Located just an hour north of Nashville, Clarksville is a bustling town. I found five of the best sites that you must include on your list to explore in Clarksville. In 2019, the town was named one of the best places to live by Money Magazine. It became evident as I explored Clarksville, the town has a lot to offer. The Saturday farmer’s market in historic downtown was busy. People carried cartons of strawberries and other farm-fresh items to their cars. Parking is free on the weekends.
As I explored downtown Clarksville, I found a statue of Clarksville native Frank Sutton on Franklin Street. Sutton played Sgt. Carter on Gomer Pyle, USMC, in the 1960s.
I learned that Clarksville was founded on tobacco production and ironworks. The town was a money center in the 1800s and served as a port on the Cumberland River which made it a target during the Civil War.
Entering the gothic-styled building, I was reminded of the Biltmore in Asheville. The building originally served as the post office for Clarksville. I marveled at the history of the area as I viewed the Jaycees exhibit. Here visitors can learn the full of history of Clarksville. There are several athletic stars from Clarksville but 1960 Olympic track star Wilma Rudolph stood out to me. She is interred in Edgefield Missionary Church Cemetery.
At Fort Defiance, Tracy Jepsen walked me through Clarksville’s Civil War history. Fort Defiance was an earthen fort. It used the topography of the area to defend the fort. While not a museum, Fort Defiance provides the perspective of Clarksville’s Civil War experience. I learned Clarksville was a leader in tobacco and iron production in the 1860s and why it was so important to the war. The museum run by the City of Clarksville is free to visit.
Historic Collinsville is a collection of seventeen historic buildings. Many have been moved to the location from both Montgomery and Stewart counties. Linda Ebel, assistant director of tourism in Clarksville, gave me a walking tour of the buildings and the stories behind each one. Linda took on the management of the site and fell in love with the location, history, and purpose each structure represents. In the 1800s, if you couldn’t plant it, hunt it, or fish for it, you didn’t have it. Children enjoy immersive time exploring the site. There is plenty to see in its forty acres.
Begun by the Weakley family to teach visitors about life in the 1800s, Visit Clarksville continues that education with the preservation of the site. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the seventeen buildings. Tours are easily accessible on the weekends through October. Be sure and check the website for any upcoming events or concerts, this place is a natural music venue.
Dedicated to the men and women of the 101st Airborne Division, the Don Pratt Museum at Fort Campbell celebrates the eighty-plus-year history of Screaming Eagles. Interestingly, the Fort straddles the state line of Tennessee and Kentucky and is the second largest military installation in the world.
The small park in front of the museum displays aircraft that have served the Screaming Eagles. Be sure to see the memorials outside the 101st headquarters building. They are a reminder to visitors of the sacrifice our military members and their families give to our country. The headquarters building is designed in the form of eagles’ wings.
Cave tours are always fun and are full of stories. Dunbar was once owned by Grand Old Opry star, Roy Acuff. He purchased the cave in 1948 and it served as a resort and concert venue. An important tip, do not forget to bring a flashlight; the cave is unlit. Tours are $18. Be sure to book tours in advance, they can fill up quickly.
Wine and Spirits in Clarksville
Old Glory Distilling began four and half years ago when two Clarksville brothers, Matt and Wes Cunningham, began making spirits. Today, they enjoy a well-earned reputation of fine small-batch Bourbon, Vodka, and Gin. In order to keep their employees working during the year of Covid, they pivoted to making hand sanitizer. They donated gallons of the stuff in the Clarksville area.
While only available locally and in Tennesse, the spirits are being readied for a significant increase in production with sparkling new equipment coming online soon. Tours at Old Glory include the small but impressive production floor and bottling area as well as learning about the methods used to make the spirits created at Old Glory.
Tastings at Old Glory are $5 and be sure to check out the State Line Whiskey tour which includes two other distilleries. After your tasting, you may want to have a cocktail at the bar.
In 2021, Old Glory broke ground on a new barrel house that will substantially expand its business. The hand bottling of the spirits while a bit lengthy makes quality control easy. Unfortunately, in the short term, there is a glass shortage so bottling may be a brief issue. As with Covid, Old Glory will overcome any brief interruption in the creation of their pleasing distilled spirits.
Old Glory will be back to hosting events beginning in June. Drop in and have a glass of fine Tennessee spirits or enjoy a crafted libation at the bar.
Beachaven Winery is celebrating its 36th year in June. Owner and winemaker Wilson Cooke shared the story of Beachaven, now in its third generation of a family-owned winery. Rebecca and Wilson both grew up at the winery. Started by Wilson’s grandfather, William O. Beach, Beachaven’s reputation is cemented in the Clarksville area. Travelers from across the county stop by as they travel north and south on I-24 for their favorite vintage.
I admit I had reservations about Tennessee wine. I am happy to say I found the offerings very pleasing to the palate. Wilson said his challenge today is to “make what we are growing into a premium product.” After indulging in an extended tasting, charcuterie board, and a tour through the winery on a hectic Saturday afternoon, it was clear that Beachaven has cemented its reputation in Clarksville. Its large list of wines is delicious and plentiful.
Wilson explained that the carved barrels heads that adorn the walls of winery are the work of Claus “Dutch” Mann. Dutch was a World War II vet, having served with the 101st Airborne and an educator. He completed 83 barrel heads before his death in 2017. You won’t find art like this just anywhere.
Beachaven’s outdoor space and the gorgeous weather brought people out to enjoy the offerings of Cousins Maine Lobster food truck and Beachaven’s impressive list of wines. Tastings are $5 and charcuterie boards are a delicious accompaniment. Drop by and enjoy a weekend afternoon of music and wine beneath the trees.
Tasty food recommendations in Clarksville
The historic downtown has dozens of food options to try. Here are the six I experienced during my short journey.
Hot Pita is a new player in the food scene in historic downtown Clarksville. Having only opening about a month, customers have found it. The Fajita chicken was quick and tasty.
Strawberry Alley is a busy brewery and restaurant. My waitress was happy to make recommendations. She noticed that I had bought macaroons from Madeline’s for dessert. “We do that too.” She told me of the wait staff. The service was excellent, and my Blackened Fish taco’s hit the spot. The view of the river was a pleasing addition.
Entering Madeline’s downtown bakery and restaurant, I was back in Paris on a busy Saturday morning. The music and décor are reminiscent of a small Paris bistro. The menu is simple, as many bistros serve. I enjoyed a tasty breakfast as I viewed the case of beckoning desserts. I did return that evening to purchase some macaroons for dessert.
There was a bit of a wait at Liberty Park Grill on a busy Sunday evening. I sat at the bar and enjoyed a libation, appetizer, and friendly chat with the bartender. Service was quick, and my egg rolls made a tasty conclusion to a day of learning the history of the area.
Mornings are a busy time at Yada. A meeting held at a nearby table; worker’s on their way to the office, everyone comes in for a morning coffee. In the evening, Yada features a full-service bar. A light breakfast got my day off to a good start.
Brunch at the Mad Herbalist is a treat. While I enjoyed a flight of freshly blended teas, I learned how the teas were selected and blended. My brunch of tomato basil soup, vegetable frittata, and banana bread was served on a three-tiered tray. Delicious! They serve lunch Thursday-Saturday and brunch on Sundays. This is a wonderful way to enjoy a Sunday brunch or an afternoon tea sampling with friends.
Only an hour’s drive north of Nashville, Clarksville offers a real small-town feel. There are plenty of things to do. There are certainly many more than five sites to explore in Clarksville. Learning the history of the area, enjoying the food, the winery, and the distilleries will keep you engaged and happy.
The architecture will delight in Clarksville, the churches are abundant as are murals. An after dinner stroll along the scenic Cumberland River that runs along the edge of town is a pleasant way to conclude seeing the five best sites in Clarksville.
Be sure to follow my next journeys at Roadrunner Journeys.