Sometimes, even the best laid plans are no match for Mother Nature. I say this upfront so you know that this won’t be a fully vetted post on our visit to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage outside of Nashville, Tennessee. We had planned on spending the better part of a day there, exploring parts of the 1120 acre estate. However, the thunder storms and torrential rains interfered and would.not.let.up all afternoon. After our second thorough soaking, we called it quits and headed for the hotel. However, we did get a chance to explore some areas of the property and learned a lot about the 7th American President.
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage was the exclusive property of Andrew and his wife Rachel. He lived there from 1804 until his death in 1845. It was bought by a nonprofit organization in 1889 and opened later that year as a museum in his honor. Almost every artifact in the mansion is authentic. The property averages about 600-700 visitors each day, but when we were there, a docent said it had been one of the busiest days of the summer, with over 1,000 visitors by mid afternoon.
Traveling with Kids:
I would recommend visiting the Hermitage with older children. My 8 and 10 year old children enjoyed the mansion tour and museum exhibits- they especially loved Poll’s narration. However, there aren’t too many interactive things to engage younger children, and the mansion tour probably would not keep younger children’s interest. There’s plenty of space to run around outside and good spots for picnicking.
Start with the mansion tour– lines form quickly as tours can only accommodate 12 people at one time.
Purchase tickets at the Visitor Center. Once inside, pick up an audio tour (they’ll ask for your ID as collateral) to take with you as you explore the property. There are two tours to follow, one for adults with more historical context and one for children, told from the perspective of “Poll”, Andrew Jackson’s parrot.
There are restrooms located in the main Visitor’s Center and in a separate building behind the mansion and Alfred’s cabin.
Strollers are allowed on property and the main building in wheelchair accessible (the mansion is not).
A museum gift shop and the Kitchen Cabinet Cafe are located across from the museum.
The itineraries listed on the website are very helpful with suggestions if you are restricted with time to explore the complex.
There are over two dozens places to explore at the Hermitage. Here are a few spots we especially enjoyed:
1. The Visitor’s Center and Museum: There is a 17 minute video highlights many of Jackson’s accomplishments and controversies. The museum exhibits have more interactive spots for children and a few places to sit and rest weary feet. “How’s That Relevant” cards at many of the exhibits connect events, policies, and controversies of Jackson’s life with modern day examples (like George W. Bush’s election and Barack Obama’s Inauguration). Our family especially enjoyed the lists of Jackson’s “Firsts, Lasts, and Onlys”- some really cool and surprising statistics.
2. The mansion tour: It’s a short, paved walk from the Visitor’s Center to the 14 room, 8,000 square foot mansion. Tours take approximately 12 people at one time and lines form early. You stay with your group for 5 stops, where various docents provide historical context and descriptions of the rooms. All rooms are blocked off by plexiglass protectors, since almost everything is original to the Jackson family. You can look through to see Jackson’s bedroom (where he died), personal library, and upstairs guest areas.
3. Jackson’s burial site: Located in the Garden. Rachel Jackson was first to be buried after her unexpected death in 1828. Jackson had a monument built to resemble a Greek temple and restored the surrounding garden with her favorite flowers and trees. Jackson could see the tomb from her home office and would visit it often. He was buried alongside his wife in 1845.
4. Alfred’s Cabin: One of three slave cabins (and one of 13 slave dwellings) still standing on the property. The log cabin, located behind the mansion, was most likely built in the early 1840s. Most of these dwellings mirrored the same format: single story, two room structures with a sleeping loft for children and root cellar under the floorboards. The cabin is named for Alfred Jackson, a former slave and son of Betty, the Jackson’s cook, who lived as a free man until his death in 1901.
5. First Hermitage Cabins: The original farmhouse of Andrew and Rachel Jackson and later converted to housing for slaves. The house was built by Nathaniel Hayes, who lived with his family in the home until the property was sold to Jackson in 1804.
6. If you want to get your steps in for the day, consider taking the Nature Trail, which is approximately 1.5 miles long and brings guests through the site of the former Triplex and Yard Cabin, neither of which are still standing. It’s peaceful and the grounds are beautiful.
Staying local: We stayed in nearby The Inn at Opryland, which is a Marriott property. The kids LOVED the inside pool and we loved the hotel’s proximity to the Grand Ole Opry, a less than five minute drive.
If you want our tips on visiting popular nearby spots, check out our posts the Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry. For our list of top 10 spots in Tennessee, check out our post here. And if you want more more presidential spots to visit, check out our list here.
Disclaimer: I was given a media pass to explore the Hermitage. All opinions expressed are my own.