Road trip: Nashville to Memphis
As I mentioned, Matt and I visited Nashville at the end of March, and I was excited and a little nervous to go back. It turns out, it felt as much like home as Los Angeles or now-Utah. In fact, when we were driving, I had the inclination to just drive to our "home" that was in Utah feeling like it was the same place. We did a lot of great things while we were there, but one of my favorite things that I got to do is go on a girls trip with two of my former roommates & now best friends, Janna and Annemarie, in Nashville.
We went from Nashville to Memphis and back and it was nothing but adventure for two days.
These are the highlights of what we did, and it's all in detail below:
- Tennessee Safari Park
- The Peabody Memphis (watched the duck march)
- The Rendezvous
- Beale Street
- Jerry's Snow Cones
- The Narrows at Harpeth River State Park
This was by far the most fun, thrilling, craziest, and a little scared-for-my-life experience we did. First off, it's cash only. Just so you know, because we didn't. And the lady wasn't the nicest about it — "How are each of you not carrying around cash??". I'm sorry, but who consistently carries around cash anymore? And then once we found an ATM and got back, she commented on how we took a long time. Listen lady, we're trying. In total, it was about $60 for the three of us and four buckets of food.
Once we got the food, we started on the 5.5 mile long journey through the, probably only, safari in Tennessee. It's home to over 80 species of animals, including many endangered ones.
From the get-go we were surrounded. We encountered zebras, camels, deer and so many others. The infamous animals for us were the emus. They're a little aggressive. As the finale, we got to feed a giraffe! THEY'RE SO TALL! A lot of our journey was captured on film as you can see below (combination of Annemarie's and mine's footage):
In addition to the drive-through, there's also a walk-through area that had monkeys, reptiles, and a lot of peacocks.
I've wanted to stay here ever since I found out about the duck march: every morning and evening, they march trained ducks from the duck palace on the roof to the fountain in the lobby. There's even a "duck master" that marches them down and they roll out a red carpet every time.
Here's a synopsis of the legend of the ducks from their website:
"Back in the 1930s Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much Tennessee sippin' whiskey, and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain. Three small English call ducks were selected as "guinea pigs," and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Thus began a Peabody tradition which was to become internationally famous."
We stayed the night in one of their rooms (kind of fun if you like the antique/vintage feel, but quite small relative to a standard hotel room size today), ordered milk and fresh chocolate chip cookies before bed the night before, and then woke up the next day for the big event. Even before that though, Annemarie and I were up for sunrise. I wanted to watch the sunrise from the rooftop where the duck palace is, but because of the rain (and even though I checked with the front desk and they said it would be open) it was closed. I was really disappointed and was talking to the front desk when Annemarie, who came with me, was talking to one of the angel guards and he showed us a way to the roof! We didn't stay out there long, but it felt like a little miracle and was really cool to see the view from the roof and see the ducks in their other home.
We took our places at about 10:15am near the elevator to watch the duck march at 11am. At first I sat on the floor as close to the red carpet as I could get. But that space was filled in with kids... understandably...but also, do I count?
At 11am, after the duck master went up to the roof and got the ducks, the elevator doors opened and out marched — really sprinted — the ducks to the pond. The event took less than a minute. It was a fun moment and definitely fun to do at least one time, but next time I'll spend more time watching the ducks in the fountain.
Dinner for our night in Memphis was at The Rendezvous. It's a BBQ place best known for their dry rub ribs. They're located in a basement through a downtown alley across from the Peabody Hotel. Charlie Vergos founded the place in 1948 and it has since grown into an iconic Memphis eating spot. (Full and interesting background story can be found here.)
Beale Street is the equivalent of Nashville's broadway: bars, neon lights, some live music (not as much as Nashville), restaurants, shops, and mostly for the tourists. It's fun to walk down and see some of the history here. We went during the day so it was way less crowded than it normally would be at night. What I love the most about this street is it's closed off to cars (something that I think Nashville could consider) making it easy to walk around.
Graceland is probably the most favorited and obvious stopping point if you're in Memphis. It's a little pricey — for just the tour of the mansion it's $40 (plus tax) and you might as well pay the additional $5 to see the airplanes. Prices go up to $169 if you want the full VIP experience. Whatever you choose, I recommend buying the tickets in advance so you can decide what time you want (there might be a wait from the time you buy the ticket to when you can start the tour).
To be honest, I didn't know very much about Elvis before Graceland. In fact, I learned a couple things about him through the self-guided tour hosted by John Stamos who played Jesse on Full House (more on that later), but most of what I learned was from Wikipedia while we were on the shuttle to the home. The little museum near the end of the tour had more about his upbringing and life, but since it was at the end, I was a little clueless otherwise.
The craziest thing I learned about Elvis had nothing to do with his success. When Elvis was born, it was before ultrasounds and all that fancy stuff that told you gender and how many babies you were having. So his parents thought they were having one baby. When the first baby came out, he was a stillborn and they named him Jesse (which the Full House character is a tribute to). Twenty minutes later, they realized there was another baby! Could you imagine? And out came Elvis.
As far as the house — Elvis definitely had a unique style, and it was interesting to see his design choices such as the "Jungle Room" and the room that was completely covered in fabric floor to ceiling. It was also very groovy to see what a preserved elite house of the 70s era was like. They even had one of the first microwaves sold in Memphis there! The self-guided tour was also very well done. You could find out more about different objects in the room by exploring the room on the iPad and find out more history about Elvis and his family and their life in Graceland.
I actually loved learning about Elvis and the ups and downs of his life. I've found that in almost every case of great "success" there is a much bigger story behind it that's not at all as glamorous as it seems. Elvis had a huge impact on the world, and his younger self still hangs on posters in rooms from young to old, but his life was not easy and money came at a price.
Annemarie was the real reason we came to this place. She loves snow cones and was really excited to go here. When we pulled up, we made a joke about it being cash-only because of the safari park and then started laughing so hard when it really was cash only. Maybe East Tennessee has a thing for cash.
They have an incredible amount of flavors. I got some tropical combination and I got the ice cream with it. I believe that's the secret to a good snow cone: add ice cream. It was really really good.
We stayed the night in Dickson before going back to the Nashville area the next morning. Before we had a meal at Pancake Pantry and celebrated Annemarie and Adam's 9 month anniversary together, we went to the Harpeth overlook for sunrise. I was very excited about this spot because the overlook is really incredible. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and a little rainy that morning. So we hiked up to the overlook and stood there wondering whether the sun was up or not for what seemed like an hour. Some kids had actually spent the night there and left before us, accepting what I couldn't for a long time — this was as good as it was going to get. It's still one of my favorite spots near Nashville, so no regrets. Maybe next time.
Let me know what your favorite spots are or if you visit any of these!