Depending on how long you have lived in Nashville, you either think of The Fontanel as the former home of country music superstar Barbara Mandrell or as a sprawling entertainment complex. And either way, you would be right!
The Fontanel began as the dream home built by Ken Dudney, Barbara Mandrell’s husband. The mansion is located in Whites Creek, TN. I grew up in Hendersonville which is where Barbara lived before moving to The Fontanel. It’s hard to explain to my kids how big a star she was but basically, Barbara Mandrell was the Taylor Swift of the 80’s. She started her career at a very young age and was a virtuoso instrumentalist in addition to being a singer. Her variety show that she starred in with her sisters, Louise and Earline, was must watch TV in the early eighties. When construction on The Fontanel began, it was big news in Middle Tennessee. I even remember a local TV special that gave a tour of the home soon after the Mandrell family moved in.
As you drive onto the Fontanel property, you will find an ample parking lot right out front. If you would like to tour the mansion, tickets may be purchased online in advance or onsite at the gift shop right next to the parking lot. When it is time for your tour, you will be transported the short distance to the mansion by bus. During the ride, you get to view a short video detailing the history of the home and information about the building process. Once you arrive, a tour guide will lead you through the home and tell lots of great stories about the famous family that once lived there. There are no restrictions on photos during the tour so feel free to take all the pictures you want. I will tell you that I have toured a lot of homes and this tour is the most casual and permissive I have ever been on. You can take a selfie in Barbara’s closet, stretch out in her garden tub or even eat crackers in her bed!
Have you ever heard that all waiters in Los Angeles are aspiring actors? Well in Nashville, almost all tour guides are singers and songwriters. Our guide at The Fontanel was a top ten contestant on American Idol! She serenaded us with a song in Barbara Mandrell’s bedroom. That’s just the kind of experience that makes me love our hometown so much.
I’m open to the possibility that you never liked country music and you’ve never even heard of Barbara Mandrell. If so, The Fontanel has plenty more to offer! Hungry? Try some authentic Italian cuisine at Cafe Fontanella. In addition to great food and wine, live music is also featured here. If you are looking for a unique place to hike, the property features a 3 mile wooded trail that is dog friendly. The Trails at Fontanel are free and open to the public. If you have a taste for some Tennessee Whiskey, tour and taste at Prichard’s Distillery. If you prefer wine, visit the tasting room at Natchez Hills Winery. Live music is presented here too! For most of us, visiting the Fontanel is a day trip but if you are visiting from out of town or looking for lodging for guests, the Inn at Fontanel is located on the property.
My kids enjoyed the tour of the mansion during our visit but their main interest was in the Adventureworks Zipline. Ziplining is recommended for those age 8 and up. My 16-year-old daughter had never done a zipline before. The employees walked us through the entire process and explained everything in advance. I felt comfortable with their safety precautions and knowledgeable guides. This is my most adventurous child for sure and she LOVED this experience. The whole process takes about 2 hours so make sure you take that into account as you plan your trip. There are 8 zip lines that go up to 85 ft high! You can book a ziplining trip online at this link.
Family Fun Facts
Mansion Tours – Every Day 9AM – 3PM (Tours end at Noon on Concert days – check website before heading out)
Cost – Adults $24 Youth (age 6-15) $14 Kids 6 & under Free
Adventureworks Zipline Adults $59 Youth $48 (Reservations recommended!)