NASHVILLE • EAST • WEST
— Driving to North Carolina — Interstate 40 is incomparably beautiful as it cuts through the Smoky Mountains between Knoxville, TN and Asheville, NC, but it’s also curvy, hilly and dangerous. For some reason, instead of going slow and admiring the views, many drivers seem to step on the gas pedal, thus pressuring others to do the same. What’s more, easy exits are few and far between. Consider taking a potty-stop — and a deep breath — before you start the drive.
— Hermitage Hotel — Gentlemen, here’s the place to go to the restroom, which often has been voted the most famous restroom in America. Folks say there’s a secret tunnel hidden behind the walls that leads to the state capital. The purpose? Legislators can sneak out for a “quick drink” between sessions. Note: women who want a peek are advised to knock twice before entering. www.thehermitagehotel.com
— A Surprisingly Affordable Meal — The Capitol Grille at the Hermitage Hotel is known for good food and high prices. To get the same quality and atmosphere, go for lunch instead of dinner. Before 2:00 blue plate specials such as fried chicken, creamed corn and braised greens are only $14. Best of all, valet parking is free. www.capitolgrillenashville.com
— Hotspots for Hot Chicken — Nashvillians like their chicken hot, which means that what a local considers mild, outsiders would consider hotter than hell. So be forewarned: If you like your sauce hot, order medium. You can always douse it with cayenne. If you like medium, downscale to mild. You can always add cayenne.
— Long Hunter State Park — About twenty minutes from downtown, this state park is a good place for cooling off. In addition to hiking, there are places for fishing, boating and swimming. Warning: the lake is muddy and thus the swimming is dangerous — and unsupervised.
— The Hermitage — Andrew Jackson’s home is wonderful, as expected, but so are the grounds. Allow time for a stroll to see turkey, deer, and true Tennessee greenery. Unfortunately, mosquitos also enjoy the area. Take plenty of bug spray. www.thehermitage.com
— Presidential memorabilia — The Hermitage has one of the best gift stores we’ve seen, especially for those interested in presidential memorabilia. There are books aplenty for amateur scholars and a fine selection of games, coloring books and dolls to intrigue kids of all ages. www.thehermitage.com
— Alan LeQuire Studio & Gallery — Make time to visit the studio and gallery of Alan LeQuire, who created the statue of Athena in Nashville’s Parthenon. His work is monumental, in every sense of the word. www.lequiregallery.com