Historic Cookeville; Micropolis of the Upper Cumberland Plateau

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Cookeville is located in middle Tennessee, about an hour from Nashville and an hour and a half from Knoxville. The small city spans about 22 square miles and is the “micropolis,” meaning the largest city of, Putnam County and the Upper Cumberland Plateau.

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Cookeville was formerly Cherokee land, taken over by white settlers in 1805. It was chartered as a town in 1903 and named after one of its early pioneers and state senate members.

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There are a lot of cool murals in Cookeville, and you all know I am drawn to murals like a mothlight, no matter what they are.

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Cookeville is full of gorgeous outdoor adventures and  green spaces. Check out Outdoor Experience before you start your excursions to pick up all the gear you could dream of.

Cummins Falls State Park is my favourite in the area, and you can read my blog about it here.

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Rock Island State Park, Burgess Falls State Park, Pickett State Park, and Standing Stone State Park are all incredible. Below is the Standing Stone Monument.

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Cumberland Mountain State Park was a blast when we visited last summer.

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Bee Rock Overlook is another sweet spot. Check out my blog about our visit!

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Cummins Falls, Burgess Falls, Fall Creek Falls, Ozone Falls, Virgin Falls, and Upper Piney Falls are just a few of the gorgeous waterfalls around Cookeville.  There are also three man-made lakes here including Dale Hollow Lake, Center Hill Lake, and Cordell Hull Lake.

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City Lake Natural Area is the SPOT for fishing, boating, and kayaking.

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There is a nice, paved, 0.6-mile out and back trail surrounded by lush foliage and mayapple plants under a canopy of dozens of tree varieties.

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My pup really enjoyed this walk in the shade, away from the direct sun and gravel of some of our previous adventures.

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There are some abandoned structures on the way to the tiny waterfall, which was rather dry and low today.

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Hidden Hollow Park is an adventure and amusement park. Open hours are oddly unpredictable, even during season, but I had to check out the handmade wooden sign.

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Dogwood Park and Cane Creek Lake/Park are among other parks in the area. Cookeville is sometimes known as the Crossfit Capital, since there are many locations here and one is owned/operated by some world renowned tough guys. Not my thing, look it up.

Cookeville has a Bike Arch much like the one I love in Knoxville, and it serves as a sort of claim to its outdoor haven status.

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There are two historic districts in Cookeville; the Historic Westside District and the Historic North Dixie Avenue District. Historic Westside is “Downtown” Cookeville with all the shops and galleries.

North Dixie Avenue is where you will find older residential homes in varying architectural styles.

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Read more about Cookeville and Putnam County history at the Cookeville History Museum.

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For even more cool area history, check out the Cookeville Depot Museum. When passenger rail usage ended in the 1950s, the depot was left to rot until some local preservation heroes saved it from despair. It became a museum in 1985 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here you can find a broad collection of railway artifacts and some early 1900s steam engines, trains bits, track cars, and equipment.

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The Military Memorial Museum that is technically in Crossville is yet another source of fascinating area history, from local battles to national wars.

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Parts of Cookeville are kind of kooky, and I love it. There was a Doll Museum that recently closed, but you can imagine the sort of spooky horrors it held on display. There is also a gravesite for Dammit the Dog on the Tennessee Tech campus.

The Muddy Pond community has several sects of Amish and Mennonites that contribute so bountifully to the arts, crafts, and gourmet scene in Cookeville, but their stark appearance and mannerisms add a layer of otherworldliness when spotted around town.

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Ellie the Elephant is a giant pink elephant wearing shades that people love to pull over and snap a photo with for the ‘gram. You can find her across the street from the Key West Inn.

I first noticed Ellie in 2011 when June Bug Ranch hosted the first ever Muddy Roots Festival. My friend and I were heavily involved in promotions and networking for the festival, that year and many years to follow. It happens every summer and I am so looking forward to returning.

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Some of my favourite places to pick up coffee, food, and other treats include Soul Craft Coffee, Seven Senses, Father Tom’s Pub, and Hix Farm Brewing.

Soul Craft Coffee is owned by a sweet hippie couple that traveled around selling coffee and settled here in Cookeville. Read more about them and their preservation efforts here.

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Vertical Coffee Company (fka Broast TN Coffee Roasters) is a fun place to sip and hang out also. I love that they hang burlap coffee bags over the harsh fluorescents to create ambiance.

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Red Oak Roasters in the Algood community has this amazing tea called Grandmother’s Breakfast that is made with cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and… something else magical that I can not pin down.

They are also known for their chicken rolls and sausage rolls, each mixed in with cream cheese, herbs, bacon, then stuffed into their delicious seeded bread rolls and baked.

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Sweet treats are no joke here, even with several gluten free options.

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I went for a GF carrot cupcake, my ultimate weakness, but the choice was tough.

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Cream City Ice Cream & Coffee has become a local legend since opening in 2011.

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Sample flavours like Blackberry Cornbread, Horchata, and Stellar Coffee, or click here to view all of their handmade flavours.

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Ralph’s Donuts is another local favourite. It was a bit crowded when I tried to stop in, but I took great pleasure in watching couple after couple after couple of grinning elderly folks stepping out with their prize.

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Seven Senses is the perfect place for a casual lunch or a sexy date. We split the Steak & Mushroom wrap with provolone, onions, and chipotle ranch, along with a side of roasted sweet chili Brussels.

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The Brussels were my favourite, of course.

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Father Tom’s Pub has such beautiful décor inside! We stopped in for a drink, but plan to return for food next time.

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Look at their patio! I love all the ferns, shady areas, and rustic ornamentals. The hostess was a peach, and we had a good chat about all the art.

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World Foods next door sells international grocery goods and some drool-worthy pizza. I was too full to try it but you know… next time…

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For local beers, head to Hix Farm Brewery and Jig Head Brewing. Hix Farm Brewery shares space with Meg’s Bread, and you can smell all the yeasty goodness on the street.

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The crowd here is welcoming, I adore their custom gates and painted patio, and they usually have a food truck or two on hand.

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Jig Head Brewing Company is low-key fun space with a dog-friendly beer garden, good food, and chill atmosphere.

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There is another brewery in town called Red Silo. Deep breath.

You know, I usually just omit places I do not like, but I had such a negative experience here that I am going to tell you all about it. After ten years of creating published travel writing, I have not had one single person ANGRILY DEMAND to know why I took a picture of their establishment.

Within an hour of walking in to Red Silo, twelve other places in Cookeville kindly welcomed me and offered to show me around or answer any questions. I took a photo in those places and they were all totally cool.

I am extremely quiet, polite, and stealthy when traveling and doing blog stuff. I buy local, support local, happily pay, and tip well. I am patient, I never ask for any special treatment, and rarely even mention that I am a travel writer.

I speak when spoken to, and if a staff person shows the slightest suspicion of me, I smile and hand them a business card so they know what I am up to. I have made new friends with many business owners over the years from all of this, and I am dedicated to supporting the people and businesses I love.

Seriously, not one issue in all of these years.

So I walked in to Red Silo to look for a menu, and no one was inside except two women at the bar. I thought it looked cool inside, snapped a photo of all the décor on the wall, then turned to get my dog from my car parked outside the door and go sit in the beer garden. I had intended to buy lunch and a beer or two.

A man ran up behind me and started following me down the street yelling, asking just what I think I’m doing, telling me I need to introduce myself when I walk into his bar. He says he is the owner. I told him to fuck off.

Does he treat everyone like this, or just women who walk in alone? Anyone have the scoop? This made me so uncomfortable and creeped out that I definitely will not be returning.

And that concludes my rare mention of a place I do not like.

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Anyways, the Tennessee Legend Distillery is a rad place. They have other locations in Tennessee, they are all locally-owned, and they like to make a party out of letting you sample their house-made brews.

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The Upper Cumberland Wine Trail is a must for any visiting wine lovers. They have a cute little card you get stamped at each of the seven area wineries, including Stonehaus Winery, Chestnut Hill Winery, Cellar 53 Winery, Highland Manor Winery, Del Monaco Winery & Vineyards, Holly Ridge Winery & Vineyards, and Northfield Vineyards.

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For shoppers, Market on the Square is a multi-level complex with all kinds of home and kitchen goods, gourmet pantry stock and snacks, décor, and gifts. Be sure to stop by Wall of Books also.

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The historic Courthouse Square has lots of cool buildings, architecture, coffee shops, and other nooks to admire.

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You can also check antique shops like Munkey Wrench and Jones Antiques to pick up a new (to you) treasure.

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Cookeville hosts many awesome events and festivals throughout the year like Art Prowl, Taste of the Town, Storyfest in the Park, Bacchanal, Dogapalooza, Putnam County Fair, Wine on the Westside, and more, so plan your visit accordingly.

In the area for a while? Follow me to Cummins Falls, Bee Rock Overlook, Ozone Falls, Cumberland Mountain State Park, and Crossville.

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6 thoughts on “Historic Cookeville; Micropolis of the Upper Cumberland Plateau

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