

Open daily sunrise to 11 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.