If you live near Middle Tennessee and you’re tired of dodging tourists or just want something different to do, consider renting an Airbnb in McMinnville to get away from it all.
Out-of-staters might only know Tennessee for Nashville’s Broadway or Memphis’ Beale Street, but locals know that Tennessee is one of the greenest and most naturally beautiful states in the country. Tennessee has over 500 waterfalls, well over a thousand documented hiking trails, and some of the tastiest and most unique foods in the country.
McMinnville is the largest city and the county seat of Warren County and is just about a 90-minute drive southeast from Nashville proper and about 90-minutes northwest of Chattanooga. The city has a population of fewer than 14,000 people but is known as the “nursery capital of the world,” with over 400 thriving nurseries. Keep an eye out for the famous “Birthing Tree,” a large white oak that sits on a private property but was once known as a meeting ground for travelers. The tree got its name due to its location across from the hospital, and many McMinnville families will tell you stories of babies being born under the tree due to delays getting into the hospital.
Where to Stay in McMinnville, TN
We stayed at this adorable little Airbnb on the back of someone’s property. They allow dogs for an extra fee, which was great because we were looking for a fun new place to take our pups on a hike. The cottage doesn’t have a full kitchen, but it does have a fridge and a microwave. It’s a small suite that is basically one room and a bathroom, but it was all we needed for a cozy weekend away.
We were there in February for Valentine’s weekend, so we loved being able to come back from a cold walk in the woods and sit by the fire. Our border collie/husky mix didn’t even let us take his leash off before he was curled up by the fire.
Another cute place I found is “Happy Yaker Cottages.” We weren’t able to stay there due to their pet policy, but I recommend checking it out if you’re not bringing your pets with you.
Things to do in McMinnville, TN: Outdoors
Hike Fall Creek Falls
Fall Creek Falls is one of the most popular state parks in Tennessee because it is home to one of the highest waterfalls in the Eastern U.S. at 256 feet. The park is huge, spanning almost 30,000 acres with over 56 miles of hiking trails and 24 miles of biking trails. The 345 acre Fall Creek Lake is an amazing place to catch Channel Catfish and Bluegill in the spring and fall, and over 140 species of bird can be observed. More adventurous hikers can also register for rock climbing or the canopy rope course.
While you could always spend the night at a cabin inside this park, you can now also camp in style at the new Fall Creek Falls Lodge, which is directly inside the park. There is even a golf course within the park, and ranger-led hikes are available, making the park itself an entire vacation destination.
Hike to a 30-foot Waterfall at Rock Island State Park
Rock Island State Park lives where three rivers meet – the Caney Fork River, the Collins River, and the Rocky River. The park totals 883 acres and is home to the Caney Fork Gorge, the Great Falls Dam, and the 30-foot Great Falls. Fishing is both allowed and very popular here, and dogs are allowed on the trails.
Explore McMinnville Area Nurseries
Given the town’s reputation as the “nursery capital of the world,” you’d be remiss to not visit at least one nursery during your weekend trip to McMinnville, TN. Plan this as the last thing you do and you might be lucky enough to drive home with something beautiful to add to your garden or home. Here are some of the nurseries that are open to the public:
- Bert Driver Nursery
- Cumberland Valley Nursery
- Mary’s Greenhouse
- Cedarwood Nursery
- Randall Walker Farms
- Larry Walker Nursery
- Daylily Nursery
- Walkers Gardens
- Boyd & Boyd Nursery
Though Bert Driver Nursery is about a 30-minute drive north of McMinnville in the town of Smithville, we couldn’t leave it off this list. They have live music in their “burlap room” during the warmer months, making it a worthwhile activity during your time in the McMinnville area. Additionally, if you’re looking for fruit trees, Cumberland Valley Nursery is the place to go!
Relax and Unwind at Isha Institute of Inner Sciences
While you can certainly choose to spend your entire weekend unwinding at Isha Institute of Inner Sciences, you don’t need to if you just want to check it out. This rejuvenating yoga center offers tours between 10:30 and 5 that will take you on a light hike to see waterfalls and “Mahima,” the largest yoga and meditation hall on this side of the world. Some free yoga and meditation sessions are available. If you get hungry while you’re there, can also purchase a meal voucher (just $10 per adult and $5 per child) to enjoy a vegetarian lunch.
Explore Tennessee’s Largest Show Cave at Cumberland Caverns
Discovered in the year 1810, Cumberland Caverns boasts over 27 miles of natural, underground passageways, waterfalls, and rock formations, making it the largest in Tennessee. Easy, moderate, and “extreme” tours are available, as well as an overnight adventure where you’ll camp out in a cave. Tours start at $26.95 for adults and $18.95 for kids and range up to $170 per person for the most difficult overnight adventures. Check their calendar ahead of time, because you might get lucky enough to experience a concert at the caverns in the summer months!
Walk the Barren Fork River Trail
If you’re worried that Rock Island or spelunking may be too much for you, don’t worry – the Barren Fork River Trail is a 1.8-mile paved path that stretches between River Front Park and Pepper Branch Park. It’s an easy and beautifully-landscaped trail that you can enjoy at your leisure.
Things to do in McMinnville, TN: History
Tour Falcon Rest Mansion and Gardens
PBS once referred to Falcon Rest Mansion and Gardens as the “Biltmore of Tennessee.” This 1896 10,000 square foot Victorian mansion became a hospital and nursing home in the 1940s and was closed in 1968. It wasn’t until 1989 that the home was purchased at an auction. After four years of restoration, it was opened to the public as a glimpse at history.
I won’t spoil it all – you’ll have to visit to learn more about the history of this beautiful home! Tours are just $15 per adult and $9 for kids 4-12, or you can stay at the Bed and Breakfast for just over $100 per night! A light lunch is also available in the Tea Room.
Walk Through History at the Black History Museum of Warren County
The Black History Museum of Warren County features stories and artifacts from local Black heroes from the county – everybody from musicians and athletes to local high school success stories is honored here. A few examples are Carl T. Rowan, a journalist who was once the highest-ranking Black man in the U.S. government, and Mark Gwyn, former director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The museum offers an educational experience that honors the Black history that is often left out of textbooks. They also contribute greatly to educating the local community by hosting school art contests and other events.
Things to do in McMinnville, TN: Indoors
The Doodle Fish Studio
Whether you’re traveling with kids or have found yourself in McMinnville on a rainy day, The Doodle Fish Studio is a great place to spend an afternoon. They offer pottery and painting classes – walk-ins are possible, but it’s best to book yourself for one of their classes. You’ll get to make yourself a fun little souvenir and might even learn a thing or two!
McMinnville Park Theater
The historic McMinnville Park Theater is one of the best places to spend an evening in McMinnville. The 559-seat theater was built in 1939 and was renovated in 2015. Independent music artists, comedians, and even theater productions are on the calendar.
Shopping in McMinnville
Other than the local Walmart, you won’t large name-brand stores in McMinnville, but you’ll find something even better. Locally-owned boutiques such as “Linen and Grace,” “Evelyn Taylor Avenue,” the Vintage Market Antique Store, and Southern Traditions of McMinnville are all great places to stop in and pick up some cute clothes and knick-knacks.
Best Places to Eat in McMinnville, TN
Small town Tennessee is where you’ll find some of the best barbecue and fresh southern cooking in the world. McMinnville is no exception.
Collins River BBQ and Cafe
McMinnville’s Main street hosts a row of family-owned shops and restaurants. Some of the buildings have been there for nearly a century. Collins River BBQ has only been in McMinnville since 2011 but it has become one of the most loved places to grab a meal in town. It started as a food truck in 2009 and has evolved into an establishment known for its homey decor and large, heaping servings of fresh pulled pork, wings, and decadent desserts. Their beer menu is full of classics as well as local favorites from Red Silo, Mayday, Bearded Iris, Calfkiller, and Diskin Cider.
Topz Frozen Yogurt & Metro Deli
In the heart of downtown McMinnville is this classic gem, Topz Frozen Yogurt & Metro Deli. Stop in for a cup of frozen yogurt with as many toppings as you want, or grab a hearty, fresh deli sandwich to fuel yourself for the day. Their frozen yogurt flavors change seasonally, but some of the unique options you might find are pink lemonade, cake batter, cheesecake, and salted caramel (plus the usual vanilla and chocolate). On the deli menu, you’ll find not only fresh sandwiches, but also oven pizzas, soups, and salads. They’re also a traditional deli, so you can order yourself a pound of any meat or cheese you’d like to take back with you.
Cumberland Biscuit Company
While Friday and Saturday night dinner is offered here too, Cumberland Biscuit Company is the best place in McMinnville for a hot, southern-style breakfast. Try the chocolate gravy biscuit “just like grandma used to make,” satisfy your sweet tooth with a french quarter beignet, or go with a traditional breakfast dish like french toast, chicken and waffles, or a classic plate of eggs and bacon.
The Vanilla Bean Baking Co
If you’re looking for a place to grab a light or sweet breakfast and a fresh cup of coffee, look no further than The Vanilla Bean Baking Co. Imagine hot, fresh, gooey cinnamon rolls, fresh-baked donuts, scones, quiche, and more. Or, you can stop by in the afternoon and grab some cupcakes for a quick snack!
Juicy’s Wellness Cafe
With locations in McMinnville, Cookeville, and Murfreesboro, TN, Juicy’s Wellness Cafe will provide a meal or a juice that is so tasty you’ll forget it’s healthy. Vegan wraps, sandwiches, and soups are available along with a large menu of organic juice options.