Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

Tennessee: Meeting in the middle

Courtesy Tennessee Department of Tourism

Andrew Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Jack Daniel — some of the biggest names in the Volunteer State’s past and present hail from middle Tennessee.

For decades, Nashville has been the state’s premier destination for celebrity sightings — they don’t call it Music City U.S.A. for nothing. But country crooners aren’t the only public figures to call Nashville home: Long before the advent of music recording, Jackson settled at the Hermitage.

Music is the driving force in Hurricane Mills, where Lynn, the “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” has opened a guest ranch that includes several museums, concert events and lodging facilities. And in Lynchburg, generations of distillers have upheld the tradition of Jack Daniel’s “Old No. 7” whiskey.

Each of these sites makes a great stop on a group tour through middle Tennessee. They are also part of various driving trails that begin and end in Nashville: the Screaming Eagle Trail, the Promised Land Trail and the Jack Trail.

The Hermitage
Both before and after his term as the seventh president of the United States, Jackson lived at the Hermitage, a mansion he built on his large farm near Nashville. Today, the estate sits within the city limits and is one of Nashville’s most important historic sites.

On a tour of the Hermitage, visitors get a close look at the lifestyle that Jackson enjoyed in the early 1800s.

“The cool thing about the Hermitage is that 95 percent of what visitors see here is original to the home and the Jackson family,” said Jason Nelson, vice president of marketing. “You walk in the front parlor, and the wallpaper is original from Jackson’s day. You look inside the rooms and see Jackson’s glasses and sword. You see where the family sat.”

Historic preservation and extensive archaeology have helped the curatorial staff to amass a collection of some 800,000 artifacts from the Hermitage. Some of these sit inside the house as furnishings and decorations; many more are on exhibit at an on-site museum, which highlights images of Jackson and his family, as well as furniture no longer used in the house.

During a tour, groups often visit the home and the garden where the president and his family are buried. Some also choose to explore the 1,120-acre property.

“We have a walking trail that goes a mile and a half through the whole property,” Nelson said. “We also have opportunities for folks to take a horse-drawn carriage to the outskirts of the property where the slave cabins are.”

Loretta Lynn Ranch
Hurricane Mills
Lynn became a country music legend with a string of hits, including the autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Today, groups can learn more about the singer, her life and a host of other interesting topics at the Loretta Lynn Ranch, about an hour’s drive west of Nashville.

Visits to the ranch can include any number of components, from a quick tour to an overnight stay in one of the on-site cabins. Most groups that visit take a guided tour through Lynn’s plantation home and then spend some time exploring the Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum.

The 18,000-square-foot museum presents an overview of Lynn’s life and music career, with hundreds of pieces of music memorabilia from the singer and her show-business friends.

Guided tours are also available at Butcher Holler Home Place, which simulates the rural Kentucky town where Lynn was born and raised, as well as the simulated coal mine.

Visitors can also take self-guided tours through the Frontier Homestead, a re-created historic area with cabins and antique tools; the Native American Artifact Museum, which features more than 5,000 Indian historic items and pieces of artwork; and the Grist Mill and Doll Museum.

Jack Daniel’s Distillery
Although he died some time ago, Jack Daniel’s name and legacy live on in the whiskey that has become perhaps the most famous product of Tennessee. At the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, visitors learn about the special geographical features of the region that help make its whiskey stand out.

“Jack Daniel moved here in 1866 because of the limestone cave spring water that is used in the distilling process,” said Roger Brashears, promotions director at the distillery.

Besides the limestone spring water, Jack Daniel’s distillers use a special open-air charcoal-mellowing process that distinguishes Tennessee whiskey from other whiskeys made in the South. Visitors get to see the process in detail during a distillery tour.

“We take visitors through every step of the distilling process,” Brashears said. “We take them to the wood yard where we make the charcoal, then go by the cave spring, the mill where all the grain comes in and is processed, and into the distillery building. Then you go into the mash, where it’s put in big barrels to ferment.”

After a spin through a bottling facility and warehouse, guests end up at a special gift shop in the visitors center, where they can buy special commemorative bottles of the whiskey. The tour does not include tastings, however — the distillery is located in a dry county.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.