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The Charms of Crossville

In the early 1800s, Tennessee pioneers considered Crossville—crisscrossed by the Great Stage Road, which connected Nashville to Knoxville, and the Kentucky Stock Road—little more than a pit stop. Today the city still serves as a place to recharge, thanks to its quiet pace, country inns and stunning mountain views. But it’s also home to charming boutiques and lively theatrical productions. It makes a great base for adventure, too: 8 state parks and natural areas are no more than 45 minutes away, and with 10 golf courses, the area has earned a reputation as the Golf Capital of Tennessee. No longer is the city a mere stopping place for people on their way to somewhere else; Crossville is now a destination in its own right.

Crossville’s transformation into a golf haven is owed to its topography. As it rises nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, on any given day its temperature is a good 10 degrees milder than that in cities such as Knoxville, Nashville or Chattanooga. Here, lakes curve into manicured greens and fairways afford sweeping views of mountain vistas.

Feeling adventurous? Cross the Cumberland River and venture into East Nashville, a once-gritty area where trendy shops and restaurants have popped up along streets lined by humble bungalows. In the Five Points neighborhood, The area’s premier course is the par 72 Stonehenge, part of the Fairfield Glade community and considered one of the top public courses in the state. Home to two Tennessee PGA tournaments, Stonehenge gets its name from its dramatic stone outcroppings, which come into play on several holes. Another standout is the par 72 Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain State Park, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course that incorporates natural obstacles, such as pine trees and flowing streams.

Golfing and retirement communities have emerged around Crossville’s courses, making weekday tee times as hard to snag as those on Saturday. Still, most courses are open to visitors with advance reservations. And the area’s courses are relatively affordable: Bear Trace has an 18-hole winter season greens fee of $36, which includes a cart.

Crossville may be small, but it’s filled with boutiques and restaurants. You’ll find a delightful mishmash of candles, vintage furniture and women’s accessories, such as scarves and totes, at the Screen Door, on Main Street. Just a few doors down, Cahoots general store carries a wide selection of Southern cookbooks, as well as cookies made nearby. For women’s Western boots, patterned dresses and Pandora charms, head to Gigi’s Boutique. Speaking of Western boots, you’ll find lots of those—plus metal belt buckles and Wild West-inspired toys—at French’s Shoes & Boots, also on North Main Street.

On nearby Fourth Street, Forte’s on the Square is housed in a building that dates from 1903. The family-owned restaurant has weathered brick walls, a tin ceiling and a sign at the bar that explains the building’s colorful past (back in the day, soldiers fraternized with women in its parlor). Today the friendly staff serves black-eyed-pea salad, balsamic-glazed pork chops and plates of crisply fried shrimp.

Wrap up your tour of downtown with tastings at Crossville’s two wineries: Chestnut Hill Winery, whose shop stocks made-in-Tennessee gifts (from bottle openers to homemade fudge), and the family-owned Stonehaus Winery. Both carry wide selections, including a sweet wine with notes of peaches, and offer free tastings.

Crossville has 2 powerhouse entertainment venues. The Cumberland County Playhouse is among the largest theaters in rural America, drawing 145,000 people annually to its 2 theaters. The venue regularly features plays and concerts linked to Tennessee and Appalachian culture. And in central downtown, the 3-story Palace Theatre is one of Crossville’s most recognizable landmarks. Its neon marquee has blazed since 1938, when it was a movie house and stage for Grand Ole Opry musicians passing through town. It now welcomes artists such as local singer Ashley Krohn and bluegrass singer Marty Raybon.

Nature lovers will delight in the area around Crossville. Eight state parks and natural areas—including Fall Creek Falls State Park, with its many waterfalls, and wildflower-filled Standing Stone State Park—are within a 45-minute drive. The closest is Cumberland Mountain State Park, a New Deal-era housing site created along with a 1,720-acre recreation area. Here you’ll find an Olympic-size pool, hiking trails and a 35-acre fishable lake teeming with bass, bluegill and catfish. The park’s Southern restaurant, Homestead Harvest, has a loyal following; the popular Friday buffet features fried local catfish and old-fashioned sides, such as mashed potatoes and gravy.

Near downtown Crossville, Centennial Park has everything from tennis and sand volleyball to walking trails and horseshoe pits. And in neighboring Fairfield Glade, Wildwood Stables has 30 horses and offers regular trail rides over hills and streams. In the cooler months, the stable’s horse-drawn-wagon rides are a hit with families, in no small part because of the post-ride s’more roasts—the perfect ending to a weekend getaway in Tennessee.

NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.