Nashville itself has many well-known attractions, but less than an hour out of town are several fascinating places you might not expect. Rippavilla Plantation in Spring Hill, the shops of Leiper’s Fork, Blythewood Inn Bed & Breakfast (built before the Civil War), the James K. Polk House and Museum in Columbia (11th President of the U.S.), and the shops and eateries of Historic Downtown Columbia, Tennessee are worth exploring. You might even spot a famous country music singer, since many live in the area.
1. Rippavilla Plantation
Rippavilla is a 10,000 square foot (929 sq. meters) Greek Revival style home built in 1855, on a site that would become the grounds for the Battle of Spring Hill during the Civil War. During a tour, visitors can see many original artifacts and furnishings inside, with a barn, original slave quarters, two cemeteries, hiking trails and gardens on the property outside.
Tours of the home are conducted Tuesdays through Sundays on the hour and half hour. Plus, extended tours of the surrounding battlefield area are available by appointment.
A gift shop is on the property.
2. Blythewood Inn Bed & Breakfast
The French Colonial style home originally built in the late 1850’s, which now houses the Blythewood Inn Bed and Breakfast, is one of many antebellum homes still standing in Columbia, Tennessee and surrounding Maury County. So many, in fact, that the area has been dubbed “the Antebellum Homes Capital of Tennessee.”
The current owners have combined the lovely architectural details of the home, such as ornate fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, a grand staircase, crown moldings and hardwood and Italian marble floors, with updated and modern conveniences for the comfort of their guests. Period furnishings and fabrics add to the grandeur and luxury.
A highlight of the home is the mural in the dining room which dates back to 1900.
A full, gourmet breakfast is served each morning, and special lunches and dinners can be arranged and prepared by Gretchen Vire, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu in Paris. As an added touch, a different set of china is used every day, so guests who stay more than one night will enjoy the visual as well as the gastronomic treat.
3. United States President James K. Polk home and museum
James Knox Polk was the 11th President of the United States. Tours of his home, Polk Presidential Hall, the Sisters’ House, the kitchen and the gardens are available seven days a week. After an introductory video, the guided tour lasts about 30 minutes. Visitors will see original furnishings, paintings, clothing and the White House china pattern chosen by Mrs. Polk.
While in office, President Polk expanded the territory of the United States by over 800,000 square miles (2071990.5 square kilometers). His wife, Sarah, initiated the practice of having “Hail to the Chief” played when he entered the room. Her husband was short in statue, so she wanted to be sure he wasn’t overlooked when he walked in. That practice continues to this day. These and many other intriguing facts are shared during tours of the buildings and grounds.
4. Historic downtown Columbia, Tennessee
The best time to visit downtown Columbia, Tennessee may be the first Friday night of each month. That is when shops stay open late, impromptu musicians set up around the square, and temporary vendors display their wares. On other days of the month, however, there is plenty to eat, see and buy. Antiques, home decor, gifts and clothing stores abound with names such as Bleu 32, Faded Farmhouse, The Linen Duck, Needle and Grain, Mum’s the Word and Oak & Lace. Duck River Books is especially popular with its autographed copies, large secondhand book selections and unique gift items. Even the walls have been autographed!
Columbia has plenty of dining options, but around the square you will want to check out Hattie Jane’s Creamery, Puckett’s, Southern Tre Steakhouse and Square Market and Cafe.
Columbia has the nickname of Muletown, probably because of its annual Mule Day event held in April. A colorful painted mule mural is on the side of The Linen Duck. It’s a fun place to pose for a photograph.
5. Quaint shops of Leiper's Fork
Leiper’s Fork is a tiny village suburb of Franklin, Tennessee, with an artsy vibe and a casual, almost-cowboy attitude. You are very likely to find items for sale that are almost one-of-a-kind in their uniqueness. With Leiper’s Fork’s proximity to Nashville and its country music emphasis, you’ll be sure to see plenty of boots and guitars woven into shops’ decor and merchandise.
Puckett’s Grocery anchors the several block area, but other eateries feature burgers, candy and ice cream.
Get away from chain stores and traffic
Nashville abounds with every name-brand retail store and chain restaurant imaginable. That is great if you are content with a cookie-cutter experience. However, if you want to explore the area’s history, famous people and events before and after the Civil War, if you want to spend the night in antebellum luxury, or if you want to find an item for your home or closet that is filled with a singular personality, then drive outside the city limits and investigate Columbia, Spring Hill and Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee.
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