I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
May 14, 2018
If you live in Nashville, you might know Smyrna best as the town you pass through on your way to Murfreesboro. Trust me when I tell you there’s much more to this place than meets the eye. In a region exploding with growth, Smyrna has managed to hang on to its small-town Southern charm. You’ll find plenty to do here, whether you’re in search of a great daytrip or looking for a few nights away from the hustle and bustle of Music City.
Smyrna’s walkable Depot District is anchored by its 1873 train depot, which acts as a hub for festivals, live music, farmers markets, and other special events. Thanks to a grant, the depot will soon get a new canopy and bandstand, making it even more appealing to local musicians and their fans. But the Depot District is only part of Smyrna’s charm. Unlike Nashville, where it seems to take at least 20 minutes to get anywhere these days, all of Smyrna’s attractions are within a few minutes of each other, and when it comes to fun things to do, you won’t find a shortage in this town. Here are 15 of our favorite Smyrna spots to eat, play, and stay.
You can get a fantastic meal on any budget in Smyrna, whether you’re looking for a burger and fries, a healthy lunch, a romantic dinner, or a decadent dessert.
Locals pack the parking lot at Karin’s Kustard for burgers, fries, shakes, and ice cream cones. This roadside joint has been a Smyrna staple for years and when you pair one of their burgers with a freshly made milkshake, you’ll understand why.
We fell in love with Carpe Cafe on our most recent visit to Smyrna. Located in the historic Depot District, it’s the perfect place to go whether you want to curl up with a book and a cappuccino, have a quick lunch with a colleague, or listen to live music on a Friday or Saturday night. The walls are decorated with local art and any purchase you make here helps fund art education in the community.
Try Carpe Cafe’s top-selling chicken salad croissant for lunch and be sure and grab a slice of strawberry cake if you see it in the dessert case — It’s divine.
For a romantic dinner out, head to La Tavola Ristorante, a traditional Italian restaurant also in the Depot District. My daughter and I had a magnificent dinner here this past week and everything we tried was wonderful, from the tomato basil soup to the handmade pizza and spinach manicotti to the fluffy, freshly-made chocolate mousse. Portions are huge, so we were able to share our food with my husband and son the next night for dinner — They loved it as much as we did! We will definitely be back.
The award for best dessert in Smyrna has to go to the famous carrot cake at Hickory Falls. I know, I know… You think you’re not really a fan of carrot cake, right? Believe me when I tell you that this particular carrot cake will be your one exception. It’s moist and dense, with a bread pudding-like quality to it that makes it ah-maz-ing. And it’s so popular, Hickory Falls actually sells it both by the slice and by the entire cake!
Where can you find the best public pool, bowling alley, and factory tour in Middle Tennessee? Smyrna, of course! The town is also the site of one of the most compelling personal stories to come out of the Civil War.
21-year-old Sam Davis was a Confederate soldier who chose to be hanged rather than give information to Union troops. He’s famous for saying, “I would rather die a thousand deaths than betray a friend,” and his story is truly riveting. You can tour Smyrna’s Sam Davis Home and visit his grave as well as a museum built in his honor, and it’s an experience I highly recommend — My children were fascinated by Davis, both because of his youth and his stubbornness. His story can spark some great conversations with your kids. Do note that the house is not air-conditioned — In the summer, you’ll want to tour it in the morning or on an overcast day.
Smyrna’s SplashTown doesn’t open until May 26th, but my daughter took one look and made me promise to bring her and a friend back for a visit this summer. $5 ($4 for kids 12 and under) will get you access to two big water slides, an elaborate splash pad, and a large swimming pool with a drop slide.
If this doesn’t get you in the summertime mood, nothing will!
And I just might have to try out this drop slide for myself.
SplashTown quickly fills to capacity on weekends, so opt for a weekday visit if you’re making a drive.
Right next to SplashTown, you’ll find the Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center, with an exhibit hall featuring everything you ever wanted to know about turtles, an Adventure Zone with climbing walls for all ages, and a Discovery Den where you’ll find crafts, games, and stories. The SOAC is offering special programs and day camps for kids all summer long, so it’s worth your while to check out the schedule before you visit.
Every Saturday morning from June 9th until September 15th, head to the Depot District for the weekly Smyrna Depot Farmers’ Market. Here, you’ll find fresh, local foods and handmade crafts. Hours are 8am until 12pm.
And on Friday afternoons from May to December, Bloomsbury Organic Farm is open to the public between 2:30 and 6pm. Choose from fresh fruits and vegetables grown right on the farm. I can’t wait to check it out!
Now that our kids are getting older, this particular option has made it onto my family summer bucket list. Just a few minutes from Smyrna at Fate Sanders Marina, you can rent a pontoon boat with a slide and spend the day on Percy Priest Lake. The boats hold up to 12 people, so if you get a few families together, the rental cost is very affordable.
If you have your own boat, you’ll find plenty of boat ramps around the lake and if you just want to fish from shore, there are dedicated banks for that as well. Several varieties of bass, trout, catfish, sunfish, and more are commonly caught here. You can get all the fishing information you need to know on this website.
Another item on my summer bucket list is the Nissan Tour. Smyrna is home to the highest-volume Nissan Vehicle Assembly Plant in North America, producing up to 640,000 vehicles a year, and the company offers motorized tours of its plant every Tuesday and Thursday for anyone age 10 and up. I’ve heard this tour is incredible — You actually get to see how a car is manufactured, assembled, and tested out — and although it’s free, you need to make reservations to do it at least a month in advance — It’s that popular!
I’m all for a small town summer festival, which is why I’m excited about the Simply Smyrna Celebration on June 2nd. From 5pm-10pm, the Depot District will be the place to go for live music stages, vendors, food, a wine tasting, and a kids’ zone. I especially love that this celebration is taking place in the evening, after things have cooled off. Looks like fun, especially if they bring back GIANT JENGA!
Finally, some say Gregory Mill Park is one of the prettiest spots in Smyrna — It’s certainly one of the most popular in the summertime! In addition to this bustling splash pad, the park has a ½ mile walking trail, which takes you along Stewart Creek. Here, you can see the remains of a dam built in the early 1800s for a mill that once stood a short distance away. You can read more about the mill’s history here. Bring your camera if you visit — This is a great place for pictures.
Smyrna is home to one of my all-time favorite bed and breakfasts. We’ve stayed twice now at Grandma’s House and I can’t say enough good things about this cozy 1880s farmhouse in the heart of Smyrna. Stepping inside is like being transported to another time and place, where peace, quiet, and relaxation reign. Between the comfortable home, the idyllic private backyard and pond, and the amazing breakfasts Grandma Mary and her granddaughter whip up each morning, it’s hard to imagine a better place for a staycation in Middle Tennessee. Here’s more about our delightful experience at Grandma’s House.
I’m also intrigued by this new Airbnb loft at Smyrna’s Bloomsbury Farm — It’s getting rave reviews from guests. The secluded one-bedroom suite includes a full kitchen and laundry room on 400 acres of land. At $250 a night, it’s not cheap, but it might be just the thing for your next special occasion.
Are you as excited now about Smyrna as I am? You should be! Spend some time here and I think you’ll agree it’s a fun little town with a lot to offer. And if you have more Smyrna recommendations, be sure to leave them in the comments.