Activities

Sesquicentennial trips in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina
Region is steeped in blue and gray Civil War history
Explore North Carolina parks
Remember what fresh air really tastes like in North Carolina's parks
Explore Georgia parks
The state boasts many large, historic parks in close proximity
Get a Grip: four-wheelers in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina
Rocks, rivers and woods offer plenty of thrills for four-wheelers
More Bang for Your Buck - Hunting in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina
Ample hunting opportunities make the region a target for hunters tracking down all types of game

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A Rock Star

  • photo
    In this July 26, 2011 photo, Doyle Lawson, center, and Quicksilver perform in the Volcano Room at Cumberland Caverns, 333 feet below ground, in McMinnville, Tenn. The natural ampitheater is where the Bluegrass Underground radio show is broadcast from once a month. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

McMinnville, Tenn., is a pretty sweet place.

Nearby Rock Island State Park offers a plethora of outdoor activities on nearly 900 acres, including fishing, swimming and exploring.

History buffs and those who find history boring can enjoy the luxurious Falcon Rest Mansion & Gardens, where dinner is an appetizer compared to the show that accompanies the food.

Natural fruit is aplenty as McMinnville is the "Nursery Capital of the World" while bluegrass music reverberates underground with sweet acoustics. But the sweetest part is the downtown cupcake bar called Sugar Rush, offering an array of cupcake flavors that you'd only imagine -- and some that are unimaginable.

-- Compiled by staff writer Adam Poulisse

Deep bluegrass connection

From the Volcano Room, 333 feet below the ground, emanate a fantastic concert series and a unique radio show, "Bluegrass Underground," every Saturday night on WSM radio in Nashville.

• The cave makes for unparalleled acoustics to give a better-quality radio broadcast of some fabulous bluegrass musicians.

• Tour guides take concert-goers deep in the Cumberland Caverns, past pools and waterfalls, leaving cell phone reception behind, to a venue unlike they've ever seen.

Source: Blue Grass Underground

Blossoming growth industry

About 300 nurseries are in McMinnville. In fact, Tennessee Home and Farm called the area the Nursery Capital of the World in February.

• FruitTreefarm.com also operates out of McMinnville and ships fresh produce to almost all 50 states.

• The business booms due to cold winters and hot summers, making for versatile plant life.

Source: Tennessee Home & Farm

Stagecoach stopover

Population: 13,606

Biggest employers: Yorozu Corp., Bridgestone & Firestone Tires, Warren County School System

Landmarks or geographic feature: the Rocky Rivers

Date founded: 1807

History: Established along a stagecoach route, and the region has traced its founding to Native Americans

Most famous resident: Grammy-winning country singer Dotty West, who died in 1991

Unique traditions: Autumn Street Festival, the first Saturday in October; also, a three-day barbecue cook-off in August, which is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

Fun fact: During the time of the old stagecoach route, pregnant women would stop at the large oak tree that's currently on U.S. 70 across from the hospital. They would deliver their children there, because the Native Americans said those born under the tree would have lifelong good luck.

Source: McMinnville Chamber of Commerce has more at www.mcminnville.org

Great Falls at Rock Island

With its tall mountains and flowing rivers, the 883-acre Rock Island State Park is a can't-miss. Located at 82 Beach Road in Rock Island, Tenn., it is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A key feature of the mostly wooded park is the Great Falls of the Caney Fork River: a limestone gorge referred to as a "gulf" in southern culture. It provides a scenic outlook with the waterfalls and deep pools for fishing, rock-hopping and exploring.

Though boating is available, renovation at Center Hill Dam has resulted in lowered lake levels. Call in advance to check on the availability of the boat ramps.

Source: Tennessee State Parks

Welcome Rest keeps 'em busy

Built in 1896 by entrepreneur Clay Faulkner for his wife Mary, Falcon Rest was intended as "the grandest mansion in Tennessee."

Reopened to the public in 1993, Falcon Rest Mansion & Gardens keeps visitors busy with lots to do "where history is fun," as its slogan claims.

Tours of the mansion are given year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Accompanying a scrumptious meal are several entertainment shows, including a vaudeville-style history show and murder mystery.

For ghost-hunters, Falcon Rest is said to be haunted: Reports of strange happenings and phantom footsteps are not uncommon. A dinner show called "Ghost at the Mansion" incorporates this.

Source: Falcon Rest website

A Rush so sweet it hurts

Check your diet at the door of Sugar Rush, 117 E. Main St. No place can better sate your sweet tooth than Sugar Rush, which has about 20 different cupcake selections that can be available at any time, including key lime, Milky Way, Peanut Butter Cup and "The Elvis," which is lots and lots of banana and lots and lots of peanut butter.

And there's more: A bon bon menu allows you to have cupcake flavor dipped in milk chocolate.

Source: Sugar Rush website