Road Trip: You’ll Want to Play in Nashville’s Big Back Yard

A new spot has emerged on the vacation scene called Nashville’s Big Backyard, and this stretch between Muscle Shoals, AL, and Nashville, TN, makes for a playful fall road trip. 

In three days, you can visit legendary music studios where history was made, hike nature trails and photograph wildlife, and spend time in the recently regentrified and uber quaint town of Leiper’s Fork, sampling local wines and food, perusing galleries, and shopping in boutique stores. 

This trip runs the gamut from downhome to upscale and offers activities for everyone from the sedate to the adventure seekers. You’ll begin in Florence, Alabama, and take a leisurely drive north to Nashville.

Day 1: Start your day at Fame Studios, where the likes of Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and Alicia Keys have recorded their iconic sounds. Then head over to Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and feel the energy of the artists who created their greatest works right here, from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bob Seger, to the Rolling Stones and Mavis Staples. Grab some fried chicken with some southern sides at Claunch Café before exploring Helen Keller’s birthplace and the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House, two homes that tell their own fascinating stories. Quench your thirst at the GunRunner Hotel, where you can also hang your hat for the night. The speakeasy vibe and distinctive rooms are the epitome of gangster chic.

Day 2: Time to explore the great outdoors! Drive north to Lawrenceburg and visit David Crockett State Park, where you can hike to wide, tumbling waterfalls and listen to the hoot of owls and calls of songbirds. Next, take a carriage ride into Amish country courtesy of the Amish Heritage Farm Museum. Stop at roadside stands for apples, bread, and butter toffee, and watch the Amish farm and make molasses using horsepower. Then visit Storytellers Hideaway Farm, where Johnny Cash lived for 30 years and stored his “One piece at a time” car. Next, make your way to the charming Leiper’s Fork in Franklin, TN, and check into a Pot ‘n’ Kettle cottage complete with everything you need to freshen up for an upscale dinner at 1892, where the menu changes daily and every meal is a delicacy. With a full belly, return to your cottage for a cozy night’s sleep. 

Day 3: Wake up to a perfectly brewed coffee from the Redbyrd Coffee Shop, then spend the morning exploring Leiper’s Fork. Pop into one-of-a-kind shops, taste whiskey-barrel aged wine at Wines in the Fork, and visit galleries featuring local and nationally acclaimed artists. Then hop in your car to visit the Elephant Sanctuary and Discovery Center, where you will learn about the rescue and rehabilitation of former circus elephants and how you can help. Enjoy an idyllic landscape and a lovely glass of wine at Amber Falls Winery or, for something a bit stronger, tour the Leiper’s Fork Distillery, featuring a rich and robust whiskey flight. End your day with live music at Puckett’s, where open mic night draws talent from nearby Nashville.

And speaking of Nashville, you are just 45 minutes away from Music City, so extend your stay there or fly out of the Nashville airport to head home. You may need a vacation from your vacation, because Nashville’s Big Backyard will keep you playing!

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Rebecca Becker

Rebecca has been a lifelong writer committed to telling stories that illuminate special people, places, and causes. She writes for local, regional, national, and international publications and is based in Houston. She’s been a lifelong Christian dedicated to bringing that perspective forth and keeping the Christian voice within the larger conversation.