My favorite part about living in Nashville isn’t even in Nashville. It’s 25 miles southwest-ish of the city. It’s a tiny little two-laned slice of pastoral paradise nestled in Williamson County. It’s Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee.
This town is the antithetical escape from the neon and reverb of Music City. It’s quiet, tasteful, natural, humming to a rhythm that’s persisted for almost 4,000 years. The tribes we know as Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek and Shawnee rooted themselves in this area because of its thriving land, freshwater supply and other natural resources. Just as Leiper’s Fork gave abundant life to Native Americans all that time ago, it feeds and sustains us today in a different way.
Something about the town feels magical, as trite as that descriptor can be. It’s the perfect setting for experiencing art in all its forms. Strings of lights dangle above me, contrasting with the luminous stars a bit further up. Wooden Adirondack chairs encircle a crackling fire (in the cooler months!) occupied by locals, Nashvillians and out-of-towners alike, most clutching plastic-cupped wine or metal sticks poking browning marshmallows (free s’mores stations pepper the town’s public seating areas). The family band plucking stringed instruments resonates above animated conversation every time the door to Puckett’s Grocery creaks opens. Here’s enough to fill a day in Leiper’s Fork … and s’more.
Time to Eat
Dozens of shiny motorcycles are lined up in front of the now-obsolete gas pumps outside of Puckett’s, refracting light and sputtering into the clean air. The lunch line at Puckett’s is expectedly long, filled with patrons hungry for a meat-n-three plate and a chocolate shake. Some people get impatient and opt for the equally delicious 1892 Restaurant a few shops down. Cozy vibes and delicious American fare pour from this little house. Bring your own wine.
New to the area’s caffeine scene is The RedByrd Coffee Shop just a mile down the road from the town’s center. Emerging from inside the moveable, modular structure are hot or iced espresso drinks and fresh donuts to be enjoyed in the nearby field of picnic tables.
There’s one final stop on your eat-inerary. A darling Leiper’s Fork landmark for more than 50 years — though not without many rebrands and ownership changes — is Country Boy. This no-frills diner serves up Southern-fried comfort food for breakfast and lunch every day but Monday and holidays. Give some furtive glances to the nearby booths to see if you spot any country music stars.
Time to Shop
No trip to Leiper’s Fork is complete without some retail therapy. A heavy and smooth aroma of leather overwhelms you as soon as you open the door to Creekside Trading. The tightly-packed displays of Western jewelry, colorful textures, studded boots and giant flavored candles could take an afternoon to navigate. The store tugs on every sense, just as Leiper’s Fork does. You might even stumble upon an impromptu pickin’ session on the store’s creekside back porch (served with complimentary boxed wine if you tip the band).
A few shops down is Serenite Maison, and I can’t get enough of this place, either. Vintage guitars and American flags flank the walls, and you’ll find a trove of jewelry, books and irresistible home goods.
New to The Fork’s retail scene but not new to Williamson County is resident, songbird and turquoise collector Morgane Stapleton (wife to Chris Stapleton). Her Tennessee Turquoise Co. just opened and features pieces from Morgane’s personal collection, as well as ones she’s picked up in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Prints by photographer and videographer extraordinaire Becky Fluke (she shot the album cover for Chris Stapleton’s Traveller) are for sale along the cabin walls. I got to visit Morgane and Becky on their opening day. “This is the perfect place to showcase my pieces. It feels like a real old trading post,” Morgane told me.
A slew of fabulous art galleries call Leiper’s Fork home. After some more affordable shopping, wander into Copper Fox Gallery. David Arms, Leiper’s Creek Gallery or one of the many vintage and antiques stores like The Hunt and The Pick-it Fence.
Time to Explore and Experience
Running alongside Leiper’s Fork is the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile scenic parkway that spans three states and attracts nature lovers and road warriors the world over, many of whom stop in Leiper’s Fork. Look for the sign for e-bike rentals in town, and hop (safely) on the Parkway. E-bikes do some of the uphill work for you, so you can cover more ground!
I topped off an exciting day in Leiper’s Fork with a tour and tasting at small-batch whiskey pioneer Leiper’s Fork Distillery. The $10, 45-minute tours run throughout the day and serve up a humorous, expert history on legal distilling in Williamson County as well as some sips at the end. Find full tour hours and info here. If you arrive early, enjoy a strawberry white whiskey slushie, some fresh popcorn and a game of cornhole on the lawn while you wait for your guide.
Two other beloved traditions in The Fork are the Lawn Chair Theater and Fork Fest. Every Friday during the summer, families, pups, blankets and chairs descend on the idyllic grassy lawn for a free movie screening (find the full movie calendar HERE). And I always try to return on Labor Day Weekend for the village’s annual — and free — music and arts festival, Fork Fest.
If you decide to make a weekend out of it or forgo the drive home, check out the acclaimed Moonshine Hill or White’s Mercantile Room and Board‘s (Holly Williams’s collection of rentable guest cottages) Sweeney Cottage. Just next door, you can enlist The Spa at Leiper’s Fork to continue your unwinding and recharging efforts.
I savor and cling to the absence of crass development in Leiper’s Fork. Mom-and-pop shops and eateries dot the one main street. Most have been there for decades, some for years, and a few are outposts of Nashville and Franklin spots. But everything blends in perfectly no matter its age. Locals say The Fork is “strangely perfect and perfectly strange.” It’s a bounty of beauty and excitement no matter how many trips I make. I’m thankful that Old Hillsboro Road keeps pulling me back 25 miles southwest of home.
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