Jump in the car and take a road trip to experience Tennessee's small towns (and nearby city) that are full of shopping, incredible food and close to outdoor activities. See a magnificent waterfall or awe-inspiring view. Experience authentic hospitality and classic Southern cuisine. You'll find unique fashions and items for your home in the many charming shops that line these historic town squares. Plan a day trip to these Tennessee stops.
Manchester is full of more that will easily fill a day trip. Though Bonnaroo, the iconic music and arts festival that brings big name artists and bands to The Farm, is cancelled for 2021, the town of Manchester will host The Other Fest, featuring Andy Frasco and others as they take to stages in and around Manchester. Live music will take place Sept. 2-5, 2021 at Praters BBQ and Common John Brewing Co. Get your tickets now. Then, do some downtown shopping at High Cotton Vintage Home Furnishings for clothing, must-have home decor and more; Sprout Children’s Shop for adorable pieces and toys and Harvest Local Foods for locally sourced food items and goods. Grab a burger and shake from Jiffy Burger and sample the full-bodied reds, fruit wines and sweet wines from Beans Creek Winery. Do some exploring at Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park where you’ll find waterfalls, secluded foot trails and beautiful scenery.
Have a day full of wellness in McMinnville. Start off with a yoga session at Twisted Yogis for balance and empowerment. After yoga, head to Juicy’s Wellness Café, a plant-based restaurant where you’ll find soups, salads, organic juices and smoothies, plant-based burgers and more. Then take some time to sit by the falls at Rock Island State Park. On your way back from the state park, stop in at Rock Island Trolley Stop Ice Cream Shop for customized specialty ice cream flavors that you can order as sundaes and shakes or on a cone or in a cup. Journey below the surface of the earth on a tour of Cumberland Caverns, which has more than 30 miles of passageways filled with rock formations, underground waterfalls and pools. Try to plan your trip to coincide with one of the shows at Cumberland Caverns Live, a live concert that happens 333 ft. underground. You’ll find clothing, jewelry and antiques at shops like the Red Door Boutique, The Lazy Daisy, The Rustic Touch and Lemon Clothing & Cosmetics. Enjoy barbecue at Prater's BBQ or Collins River BBQ and deli selections, desserts and sweet fruit tea at the eclectic Depot Bottom Country Store. Cumberland Biscuit Company serves breakfast and brunch and Saturday night dinner serving eggs benedict, grilled pimento cheese and tomato sandwiches, French toast and buttermilk pancakes, and, of course, fluffy biscuits.
Recently hailed as Southern Living’s No. 1 Best Small Town 2021, in Bell Buckle you’ll find antique shopping at Phillips General Store featuring architectural fragments, textiles and items housed in a more than 100 year-old dry goods store with original fixtures; 1852 Antiques which has antique furniture, home décor and lighting; Simplicity in Bell Buckle which features antiques, clothing, handmade items, home décor and more; and Bluebird Antiques & Ice Cream Parlor where you can browse antiques and get a sweet treat from ice cream to fried pies. Step into the cozy Bell Buckle Coffee Shop and Book Swap where you’ll find walls of books and a variety of coffees from Americanos to caramel macchiatos. Sandwiches, baked goods and breakfast sandwiches are also available. If you’re visiting Tuesdays – Sundays, have a meal at the Bell Buckle Café, famous for their Southern dishes like barbecue and chicken fried steaks, fresh salads and even homemade pizzas after 4:30 p.m. Leave room for dessert because you’ll want to try the homemade Moon Pie sundae, oatmeal cake with caramel topping or a cobbler. Want to spend even more time in Bell Buckle? Book a stay at the charming Seasons Bed and Breakfast where you’ll find comfortable rooms, sun-filled sitting rooms and a beautiful large porch with rocking chairs.
Spend a day among the shops in downtown Lewisburg. The Weathered Farmhouse which carries candles, home goods and has a flower bar. Studio 20 South is where you’ll find shoes, clothing and accessories that are too eye-catching to pass up. Gone Postal Marketplace is full of antique treasures from paintings to furniture, vases and collectibles. The Bellaboo Boutique has a variety of boutique styles at affordable prices and Tillis Jewelry is your go-to stop for fine jewelry and every day accessories. Enjoy a sip of Tennessee at Pickers Creek Winery where you can sample dry white and red wines, semi-sweet and sweet wines and fruit wines like blackberry and peach.
The drive to Lynchburg is picturesque and, once you arrive, the fun is nonstop. Take a tour to see how the world’s leading whiskey is made at Jack Daniel’s Distillery. You can even book a tasting in the historic Barrelhouse 1-14 and taste whiskey drawn from individual barrels or sample a flight of five Jack products. Pick up a unique piece at one of the many shops lining downtown Lynchburg like a lavender vanilla candle from Lynchburg Candle Co., sweet treats from Velma’s Candy; collectibles and pottery at Lynchburg Pottery & Gift Gallery and Jack Daniel’s merchandise from bar accessories to coffee, grilling products and clothing from Jackie’s Gift Gallery. Step into the tasting room of Lynchburg Winery to sample chardonnay, pinot grigio, merlot, strawberry wine and Moscato. Stop in Miss Mary Bobo’s for family-style, country dining or dig into perfectly smoked barbecue at Barrel House BBQ.
Outdoor adventure waits for you in Tullahoma. 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. Spend time on Tims Ford Lake which has eight public boat ramps and two marinas. Take a swing at The Bear Trace at Tims Ford, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course with Champion Bermuda greens and 419 Bermuda fairways. Plan your course to Machine Falls, a more than 60-foot waterfall, and enjoy wildflowers and mountain laurel on your way to the view. Rutledge Falls is also close by. Though privately owned, you can hike to the falls from dawn to dusk. If you want your trip to be educational, stop by the Beechcraft Heritage Museum, reopening May 4, 2021, where you’ll find historic planes on display. Have a meal at the fine dining establishment One22West or keep things casual with a burger, panini or tacos from Daddy Billy’s Restaurant & Bar. Enjoy a refreshing beer from Ole Shed Brewing Co. like the Haystack IPA, light bodied Honey Do Golden Ale or the robust Pot Belly Porter.
Adventure is calling you to Monteagle where you can embark on the Fiery Gizzard in South Cumberland State Park. South Cumberland State Park is located within four Tennessee counties and has 30,845 acres in nine separate areas for you to explore. Choose your adventure with over 90 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, fishing and birding. On the Fiery Gizzard, you can hike a 1.3-mile easy, roundtrip Meadow Trail Hike where you'll see wildflowers and views of the pond; the Foster Falls to Small Wilds where you'll hike 5 miles out-and-back that lead you to waterfalls and lovely overlooks; or Sycamore Falls Loop, a moderate 3-mile hike that showcase rock formations and waterfalls. Journey underneath the earth to nearby The Caverns for a cave tour where you'll see an underground room three football fields long, hear about cave lore and more. The Caverns is home to the Emmy Award-winning show Bluegrass Underground. Currently for 2021, the show is being held above ground at the outdoor, physically distanced amphitheater. Check out the line up and catch a show. Book a cabin at The Smoke House which has beautiful, rustic hideaway cabins for rent that are equipped with jetted garden soaking tubs, mini bar or full kitchen, leather sofas, front porches with rocking chairs and stone wood-burning fireplaces. For an elegant meal, go to High Point Restaurant where you can dine on filet mignon, pasta, salads and more.
Take a scenic drive to Cookeville, tucked away in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland region. The town has so much to see and do, you’ll easily go back for another day (or three) of exploring. If you are looking for a natural playground, you’ll find a number of caves, lakes, streams, waterfalls and hiking trails to beautiful overlooks within a short driving distance from town. For a more relaxed scene, go downtown where you’ll find murals for the perfect selfie and adorable boutiques like Poppie’s Boutique and 31TwentyFive filled with clothing, jewelry and home accents. You’ll want to step into The Painted House for home styling pieces and gifts. Get a caffeine boost at Poet’s. Walk the trails at Dogwood Park to see the interactive fountain, and the wide open spaces, perfect for a picnic. Taste local brews at Red Silo Brewing Company (you can sit in their outdoor silo and watch the world go by), and have a memorable, locally sourced meal at 37 Cedar Restaurant and Bar, Father Tom’s Pub or Seven Senses Food & Cheer. Before leaving Cookeville, you’ll want to get a variety of donuts from Ralph’s Donut Shop or ice cream, shakes and smoothies from Cream City Ice Cream & Coffee House.
Head to Murfreesboro for a day filled with family-friendly fun. Earth Experience is a hands-on museum that dives into the natural history of Middle Tennessee. Here, you can see archeological relics from as far away as Antarctica, paleontologists working in their lab to clean and repair dinosaur bones and meet Frank, the 38-foot-long tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. At the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, families can participate in hands-on learning about the five senses of the body, phosphorescence in the shadow room, farmers market and where food comes from, wings and wheels and how we can manipulate the power of water. You can dive into Tennessee’s deep Civil War history at Oaklands Mansion or at Stones River National Battlefield. Head to the historic downtown to find plenty of boutique shopping at Revintaged Lemon, Bella’s Boutique and The Exchange Boutique. Enjoy an elegant meal at Five Senses; memorable barbecue at Slick Pig BBQ; salads and sandwiches at City Café; steaks and seafood at The Alley on Main; pasta and cheesy pizza at Sauce; giant gourmet burgers at Buster’s Place; beautiful views and brews at Hop Springs Beer Park; craft beers at Mayday Brewery; and, if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, enjoy small-batch, uniquely flavored ice cream from Hattie Jane’s Creamery.
These are just a few of Tennessee's small towns bustling with activity and adventure. Explore these and more charming small towns.