By Rebecca Denton
Vacationers who find their way to Maury County are sure to linger awhile – and come back often.
This Middle Tennessee county, about an hour’s drive south of Nashville, offers the best of country living, with stately historic homes, century-old magnolia trees, rolling farmland, one-of-a-kind restaurants, boutique shops and plenty of outdoor fun. Columbia, the county seat and largest city, is famous for its annual Mule Day celebration and features a charming and vibrant downtown where visitors can shop, dine – and even take a scenic stroll along a paved trail by the Duck River.
Ties to History
Often called the Antebellum Homes Capital of Tennessee, Maury County is home to more than 300 houses and historic sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the most famous is the former residence of James K. Polk, the 11th president of the United States, in Columbia. Built in 1816 by Polk’s father, the James K. Polk Ancestral Home is furnished with personal and household items used by the former president.
Also in Columbia is the Athenaeum Rectory‚ which was built in 1835 in Moorish-Gothic architectural style. The rectory is all that stands today of the girls-only school, which taught young women everything that well-educated young men would have learned at that time. The site hosts an annual week where young girls dress in 1861 period costumes and take classes that would have been offered when the Athenaeum was in full operation.
Spring Hill boasts several antebellum homes‚ including Rippavilla Plantation‚ an 1852 Greek Revival antebellum home where five Confederate generals ate breakfast just before they were killed in the Battle of Franklin. Rippavilla also offers a popular corn maze that attracts about 20,000 people each fall. Click here to watch a video that takes you inside Rippavilla.
Behind Rippavilla Plantation sits the Tennessee Museum of Early Farm Life, where visitors can see horse- and mule-drawn equipment dating back to the early 1800s. The museum, located inside two salvaged barns, is open Fridays and Saturdays from April through October.
Other history-related attractions include the Mount Pleasant/Maury Museum of Local History, Zion Church and Cemetery and Maury County Archives.
Fun for the Family
A springtime tradition in Columbia since the mid-1800s, Mule Day is the city’s best-known attraction. As many as 300‚000 people stream into the city each season for a four-day weekend that includes working-mule shows‚ arts and crafts‚ a liars’ contest‚ a beauty pageant‚ a pancake breakfast and square dancing. The highlight is a Mule Day Parade on Saturday morning.
Events abound year-round, with the Columbia Spring Jubilee Walking Horse Show held in late May or early June, while fall offers the Spring Hill Country Ham Festival and the Southern Fried Festival, a weekend filled with live music and Southern cooking.
Most children love trains, and plenty of adults do, too. In Columbia, folks of all ages can ride miniature versions of the venerable engines at Maury County Park. The Mid-South Live Steamers group brings its scaled-down trains to the park for free public rides on the park’s track each fall and spring.
The Duck River, which flows through Maury County, offers plenty of opportunities for canoeing and fishing. This waterway is deep and quick-flowing enough for experienced paddlers, but it’s easily managed by beginners.
For anglers, the Williamsport Lakes Management Area features four fishing lakes with boat rental available.
Maury County is also home to some of the most scenic and enjoyable hiking and cycling areas around. Cyclists can choose from scenic back roads, the Natchez Trace Parkway (which runs 400-plus miles through Maury County to Natchez, Miss.), or a challenging mountain-bike trail at Chickasaw Park.
Visitors won’t leave hungry. Dining options in Maury County range from meat-and-threes to upscale cuisine.
Square Market & Café in downtown Columbia is a bustling place with a menu of gourmet favorites including fresh panini club sandwiches, homemade tomato-artichoke soup, roasted pear salad, baked salmon salad, and its signature dish, the Tennessee Hot Brown. The restaurant also features regular live entertainment.
Down the street on the square in Columbia is Killion’s Coffee & Creamery, which offers specialty coffees, muffins and other treats in a cozy corner spot.
Nett’s Country Store & Deli in Santa Fe, just north of Columbia, is the kind of homey place where you’ll find a mix of people dressed in their Sunday best or hunting gear. This popular meat-and-three offers fried chicken and catfish, frog legs, home-cooked green beans, slaw, grilled chicken-topped salad and other Southern staples. There’s also a regular karaoke night.
Steaks are the specialty at the Ole Lamplighter Inn in Columbia, where diners can get steaks cut right at their table.
Mt. Pleasant Grill in Mount Pleasant offers a range of fresh fare, from jambalaya and ribeyes to burgers and fried-green-tomato sandwiches.
Visitors can also enjoy a seasonal snack at the farmers’ markets in Columbia and Spring Hill.
learn about even more attractions in Maury County, visit www.antebellum.com.