Well, it’s official…I broke our new yearly tradition after only 2 years…no camping on Easter this year. We had plans to go to HBW Hubby’s uncle’s house the same week and it was just too much to try to fit in, even if we were all sad about missing out on the perfect camping weather. Still, we made the best of it and still took advantage of those perfect spring days. It was a fun-packed spring break, and here’s how we spent it!
Hiking at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is a 7,500 acre state park in the St. Francois Mountains where visitors can be on top of Missouri, literally! The park boasts the highest elevation in Missouri as well as Mina Sauk Falls, the tallest waterfall in Missouri. There is a 12-site basic campground and group site available for those interested in staying overnight.
We may not have been able to go camping on Easter Sunday afternoon like we have the last two years, but we joined some friends for a fire at their house that night and followed it up with a hike the next day, including a picnic with grilled camp food, so the kids got to roast their s’more’s after all and we got to sleep in our own beds. LOL Monday morning, we headed to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park with those same friends to see Missouri’s tallest water fall, Mina Sauk Falls. It hadn’t rained in over a week, so I was worried there wouldn’t be much to see, but it was still pretty impressive! This 3 mile loop, allows you to walk right up to both the tallest waterfall and also to the highest elevation point in Missouri…though to be honest, the latter was rather unimpressive. I had hoped for a view, but it’s a very flat-topped mountain, so it was no different from the rest of the trail, really. The falls were worth it though! After the hike, we hopped over to the picnic area and grilled up some lunch. It was the perfect way to spend the day! Fresh air, friends, and good food!
You can check out the sights along with us in the video below.
Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
I had a few loose ends to tie up Tuesday and had to pack as well, but Wednesday morning had us on the road, car snacks in hand, on our way to Tennessee. Do you have any favorite or must-have car snacks for road trips? I love road trips because it means time to read, listen to music, play car games with the family, or crochet, and because of the snacks! I try to limit the kids’ tablet time because there’s so much to look at. The drive from Missouri to eastern Tennessee is a beautiful one, so the only screen they should be looking at is the window.
After taking the rest of the day to catch up with family, we were up the next day to visit the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. I always thought our St. Louis Zoo was amazing, but I was really impressed with Nashville’s! Not only do they have animals in coordinated and thoughtfully planned exhibits, but they bring some animals out to play on the sidewalks and pathways, like the flamingos and Ruby the porcupine. I think her name was Ruby…maybe that was the kangaroo that the boys got to pet. Hmm. Anyway, there were so many different animals to see at this zoo that we don’t get in St. Louis, like the gibbons, red panda, and those cute little meerkats. Plus there’s a huge playground you can see in the video below.
Probably the thing I found most unexpected here, the Nashville Zoo also tells the story of Grassmere Farm, the good and the bad, acknowledging that ignoring the treatment and historical contributions of enslaved people is a form of censuring and is a disservice to all to do so. The zoo sits on the site of the former plantation and offers tours of the house and allows exploration of the outbuildings, including slave quarters, smoke house, kitchen, and many artifacts. Sadly, we didn’t have time for the house tour, so I can’t speak to how thorough that was, but we toured the outbuildings some and while it wasn’t quite as extensive as what I saw at Belle Meade (read more about my visit to Belle Meade during a previous trip to Nashville here), but again, I didn’t take the tour, so maybe there was other information and artifacts that I missed out on.
Perhaps also unexpected of a zoo but not as surprising is the Dinosaur Trek, which felt to me a little like walking through a scene from The Land Before Time movies. Animatronic dinosaurs make sounds and move and enthrall those strolling this trek. And if you go, you better watch out, because some of them even spit water at you! Although, that might be nice if you’re visiting on a hot summer day!
The day was sunny with pillowy clouds dotting the bright blue sky and the temperature was perfect! We couldn’t have asked for a better day to explore the zoo. From the swinging gibbons to the red panda to the amazing playground, watch the video for a peek into our day at the Nashville Zoo.
Rainy Day Fun
Friday, it rained and was not a great day for outdoor adventures, so we took the kids to the Murfreesboro Strike & Spare for some fun and games, then grabbed some movie snacks and saw the new Mario movie at the AMC next door. Super cute movie, by the way. HBW Hubby is a Nintendo fanatic and has passed that love on to our boys through their DNA, haha. Since we were there on a week day, we pretty much had both places all to ourselves. Many games played, tickets won and prizes collected, and my arm was hurting after a couple games of air hockey haha! A good time was had by all. It’s also a good idea if you’re visiting during the summer and need some indoor activities to escape the heat.
Strike & Spare takes the phrase “bowling alley” to a whole new level. There are so many cool things to do and play! There’s an arcade, bumper cars, laser tag, roller skating, bowling and more! Check it out in this quick video recap!
Visit Historic Bell Buckle
Saturday, our last full day in Tennessee, we started our day in Bell Buckle. Just a hop and a skip from Nashville and little farther south of Murfreesboro, Bell Buckle is a quaint little town full of charm and nostalgia and vintage Americana. We are lucky to have family there and love to visit. Surrounded by bucolic rolling hills dotted with cows, horses, and other farm life, this town is worth your time. In previous trips, we have perused the various antique shops and explored the caboose near the train tracks, posed in front of the mural, and soaked in all that small town charm. Browse the stacks at the local book shop, grab an espresso at the local coffee shop, or, one thing we never miss, grab an ice cream at BlueBird Antiques!
This trip, we started the day in Bell Buckle to see the model trains at the Tennessee Valley Model Train Club (open Saturdays only). If you have any train lovers, this is a super cool display and they are working on putting together a seek and find for kids as they add to the display. So much time and attention to detail has been put into everything and it shows!
Afterwards, we went swimming at the local indoor pool so the kids could blow off some steam, then headed to Nearest Green Distillery in nearby Shelbyville for some yummy BBQ. If you have any whiskey lovers, this is a can’t miss. The facilities used to be a horse farm and I loved how they incorporated that into the overall aesthetic. And, if you’re familiar with the angel wing murals in Nashville, the same artist has created another one at Nearest Green. Of course, I had to go pose!
Afterwards, we headed back to Bell Buckle to grab some ice cream at Bluebird Antiques because, obviously.
Two quick tips for Bell Buckle or any small town you may be traveling to: take cash and watch the speed limits. One helps support small businesses by avoiding transaction fees and the other is strictly enforced and usually much slower than you would think. Bell Buckle speed limit at the time of this post is 15 mph.
For a quick peek at this cute little town, watch the video below!
We always have a blast visiting our family in Bell Buckle, and the town is really a perfect home base for things to do in Eastern Tennessee. It’s beautiful, serene, charming, and quiet, especially compared to the hustle and bustle of Nashville. If you have any favorite small towns, share them with me in the comments! I would love to know!
Until next time, happy travels!
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