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Land of the lakes

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    Cream City Ice Cream shop located in the historic portion of downtown Cookeville.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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Cookeville, Tenn., is the hub of the upper Cumberland region. It's also a mountainous community that locals say has perfect seasons and a collegiate environment.

Tennessee Tech University helps the community offer a wide array of arts and cultural experiences, including a secret playhouse and gallery shows. And three lakes offer a fisherman's paradise.

The west side of downtown Cookeville is a hip shopping destination. Stroll through Dogwood Park and catch an outdoor concert. Then cap off the night with local cuisine.

-- Compiled by staff writer Joan Garrett

West Side walk

The contemporary and historic are paired in Cookeville’s downtown

•Feel traditional? Grab a doughnut and coffee at Ralph’s Donut Shop on South Cedar Avenue. Need something a little more decadent? Try Sweet Sallie’s Bakery & Cafe espresso and daily baked treats on North Oak Avenue.

•Then take a tour of the art galleries and boutiques that offer goods with an area flair.

•On Broad Street, pop by the Cookeville History Museum, open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday to examine regional artifact and photographs. At the Cookeville Depot Museum, on West Broad Street, you can hop aboard an authentic 1913 Baldwin steam locomotive.

Source: Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce

A bustling college town

•Population: 30,435.

•Biggest employers: Tennessee Tech University, Oreck Corp., Cummins Filtration.

•Number of miles from downtown Chattanooga: 97.

•Landmarks or geographic features: Rolling hills mark the region, and Tennessee Tech is the centerpiece of this town. Center Hill Lake, Cordell Hull Lake and Dale Hollow Lake are outdoor hot spots created by the Army Corps of Engineers.

•Date founded: 1848.

•Historic info: During the Civil War, this city was part of the borderland and home to many skirmishes. The city was founded because of the railroad and has remained a transportation hub. The city is halfway between Florida and Canada and equal distance from some of the state’s major cities — Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga.

•Most famous resident: CrossFit’s “Fittest Man in the World,” Rich Froning, is from Cookeville.

•Odd/unique traditions: Cookeville is the smallest community with a PBS television station in the country and the smallest city with a symphony.

Source: Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce

Hit the lake with shorelines of fun

Cookeville is a short distance from three Army Corps of Engineers lakes: Center Hill Lake, Cordell Hull Lake and Dale Hollow Lake. Two smaller manmade lakes, City Lake and Burgess Falls Lake, lie along the Falling Water River.

• Plan a romantic picnic. Splash with the kids in muddy water. Or toss a line with a buddy along 1,200-plus miles of shoreline. There are lodges and campgrounds all around these lakes. So make a weekend out of the excursion.

• The Obey River below Dale Hollow Dam produced a state-record rainbow trout (14 pounds, 8 ounces) and brown trout (26 pounds, 2 ounces). The lake also holds the Kentucky muskie title at 43 pounds.

Source: Cookeville Chamber of Commerce, Dale Hallow Lake

Cajun flair in hill country

Crawdaddy's West Side Grille, at 53 W. Broad St. in Cookeville, is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday.

• Thursday through Saturday expect live entertainment and always look forward to the Cajun-style cuisine such as crawfish etouffee and jambalaya.

• In a fishy mood? Try the grilled salmon or grilled tuna.

Source: Crawdaddy's

BEST KEPT SECRET

The arts are center stage in Cookeville

•Cookeville Performing Arts Center offers a variety of theatrical and music productions to spice up a weekend night. Don’t miss the award-winning Backstage Series.

•Tennessee Tech University also offers a Backdoor Playhouse on campus. The high-quality, student-performed shows offer tickets for around $12. For information about the season, check out www.tntech.edu/bdph.

•If you’re more of a music buff, grab tickets to the Bryan Symphony Orchestra. Individual tickets sell for $32 and can be purchased online at www.bryansymphony.org. Short on cash? Every September the symphony offers a free concert.

Source: Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Tech

LIST OF FESTIVALS

Every season offers ways to play

•BlueCross Bowl — Come celebrate the state’s best high school athletics. (December at Tennessee Tech University’s Tucker Stadium).

•Putnam County Fair — Find musical acts, crafts, down-home food and more. (August at the Putnam County Fairgrounds).

•Cookeville Christmas Parade — The more than 40-year tradition has more than 30,000 spectators each year. (Last week of November in downtown Cookeville).

•Upper Cumberland Home & Garden Show — Learn the latest horticultural techniques and ideas for garden decor. (Every spring)

Source: Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce