Natchez Trace Parkway

Start a Thanksgiving Tradition at a Tennessee State Park

What’s on your plate for Thanksgiving 2013?

Spending a special day with my wife, Cathy, plus a few hours of good fishing and a couple of cans of Vienna sausages for lunch is my ideal Thanksgiving. Our favorite fishing hole is on the Cumberland River near Ashland City.

My family in South Alabama will be holding our annual family reunion this year with more good food than I can shake a stick at, long visits with cousins that were integral parts of my growing up years and roads that revive memories around every bend. It’s a pretty big reunion with four generations of relatives (or maybe it’s five) coming from all over the country to join those who still live in our hometown of Luverne, Alabama.

Of course there’s a lot of football banter. My cousin-in-law, Bert, sports his Alabama red and white and takes a fair amount of abuse since he’s venturing deep into “War Eagle” territory here. The weather is usually nice so there are lots of outdoor activities planned by the kin including hayrides, cookouts and field trips to places where we share a common history. We always look forward to making the trip when we can.

Time spent with those we love is a treasured tradition for many of us. When the weather is reasonable we spend a few days at my mother-in-law’s home in the mountains of East Tennessee. She’s a sweetie who makes the best chicken and dumplings I ever licked my lips over and her turkey, dressing and Thanksgiving pies are classics.

But some years, like this one, we’ll spend a quiet day together here in beautiful Middle Tennessee. The Leipers Fork entrance to the historic Natchez Trace Parkway ( is only a couple of miles from our front door.

Natchez Trace Parkway

Wildlife, waterfalls, historic sites and natural areas – there’s a lot to see and do with plenty of pretty spots for a Thanksgiving picnic along the two-lane Natchez Trace Parkway.

The view from the bridge at Birdsong Hollow is pretty spectacular on a clear day and even more so on foggy mornings. Just south of Leipers Fork is Garrison Creek – it offers hiking, horseback trails and restrooms. Historic sites are plentiful like the Gordon House on the Duck River and a park with hiking and camping at the location where Meriwether Lewis’ mysterious death took place.

One of our most memorable picnic cookouts was roasting hot dogs over a blazing fire with our good friends at a rustic picnic shelter in Nashville’s Warner Parks ( There are lots of nice picnic spots but I’d have to say site number eight would be my top contender for a Thanksgiving Day picnic.

Nashville Picnic: Warner Parks

Pack plenty of hot chocolate or cider, hot dogs and a few fixings, a bit of dry firewood and starter so everyone can relax and spend time together in the outdoors at Nashville’s Warner Parks instead of in the kitchen for a special Thanksgiving treat.

Tennessee’s state park inns and restaurants ( will be putting on Thanksgiving feasts at Henry Horton, Montgomery Bell, David Crockett, Natchez Trace, Fall Creek Falls, Pickwick Landing and Paris Landing. If you stay overnight at Paris Landing you can work on your Christmas list at the annual Christmas on the Lake Arts and Crafts Festival that begins the next day or visit nearby Land Between the Lakes (

Land Between the Lakes Tennessee

More than 151,000 acres with scenic drives, fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, horseback and ATV riding on hundreds of miles of designated trails and a schedule of holiday activities at the Homeplace, Woodlands Nature Station and Golden Pond Planetarium are offered at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

Cumberland Mountain State Park also serves a delicious Thanksgiving spread (my wife says their hot rolls alone are worth the trip!) and has cabins for overnight guests at a location that puts you within striking distance of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area’s ( 125,000 acres and 150 miles of hiking trails.

While in the vicinity take time to visit the historic community of Rugby ( Rugby will be putting on its annual Thanksgiving Marketplace in the four shops in the village from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time on Friday, November 29.

Rugby, Tennessee

Vintage and handmade items for sale, demonstrations of spinning using fibers from angora rabbits and goats, basket making and soap making and two seatings for British Cream Tea (a traditionally light afternoon repast served with clotted cream, scones and pastries) are scheduled during Rugby’s Thanksgiving Marketplace.

How ever you spend Thanksgiving, I hope your day is filled with good food, the ones you love and plenty of reasons to give thanks.

Happy eating!

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on

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