Writer Pam Coyle

By Pam Coyle

A week of 100-degree weather makes me want to clear furniture out of the den, or at least cover it in plastic, install a misting fan and stay inside, though I’m not convinced that counts as a staycation.

Yet vacations that involve travel often leave me wrung out rather than recharged. Even without children, Shaun and I find the day before leaving for a big trip is so stressful we wonder if the hassle will be worth it. That the “day” extends into the wee hours of the next morning doesn’t help.

My dad perhaps was ahead of his time on this, at least in joking sentiment. Working with Mom to load the old Torino station wagon with three bickering children and enormous amounts of stuff, he’d take the wheel, drive for a spell and question aloud, “Is this trip really necessary?” As we got older, the query became an inside family joke, one we three kids still use even though our parents are gone.


Some trips are necessary and priceless family adventures. Other adventures can be found close to home. A staycation saves gas, time, money and anxiety.

Of course in Middle Tennessee we have the Nashville Zoo, the Adventure Science Center, Cheekwood, the Hermitage, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Frist and other well-known attractions. All awesome, they’ll also add up cost-wise for a family or larger group.

Most universities have free art galleries. Downtown Nashville, especially along 5th Avenue North, has multiple galleries and Hatch Showprint on Broadway is a must see. A coordinated gallery crawl the first Saturday of every month is a fun, free night out. Franklin is the local art epicenter on the first Friday of every month, and a $5 trolley ticket provides transportation to dozens of working studios, galleries and spots a bit off the path, both in terms of location and work.
Do some research and create your own walking tour of Downtown Nashville. In bearable weather, pack a picnic and visit Legislative Plaza. The Tennessee State Museum nearby is free (though closed on Mondays).

Farmers Markets in downtown, Franklin, Murfreesboro and other Middle Tennessee spots are fun, productive and may have free music. “Music in the Vines” at Arrington Vineyards off Highway 31/41 (Nolensville Road) south of Nashville offers up free concerts every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Pack a picnic for dinner. Wine tastings are free but not mandatory!

Carnton Plantation in Franklin has three historic homes, a Confederate cemetery and period-inspired gardens. A $30 admission gives includes guided tours of all three sites – make a day of it.

In Murfreesboro, Historic Cannonsburgh Village behind Sticks and Stuff on Broad Street showcases 100 years of life in Tennessee from the 1830s to the 1930s. Guided tours cost a few bucks; self-guided tours are free. Highlights include a gristmill, schoolhouse, telephone operator’s house, a museum, a caboose, the Wedding Chapel, a doctor’s office, a general store and a blacksmith’s shop.


Look for free or low-cost events at agricultural centers. Upcoming events at the Williamson County Ag EXPO Park include a dog agility competition and show and the archery competition finals for Tennessee Senior Olympics. The UT Agricultural Extension Center has free gardening classes on Fridays and “forage days” that include farm tours and lunch. The Tennessee Agricultural Museum at the Ellington Agricultural Center is free; groups pay a small fee for guided tours.

Explore the hills north of Nashville and visit Beaman Park in Joelton. For the beach, check out the Anderson Road Recreation Area at Percy Priest Lake – but not on weekends, because parking runs out.

I’m a big fan of all-ages options that engage kids and make big kids feel young again – bowling and roller-skating among them. Roller-skating has the bonus benefit of leveling the playing field, which means I usually take a good tumble.

Act like a tourist. Act like a kid. Staycations can teach us that we don’t need to travel far to find relaxation, inspiration and quality family time.