Despite being one of the more central states in the US without any bays or beaches, Tennessee has a lot to offer kayak enthusiasts. In fact, many seasoned kayakers tend to agree that Tennessee is one of the best states for kayaking overall, with a very wide range of options to suit every kind of kayaker. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
2.Best Kayaking Locations in Tennessee
3.More Kayaking Locations in Tennessee
Best Kayaking in Tennessee
- Overview, Photo: Alisha/stock.adobe.com
- Best Kayaking Locations in Tennessee, Photo: Sandra Burm/stock.adobe.com
- More Kayaking Locations in Tennessee, Photo: Aevan/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of blackday - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Discovery Center
The Discovery Center, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is a wonderful interactive children’s museum designed to immerse guests in various exhibitions about the world around them. From the five senses, to an enormous slide and outdoor activity area, expect to spent a full day discovering all the center has to offer.
The Discovery Center was created in 1986 after lengthy grassroots, parent driven campaign to fund the museum. In its first year of operation, the center welcomed 11,000 guests through their doors. Now, over 30 years later, nearly 120,000 visitors come to the museum every year.
The Discovery Center, in addition to bringing in temporary exhibitions, also is home to a variety of permanent exhibitions.
5 Senses focuses on teaching children about the five senses - smell, taste, hearing, sight, and touch - by using a larger than life model of an eye, a nose, a tongue, an ear, and a hand that they can interact with while learning.
Art loving children will enjoy Creation Station. The station is stocked with paints, clay, cardboard, paper, chalk, and other mediums they can use to make their own artwork that they can either display at the Discovery Center or take home with them. Guided sessions are also available for students in the afternoon on Thursday and Saturday.
For the train lovers, there is Clark Maple’s Depot. Kids can don their own conductor hats and railroad engineer clothing, purchase a ticket, and help run the trains. This exhibition is only available at certain times, so families should check with the front desk for a full schedule.
The Farmer’s Market was designed to let children do their own shopping. They can pick up their own grocery basket, pick out fruits, vegetables, grains, and pastries, load them up on the conveyor belt, and check out at the cash register. Children will also learn about how their food is produced and the average amount of miles that it will travel to get to the dinner table, as well as why it is so important to choose local options.
The Discovery Center is also home to a life size firetruck. The Oren engine, from 1954, is the most popular exhibition at the center. Children can put on their own firefighting hat, boots, and gear while learning about the history of fighting fires in Murfreesboro as well as getting important safety tips.
The center is also home to Nature Play, an outdoor exhibition meant to promote creativity while also getting out of the house for physical activity. Nature Play consists of seven different areas - a sound garden, play garden, water table, sand table, butterfly garden, human sundial, and discovery garden.
Brave children can try the Super Slide, which is two and a half stories tall.
There is also a Shadow Room, which lets children use their entire body to explore the wide world of shadow and light while using phosphorescence to “freeze” their shadows on the wall.
One of the more entertaining areas is the Tennessee Live exhibition, which introduces children to the aquatic world by using a living stream table. The exhibition and table will teach them all about turtles, snakes, and fish (by visiting with some of the live animals who live at the center), dig for fossils, and explore the local Cherokee Nation.
The Discovery Center also hosts a huge amount of educational opportunities for children of all ages who visit. The website maintains a full calendar of these events, including cost.
One of the most popular is their summer camp. The camp will divide children into age related groups and allows for daily exploration of the museum exhibitions, free play outside in the Nature Play area, and a snack. Camp counselors will also be on hand to help guide the children during their time at the summer camp. This camp is designed for children between kindergarten and 5th grade.
For educators who want to incorporate the Discovery Center into their lesson plan, the center also has a variety of options. There are “field studies,” their version of a field trip, that can be requested during open hours. There are also mobile labs available by contacting the museum staff, offering an hour-long lab session in the comfort of the classroom.
Dining and Shopping
While there is not a cafe at the Discovery Center, there are a variety of different snack and beverage options available for purchase in the museum shop. The shop itself is great for souvenirs and other educational toys and items. Many of the items available for purchase at the shop relate in some way to the exhibitions that can be found inside the center. Be aware that they do not take American Express as payment.
Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, 502 SE Broad Street, Murfreesboro, TN, 37130, Phone: 615-890-2300
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Attraction Spotlight: Stones River National Battlefield
Although it can be a somber experience, visiting the Stones River National Battlefield at Murfreesboro, Tennessee is visiting a living piece of American history. Guests of all ages should plan to spend a few hours on the grounds and take advantage of the many park ranger based tour options.
The Battle of Stones River occurred on New Year’s Eve 1862 through January 2nd, 1863 and is considered one of the bloodiest conflicts of the Civil War, as it had the largest number of casualties (percentage wise) on both the Union and Confederate sides. It remains one of the more important battles of that war, mostly due to the incredibly important gains that came out of it for the Union, both politically and for the military. The grounds were declared a national historic landmark as well as historical military park in 1927.
Visitors who come to the battlefield say it takes around two hours to fully see the visitor center as well as the battlefield.
Visitor Center: The battlefield is home to a visitor center, which is open from 9am to 5pm every day with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Located at the museum is a museum with artifacts and relics from the Civil War, a movie about the Stones River battle, and a gift shop/bookstore.
Bicycle tours: Park rangers lead visitors on a bicycle tour of the battlefield every second Saturday of the month (between April and October), heading out at 9am. This is a great, environmentally, and physically healthy way to explore the area and learn about the history of the battle and the Civil War. Bicycle tours are limited to the first 15 guests and no bicycles are provided. Children under 16 must wear helmets. The tour lasts about 90 minutes and will be around seven miles total in length. Bicycles are welcome on all paved trails as well, even without being involved in a guided tour.
Living History: Guests planning to travel to the battlefield should check the website to see if any Living History programs will be going on during their visit. These programs focus on re-enactments, demonstrations of weapons and equipment from the Civil War, and other history lessons. Generally, there is at least one of these programs offered a month. It is a great, fun way to really watch history come alive!
Hiking: For visitors who prefer to see the grounds on their own, the park and battlefield offer over seven miles of hiking and walking trails. It also connects directly to another four miles of paved trails managed by Murfreesboro. There are variety of different difficulty levels to choose from, so guests can decide which one is right for their skill level.
Cemetery: One of the more somber areas on the battlefield grounds is the national cemetery for Stones River, which is the final resting place for almost 7,000 people (with over 2,500 of those people still being unidentified). There is a monument outside the grounds that is currently the oldest Civil War statue surviving in its original location, called Hazen’s Brigade (1863).
The park and battleground encourage students to visit and participate in a variety of educational opportunities on-site.
Field trips: There are a variety of field trip options for students at the battlefield. They are categorized by grade level of the students, as well as topic type. Park rangers lead the field trips. Teachers should contact the staff to schedule as well as to discuss the lesson plan that the curriculum will hit.
Curriculum: The website is also home to tons of curriculum materials for teachers to use inside the classroom as well, all searchable by keyword. They are offered free of charge.
Junior Ranger: Children who come to the park without a class can participate in the junior ranger program. They should stop by the visitor center to pick up the booklet, which can be completed and turned in for a badge (completing six or more activities) or a patch (completing ten or more activities).
Dining and Shopping
While no dining options are available, picnicking is welcome. However, all picnics must be held in the designated areas, located across from the visitor center. Guests should make sure to clean up after themselves, especially taking care to throw away all garbage. For guests wanting to take home a souvenir, the visitor center offers a bookstore and small gift shop with apparel. Purchases go back into supporting the park’s system as well. The store also offers online ordering.
Stones River National Battlefield, 3501 Old Nashville Highway, Murfreesboro, TN, 37129, Phone: 615-893-9501
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Attraction Spotlight: Oaklands Mansion
Oaklands Mansion, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is a relic from the Civil War that has been restored into a functional and educational museum. Featuring both indoor and outdoor exhibits, the mansion is a great way to bring history alive for guests of all ages.
This historic plantation house was built in 1818. It has been listed on the National Registry for Historic Places in the state of Tennessee and is most well-known for its Civil War related history. Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, stayed in the home in December of 1892. The last actual owners of the home (Rebecca Jetton) moved out in the 1950s and mansion was turned into a museum and opened to the public in the 1960s. Thousands of guests now visit Oaklands on an annual basis.
The Oaklands Mansion actually contains both the inside and the outside grounds, both of which are tour able during their open hours.
The gardens and grounds are composed of the Native Tree Arboretum, Heritage Flower and Vegetable Gardens, Maney Springs and Walking Trails, and the 250-year-old white oak tree. Informational signs are located along the trail to help guests perform their own self-guided tours. This area also includes Maney Springs. The area as a whole is also known as Oaklands Park, and it is the largest naturally created wetland area in downtown Murfreesboro.
The mansion offers basic tours every day that they are open (which is every day of the week with the exception of Mondays when they are closed) at the top of the hour until 3pm. There is a cost associated with these tours, and discounts are provided for children, students, and seniors.
The internal collection of the mansion rotates on a fairly regular basis. One of the more regular exhibits at the mansion is a collection of medical items that is normally on display in a room located directly off of Dr. Maney’s bedroom. This collection contains a diverse selection of medical items, from a dental kit that dates back to the Civil War era to a kit that was used by the personal physician of Nathan Bedford Forrest for amputation purposes.
Guests who visit the mansion should pay special attention to the interior furnishings, which were especially lavish given the times. Decorated in the most modern style at the time, the mansion was designed with modern architectural styles and furnished with the latest and most fashionable furnishings for the mid-1800s. The newest addition to the mansion was designed in Italianate style in order to make the mansion the most suitable and comfortable for all of the entertaining that the family did in the home. It was designed by a local architect, Richard Sanders. It included a new front parlor as well as a library. Also built was a stunning spiral staircase that leads into the upstairs bedroom.
In the 1950s, the mansion was subject to multiple vandalization of both the artifacts and the actual structure itself. Starting with the restoration in 1959, many of the original artifacts were returned and refurbished and are now on display inside the museum. The museum goes into detail about the history of the many women who drove this rehabilitation forward.
Field trips of the Oaklands Mansion are always welcome and encouraged by the knowledgeable mansion staff. Curriculum standards and various lesson plans are available on the mansion’s website. These plans are broken up into categories, focusing on plans for students in 1st through 3rd grade, students in 4th through 6th grade, and generalized plans.
The mansion also hosts a variety of educationally themed special events during the year. In May, there is a day focusing on the way that daily household chores were performed in the mid-1800s, allowing children to get hands on with doing the laundry and even milking cows. Fall brings the Autumn in the Oaks event, which is a full field day with arts, crafts, and activities that focus on the outdoors. Children can bring home leaf rubbings, help with harvest related chores, and learn more about what happened at Oaklands during the fall season. Many of these special, education events are offered free of charge.
There is a small gift shop located in the mansion. This shop sells a variety of merchandise that is themed around the history of Oaklands and includes apparel, toys, and other gifts. The gift shop is open during the mansion’s open hours and proceeds go back into supporting the daily operations and rehabilitation efforts.
Oaklands Mansion, 901 North Maney Avenue, Murfreesboro, TN, 37130, Phone: 615-893-0022
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