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  • Writer's pictureBrandi & Candace

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens

So, real quick- this is not a park.

It is not owned and managed by the city of Nashville, or the state of Tennessee, like many of the parks we've reviewed. It is, however, a 55-acre botanical garden, which is a mansion that was built in 1929 for a local family, and was converted into a nonprofit museum of art and botanical garden in 1960. It's a big piece of beautiful greenery, and a large part of Nashville culture. I remember an elementary school field trip, and very very specifically pulling out double fudge Keebler elf sandwich cookies from my mom-packed-lunchbox in approximately 1997, disappointed as melted fudge got all over my hands. I worked in the restaurant in high school. Although I've never been to the exclusive social event of the season- the Cheekwood hosted Swan Ball- I'm eagerly awaiting the year I get added to the invite list.

Cheekwood has thematic events for every season, including "in Bloom" springtime, summertime events, Harvest fall themed events, and a winter holiday LIGHTS exhibit. I'll point out, the harvest themed event has a scarecrows display, where each scarecrow is decorated by a different local group, including charities and scout troops. It's insanely charming, and the pumpkin displays make for a perfect instagram photo shoot. The LIGHTS winter display is a bit of a miss, in my book. Partially because Nashville never really gets snowy enough to grasp the "winter wonderland" feeling they are going for, and partially because I miss the Christmas trees displays they did every year. In my opinion, hold out for fall or spring. That being said, they currently have a blown glass sculpture exhibit by Chihuly that is phenomenal, so anytime really is a great time.

When you arrive, there are over a dozen gardens, and it can feel a bit daunting to know where to start. Just as a basic guideline, my family and I have a pattern we stick to: park in Lot A, the first lot to the right when you pull in. Explore the trails and gardens to the east side of the main lawn towards the mansion: the Turner Seasons Garden, the Herb Study Garden, the Carrell Dogwood Garden, the Burr Terrace Garden, the Howe Garden, and the Bracken Children's Garden. Go to the Frist Learning Center, and stroll through the gift shop, and grab a drink at the Cafe 29. Then go up to the mansion, and explore the art galleries there. See the gardens adjacent to the mansion, including the Limestone Quarry, the Martin Boxwood Garden, the Sigourney Cheek Literary Garden, the Wills Perennial Garden, and the Ceder Glade. See the Ann and Monroe Carrell Jr. Family Sculpture Trail loop. Coming back towards the front gates you entered will bring you to the Blevins Japanese Garden, Robinson Family Water Garden, and the Bradford Robertson Color Garden. This will bring you to the Botanic Hall, which has visitors' services, and conveniently, is right across from where you parked. This whole experience took up almost 2 hours, and about 4.5 miles of walking.

Tickets vary. I think they are normally $14 for non members, but with the current Chihuly exhibit, tickets can be as high as $28. You absolutely want to weigh going into the mansion, versus just exploring the gardens, and book the tickets in advance. The gardens are beautiful; there is no doubt. I highly recommend.

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