Did you know that Nashville was once home to one of the world’s most prestigious thoroughbred stud farms? It’s true, Belle Meade Plantation is today a historic mansion that offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the history of these grounds and how during the 19th century, Nashville was a renowned location for breeding and training iconic horses that dominated some of the world’s top racing events. A Belle Meade Plantation tour is more than just a history lesson though because there is a myriad of experiences waiting for you inside this gorgeous Nashville location.
Wandering around the grounds of Belle Meade Plantation is an eye-opening experience because it’s obvious that this was once a prime location in Nashville. Throughout our guided tour of the mansion, we heard stories about how Belle Meade Plantation was a well-recognized location given that it was one of the first places to have light and people would walk along the street and admire the spectacular mansion and grounds.
The Belle Meade Plantation tour offers a look into all of this history but even if you have no interest in this, your time will come at the very end of the tour! Why do we think the Belle Meade Plantation is a cool experience for visitors enjoying a weekend in Nashville? Let’s head inside the grounds and explore!
Belle Meade Plantation Tour
Visitors to Belle Meade have a variety of tour options available, though many of these tend to sell out pretty quickly so you would be well advised to plan ahead especially if you are interested in the incredibly popular segway tour.
Alternatively, if you are only interested in touring the grounds on foot or even the mansion tour, simply showing up on the day will be sufficient to guarantee a spot.
Here are the tour options along with the latest prices at the time of publication.
Adults – $50 (participants on this tour must be 16 or over)
Adults – $24
Seniors (65+) – $20
Students (13-18) – $13
Adults – $15
Youth (6-12) – $10
A number of specialty tours are also available for schools, corporate events or groups that wish to experience a culinary or lunch style experience.
Belle Meade Plantation is open daily between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM with tours starting at 9:30 AM and the last tour starting at 4:00 PM. This historic location is closed on Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
110 Leake Avenue,
Nashville, TN 37205
Tel: (615) 356-0501
Explore The Grounds at Belle Meade
The history of Belle Meade dates back to 1807 when John Harding started out with just a single log cabin before becoming a 5,400-acre thoroughbred horse farm. The Greek Revival inspired mansion was constructed by Harding in 1853 and is undoubtedly the focal point of Belle Meade but what about all of the other structures that played such a vital role in the development of this farm?
A stroll around the grounds of Belle Meade today offers visitors the opportunity to explore many of the ‘other’ historic buildings that played an integral role in the upkeep of Belle Meade, at least during the years when this was a flourishing thoroughbred horse farm.
Whether you want to take a peek inside the dairy, horse stable, carriage house or slave cabin, I am sure there are a number of stories related to each of these locations throughout the grounds of Belle Meade.
Walking around outside before heading inside the mansion is a great way to gain a better understanding of the business that played such a pivotal role in shaping the horse racing industry.
I will openly admit that I had no idea how crucial Belle Meade was in training so many thoroughbred horses that would compete in iconic races such as the Epsom Derby in the UK and of course, the Kentucky Derby.
Heather and I had about 45 minutes to explore the outside buildings before our tour started and this provided ample time to just wander around and learn about Belle Meade’s history. We also had an opportunity to head over and admire the gorgeous horses that are present, perhaps looking at a future Derby winner!
Belle Meade Mansion
Step inside the mansion at Belle Meade with us and learn about the Harding generations that helped shape the thriving business that made this such a key location throughout the United States in the horse racing industry.
Unfortunately, our tour guide immediately indicated that no photography was allowed inside the mansion in order to help preserve the original pieces.
Although it’s always disappointing to hear these words, it does allow you to pay more attention to the guide and gain a greater appreciation of your surroundings rather than worrying about capturing that perfect shot.
The interesting aspect of this tour is that the chronological story is shared by a number of different guides throughout the mansion rather than a single guide that is typical of most tours that you take.
As I mentioned, we entered through the front door into the hallway that was 100% devoted to horses with pictures and memorabilia throughout and our first guide gave us a quick history of Belle Meade and it’s original purpose.
Continuing throughout the various rooms, different guides would talk about the purpose of that particular room in addition to some other stories and details about the different generations that lived on the Belle Meade grounds.
One of the most intriguing rooms was “the library” which was transformed into a quiet space where guests were not allowed. Much of the decor inside this room is devoted to the iconic “Iroquois” which was the first American-bred horse to win the prestigious Epsom Derby in England.
Belle Meade Winery
I did mention earlier that there was a little something for everyone during the Belle Meade Plantation tour and regardless of your opinions on the mansion tour, the complimentary wine tasting event immediately after is sure to spark your interest.
For over two centuries wine has been a part of the tradition of hospitality at Belle Meade Plantation.
A short walk from the mansion, we were led into the gift shop and had the opportunity to sample four local wines.
For the wine connoisseurs out there, this is a real opportunity to enjoy a variety of flavors, ranging from local Tennessee traditional options to a classic chardonnay or red wine. We sampled two relatively dry wines and two sweeter options, including an incredibly popular blackberry wine.
Needless to say, we left the experience and the gift shop armed with a new bottle of wine to take with us. The blackberry dessert wine tasted incredible and for $19.99 we were the proud owners of a bottle from the Belle Meade winery.
If you are interested in purchasing these wines, you have to go directly through the winery as they don’t distribute to other suppliers as all the income goes directly back into the mansion and winery.
***Visit Belle Meade Winery’s website for further information on the various wine options and details on how you can purchase these.***
If you are planning a trip to Nashville in the near future, we can highly recommend taking the Belle Meade Plantation tour. Different from the stereotypical Nashville experience, this tour offers visitors the opportunity to learn about an area of the city that was once a thriving thoroughbred farm. Plus did I mention the amazing wine tasting experience at the end is pretty spectacular also!
Belle Meade will long live in the minds of those that are familiar with historic horse-breeding establishments and when you think about some of the iconic names such as Secretariat and Seabiscuit, it’s no surprise to hear that they can trace their bloodlines back to this location. Here’s an interesting and pretty astounding fact…every horse to run in the Kentucky Derby since 2003 can be traced back to Belle Meade!!
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Belle Meade Plantation and would love to go back in the near future, even if it is only to sample more of those amazing wines and purchase a few more bottles to take with us.
Disclaimer – We would like to thank Visit Music City for hosting us on this trip and providing tickets to experience the Belle Meade Plantation tour. These are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.