After you've had your fill of Nashville's country music scene, it may be time for a change of scenery -- and a taste of the real country. Heading out in any direction from Nashville, you'll hit the Tennessee hills. These are the hills famous for their walking horses and sour-mash whiskey. They also hold historic towns and Civil War battlefields that are well worth visiting.
Distilleries, Horses & a Battlefield
Though Tennessee was last to secede from the Union, the Civil War came early to the state, and 3 years of being on the front lines left Tennessee with a legacy written in blood. More Civil War battles were fought here than in any other state except Virginia, and the bloodiest of these was the Battle of Stones River, which took place 30 miles south of Nashville, near the city of Murfreesboro. Today this battle is commemorated at the Stones River National Battlefield.
In the 2 decades that followed the war, Tennessee quickly recovered and developed two of the state's most famous commodities -- Tennessee sippin' whiskey and Tennessee walking horses. Another 45 miles or so south of Murfreesboro, you can learn about both of these time-honored Tennessee traditions.
For those who are not connoisseurs of sour-mash whiskeys, Tennessee whiskey is not bourbon. This latter whiskey, named for Bourbon County, Kentucky, where it was first distilled, is made much the same way, but it is not charcoal-mellowed the way fine Tennessee sour-mash whiskey is.
If you're a rock-and-roots music fan planning a Tennessee road trip, don't miss the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, about 60 miles southeast of Nashville. This wild, 4-day outdoor concert event -- held every June and rapidly becoming one of the hottest live music events in the country -- conjures up a laid-back, hippie vibe on a grassy, 700-acre farm not far from Jack Daniel's and George Dickel's noted whiskey distilleries (in Lynchburg and Tullahoma, respectively).
Bring your camping gear and sense of free-spirited abandon to Bonnaroo. In between sets by such diverse headliners such the Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, Norah Jones, Jimmy Cliff, and Jeff Beck, browse the eccentric village scene for other entertaining diversions and eye-popping people-watching. For more information, visit www.bonnaroo.com.