12 Things to Do in Clarksville, TN

Just half an hour from Nashville, Clarksville is a vibrant city with a beautiful downtown, great local food, and lots to do.

Written by

Jason Barnette

on

April 8, 2019

If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Nashville there are some great things to do in Clarksville, TN. This small town on the border between Tennessee and Kentucky is ideally located along the Cumberland River with a quaint downtown, fantastic local food, and intriguing museums. It’s the perfect place to get away from Nashville for a day trip.

Don’t let the six lane highway surrounded by a menagerie of corporate America scare you away from Clarksville. It’s a lot like taking that cold medicine when you were a kid: just pinch your nose and get through it as fast as you can because on the other side is something really wonderful. That “other side” is downtown Clarksville.

I’ve traveled through Clarksville twice now and during my last journey in October I spent a few nights courtesy of Visit Clarksville. Here are some things to do in Clarksville, TN.

1. Admire Architecture and Public Art

Clarksville is just teeming with beautiful architecture and public art. If you stop by the visitor center (which is always the first stop I recommend when visiting a new destination) be sure to pick up a copy of their “Points of Interest Map”.

The Montgomery County Courthouse sits on a little hill in the downtown area and is decked with beautiful details. An eagle at the highest peak, a statue depicting the scales of justice on one side, and lots of public art surrounding the building.

Head down Strawberry Alley to find a towering water fountain depicting a summer of children at play. Be sure to look up high enough to see the little boy with a magnifying glass. Wonder if he was looking for the buried treasure?

Beautiful churches, gorgeous buildings, and plenty of statues around every corner could keep you busy all day in Clarksville!

The beautiful Montgomery County Historic Courthouse in Clarksville, Tennessee
Statue of Lady Justice holding scales on the Montgomery County Historic Courthouse in Clarksville, Tennessee

Beautiful buildings and public artwork are on full display throughout downtown Clarksville.

2. Fort Defiance Civil War Park & Interpretive Center

Located just outside town on a hill above the Cumberland River, the Fort Defiance visitor center offers a breathtaking panorama view of downtown Clarksville.

The visitor center includes a small gift shop with books on local history, a theater with a 15-minute film about the history of Clarksville during the Civil War, an exhibit space, and restrooms. A few short trails wind around the property through an old earthen fort.

120 Duncan Street, Clarksville, TN | 931-472-3351 | http://www.cityofclarksville.com/index.aspx?page=161

A Civil War-era canon beside a hiking trail at Fort Defiance Civil War Park in Clarksville, Tennessee
A Civil War-era canon on display beside the hiking trail at the Fort Defiance Civil War Park.

3. Dunbar Cave State Park

Dunbar Cave State Park is a 144-acre park with a fascinating history and beautiful area to explore. Throughout the 1950s it was the location of the weekly Saturday Night Radio Dance Broadcast.

Today the cave is open for guided tours during the summer months, activities and events keep the place buzzing throughout the year, and the 15-acre lake is teeming with wildlife and fed by water from the cave itself. If you’re luck you might find a log full of turtles like I did. Or almost get hit in the face by a bird just like I did.

401 Old Dunbar Cave Road, Clarksville, TN | 931-648-5526 | https://tnstateparks.com/parks/dunbar-cave

Towering trees stand on the cliff overlooking the entrance to Dunbar Cave State Park in Clarksville, Tennessee
Towering trees stand on the cliff overlooking the entrance to Dunbar Cave State Park in Clarksville, Tennessee

The entrance to Dunbar Cave State Park.

4. McGregor Park

Located on the bank of the Cumberland River, McGregor Park is a great place to spend time with the kiddos or go for a hike on the 1-mile Cumberland Riverwalk. For an easier and quicker way to see the waterfront rent a bicycle from the automated kiosk near the playground and restrooms.

640 N. Riverside Drive, Clarksville, TN | http://www.cityofclarksville.com/index.aspx?page=125

The view of the Cumberland River along the paved walkway in downtown Clarksville.

5. Clarksville Greenway

The one thing I wish I had done but completely forgot about was go for a hike on the Clarksville Greenway. The 9-mile hiking and biking path is part of the national Rails-to-Trails program that converts old railroad beds into pedestrian paths.

If the distance is a little daunting you might want to rent a bicycle from the Clarksville BCycle location at the Pollard Road Trailhead.

http://www.cityofclarksville.com/index.aspx?page=158

Rental bicycles in automated kiosks from Clarksville BCycle.

6. Liberty Park on the Cumberland River

If you’re still eager to get outside try heading over to Liberty Park. The park includes a fishing pond, 1.8-mile hiking trail, playground, and the Clarksville Marina.

The 10-acre pond is open to fishing year-round. A paved path wraps around the pond. Another paved trail wraps around the marina with views of the Cumberland River. Restrooms are available near the boat ramps.

http://www.cityofclarksville.com/index.aspx?page=165

7. Historic Collinsville

About twenty minutes outside Clarksville, Historic Collinsville is a 40-acre recreation of a mid-19th century settlement. Visiting the historic area really was like stepping back in time. I leisurely walked around the grassy fields between over a dozen restored log buildings ranging from outbuildings to two-story homes.

Try to visit Collinsville during a special event weekend to see the place really come to life with activities and reenactors. They were just wrapping up when I got there, but I had just enough time to enjoy a guided tour of one of the dogtrot homes. The old home was filled with historic relics from previous owners and littered with amazing history.

4711 Weakley road, Southside, TN | 931-245-4344 | https://historiccollinsville.com/

Rustic log home at Historic Collinsville in Clarksville, Tennessee
Rustic log home at Historic Collinsville in Clarksville, Tennessee
Rustic log home at Historic Collinsville in Clarksville, Tennessee

Rustic log homes and structures to explore along a self-guidede walking trail at Historic Collinsville.

8. The Customs House Museum

One of the coolest museums I’ve ever explored was The Customs House Museum in downtown Clarksville. It’s an art museum, exhibit space, historical restoration, work of art, and local history center all rolled into one magnificent building.

Be prepared to spend some time here. They have an activity lab for children, a giant train set in the basement, and rotating art exhibits. I spent a couple of hours but wanted to spend so much more time, especially after finding some really stunning paintings from local artisans on display.

200 South Second Street, Clarksville, TN | 931-648-5780 | http://customshousemuseum.org/

Exhibits display the local hsitory at the Customs House Museum in Clarksville, Tennessee
History of Clarksville explored at the Customs House Museum.

9. Roxy Regional Theater

Known locally as The Roxy, when it opened in 1947 a new exterior lighting feature called neon wowed the locals. Within the walls of this historic building people have enjoyed silent films, first-run movies, and theatrical performances. Today visitors can enjoy live performances of classic tales and the occasional movie in their film series.

100 Franklin Street, Clarksville, TN | 931-645-7699 | http://roxyregionaltheatre.org

10. Get a Drink

You won’t have to go far to get a good local drink in Clarksville. In fact several of these options are within a short drive of each other near the interstate. Here are a few places to enjoy local craft spirits in Clarksville.

Beachaven Vineyards and Winery

This locally-owned vineyard and winery has been crushing the grapes for over 30 years. Visitors to the friendly spot can begin with a complimentary guided tour of their production facility and walk through the vineyard. Once the tour is finished you can continue the experience with samples of their wine at the tasting bar for $5.

Check out their events page for Jazz on the Lawn or one of the other special events they host throughout the year.

1100 Dunlop Lane, Clarksville, TN | 931-645-8867 | https://www.beachavenwinery.com

Old Glory Distilling Co.

Just down the road from the vineyard is the locally owned Old Glory Distillery. This was the first place I ever discovered locally-made vodka. For $7 per adult you can take a tour of the production facility and learn how they craft that amazing vodka. Once the tour is finished you can browse through their gift shop, try samples of their products, or enjoy some interesting cocktails.

451 Alfred Thun Road, Clarksville, TN | 931-919-2522 | https://oldglorydistilling.com

The owner of the Old Glory Distilling Company pours a sample of his vodka in Clarksville, Tennessee
Owner Matt Cunningham pours a sample of his craft vodka at Old Glory Distilling Company.

The Star Spangled Brewing Company

The owner of this brewery is not just local but also a veteran. It’s a family-friendly establishment where people hang out with their kids in tow listening to live music on the weekends and enjoying the craft beer. Come early because the locals love this spot and it’ll get crowded quickly.

1030 Progressive Drive, Suite E, Clarksville, TN | 615-398-1237 | https://www.starspangledbrewingco.com/

A flight of three beers from the Star Spangled Brewery in Clarksville, Tennessee
A flight of beer from the Star Spangled Brewery.

Tennessee Valley Brewing Co.

One thing you have to keep in mind about Clarksville is that it’s a military town, and the town loves their veterans. That had never been more apparent then when I walked into the small shop at Tennessee Valley Brewing Co. They have a pretty good lineup of craft beers and the owners are not afraid to experiment (seriously they had a jalapeno porter).

But what got me the most was the massive wall of beer mugs. Each numbered, these are reserved for military locals currently deployed. Visitors can buy a wooden chip to toss into a mug that buys the veteran a drink when they come home.

2088 Lowes Dr., Suite H, Clarksville, TN | 931-320-9192 | https://www.tnvalleybrewing.com/

A flight of four craft beers from the Tennessee Valley Brewing Company in Clarksville, Tennessee
A flight of beer form the Tennessee Valley Brewing Company in a cozy setting.

11. Devour Local Food

If you’ve enjoyed a great day in Clarksville of hiking on the greenway, exploring the history and architecture, and enjoyed some craft spirits, you’re probably gonna need some food. This little town has you covered with some fantastic local options for great food and more than a few surprises.

Strawberry Alley Ale Works

One of the newest additions to the downtown area, Strawberry Alley Ale Works is a one-stop destination for craft beer, food, and entertainment. Located inside a beautiful restored brick warehouse they have plenty of seating in a family-friendly atmosphere.

Their menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees, but it was the Bourbon Burger that caught my attention (cause we all know I’m a burger guy). This juicy burger was smothered with gruyere cheese, smoked gouda, and bourbon mushroom sauce. I don’t even know what gruyere cheese is but it sure tasted good.

They also have a nice craft brewery on site. They usually keep about six craft beers on tap, but since this is also a restaurant they have imports and domestics as well.

103 Strawberry Alley, Clarksville, TN | 931-919-4777 | https://www.saaleworks.com/

Wide open space full of sunlight at Strawberry Alley Ale Works in Clarksville, Tennessee
Strawberry Alley Ale Works is one of the newest downtown restaurants.

Blackhorse Pub & Brewery

This the other brewery located downtown. The Blackhorse Pub & Brewery has been around for awhile. Started by a helicopter pilot veteran the pub opened first in 1991 and the brewery a few years later in 1995. The dark wood flooring and brick walls create a cozy atmosphere for hanging out with friends after a long day exploring the town.

They have a massive menu including appetizers, burgers, entrees, and pizzas. They have several options for each menu item or they let you create your own meal. Add to that their year-round, seasonal, and specialty craft beers and you’ve got a fantastic place to enjoy a meal.

430 S. Gay Street, Clarksville, TN | 865-249-8511 | https://blackhorsebrews.com

Roux Americajun

I never would have thought I’d find authentic Cajun food in Clarksville but that’s exactly what I found at Roux Americajun. The restaurant is owned by New Orleans transplants Theresa and Greg Shea who left after Katrina and decided to make Clarksville their next home.

The large booths, brick walls, and wooden floors created a comfortable place to enjoy the delicious Cajun meals. I started with the Boudin Balls: balls of pork and rice sausage fried until crunch and served with a spicy remoulade. These things were absolutely amazing and I think I could eat them any day of the week. For an entrée I got the Shrimp & Grits: creamy grits topped with gravy and served with 10 grilled shrimp. I’ve never been a grits guy, but these grits were amazing with every spoonful.

125 Franklin Street, Clarksville, TN | 931-896-2113 | http://www.rouxmenu.com

A white plate filled with shrimp and grits from Roux Americajun in Clarksville, Tennessee
Delicious boudin balls appetizer from Roux Americajun in Clarksville, Tennessee
Roux Americajun Restaurant & Bar in Clarksville, Tennessee

The boudin balls appetizer was a great start to a meal at Roux Americajun, and the shrimp & grits to perfect end.

Johnny’s Big Burger

This hole-in-the-wall diner is a staple for the Austin Pea University crowd. Fortunately I got there about an hour before a football game let out so I had a chance to enjoy the place before it was overwhelmed with hungry college students!

The tables were covered in those old-fashioned red and white checkered tablecloths. It was a simple place, but clean and comfortable. The food, though, was out of this world. I ordered the Cheeseburger Steak: served like a steak (toasted bread served on the side) on a plate, topped with gooey cheese, with crinkle fries. And just to make sure I had the most delicious meal possible I got their famous Bun-N-Cream dessert: a fried donut topped with a single scoop of vanilla ice cream.

428 College Street, Clarksville, TN | 931-647-4545

The cheesburger steak meal with a large grilled hamburger patty topped with melted cheese and surrounded with crinkle cut french fries from Johnny's Big Burger in Clarksville, Tennessee
A fried honey bun with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top at Johnny's Big Burger in Clarksville, Tennessee

The cheeseburger steak and fried honey bun with ice cream was so unhealthy, but it tasted sooo good!

Liberty Park Grill

Overlooking the Clarksville Marina, the Liberty Park Grill offered a great view paired with some pretty fantastic food. It’s a great place to eat if you’re keen on exploring the park or going for a hike.

The locals go for the steaks and ribs. I visited during lunch when they offer a smaller and simpler menu (because if I had gone during dinner I think the Kickin’ Chicken sounds amazing). I started off with some onion rings. These were ginormous and pleasantly soft, not soggy, making it easy to eat without accidentally just sucking the onion out of the breading. For lunch I got the Southern Fried Chicken Tenders cause that’s always my fallback. These things melted in my mouth and went great with the house-made tangy BBQ sauce.

125 Marina Way, Clarksville, TN | 931-919-2444 | https://libertyparkgrill.com

A plate full of fresh fried chicken tenders and french fries at Liberty Park Grill in Clarksville, Tennessee
The chicken tenders from Liberty Park Grill were ahhhmazing!

The Looking Glass Restaurant & Bakery

Every day in Clarksville should begin with breakfast at The Looking Glass Restaurant and Bakery. They serve meals throughout the day but the breakfast is just really something amazing. Located in a small shopping center it’s also just a few minutes from Dunbar Cave State Park.

The Eggs Benedict breakfast came with English muffins topped with poached eggs and bacon. But the real treat were the crepes served with fresh fruit and a wonderful little sensation with every bite.

392 Warfield Blvd., Clarksville, TN | 931-552-6344 | https://thelookingglassrestaurant.com

Melted cheese over a breakfast sandwhich at The Looking Glass Restaurant in Clarksville, Tennessee
Melted cheese over a breakfast sandwhich at The Looking Glass Restaurant in Clarksville, Tennessee

A delicious egg benedict breakfast with crepes for dessert at The Looking Glass Restaurant.

12. Plumb Line Coffee

Bill and Jen Parker take coffee seriously. For them a cup of coffee is much more than just a beverage; it’s an act of science combined with a touch of love to create something as unique as it is delicious.

The rustic interior was comfortable and offered a great place for me to catch up notes and social media for a few minutes before heading out again. It was definitely the kind of place where I’d find myself almost every day if I were a local. Sigh. The bittersweetness of travel.

124 University Avenue, Clarksville, TN | 931-896-2020 | https://www.plumblinecoffee.com

Where to Stay

During my visit to Clarksville I stayed at the locally-owned Riverview Inn. Sitting on a hill high above the river it has a pretty nice view on one side toward the countryside and the other side toward downtown. The hotel is perfectly located for walking into downtown so you don’t have to worry about moving the car and finding parking.

Booking.com

The hotel features rooms ranging from two double beds to king size beds and entire suites. Each room includes a Keurig coffee machine and standard amenities like ironing board, hairdryer, and alarm clock. Each morning a rather nice “real” breakfast is put out in the dining room on the first floor.

The hotel also included a heated indoor swimming pool, fitness center, business center, meeting spaces, guest laundry, and a large lobby with comfortable seating. This was a great place for me to stay while exploring all the things to do in Clarksville, Tennessee.

King bed with a tray and remote at the Riverview Inn in Clarksville, Tennessee
Comfortable room with a king bed at the Riverview Inn.

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4 Responses

  1. Great read about the many things to see and do in Clarksville. Edward’s Steakhouse is also right downtown across from Roxy Theatre. Blackhorse address needs to be changed as it is also located on Franklin St.

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