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9 Cool Things to Do in McMinnville, Warren County, Tennessee


I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.

If you're looking for a weekend getaway or a vacation spot that is off the beaten path, look no further than McMinnville, Tennessee.

McMinnville is located almost exactly halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Approximately 20 miles off Interstate 24's Exit 111, McMinnville offers a variety of activities that are suitable for the whole family!

McMinnville is the county seat of Warren County, Tennessee. Warren County was formed in 1807 and named for Major General Joseph Warren, patriot of the American Revolution.

Today, Warren County is best known as the plant nursery capital of the world. With hundreds of nurseries offering both wholesale and retail shopping, Warren County is a landscaping hobbyist dream.

Yet, trees and shrubs is not all Warren County has to offer.

1. Cumberland Caverns: Tennessee's Largest Show Cave

With more than 32 known miles and many more estimated miles of virgin cave, Cumberland Caverns is one of the most extensive caves in Tennessee.

Aaron Higginbotham, a surveyor, first discovered the cave in 1810. Unfortunately, Higginbotham entered the cave alone and became trapped on a ledge when his latern went out. Local legend says that, when the rescue party reached him, his hair had turned white; presumably out of fear. Since then, Cumberland Caverns has played a major role in events such as the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the War Between The States.Today, it is a location that families and spelelunkers alike enjoy visiting.

Tours are offered daily. There are also special tours available for large groups.

2. The Black House

The oldest remaining residence in McMinnville was built in 1825 by Jesse Coffee and was distinct in its time due to its exterior brick construction. The Black House, situated on the southeast corner of Main and High streets in the downtown business district, gained the name by which it is best known through the ownership and occupancy of Dr. Thomas Black and his family. The house where Dr. Black practiced medicine was deeded by his descendant, the late Jean Leonard, to The Eagle Club which began restoration of the structure in the early 1980s. The museum is open for tours during specially designated times

3. Falcon Rest: Tennessee's Premier Victorian Mansion

The history provided by Falcon Rest states: "In the 1940s, Clay Faulkner's mansion was converted into a hospital and nursing home. An early ad boasted a quiet location and an ideal climate, at rates of $5.00 to 8.00 per day -- according to care required. By the mid-1950's, Dr. J.P. Dietrich had added onto the building and renamed it the Faulkner Springs Hospital. Local folks still tell fond stories about the doctor and the house where he dispensed medicine and love.

"The doctor closed the hospital in 1968. He stripped out much of the woodwork in an unsuccessful attempt to tear down the solid brick structure, then let it sit empty for a decade an a half. When George McGlothin bought the old house at auction in 1989, it was a ghost of its former glory. George and his wife Charlien began four years of restoration, tackling 95 percent of the work themselves. The results were well worth the effort. Today, Falcon Rest is more beautiful than the day Clay Faulkner's family moved in."

Falcon Rest has an added bonus to its history and beauty, local legend's haunted! What else could anyone expect from an old mansion that has served so many purposes over the years. Visit Falcon Rest's website for in-depth information on their friendly ghosts!

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4. Rock Island State Park

A particular favorite of kayakers worldwide, Rock Island State Park is most famously known for it's Blue Hole. The Blue Hole is also a favorite of fishermen and legand says that there are catfish in The Blue Hole that are as big as volkswagons!

McMinnville Annual Events

  • Back to the Strip Night (first Saturday in May)

  • Fourth of July Celebration Downtown

  • Warren County A & L Fair (beginning second Monday in September)

  • Autumn Street Fair

  • Christmas in the Park

Dominated by the Great Falls of the Caney Fork River, Rock Island State Park offers a variety of activities including hiking, picnic areas, swimming areas, boating and camping. Luxury cabins are available for those who prefer not to sleep outdoors.

As part of the Tennessee Valley Authorities (TVA) Center Hill Lake system, Rock Island State Park offers easy boating access to nearby popular locations such as Center Hill Dam, Ragland Bottom, Silver Point and more.

And don't forget to visit nearby Fall Creek Falls State Park in Van Buren County, Tennessee. Fall Creek Falls is a very popular tourist destination for those seeking natural beauty and outdoor activities. With restaurants, luxury cabins, fishing cabins, and an on-site hotel in addition to golfing, boating, numerous trails of varying skill levels, a nature center and more, Fall Creek Falls is a must visit destination for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.

5. Trail of Tears

See and read about the Trail of Tears, while taking a five-mile hike on Caldwell Mountain at Shellsford. Follow the path the Native Americans took as they were displaced from their home. It was this path passing through McMinnville that they would stop to mill their corn and/or care for their sick.

6. Historic Downtown McMinnville

The Mainstreet McMinnville project has revitalized downtown with the opening of such attractions as the Brady-Hughes-Beasley Photographic Archives and Museum, and the Warren County Heritage Center and Museum; restaurants such as Collins River BBQ and Topz Frozen Yogurt and Metro Deli.

During the spring, summer and fall months, visitors are also welcome to attend the Main Street Live events (outdoor concerts) and the Farmer's Market.

Be sure to venture to the outskirts of downtown and take a stroll down the Barren Fork Greenway, a 12 foot wide walkway that connects Riverfront Park and Pepper Branch Park. This is the perfect spot for walking, jogging, bicycling, or leisurely fishing off the docks along the way.

7. McMinnville Civic Center Complex

This multi-use facility is available for daily use and special group events. It includes indoor facilities for basketball, volleyball, tennis, racketball, walking track, McMinnville Wellness and Fitness center, ping pong, games, vending and special activity rooms. The Center is also used for conventions, trade shows, and other special events. In the outdoors surrounding the center, there are a number of recreational components including: the Gilley Pool, seven lighted ball bields, Jungle Jym playground, four outdoorlLighted tennis courts and 3/4 mile paved walking trail.

8. Smooth Rapids

Kayak the Barren Fork and Collins Rivers with rented kayaks and transportation provided by Smooth Rapids.

Aerial view of Isha Institute

Aerial view of Isha Institute

9. Isha Institute of Inner Sciences

Fromthe foundation's website... "[At Isha Yoga Centers] seekers are offered a rare opportunity to pursue their inner journey under the guidance of a self-realized yogi. At the core of the foundation’s activities is a customized system of yoga called Isha Yoga – yoga in its full depth and dimension. Isha’s signature program, Inner Engineering, is scientifically structured to present simple but powerful processes from the yogic tradition, to transcend the limitations of who you are and bring you to higher levels of consciousness. Inner Engineering gives you the tools to create your life the way you want it."

Isha encourages visitors to stop by and join them for hikes to beautiful mountain views and waterfalls, meditation sessions, yoga classes, and other classes focused on bettering one's self.

Visit Isha's website for more information.

© 2016 Kim Bryan

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