Bible Belt Exploration
November 10, 2011 7:26 PM   Subscribe

Help me navigate this area and tell me some good locations for day or weekend trips within a 200 mile radius of where I currently live (East Tennessee).... Tired of Gatlinburg and the 500 candy shops they have.

I'm relatively new to the area (2 years) and I've been to Smokies/Gatlingburg/Sevierville/Pigeon Forge more times than I can count.

I should mention I live in Knoxville - so I pretty much know the place inside and out.

We have also been to Nashville (okay, just once for 8 hours) and up and down 75 from Knoxville to Chattanooga about 40 times.

I'm looking to explore areas where we can drive to that won't take more than 3 hours. Also places where we won't get bored after 4 hours.

Places on my list are Asheville (not really interested in Biltmore as it seems super expensive) Lexington, KY (although not interested in horses) and Louisville, KY. What do you think of these places?

As for Atlanta, I'm working on that - my boyfriend lived there recently for 5 years and isn't really up for a visit.

Are Bristol/Johnson City/Kingston worth a two hour trip? I know nothing about them other than they stand out on the map.

I guess I'm looking for a place with a cool downtown walking area not ridden with crime... preferably (but not a must) with a night life.

Things we enjoy:

-pubs, coffee houses, breweries/distilleries
-museums (history, science, civil rights, weird stuff)
-shopping (thrift stores, record shops, farmers markets, unique stuff)
-live music/porch music
-animals/farms open to the public

note: we usually ignore expensive art galleries, quilt stores, horse back riding, churches and spas

Since winter is coming, I'm not really looking for outdoorsy river/lake/camping areas like Cherokee. We also don't ski.

I guess we wouldn't be opposed to less thriving areas as long as there's something to do other than hang out in a cabin/hotel/B&B.

Will consider trips 3-4.5 hours long if the place sounds great. I thought of Birmingham... but I'm still getting used to the South... and for some reason I associate Birmingham with deep deep conservative south - and I've also heard the crime rate there is pretty horrible. Correct me if I'm wrong, though.
posted by KogeLiz to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Asheville is exactly what you're looking for.
posted by elizeh at 7:29 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lexington checks all your boxes, too.
posted by raisingsand at 7:37 PM on November 10, 2011

If you come to Nashville again check out the Yazoo Brewery, they do tours on Saturdays. One of my old bosses was telling me he enjoyed visiting historic Rugby, TN.

Once it gets warm again (and it's not hunting season) Land Between the Lakes is pretty cool.
posted by ghharr at 7:48 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Louisville's pretty much got it covered. You'd do okay in Lexington, too, but Louisville sounds like a better fit. (FWIW, I grew up in Lexington, lived in Louisville for 12 years, and moved back to Lexington four years ago for work).
posted by dilettante at 8:00 PM on November 10, 2011

Best answer: If you want a good place sort of on your way to Louisville, you've got Mammoth Cave, Cave City, and Dinosaur World going up I-65 from Nashville to Louisville. Those are some definite sites to see. LBL is pretty cool when it's warmer (and only 20-45 minutes from me, depending where in the lakes you'll be! Let me know if you're coming this way!) Oh, and there's the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, if Bourbon is your thing. If you have anything in Kentucky in Louisville, Lexington, or anywhere in western KY that you want to run by me, let me know too.
posted by deezil at 8:25 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Museum of Appalachia. Google it for directions from Knoxville and a little flavor of the place. If you had been there on July 4th, for instance, you would have seen the anvil tossing. It's a fun day trip.
posted by Old Geezer at 8:53 PM on November 10, 2011

Best answer: Asheville is great. So much beer! There's even an organized beer tour. If you need shoes, Tops for Shoes has lots of weird sizes / variety. Biltmore is overpriced, but the house is pretty amazing. Asheville is also a liberal enclave.

Flat Rock, NC has the Carl Sandburg home, which is neat. His wife was a noted dairy goat breeder, as well, and they still have a herd and you can tour the bottling facilities. Brevard is nearby, but it's pretty quilt-store-y.

Don't go to the Tri Cities (and that's Kingsport) unless you have a specific thing you want to do there. Kingsport has an art walk downtown which is kinda neat, but not worth a two-hour drive. The Carter Family Fold is near there in Hiltons, VA if you like bluegrass, but it's probably closed for the season.

I think Jonesboro, TN still has storytelling festivals, and it has Depot Street Brewing, but not much else.

I went to Rugby, TN as a kid, and it was pretty cool. My parents seemed to enjoy it, too. I think we went for a homecoming weekend when they had a bunch of demonstrators.
posted by momus_window at 10:33 PM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Louisville has the Hillerich & Bradsby bat factory and museum. And Farmington, a plantation house that is much the way it was in The Old Days. And the Bardstown Road area has unique shops and such, similar to Gatlinburg without all the fudge. You can get a good weekend out of the normal stuff there, and if you hit a festival or other "event" stuff it can be a unique experience.

Errrr... and My Old Kentucky Home is nearby too...
posted by Billiken at 8:56 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Chattanooga and flew the coop as quickly as possible. Dullsville with emetic doses of religiosity.

It's become a Destination. See the Chattanoogan, which has interesting things listed. Wikipedia also has good stuff.

If you can get there on a clear day (not so easy, since the city is ringed by mountains) Point Park on Lookout Mountain has a gorgeous overview.

The Plum Nelly Shop has an amazing ratio of good to tacky.

The tiny town of Rising Fawn, GA has a famous concentration of potters, including Charles Counts and the many people he has influenced.

Have you been to Monteagle? While I haven't been there for a while, there are gorgeous views, and Suwanee is nearby with the beautiful University of the South campus.
posted by KRS at 1:56 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

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