Nashville is filled with music and entertainment. It’s also conveniently located to surrounding small towns offering an authentic slice of Tennessee through their outdoor attractions, restaurants and boutiques filled with locally-made products. The following small towns are located under a two-hour drive from Nashville’s downtown, perfectly located for a memorable day trip.
If you love history, Franklin should be on your day trip list. Only 30 minutes south of Nashville, the town is meticulous about preserving the area’s history and telling the whole story. Hear how the Battle of Franklin occurred at the doors of several homes including Carter House, Lotz House and Carnton. These homes were transformed into Civil War field hospitals; the bloodstains of wounded soldiers can still be seen. After taking in some history, sample some brews at Mantra Artisan Ales, part of the bigger Masters & Makers Trail that winds through Williamson County. Have an unforgettable meal at Red Pony and catch a show or movie at the Historic Franklin Theatre.
Adventure waits for you in Kingston Springs, only 30 minutes west of Nashville. Navigate your way through several obstacles at Adventureworks on the Aerial Adventure Course where you can climb, swing and walk across cables, ropes and logs. The canopy zipline tour also takes you from ridge top to ridge top. You can book a couples adventure that highlights team building obstacles and for a truly unique experience, book a Moonlight Tour where you’ll zip line through the forest with the moonlight to guide you. If you’d like to see what’s around each Harpeth River bend, Foggy Bottom Canoe & Kayak Rental will suit you up for a day on the water. The slow-moving rapids allow you to fully take in the beauty of Middle Tennessee. Fill your belly with delicious fare from the Fillin’ Station and cap off your day with a lesson in early Native American life at the Mound Bottom State Archaeological Area.
Travel only 40 minutes north of Nashville to Gallatin where you can spend the day browsing the cute boutiques on Main Street like Tennessee Honey, Sassy and Brassy and Southern Gypsies Boutique. Step into Worthington Galleries, the largest retail fine arts gallery in the South. Sculptures, framed art and textiles are all on display. Spend some time reconnecting with nature in Bledsoe Creek State Park with a hike on one of the seven trails. Keep your eyes peeled as you can see deer and 116 species of birds. Old Hickory Lake is great for fishing, boating and paddling along its 22,500 acres of water. Get a meal by the water during the spring, summer and fall at Awedaddys Bar & Grill where you can have burgers, fish tacos, fried pickles, salads, stuffed flounder, Cajun pasta, salmon and shrimp and grits.
Fifty minutes south of Nashville, Columbia is the home of the 11th U.S. president, a thriving art community and great eats. Start your morning with a cup of coffee and pastry or breakfast sandwich at Muletown Coffee Co. Explore the locally-made items at the shops housed in The Columbia Arts Building like Salvage Darling and Glover’s Secondhand. Bad Idea Brewing offers a variety of beers and you can find beautiful bouquets at Bloom Stall. Art classes are also offered by local and regional artists. Spend some time at W7thCo Vintage Photo Gallery where you can browse photos from the town’s early years. End your day at James K. Polk Ancestral Home, which has the largest collection of the former president’s artifacts in the country.
A relaxing day welcomes you in Lynnville about an hour south of Nashville. In the adorable downtown area, you’ll find luxurious leather goods at Colonel Littleton. Each piece is hand-crafted by fashion designer Colonel Littleton to showcase the beauty of full grain American leather. Gift someone (or yourself) a purse, messenger bag, travel bag, belts, portfolios, phone cases and so much more. Meander over to Heirloom Glass to find timeless stained glass, antiques and glassware ranging from crystal pieces to pottery and coffee dishes. After hours spent shopping, have a meal at Soda Pop Junction featuring Big “Johnny” Burgers – hailed as Tennessee’s No. 1 Burger, a variety of sandwiches, salads and plates piled high with catfish, hamburger steak, pork chops, chicken strips and more. Cap off your day with a tasting of dry wines like Pinot Gris, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and fruit wines like strawberry, persimmon and lemon at Lexington Vineyard and Winery.
Travel to Pulaski, Tennessee - about an hour and 12 minutes away from Nashville - for this small town’s sweet surprises. Tour Frank Mars’ – the creator of Mars which includes M&Ms, Dove chocolate, 3 Musketeers, Milky Way and more – home at Milky Way Farms set on 1,000 acres of green pastures. Schedule a tour to see the home that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the barns; walk the trails and more. Catch a show at Staar Theatre, an opera house built in 1868. Explore the historic square and stop in for a meal at Second Street Coffeehouse. They offer breakfast and lunch in a laidback atmosphere. You’ll want to stop in to do a tasting at Big Creek Winery. Here, you’ll find a variety of wines from white muscadine to concord and Catawba. Their extensive fruit wines include apple, blackberry and cherry, pear, raspberry, cranberry and peach. Tastings are always free.
An hour and 15 minutes east of Nashville is Smithville, Tennessee. Check out the local and regional art on display at the Appalachian Center for Craft. The center offers craft workshops, art for sale and a variety of exhibits showcasing functional art and sculptural works. Pull up a stool and have an old-fashioned milkshake and burger at Webb’s Pharmacy, Gift Shop & Soda Fountain. You’ll find live music and local brews at The Burlap Room Beer Garden and Taphouse. If you’d like to extend your stay, check into Evins Mill which offers comfortable rooms, hiking trails that lead to a beautiful waterfall, and delicious meals.
Drive west an hour and 15 minutes from Nashville to the small town of Waverly for outdoor fun and entertainment. Make your way to Johnsonville State Historic Area where you can embark on an eight-mile trail, a two-mile trail that is sprinkled with Civil War-era forts and a half-mile African-American cemetery loop trail. Head back to town to fuel up at The Brown Tater, serving up baked potatoes piled high with your favorite toppings.
Winding scenic roads lead you to Linden, Tennessee, located about an hour and a half west of Nashville. You’ll want to spend all day traveling the Buffalo River by kayak or canoe. The Buffalo River is the longest free-flowing river in Middle Tennessee and flows 125 miles. Buffalo River Resort offers are variety of rentals from canoes to inflatable and hard shell kayaks, inner tubes and rafts. They even offer overnight moonlight floats for those who want to extend their stay. Mousetail Landing State Park has loads of outdoor activities as well including five hiking trails and two mountain bike trails. Fishing, swimming, boating and paddling are also available. Have a meal and listen to some music at the Commodore Hotel & Cafe. Fried buttermilk chicken, burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, fried green tomatoes and much more make up the menu.
An hour and a half outside of Nashville, the drive to Lynchburg is picturesque and, once you arrive, the fun is nonstop. Kick off your visit with a stroll through Tims Ford State Park on some of the 6.5 miles of unpaved hiking trails. Seven miles of paved biking trails connect to the major areas of the park. Explore the multi-use mountain biking trail that runs along the shoreline of Tims Ford Reservoir. Take a tour to see how the world’s leading whiskey is made at Jack Daniel’s Distillery. Browse unique history at the Moore County Jail Museum. Pick up a unique piece at one of the many shops lining Main Street. Before you head back to the city, stop in Miss Mary Bobo’s for family-style, country dining or dig into perfectly smoked barbecue at Barrel House BBQ.
Next time you’re in Nashville, spend a day exploring one of the small towns located within a two-hour drive from Music City’s downtown.