When planning a vacation to Tennessee, Nashville may be the first city that comes to mind. However, if you’re looking for a smaller town with plenty of charm and attractions, Clarksville, Tennessee is the place for you. Just an hour’s drive north of Music City, Clarksville has plenty of things to see and do. It offers a unique experience you won’t find in Nashville.
My first visit to Clarksville was last June. I was with several other writers as part of a press trip. I fell in love with the area, and I think you would enjoy it too. Here are some reasons you should choose Clarksville instead of Nashville as your next vacation destination.
Visit Clarksville hosted my visit. All opinions are my own.
There’s a Quaint Downtown Area
Clarksville’s downtown area is picturesque and filled with restaurants, shops, public art, and historic architecture. While Nashville has its charm, it’s hard to escape the hustle and bustle of a big city. Conversely, Clarksville provides a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere, making it perfect for a more laid-back vacation full of Southern hospitality.
It’s a More Affordable Destination
One of the biggest reasons to choose Clarksville is the affordability of accommodations. While Nashville has a booming tourism industry, Clarksville offers an affordable experience that is less likely to break the bank.
From chain hotels to unique bed and breakfasts, you can find a comfortable and affordable place to stay in Clarksville that allows you to stretch your vacation budget further. Many accommodations will welcome your dog too.
During our visit, we enjoyed staying at the Holiday Inn, Clarksville Northeast. It had great amenities and was very clean. We enjoyed the popcorn and chocolate-chip cookies at the front desk for guests.
Clarksville Offers Nature and Outdoor Adventure
Clarksville is known for its outdoor activities and natural beauty. It is located on the scenic Cumberland River and is surrounded by lush forests, making it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.
Visitors can kayak, canoe, or tube down the Cumberland River, fish in local streams, go mountain biking, or take a walk in one of the many parks.
The Cumberland Riverwalk is a two-mile meandering walkway and offers a scenic view of the Cumberland River. Be sure to stop at the As the River Flows Museum in the Cumberland River Center and learn about the fascinating history of Clarksville’s development from that very spot along the river.
The Dunbar Cave State Park has an educational guided cave tour with fun Clarksville history. It is the only public cave in the world with visible 14th-century Native American art.
The area also features several golf courses.
And if you’re visiting in the fall, check out the River and Spires Festival for live entertainment, street vendors, and various food options.
It Has Historical Significance
Clarksville is rich in history, making it an ideal destination for history buffs. The city played a significant role in the Civil War. Fort Defiance Civil War Park & Interpretive Center and Customs House Museum & Cultural Center are popular spots to explore the city’s history.
Clarksville is the birthplace of famous country singer, Roy Acuff. Wilma Rudolph, the Olympic Runner, and Pat Head Summitt, basketball star and coach, also hailed from the area.
There’s Interesting Military History
Fort Campbell, the home of the 101st Airborne Division, is minutes away, across the Tennessee/Kentucky border. There, you can learn about the military history of the area. The Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum displays artifacts and exhibits relating to the paratroopers of Fort Campbell.
Many business owners in Clarksville originally came to the area when they were in the military and fell in love with it. Once discharged, they came back to the area with their families to build a business.
Clarksville Has a Family-Friendly Atmosphere
Clarksville is a great place for families wanting to spend quality time together. Plenty of parks, playgrounds, and outdoor spaces allow you to have a picnic, go biking, or simply relax.
Additionally, there are a lot of kid-friendly attractions in Clarksville, such as the Wade Bourne Nature Center.
It’s Less Crowded
You can escape the hustle and bustle of the big city here. Compared to Nashville, Clarksville is smaller and much less crowded than Nashville. This means shorter lines at popular attractions and less road traffic, making for a more relaxed vacation experience.
There Are Unique Local Dining Options
Clarksville has a growing food and drinks scene. From classic Southern comfort food to international cuisine, Clarksville has a diverse dining scene that will satisfy your cravings. Take advantage of trying some local specialties, such as hot chicken or barbecue while you’re here.
I highly recommend visiting Legends Smokehouse & Grille for their Pork-N-Roll. It is absolutely scrumptious. They warm a cinnamon roll, then add pulled pork and BBQ sauce on top.
Another local favorite is The Mailroom. A former federal building, it is one of Clarksville’s newest restaurants. It also has a large outdoor seating area overlooking part of the city.
You can’t go wrong at Edward’s Steakhouse if you’re hungry for steak.
For a unique food experience, visit the Mad Herbalist for tea or lunch. They serve custom blended teas and shareable tiers with a seasonal menu.
You Can Visit Local Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries
Beer lovers will appreciate the growing craft beer scene in Clarksville. The city has several local breweries offering unique flavors and styles. My favorites were The Blackstone, Strawberry Alley Ale Works, and the Tennessee Valley Brewing Company.
The Beachaven Vineyard & Winery is a three-generation winery with over 25 wines on the menu. We could walk through the vineyard and look at the grapes when we visited. We got a glimpse into the winemaking process, from learning how they pick the grapes through the entire process until they prepare for bottling. The best part of our tour was tasting some of their fabulous wines.
Or visit The Vine on Franklin in the middle of downtown. It is Clarksville’s only wine bar and has a wine list from all over the world. They serve charcuterie, desserts, and other small bites if desired. I enjoyed a white wine from Australia.
Old Glory Distilling, home of fine Tennessee Bourbon and other whiskey, has a restaurant, tours, and a tasting room.
There’s Plenty of Shopping
You won’t find big-name stores in Clarksville, but there are lots of boutiques and unique items available. A great place to shop is Miss Lucille’s Marketplace. They have antiques, jewelry, crafts, and one-of-a-kind items. While you are there, grab lunch at Miss Lucille’s Cafe.
You Can Take an Easy Day Trip to Nashville
Last but not least, choosing to stay in Clarksville doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all that Nashville offers. With just a 45-minute drive, you can easily visit Music City for a day trip and return to the more peaceful atmosphere of Clarksville at night.
This makes it the perfect place to stay if you want to experience both cities during your trip.
If you’re looking for an alternative vacation destination from Nashville or want to experience a new side of Tennessee, Clarksville is worth a visit. From affordable accommodations to hidden gems and outdoor activities, you will find it in this quaint and charming city.