When I first moved to Nashville from South Carolina (a state complete with mountains and beaches), I was concerned that the new terrain wouldn’t suffice. Soon I learned that there’s a perfect, albeit small, window of opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, and right now, the window is wide open. When those chilly mornings burn off, but it’s still too early for humidity and mosquitoes to rear their ugly heads, it’s time to maximize the best that Nashville has to offer — alfresco style.
Though it’s open year round, the Nashville Farmers’ Market is a perfect place to roam and graze on any beautiful spring day. Enjoy perusing the farm sheds, complete with the day’s freshest produce, or duck into the covered Market House to try one of 15 restaurant options such as Bella Nashville’s wood-fired pizzas or acclaimed chef Arnold Myint’s AM@FM. Don’t miss out on the earliest bounties of spring: herbs, honey, collards and delicious sweet potatoes.
Over the next few weeks, Margaret Littman and Liz Veyhl of Nashville Paddle will suit up, dust off their paddleboards and head out to Percy Priest Lake for Nashville’s newest obsession: stand up paddleboard fitness and yoga. Sure, Nashville is landlocked, but the pristine waters and perfect temperatures might be enough to make you forget (at least for a 75-90 minute class). Check out their online schedule or gather up your own crew to schedule a private lesson with one of their instructors.
If you have a hankering to get out of the city, look no further than Virgin Falls, Tennessee’s newest natural area, located about two hours east of Nashville. The 1,157-acre site, which was purchased from a private landowner in 2012, is now open to the public for hiking, camping and viewing incredible natural wonders such as caves, waterfalls and sink holes. The hike to and from Virgin Falls can take between five and eight hours and is strenuous, so make sure to bring provisions for the day — or a tent for the night.
Nashville’s newest outdoor pavilion and event space already has a lineup of spring (Honey Bee Festival, April 20) and summer (Southern Drawl Bluegrass Festival, July 13) events that can’t be missed. It’s adjacent to a new shopping area in East Nashville full of local shops and boutiques, and functions as a concert hall, restaurant space, gathering spot and all-around good-time zone.
If you’re more indoorsy, perhaps you’d enjoy taking something you love about the indoors (enjoying a good movie with popcorn) and moving it outdoors. Not convinced? Perhaps the folks at Grassy Knoll Movie Nights can persuade you to cozy up outside and watch a favorite flick with hundreds of other people, while enjoying the best food trucks such as Biscuit Love Truck and weather the season has to offer. Movies start the third Sunday in April.
Take a few hours out of your time in Nashville to get your hands dirty with Hands On Nashville’s (HON) Urban Farm. Launched in 2011 through a collaboration between HON, Metro Parks and Recreation, and the Office of Mayor Karl Dean, the Urban Farm is a working and teaching hub for volunteers. During harvest, all produce is donated to local nonprofits that serve low-income communities. Throughout the spring and summer, expect interesting and enjoyable workshops that can help boost your own gardening skills while helping others — after all, this is the Volunteer State. Check out the farm’s weekend-long gardening celebration, “Grow Down,” on April 20 and 21 for other agricultural excursions.
Just a few minutes outside of Nashville, the Harpeth River beckons locals and tourists alike for an easy day in a canoe or kayak. Though there are plenty of companies along the river that offer both, I suggest Foggy Bottom River Trips. They’re embarking on their 26th summer as a canoe outfitter, and provide unparalleled service to help get you on the river and safely home. Foggy Bottom works regularly to support and raise funds for their local animal shelter, and are pet friendly, so don’t forget Fido (or a cooler full of your favorite snacks and sips) when you load up for the day.
Photos courtesy of iStock_Davel 5957, Emily Spence, Foggy Bottom, Nashville PaddleBoard