Travel

How to Still Have Fun in Nashville When It’s Stupidly Hot Outside

Here's how to beat the heat in Music City.

The Dive Hotel
The Dive Hotel
The Dive Hotel

Spring was lovely in Nashville this year. If we recall correctly, it fell on a Thursday, so maybe you weren’t able to get out and enjoy that temperate weather before it turned “hotter than the hinges of Hell,” as we say around these parts. That’s alright because there is still plenty to do around Music City when it’s blazing hot. Whether you take refuge in the water or stay inside out of the heat and humidity that feels like wearing a wet wool blanket, you can still have a hot time while keeping your cool.

See the stars

Fort Negley
Even the evenings can be a tad muggy during a Middle Tennessee summer, so head to the Sudekum Planetarium at the Adventure Science feature for hi-tech star shows that will teach you all about the current night sky. Other special shows share stories about the celestial realm using a state-of-the-art projector and bumpin’ sound system.

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

Surf indoors

Donelson
The sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort opened a new attraction a few years ago that added aquatic fun to the amenities at the hotel. Guests who purchase the special Water Experience at SoundWaves gain access to outdoor pool facilities plus a host of indoor, temperature-controlled activities like a lazy river, waterslides, private cabana rentals, and Nashville’s only FlowRider® system where you can bodysurf, boogie board, or try your hand (feet?) at hanging ten on a standing wave.

Madame Tussauds Nashville
Madame Tussauds Nashville
Madame Tussauds Nashville

Take a selfie with a wax celebrity

Donelson
With locations around the globe, Madame Tussaud’s is a legendary chain of attractions featuring lifelike wax figures of celebrities. At the Nashville outpost inside Opry Mills, there is a special emphasis on country music stars with opportunities to take backstage photos with a Carrie Underwood clone, an ersatz Elvis, or a mock Miley Cyrus. You can even add a wine tasting to your ticket, and that might make the figurines look even more realistic.

Virgin Hotels Nashville
Virgin Hotels Nashville
Virgin Hotels Nashville

Swim like a tourist in your own town

Various
It can be depressing to walk the sidewalks of Nashville and think about all the tourists enjoying the rooftop pools atop all of those luxe hotels downtown. But do you know what? A lot of them are happy to welcome in anyone who’s willing to pay the equivalent of less than a monthly YMCA membership for a day pass to enjoy their amenities. Really, how many days are you really going to head to the Y during the hottest part of summer anyway? Instead, contact local hotels like the delightfully hipster The Dive Motel, the bachelorette haven Graduate Nashville, the Virgin, Bobby Hotel downtown or the W Nashville in the Gulch, and they’ll be happy to give you access to the same perks as their guests so you can lounge by the pool for a day.

Nashville Paddle Co.
Nashville Paddle Co.
Nashville Paddle Co.

Get out on the water

Hermitage
Swimming is a great way to stay cool, but not everyone is comfortable jumping in a lake, y’know… where all the fish and snakes are. If you want to enjoy Percy Priest from above the water instead of in it, rent a paddleboard or a kayak from Nashville Paddle Company, and enjoy the peaceful waters of the reservoir from atop an actual watercraft. They also offer lessons if you’re a beginner or you just want to increase your paddling proficiency.

Catch a classic flick

Hillsboro Village
If you’re looking for a way to save a little money on your air conditioning bill, head to the historic The Belcourt Theater to sit in a cool, dark room while watching first-run films, art flicks and classic movies. Two large theaters plus a small screening room make for lots of choices as they rotate the schedule frequently. Bonus: You can buy beer, wine, and cocktails at the concession stand, which is just damned civilized.

Game Terminal
Game Terminal
Game Terminal

Prove you’re still a pinball wizard

South Nashville
Relive your misspent youth at Game Terminal, a warehouse-sized arcade, restaurant, and bar filled with vintage pinball machines and video games, most set for free play or at most a buck or two for some of the more popular pinball games. Think of what you could do with the quarters you spent on Galaga or the money you dropped on Xbox games. On second thought, don’t think about what your 401K might look like; just enjoy the fact that you can enjoy a blast from the past for next to nothing.

Take advantage of a free sprayground

Various
If all you want to do is to get a little damp, the Metro government has provided free sprayground parks around town in various neighborhoods. These small attractions feature fountains for frolicking that spray cool water in the air. The concrete pads can get a little slippery, so wear good shoes, and since it’s a family-friendly environment, you might want to leave your thong at home.

Chill out on ice

Antioch, Bellevue and Clarksville
As a way to introduce Nashville to hockey and ice skating and to give back to the community, the Nashville Predators of the NHL have built three Ford Ice Center skating complexes around the Mid-state. Stay cool on the ice while playing in a hockey rec league, enjoying free-skating sessions, taking figure skating lessons, or even trying the obscure Winter Olympic sport of curling.

Nashville Shores
Nashville Shores
Nashville Shores

Go jump in a lake

Hermitage
Since 1971, Nashville Shores has been a favorite local spot to get wet and wild in Music City. Situated on the waterline of Percy Priest Reservoir, this park offers a wave pool, 10 towering waterslides, a lazy river, an Aqua Park, and banana boat rides on the lake. It’s a great option for a lowdown dirty good time without actually getting dirty.

K1 Speed
K1 Speed
K1 Speed

Feed your need for speed

East Nashville
If your memories of go-karts are from the tiny beachside tracks of your youth, Music City Carting will demonstrate that both you and the activity have grown up significantly. The cavernous indoor facility features a challenging track where you’ll drive souped-up electric karts in air-conditioned comfort. They can reach 45 mph in the straightaways, and at just inches from the ground, you’ll feel like you’re commanding a Ferrari.

Lane Motor Museum
Lane Motor Museum
Lane Motor Museum

Get lost in a museum

Various
Nashville has a bunch of fantastic museums where you can while away a sweltering afternoon looking at fine art, historic artifacts, or famous musical instruments, but there are also some more obscure cool museums worth seeking out. Check out the Jefferson Street Sound Museum to discover stories from back when that strip of North Nashville was the center of the jazz and R&B scene in Nashville. Or head a few miles out from downtown to the quirky Lane Motor Museum and its collection of hundreds of automobiles and motorcycles, including some really bizarre prototype vehicles.

Experience boozy brain freeze

Various
Many Nashville bars recognize that one of the best ways to chill off is to chill out with a frozen drink, so they stock spinning freezer machines offering a wide variety of frosty cocktails. The Co-op specializes in several delicious varieties of frosés, while The Band Box in right field of the home of the Nashville Sounds at First Horizon Park offers delightful frozen George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey and colas as well as the dangerous Field of Dreamsicle made with local distillery Pickers Blood Orange Vodka. Too many of those and you’ll never make the seventh-inning stretch! Speaking of dangerous, the boozy Bushwacker at Edley’s and the moonshine-based Mule Kicker at Acme Feed & Seed have both been known to lead to an early end to a hot day, so exercise caution.

Pontoon Saloon
Pontoon Saloon
Pontoon Saloon

Take a cruise on the Pontoon Saloon

Downtown
Like a pedal tavern on the water where you don’t actually have to do any pedaling, booze cruises on the Pontoon Saloon are all about having a good time. Either as a private cruise or part of a public tour, guests enjoy safe and fun voyages along the Cumberland River, including options for all-inclusive beer and seltzer parties to help cool off on the water. The dedicated deckhand is not only the bartender, but also the DJ spinning party tunes while you stay out of the heat.

Enjoy a beer with a view

Madison
One of Nashville’s best-hidden secrets is the fantastic patio at the city’s most beloved craft brewery, Yazoo. Tucked north of town on an idyllic slice of paradise overlooking the Cumberland River in Madison, there’s plenty of room to sip on a tasty brew while watching the water roll by from a shady table. Keep an eye out for wildlife, because Yazoo might as well be a state park considering all the birds, fish, and aquatic mammals that you can spot from the patio. It’s totally worth the cost for the rideshare to get you home after a long afternoon of enjoying beers and doing basically nothing else.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of his hometown of Nashville. Find him on Twitter @CeeElCee.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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