I’ve lived in Nashville for more than 15 years now, and while there is a lot to do in Music City, I’ve also been adventuring outside city limits. I’m always on the hunt for great restaurants, hiking trails, shops and boutiques, and historic sites on Tennessee’s colorful history. In my quest for these things, I’ve found Rutherford County is jammed with adventure, history and delicious treats. Here are a few ways you can spend a great day in Rutherford County.
Located southeast of Nashville, this county truly has a lot to offer. I started bringing my kids to Murfreesboro and its surrounding cities several years ago and we’ve been back dozens of times since. We come for its quaint diners and meat-and-threes, greenways, farms, historic sites, museums, shopping and more.
Today, I’m showing you a few of my absolute favorite things to do in Rutherford County. Here are 20 ways to discover Rutherford County.
Spend a restful staycation at the Carriage Lane Inn in Murfreesboro. This gorgeous historic inn is on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s also within walking distance of Murfreesboro’s public greenways, antique stores, shopping, bars and restaurants. Book a few nights inside the main inn or one of its cottages and enjoy all that Rutherford County has to offer.
Take a guided bicycle tour of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battlefields. A key Civil War battle took place on Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro. The battle involved more than 80,000 soldiers and more than 23,000 of them ended up dead, wounded or missing. Today, the battlefield is a national park. Rangers say the best way to learn about the battle is on one of the bicycle tours offered on the second Saturday of each month between April and September. The tour is family-friendly, covers about seven miles, and lasts an hour and a half. Call 615-893-9501 to make a reservation.
Stop for an unforgettable meal at Miller’s Grocery in Christiana. Miller’s Grocery opened more than 75 years ago in the bustling whistle-stop community of Christiana. Today, it’s a popular meat-and-three worth the drive to get there. Go for the Sunday buffet or hear live bluegrass or Americana music at Miller’s on Friday and Saturday nights.
Take a rollicking tour of Murfreesboro’s Mayday Brewery with its quirky founder, Ozzy. He’ll tell stories and serve cheeseballs on this unique and unforgettable behind-the-scenes tour while telling you all about his brewery and keeping your souvenir pint glass filled with the popular brewery’s four core beers. Tours are 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. every Saturday. They last about 30-45 minutes, cost $12 per person, and are Rated R. Reservations are not required.
Get down to great music at Murfreesboro’s annual Main Street Jazz Fest each May. Spend a weekend on Murfreesboro’s Main Street, eating, drinking, shopping, and listening to live contemporary jazz music.
Spend an afternoon exploring Murfreesboro’s fascinating Cannonsburgh Village. Rutherford County had a unique idea for what to do when development began threatening its historic structures throughout the county. They simply moved the structures to one central location. That’s the idea behind Cannonsburgh Village, an outdoor setting in the heart of Murfreesboro where you can explore an actual gristmill, school house, telephone operator’s house, the University House, the Leeman House, a museum, a caboose, the Wedding Chapel, a doctor’s office, a general store, a blacksmith’s shop, a well, and other points of pioneering interest. The structures are open to the public between May 1 and Dec. 1. You can either take a free, self-guided tour or pay a small fee for a guided tour. You’ll find plenty here to capture your attention– Trust me!
Savor country cooking and live music at the newest Puckett’s Grocery in downtown Murfreesboro. This popular Middle Tennessee restaurant is a HUGE hit with locals, and now you can find one on Church Street, in the heart of historic Murfreesboro. From pulled pork sandwiches and cherry cobbler to Cajun chicken and waffles, everything on the menu is pretty much guaranteed to be delicious — and yes, I speak from experience!
Browse through gorgeous home goods and accessories, gifts, clothing and more at Quinn’s Mercantile. This beautiful new store in Murfreesboro is worth spending some serious time in. In addition to its merchandise (which includes items made by local artisans), Quinn’s also offers classes in chalk and mineral painting and private painting studio time. Definitely worth a stop the next time you’re in Murfreesboro.
Go for a leisurely bike ride on the scenic Murfreesboro Greenway System. If you haven’t been on Murfreesboro’s bike trails, you need to soon. Here, you’ll find 12 miles of paved trails that will take you to some of Murfreesboro’s most picture-friendly locations, including Cannonsburgh Village, the Stones River National Battlefield, Fortress Rosecrans, and the Stones River dam. Be sure and stop for lunch at The Green Dragon Public House while you’re on the trail.
Feast on a pu-pu platter at the Omni Hut in Smyrna. This beloved Tiki restaurant has been open for more than 50 years and features a blend of Polynesian, Asian and Hawaiian recipes. Loyal customers love it for the food, the attentive service, and the retro atmosphere. Consider Omni Hut a Rutherford County must-do.
Check out one of Rutherford County’s incredibly rare cedar glades. Middle Tennessee is home to a globally unique, almost desert-like ecosystem known as the limestone cedar glade. Here, cacti, rare and endangered wildflowers, and succulents thrive and a vast network of caves lies just beneath the rocky limestone surface. These glades exist only in the central eastern United States. Most are in Middle Tennessee, several are in Rutherford County, and these are different from any on earth. In fact, they’re so special that Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro has a Center for Cedar Glade Studies devoted entirely to them. Several protected cedar glades are located in Rutherford County, including Flat Rock Cedar Glades, and Elsie Quarterman Cedar Glade. The best way to see them for the first time is on a guided tour; check Long Hunter State Park’s list of upcoming events to find one.
Travel back in time at Oaklands Mansion. Oaklands was built in 1815 and was the largest plantation in Tennessee during the Civil War. It served as headquarters for Confederate President Jefferson Davis while he visited Murfreesboro. A skirmish between Union and Confederate soldiers took place on its front lawn and the children of the house are said to have watched the fighting from an upstairs window.
Scarf down a milkshake at the Reeves-Sain Soda Shoppe. It’s not often you find a soda shop inside a drug store these days, but the soda shop at Murfreesboro’s Reeves-Sain Drug Store is still going strong and locals say they have the best milkshakes in town, as well as chess squares that are to die for. The Reeves-Sain Soda Shop also serves soups, salads, sandwiches, and other old-fashioned desserts like pies, banana splits, and ice cream sodas.
Watch a vintage baseball game on the lawn of the historic Sam Davis Home and Plantation during the spring months. The Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball is a league of living history baseball teams from across the state, who bring the 19th century to life through base ball events that use the rules, equipment, costumes and culture of the 1860s. They play games at historic sites, including the Sam Davis home in Smyrna, a home built in the early 1800s that’s now open to the public for tours.
Take your family on a Wetland Walk. Murfreesboro has an excellent children’s museum called the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, but my favorite thing to do at the museum in the springtime is go on one of its Wetland Walks outside. These are guided tours on raised walkways through the preserved wetland behind the museum, and you wouldn’t believe all there is to see. We’ve caught tadpoles and frogs, identified herons and songbirds, and even spied a family of raccoons living in the hollow of an old tree.
Take a hike at Murfreesboro’s Barfield Crescent Park. If you’re like us, you’re constantly looking for new trails to check out in Middle Tennessee. Locals rave about the five miles of backcountry trails, which wind through hardwood forest, along the Stones River, through limestone sinks and outcrops, and past an old stone wall believed to have been built during the Civil War. There’s even a paved Tree Trail and a Sensory Trail for the kids, as well as a Wilderness Station with ongoing family programs.
Pick your own strawberries at Batey Farms. This 8th generation family farm offers a pick-your-own strawberry patch each year and it’s typically packed with pickers from across Middle Tennessee. Check the Batey Farms Facebook Page for up-to-date information on when the strawberries are ready.
Explore Murfreesboro’s charming and historic downtown square. Anchored by a courthouse that was built in 1859, the downtown square is filled with some of the city’s best shops and restaurants. You could very happily spend a pleasant spring afternoon wandering around. You’ll find trendy clothing, shoes and accessories at Bella’s Boutique and Sugaree’s; outdoor gear at Bink’s Outfitters; handcrafted ice cream and gourmet popcorn at Frozen Treats From Mars Theater; everything you need to make your own wine and beer at Let’s Make Wine; popular steakhouse The Alley on Main; old-fashioned home cooking at the City Cafe; and a whole lot more.
Dive deeper into Murfreesboro’s rich history with a free guided tour from The Heritage Center. There’s no better way to get to know Murfreesboro’s historic downtown square than with a guided tour. You’ll hear some of the history behind the city’s pre-Civil War courthouse and learn more about Murfreesboro’s sizable role in the Civil War.
See some incredible fossils at Earth Experience: The Middle Tennessee Museum of Natural History. This small but mighty Murfreesboro museum was the brainchild of MTSU professor Alan Brown, who wanted to share his extensive fossil collection with the public. Here, you’ll find everything from dinosaurs to crinoids, with a heaping helping of fossils, rocks and minerals found right here in Middle Tennessee. This museum is definitely worth a visit; the kids will love it!