Whether you’re a Nashvillian in search of a quick weekend day trip or getaway or a traveler looking for a place near Music City with small-town Southern charm, Rutherford County is calling your name.
Located just 30 minutes from Nashville, Murfreesboro and the surrounding towns of Rutherford County have it all– from rich cultural history, exciting outdoor activities, and gorgeous pastoral scenery to increasingly sophisticated restaurants, shopping, and fun things to do. We’ve found ourselves drawn to Rutherford County countless times over the years, whether we’re touring one of the area’s historic homes, playing with the kids at the children’s museum, dining at one of its many quirky Southern restaurants, or riding bikes on the Greenway.
Anyone who’s spent time in Rutherford County will agree with me — You’re missing out if you live in the Nashville area and aren’t making use of all this county has to offer! Here are some of my favorite options for things to do in Rutherford County this summer:
Take a Hallowed Ground lantern tour in Stones River National Cemetery. A few dozen times a year, the National Park Service schedules these tours, where small groups are led through the cemetery at dusk and costumed re-enactors read letters written by some of the soldiers buried here. It is a somber and moving experience and I can’t think of a better way to make these soldiers’ stories come alive, more than 150 years after their deaths. Highly recommended– but you’ll have to make reservations to get a spot on the tour. Check out the Hallowed Ground webpage for more information.
Let your spirits soar at the first-ever Murfreesboro Hot Air Balloon Festival. If you’ve ever been to a hot air balloon event, you know it’s an unforgettable experience. Murfreesboro’s inaugural festival is happening June 24th at Oaklands Park and will include a kids zone, VIP area, craft beer tent, live music, and a beautiful hot air balloon glow at dusk. Get advance tickets here.
Pick your own blueberries at The Blueberry Patch in Murfreesboro. Locals love this u-pick farm, not only for the blueberries, but also for the playground right next to the patch; once your kids get tired of picking, they can play while you finish up and keep an eye on them at the same time. GENIUS. Blueberries should be ready for picking by the end of June and the season generally lasts about a month. Call (615) 893-7940 before you come — The owners record a message each morning regarding availability.
Spend a weekend at the serene and historic Grandma’s House Bed and Breakfast in Smyrna. We spent a weekend here recently and I’m so grateful now to have discovered this place — The only problem with it is that I didn’t want to leave! Grandma’s House has several spacious and extremely comfortable rooms, as well as a cozy living area, charming backyard, balcony, 24-hour access to drinks and snacks, and a truly fabulous breakfast each morning. It’s perfect for a short family vacation (It’s my daughter’s favorite place we’ve ever stayed!) or as a romantic couple’s retreat. We can’t wait to come back! Check out my full write-up on Grandma’s House (You’ve gotta see pictures of our breakfasts!) here.
Enjoy fresh, homemade ice cream at Hattie Jane’s Creamery. We were delighted to discover this fantastic new artisan ice cream parlor in downtown Murfreesboro, conveniently located right next door to the new Puckett’s restaurant. Hattie Jane’s uses seasonal and local ingredients like milk from Hatcher’s Dairy Farm to create its ice cream, baked treats, and waffle cones, all made in-house from scratch — The results are delicious!
Take unforgettable family photos during sunflower season at Batey Farms. So many locals have told us this is a Rutherford County must-do. During July, Batey Farms opens its sunflower fields to the public for photo opps, and from the pictures I’ve seen, it looks AMAZING. Amateur photographers are welcome to simply make a donation, but there is a charge for professionals. While you’re there, shop at Batey Farms’ country store and pick your own fruits and vegetables — Blackberries, blueberries and sweet corn are all available for picking in season (as well as strawberries in May). Check the Batey Farms Facebook page in July to find out which days the sunflower fields are open to the public.
Celebrate old-time music and dance at Uncle Dave Macon Days in Mufreesboro, July 7th and 8th. Music lovers won’t want to miss this popular festival in Murfreesboro’s Cannonsburgh Village, which includes a two-day roster of performances from some of the best bluegrass musicians in the nation, as well as fiddle, banjo, and buck dancing competitions, arts and crafts booths, and a whole lot more.
Enjoy delicious baked goods at light-filled Simply Pure Sweets in downtown Murfreesboro. We can’t resist a good macaron and the ones at Simply Pure are first rate. You’ll also find cookies, croissants, tarts and other delicious baked goods here, including a variety of Southern inspired cakes made in– and eaten out of– mason jars!
Enjoy Movies Under the Stars in one of five Murfreesboro locations each week. Movies start at 8:30pm and change weekly and I love that you have five different opportunities to see them each week. This year’s offerings include Moana, Inside Out, The BFG and more! The first movie starts June 5th. Bring a picnic or buy a snack at the concession stand– and don’t forget lawn chairs or a blanket!
Travel back in time at the Sam Davis House in Smyrna. We finally made it to this ca. 1810 home and I’m so glad we did — There are many Civil War tours to choose from in Middle Tennessee and this one will definitely stand out with your kids. Both my children were riveted by the story of 21-year-old Sam Davis, a Confederate soldier who chose to be hanged rather than give information to Union troops. The tour includes Davis’s boyhood home and grave, the plantation’s outbuildings, and a museum which contains a short film about Sam Davis that’s worth watching. Do note that the house is not air-conditioned — In the summer, you’ll want to go in the morning or on an overcast day.
Choose local fruits, vegetables, baked goods, flower and more at one of Rutherford County’s weekly farmers markets. Murfreesboro’s Saturday Market is up and running on the courthouse square every Saturday from June to October, 8am to noon. Tuesdays and Fridays from 7am to noon, you’ll find the Rutherford County Farmers Market at Murfreesboro’s Lane Agri-Park in the open-air community center. This is a producer-only farmer’s market, meaning all of the produce comes from Tennessee and is sold by the people who’ve grown it. And Smyrna has its own Saturday morning farmers market at the train depot on Front Street from 8am to 12pm through September 17th.
Visit the Ransom School House on Saturday morning and learn to whittle! This tiny house was a private school run by the Ransom sisters at the turn of the 19th century. Despite its size, it turned out some very prominent citizens. Today, the building has been turned into a small museum that’s open on Saturday mornings from 9am-12pm, making it a perfect stop after the downtown Mufreesboro farmers market. Even better, Murfreesboro’s Whittler’s Club has been reborn here. Spending a Saturday morning whittling cedar sticks in the town square while trading gossip was an age-old tradition in Murfreesboro back in the day, and now you can visit the school house and participate!
Dare to order the Murfree Burger at Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint in downtown Murfreesboro. This popular restaurant was hopping when we hit downtown Murfreesboro on a Sunday at 11am — It was notable because the rest of the square at that hour was completely quiet! The place specializes in craft beers (they have over a hundred varieties) and 100% Wagyu beef burgers — The Murfree Burger is topped with bacon, a fried egg and cheddar cheese– all within a glazed donut bun! For dessert, you can’t go wrong with Jack Brown’s fried Oreos!
Sign up for one of many fun programs for all ages this summer at the Wilderness Station. Consider the Wilderness Station Ground Zero for all things outdoor in Murfreesboro. Located in Barfield-Crescent Park, all kinds of interesting outdoor programs are planned here year round — This summer, programming includes family-friendly night hikes, children’s nature programs, a kayak float for adults, a lesson in creek wading, hummingbird banding, a summer concert series, and more. One of my favorite things here is the free backpack loans for kids headed out on a hike in the park. The backpacks are themed so that kids can choose from subjects like bird, insects, wildflowers and more. COOL!
Chow down on old-fashioned burgers and shakes at Karin’s Kustard in Smyrna. This is the kind of restaurant we always hit up when we pass through a small southern town, and we’re rarely disappointed. Come when it’s open and you’ll see plenty of cars and customers; Karin’s is a Smyrna staple. Old-timers swear the burgers and malteds here taste just as good as they did when they were teenagers hanging out at the local Tastee-Freez!
Experience a traditional meat-and-three meal at Kleer-Vu Lunchroom in Murfreesboro. This cafeteria-style lunchroom is always crowded, but when you taste the fried chicken, cornbread fritters, turnip greens and homemade chess pie, you’ll understand why. Devotees drive for miles to get here — Mark it as a must-do on your restaurant bucket list.
Play the day away at Lanes, Trains and Automobiles. Think of this place as the ultimate hot summer day activity. Lanes, Trains and Automobiles has a bowling alley, laser tag, bumper cars and video games, offering fun for the whole family. We had my son’s birthday party here last year after getting a tip that the rates were much better than similar venues in Nashville and it really was a BLAST. Definitely worth the drive!
Learn the local history of African American education at the Bradley Academy Museum in Murfreesboro. The Bradley Academy opened to African American students back in 1918. Today, it’s a museum showcasing the school’s history as well as local Civil War history and exhibits on some of Rutherford County’s earliest settlers. Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday from 10am – 4pm.
Savor the best carrot cake in the whole entire world at Hickory Falls in Smyrna. Carrot cake isn’t generally something I get really excited about — However, I’m glad I gave the carrot cake at Smyrna’s Hickory Falls restaurant a chance. I am now convinced that it has no equal. From the melted cream cheese icing to the incredibly dense, moist, almost bread pudding-like cake itself, it is simply divine and people flock to Hickory Falls to get it. Hickory Falls’ burgers, cooked over a wood-fired grill, are also fantastic. Basically, you’re pretty much obligated to eat here if you find yourself in Smyrna.
Cool off with the kids at Smyrna’s elaborate Splash Pad. This free splash pad is another local favorite — There’s plenty of room for everyone here and lots of room to roam. You’ll find this splash pad at Gregory Mill Park.
Looking for more ideas? I have even more things to do in Rutherford County here — and if I’ve missed something, please feel free to add it in the comments. Also, check back here at the end of summer for my list of things to do in Rutherford County this fall!
This #MadeinTN post was written in partnership with the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau.