Summer in My City (well … state): Tennessee

Here’s everything you didn’t know, and why you must go.

Summer in My City (well … state): Tennessee (Aerial view of Nashville from the Tennessean building. | Courtesy of Emmie Wolf-Dubin)

Summer has always been a great time to explore. School’s out. There are warmer temps. The season offers a chance to make fun memories with family and friends. With this knowledge, YR Media writers wrote stories about how their city is a great place to explore culture and museums, eat good food and just unwind. Check out our Summer in My City series.

There are many things to say, and have been said, about Tennessee. But as a Nashville native, let me tell you that the one thing everyone always leaves out is Tennessee’s natural beauty. 

Let me guide you through a rural, urban and tourist town that is undoubtedly worth your time. 

Franklin, TN is a small town outside of Tennessee’s capital, Nashville. It is perfect for a day trip, what with its many small shops and boutiques. Even if you’ve never heard of “Southern chic,” you will be certified to teach a college-level course by the time you’re finished walking through Franklin. Not to mention, it’s surrounded by beautiful greenery and excellent restaurants. 

Courtesy of Emmie Wolf-Dubin

A slightly larger town in East Tennessee, Gatlinburg, TN,  is the hometown of both Dolly Parton and her theme park, Dollywood. If you picture Las Vegas in a mountain-y town, replace the massive hotels with an abundance of log cabins, and give everyone there a Southern accent – you’ve got Gatlinburg. That being said, Gatlinburg is one of my favorite cities in Tennessee. Dollywood is SO much fun and the area is extremely beautiful. Spending two days there (one in Dollywood, one around the town) is very easy to manage without getting bored. My family and I rented a log cabin for a week in the outer-Gatlinburg area and we had a great time. There were also a lot of black bears in certain parks, which was incredible. Given the opportunity, Gatlinburg and Dollywood are undoubtedly worth your time and money.

And, of course, last but not least: Nashville. The city is the beating heart, flesh and bone of Tennessee. The political, cultural and music hub of the state is nestled in a giant mass of land smack in the middle of the Southern state. Nicknamed the “Athens of the South,” Nashville is currently well-known for its music and nightlife. 

Now, I won’t lie to you. The live music is incredible and walking through the Honky Tonks (read: country music bars in the South) is very fun, but the greenery in Nashville is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. Vanderbilt University and the nearby Centennial Park are two of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I’ve been lucky to run and walk all around and really learn the area. Less than two miles from the city’s center, Vanderbilt and Centennial Park are quiet safe havens in the middle of a bustling urban area.

You also can’t forget about Green Hills or Bellevue. Green Hills is home to the famous Bluebird Cafe, where many of your favorite Country artists (yes, Taylor Swift) were discovered. It also has a very fun mall to walk around in. It’s a very nice area and a good stop if you’re headed to Nashville. Driving around Green Hills and the nearby neighborhoods is a really unique experience.

Nashville, if you were unaware, recently underwent a school shooting at The Covenant School. The news didn’t show the aftereffects, of course. The Covenant School was in Green Hills. You cannot drive 15 feet in Green Hills without seeing “I stand with Covenant” signs or black and red ribbons. It is surreal, heartwarming and echoing through the history of Nashville. It is a genuinely horrifying, but important, moment to see the way the tragedy struck the heart of the city with a blow it will carry for the rest of its life.

Bellevue, a suburb in outer Nashville, could be nearly anywhere in America except for a few saving graces. Namely, Percy Warner Park. Percy Warner Park is a work of art in its many rivers, hills, paths and beautiful foliage. It’s a public park and is perfect at sunset. The paths are all clearly marked and it’s a very safe area, though there are sometimes issues with burglaries in the parking lot. Given the opportunity, it is a can’t-miss destination to show you the other side of Nashville, away from the peddle taverns and mainstream tourism. It is a lot more like the real Nashville. 

Tennessee is a beautiful, but complicated place. I encourage all to visit given the opportunity. From museums to parks to memorials, Tennessee is home to a much more diverse range of people, thoughts, and activities than one might think.

Emmie Wolf-Dubin (she/her) is a high school student in Nashville who covers anything from entertainment to politics. Follow her on Instagram: @redheadwd07. 

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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