Maybe it was a school field trip or perhaps it was for a wedding. But if you’ve lived in Nashville for any time at all, you’ve likely visited Cheekwood Estate & Gardens.
But when was the last time you visited for no reason at all? If the answer is “never” or “I can’t remember,” this summer is a good time to reconsider.
The gardens are in peak condition, the mansion offers cool relief from the heat, and the grounds are the scene of some of Nashville’s most understated – and underrated – nighttime events.
And it all takes place just about five miles from the heart of Bellevue.
“From kids to grandparents, Cheekwood really is for all ages,” says Kim Hugo, Cheekwood’s director of marketing. “Cheekwood takes you out of your everyday life. Studies show that visits to botanical gardens evoke positive emotions that make people feel a bit more alive.
“Even if it’s only for a couple of hours, you can come here in the evening and it’s very social and fun. Other times it’s very peaceful, so it affords time for reflection or if you simply want to take a break. It sounds a little bit trite, but the experience really does make life more meaningful.”
Once the family home of Mabel and Leslie Cheek, Cheekwood is a nationally acclaimed botanical garden, arboretum and museum. There are 13 distinct gardens over the 55 acres of the sprawling 1930s estate with its historic mansion and expansive vistas.
This summer there are numerous activities and must-see events including LIGHT: Bruce Munro at Cheekwood. Luminous light installations featuring the work of the renowned British artist are displayed in the garden during the evenings, and there’s a gallery exhibition in the historic mansion.
Another popular attraction is Thursday Night Out. This adults and kid-friendly event features live music, food trucks, seasonal beers and signature cocktails. It also runs alongside the Bruce Munro exhibit, making it an ideal way to jumpstart the weekend.
July also marks the beginning of the Under The Stars Concert Series. The seasonal series kicks off with the Nashville Jazz Orchestra’s 18-piece Big Band and Devlon Lamarr Organ Trio.
The summer highlights are in addition to Cheekwood’s permanent exhibits and special classes including art and gardening related workshops. Guided tours are available and there’s a 1 ½ - mile outdoor sculpture trail with modern and contemporary displays.
Hugo, who resides in Bellevue, has an extensive background in museum and art communications and is approaching her second anniversary at Cheekwood. From Warner Parks to Cheekwood and the Belle Meade Mansion, she’s sees something inherently worthwhile in the beauty of the attractions that line the south side of Highway 100 from Bellevue to Belle Meade.
“I think green spaces are important,” she says. “When the Cheeks built their home, they knew Warner Parks was being developed and they wanted that view of nothing but lush, beautiful green space. It’s the feeling you get. It’s why people hike to the top of the mountain. The calm and the beauty of the landscape is powerful. Living in Bellevue, where those views and experiences are easily accessible is such a benefit.”
Cheekwood’s complete event listings, hours of operation and admission prices are available online at Cheekwood.org.
"The calm and the beauty of the landscape is powerful. Living in Bellevue, where those views and experiences are easily accessible is such a benefit.”