For my list of 50 places I’ve never been the year I turn 50, I’m hitting some big tourist destinations like Italy and Iceland. I’m going to ‘best of’ spots like Jackson Hole, Wyoming and ‘girlfriend getaway’ favorite Key West. And then there is trip number 4… Tullahoma, Tennessee. It’s ok if you’ve never heard of it. I hadn’t either.
Tullahoma is a small town a little over an hour outside of Nashville. Admittedly, life moves a little slower there. Don’t be fooled though. In 24 hours, I experienced new things, saw beautiful sights, learned a little about history, tasted delicious food and met a few characters along the way.
For me, that is everything you need to have a great trip.
Take the Bell Buckle Cafe. Y’all (keep reading and you’ll understand why this calls for the use of the word y’all..), the Bell Buckle Cafe is home to the R.C. Cola & Moon Pie Festival. Just 450 people call Bell Buckle home but the cafe brings in people from all over…serving up comfort food with a heaping side of Southern hospitality.
The cafe is a throwback to a simpler time when prices were low and meals didn’t list calories (trust me, we are better off not knowing here!) The menu is simple. The food doesn’t need fancy descriptions. It’s just plain good.
It’s like going in back in time to the days when a veggie plate included turnip greens, pickled beets and green beans like Grandma used to make. There is no kale or quinoa to be found. The tough choice was between fried biscuits or homemade cornbread. I kept waiting for Guy Fieri to show up with the Diners, Drive-In’s and Dive’s crew.
My next stop was the George Dickel, Cascade Hollow distillery to buy a bottle of Whisky Advocate’s Whisky of the year. You probably haven’t heard of it either. No doubt you know the more famous Jack Daniel’s whiskey which is distilled 12 miles southwest of Tullahoma in Lynchburg.
Score one for the little guys! The news of the recognition is expected to be a big boost for the area.
From there it was time to see some of the beautiful waterfalls for which the area is known. There Machine Falls is part of the Short Springs State Natural Area Trail. There’s also Ovoca and Cascade Falls.
At Rutledge Falls, an intriguing statue watches over the falls. Turns out it was taken down during a renovation at the old Tennessee State House. The property owner got permission to take it and aptly named it ‘The Lady of the Falls’. She’s been watching over the falls ever since 1958.
She’s a bit creepy at first glance. I was thankful I had Google to give me some perspective.
Admittedly, the ice hanging from the natural landscape kept us from spending too long out there… but it sure was beautiful! I hear it’s a popular place for picnics in the Spring.
Ok, so let’s see. Amazing food. Check.
Beautiful views. Check.
Time for a new experience. I’ve never smoked a cigar. That’s right. I’m 50 years old and I’ve never even tried it. Tullahoma was about to change that.
Enter Scott and Wendy McCain. They are the delightful owners of the 4 the Win Cigar Shop and Lounge. It’s named after the idea that you can come there to celebrate life’s victories big or small.
The vibe is chill. Upcycled items are used throughout the space, blending rustic with modern.
The real story is I never would have had the chance to experience it if it hadn’t been for Scott’s own mile marker.
He lost his big corporate job and found himself unexpectedly facing an uncertain future. But instead of going down the traditional path… he decided to bet on himself. With his wife’s support, they sold a bunch of their stuff including their house and downsized to a rental, putting everything into their plan to build Scott’s dream. They are loving it! Sometimes those tough mile markers are blessings in disguise, rerouting us to where we are meant to be.
Scott knows EVERYTHING about cigars. Each one has a unique profile from how it’s made to how it tastes. Like wine, most people have a particular preference. I answered a few of Scott’s questions then let them select one for me. Surprisingly, it had a bit of a sweet taste.
Yes, I realize I look completely unnatural. The regulars there, along with Scott and Wendy, were patient and kind to deal with my shenanigans.
New experience. Check.
A last stop for a beer at The Ole Shed Brewery , a quick duck into the Beechcraft Heritage Museum , and before I knew it my 24 hours in Tullahoma were over. By the way, the museum exists because of a cool chic who beat Amelia Earhart and a bunch of guys in an airplane race back in the day! Another mile marker!
You won’t find Tullahoma on any must-do travel list but big cities aren’t the only places that offer you an enjoyable break from your normal and the chance to expand your world or soak in a different culture. This country is made up of tiny towns where you can learn, see and experience new things.
Tullahoma is not a tourist mecca but that worked out great for me. It’s lovely just the same.