Our goals we set for our Cricket Camping family is to camp in every month of 2017, camp in as many new states as reasonable, and camp at least 50 nights. We got started on two of these goals during the three day weekend in January. With freezing rain falling at home, we decided to hitch up and head south to Nashville, Tennessee for warmer weather, good food, and new adventures.
The trees were covered with ice. The schools were closed dues to the weather. Sounds like camping weather! To be honest, although it was a ‘snow day’ and the trees did have a thick coating of ice, the roads were safe. The days before the ice storm had been warm, so the roads didn’t freeze. We know that towing and hazard roads don’t mix and made sure it was safe to travel.
We checked in Friday night at the Nashville KOA, a couple miles from the Grand Ole Opry and the Opryland Hotel, for nights 1-3 of our camping year. The Nashville KOA is big, featuring a lot of recent upgrades. There is a new pool and hot tub, basketball court, outdoor chess, checkers, and bowling, a pavilion, a dog park, and an indoor recreation room with pool, ping pong, a fireplace, games, and café. We made good use of the rec-room as the kids enjoyed playing ping pong and learned to play pool. We also ate breakfast one morning at the café, which offered good, inexpensive eggs, bacon, and sausage. The KOA featured newly remodeled restrooms and showers, and also had nice sidewalks cutting though the campsites in designated areas to prevent cutting across campsites on a busy weekend. The KOA was located near many Nashville attractions and we wish every city had a large, urban campground similar to the Nashville KOA.
We did have some things that we weren't too thrilled with about this campground. We called to make reservations instead of booking online, but didn’t get the warm, helpful assistance selecting a good site like we expected; in fact they didn’t even know if we would be getting a pull through or back in site. (We did ask for a site near the bathroom and we were placed at the site directly next to the bathroom.) We were toward the back near many seasonal units that were sparsely occupied, including one that had recently burned. The playground was missing and most of the outside family-friendly amenities were closed for the season. This would be fine, except we paid a premium rate for the amenities at this campground, in addition to a $6 per child fee. We strongly believe this campground should discount their fee in the offseason and permanently discontinue the child fee.
Our next stop was The Pharmacy, a popular burger parlor featuring local ingredients. We thought arriving mid-afternoon would get us in quickly, but we waited nearly an hour for a table. They have a gorgeous beer garden, but unfortunately it was raining when we arrived. No complaints once we were seated as the burgers and sides were perfect.
We ended the day with a quick visit to Adventure Science Center, an hour before they closed. We bought a pass to our local Science Center, which is part of the ASTC Travel Passport Program, allowing us free entry into many Science Center, including the Adventure Science Center. Since we had free admission, going at the last moment on a rainy day seemed perfect. This also allowed us to check out the museum in preparation for a full visit on Sunday.
One challenge of winter camping in a small camper is short days. Just after 5pm it was dark outside and it is difficult to sit in our around the camper when it is too cold.
So, after our quick exploration, we played ping pong in the KOA rec-room before going to a movie, Sing, that night. This was a busy Saturday!
Sunday morning, we headed to Wild Eggs in downtown Nashville. We arrived about 8:30am to beat the brunch crowd. This was good timing as the restaurant filled up during our meal. Wild Eggs is our kind of place! Based on the way we eat – no grain, dairy, or sugar – we are used to asking to have ingredients removed from our orders, saying no toast with breakfast, and paying extra for substitutions. At Wild Eggs, we hardly had to make a substitution/subtraction. Mitchell was in heaven with a piece of gluten-free toast! The Farmers Market Skillet and omelet were both excellent.
We timed our breakfast perfect to arrive at Adventure Science Center when they opened at 10am. As members of our local Science Center, the Science Center of Southern Illinois, we gained admission for free on both days! This saved us $50 per visit! We explored the center for maybe five hours in addition to the hour the prior day. The kids enjoyed a spacewalk exhibit, a human body exhibit, a four story playground, a train exhibit and, Mitchell’s favorite: a flight simulator. Some of the reviews of this center were rough and we actually considered not going. We did notice some of the exhibits were not working, but not enough to negatively impact our visit.
We headed for a late lunch: tacos at Taco Mamacita. The tacos here were good, they feature an eclectic offering of tacos like gyro, sloppy Jose, and California club. We were excited to see a brunch menu with breakfast tacos that reminded us of the great breakfast tacos we had a couple years ago in Austin, Texas.
Having heard great things about downtown Franklin, Tennessee, we decided to take a drive and check it out. This is a beautiful few blocks filled with restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. Their websites boasts a calendar full of events and festivals. We enjoyed wandering through several of the shops and decided to stop at Frothy Monkey for coffee and tea. Frothy Monkey serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offers bakery items as well as a beer, wine, and spirits menu, and they take coffee seriously by roasting their own beans in house.
We started our last day of our weekend getaway with breakfast at the KOA café and games in the rec room before getting on the road. We really enjoyed Nashville and will be back soon! The Nashville KOA seems like a great summer weekend trip and we will certainly consider a return visit.
What’s next? We are camping in February, we just don’t know when or where yet. Stay tuned for more Cricket Camping: Winter Edition!
Shane and Jessica
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