I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
June 9, 2015
Sometimes, you just need to get out of town… and what I love about living in Nashville is that there are plenty of places to explore just outside the big city. One of our favorite family day trip destinations is Murfreesboro. Give this historic city a try and I bet you’ll be hooked, too.
The main attraction in Murfreesboro for kids has got to be the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, which my kids actually prefer to Nashville’s Adventure Science Center.
The Discovery Center is an interactive children’s museum that your kids will go crazy over. There is SO much to do here, for children ages two to about 11 or 12. There’s a two-story super slide, a farmer’s market that lets kids simulate buying groceries and paying for them at the register, a real fire truck that your kids can climb inside, a wonderful Tiny Town built especially for preschoolers, and more. A LOT more.
My kids’ favorite exhibit is the massive Water Works table. They always end up playing here for well over an hour when we visit.
I kinda wish I could play, too.
This mechanic shop is a favorite with my son.
There are lots and lots of photo ops, so bring a camera.
And there are periodic animal encounters throughout the day, which my kids always enjoy.
Creation Station is packed with all kinds of art supplies for young artists. Self-guided art projects are set out each day, or you can attend an art class on Saturday or Sunday afternoons all summer. Here’s the schedule:
June 6 & 7: Make Your Own Watering Can
June 13 & 14: Paper Poppies
June 20 & 21: Compass Painting
June 27 & 28: Delightful Dragonflies
July 4: MUSEUM CLOSED
July 5: 4th of July Stamping
July 11 & 12: Keith Haring Kinetic Sculptures
July 18 & 19: Ice Cream Collage
July 25 & 26: Wave Bottles
The Nature Nuts program is held either indoors or outdoors each Monday through Friday at 11am. Here’s the summer schedule:
June 8-12: Take Home Garden Starters
June 15-19: Birding
June 22-26: Catch & Release
June 29-30: Fossils
July 1-3: Fossils
July 6-10: Birds & Worms
July 13-17: Catch & Release
July 20-24: Birding
July 27-31: Magnifying Waterscopes
Got a little lover of science? You’ll definitely want to hit up the Science a la Cart program, offered Monday through Friday at 3:00pm.
June 1-5: Air Power
June 8-12: Getting your Garden Summer Ready
June 15-19: Polymers
June 22-26: Temperature
June 29-30: Active Lifestyles
July 1-3: Active Lifestyles
July 6-10: Energy
July 13-17: Phases of Matter
July 20-24: Science of Music
July 27-31: Magnets
The Discovery Center is located at 502 SE Broad Street in Murfreesboro. It’s open Monday-Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. Admission is $6 per person (it will rise to $8 per person June 15th) and kids 2 and under are free.
Also, feel free to bring a picnic lunch with you when you come. There’s a room set aside specifically for you to eat with your family- pretty cool, right? But you might also want to consider having lunch or dinner at Culver’s at 2993 S Rutherford Blvd, which is just a couple of minutes away. Culver’s is based out of Wisconsin and it’s probably my favorite burger chain in the world. I highly recommend their butter burgers, onion rings, fried cheese curds, and custard of the day. Sometimes, they even have a wonderful fried walleyed pike sandwich available, but it’s never on the menu- You have to ask for it. So there you have it- a great day in Murfreesboro.
BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.
We recently made it out to Cannonsburgh Village in Murfreesboro and had a great time exploring this historic site. Cannonsburgh Village is the result of a $75,000 award from the federal government for placing as one of the top 16 Bicentennial projects in the US back in 1976. These funds were used to buy and move historic structures from throughout the Mid-South to this site. Today, you can walk through more than 20 points of interest within the village, including a one-room schoolhouse, a cotton warehouse that’s been turned into a museum, a doctor’s office, a town hall, a chapel, and many other structures. Best of all, admission is free!
Today, the Village is basically a repository for all the crazy historic stuff that gets donated to Rutherford County- Much of it ends up in one of these buildings. It’s really fun to see all these random bits and pieces of local history.
When you arrive, be sure and stop first at the Visitors’ Center for a brochure that explains the significance of each structure. We particularly enjoyed the tiny doctor’s office and the one-room schoolhouse…
But I think I liked the switchboard building best, which was also the home of the operator– a widow and her young son. Because she had to answer the switchboard at all hours of the day and night, it sat right beside her bed. It was fun telling the kids how the switchboard worked and how the town’s operator used to know everybody’s business in town and could even secretly listen in on calls if she really wanted to.
Although the grounds are open year round, the structures themselves are only open between May first and December first. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 9am to 4pm and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm. If you’re coming out, you might want to bring your bikes along, too, because…
Right beside the entrance to Cannonsburgh Village is an entrance to Murfreesboro’s Stones River Greenway, an 8.5 mile paved biking/hiking trail that will take you on a scenic ride beside the river, with several points of historic interest (like the Stones River Civil War Battlefield) along the way.
Here are a few things to note about this trail: If you choose to start at the Cannonsburgh Village entrance, consider bringing along at least one other adult. The first half-mile or so of greenway at this trailhead is somewhat remote and takes you through what one trail reviewer called “some sketchy parts of town.” About five minutes into your ride from the Cannonsburgh entrance, you leave the beer cans, underpasses, and backs of buildings behind and find yourself in a much more park-like environment–so if you’re riding alone or with less-experienced riders, you may opt to drive a short distance to one of the other trailheads on the greenway and avoid the underpasses and bottles altogether. Check out this printable map to see your options.
You might also opt to walk the trail with your kids instead, in which case I’d definitely advise starting somewhere other than Cannonsburgh Village. If you’re walking, consider printing out this Greenway Scavenger Hunt to make your walk even more fun for the kids.
The day we rode bikes on the greenway, my daughter was just getting over a cold, so we didn’t get to ride as far as we would have liked, although we did make it to the Stones River dam. We can’t wait to go back and see more- It really is a wonderful trail for family biking.
Once you’ve visited Cannonsburgh Village and ridden the greenway, you absolutely must have a bite to eat at The Green Dragon Public House— especially if you’re a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien (and who isn’t?).
The Green Dragon is located at 714 W Main Street. You can drive there and park OR you can ride your bike there (Cyclists and walkers get their first pint half-off!)- It’s just a few minutes’ ride from the Cannonsburgh Village trailhead entrance and it’s easy to spot.
Inside, the theme is Middle Earth– but even if you’re not a hobbit fan, the food is healthy and fantastic and the craft beer selection is vast. It’s also incredibly kid-friendly- There’s a game and book nook in the corner with board games, LEGOs (Hobbit LEGOs, of course), Harry Potter and Tolkien books, and comfy bean bag chairs for kids.
We went at 2:30 on a weekday and the place was busy, so I imagine it gets pretty crowded at peak times. My husband and I split an amazing Honeycrisp apple and brie sandwich and plum, proscuitto and arugula flatbread pizza. My kids ordered a hot dog and grilled cheese sandwich from the kids menu. We all LOVED our meals. We will definitely be back as soon as possible!
I’ve just given you two-plus days’ worth of daytrip options right there- But here are a few more stops to consider if you’re headed to Murfreesboro:
–If you go to Murfreesboro on a Tuesday or Friday morning, you can stop first at the Rutherford County Farmer’s Market, which is open from 7am to 12pm and located at the Lane Agri-Park Community Center on John Rice Boulevard.
–Go to Murfreesboro on Saturday and you can stop first at the Murfreesboro Farmer’s Market just a mile away on the Main Street square from 8am-noon.
–See an exciting (and free!) horse show, dog show, or rodeo at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum and Tennessee Livestock Center in Murfreesboro. The Tennessee Miller Coliseum’s summer schedule includes barrel races, Arabian horse shows, roping championships, dressage events, cowboy mounted shooting competitions and much more, while the Tennessee Livestock Center has several dog agility and obedience shows scheduled this summer. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon with the kids! Check the Tennessee Miller Coliseum calendar and the Tennessee Livestock Center calendar for details.
–I can’t wait to check out the new Middle Tennessee Museum of Natural History, at 816 Old Salem Road in Murfreesboro. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s already filled with fossils and dinosaur bones and at just $5 per ticket, I think it’s worth checking out.
–I’m really trying to teach my kids history from every possible perspective, so I think a visit to the Bradley Academy Museum is definitely in order. Housed in a historic building that served as a school for African-Americans in the early 1900s, the building is now a museum with exhibits on the United States Colored Troops and history of African-American education. Bradley Academy Museum & Cultural Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am until 4 pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and $1 for children under 12.
–The Stones River Battlefield is ranked number one on Trip Advisor when it comes to things to do in Murfreesboro and could probably be its own separate day trip. You may opt to drive there or bike there on the greenway- I just noticed that free, guided bike tours of the battlefield are offered every Saturday morning at 9am until October 31st and I think we’re going to have to try that out.
Well? What are you waiting for? Plan that Murfreesboro day trip!