Ask anyone where to enjoy great live music in Nashville, and they’ll likely point you to the iconic Grand Ole Opry, The Station Inn, the intimate Bluebird Cafe, or suggest braving the raucous crowds along Lower Broadway AKA the Honky Tonk Highway.
But locals head somewhere else to get their music fix, to an unassuming, effortlessly charming spot just outside of town: Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee.
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It’s frequented by celebrities, attracts top talent and has legendary open-mic nights…and chances are, you’ve never even heard of it.
This one-lane, country village is so tiny it literally takes less than a minute to drive through, but there are so many fun finds in each store lining the strip that you could easily spend a full day exploring.
Boutiques, galleries, stellar eateries and quirky shops are just a few of the spots worth browsing, as you chat up the friendly locals while keeping an eye out for A-listers including music royalty and Oscar winners.
Gwyneth Paltrow spent the night at the Pinterest-perfect White’s Mercantile Room and Board, and you might even spot Justin Timberlake or Jessica Biel who live a couple minutes away (just don’t bother asking anyone to point their place out for you: the 600-or-so locals are fiercely protective of each other’s privacy and will likely send you on a wild goose chase!).
Leiper’s Fork is a village just outside the city of Franklin which is about 20 minutes from Nashville, making it easy to explore as a day trip from either city. However, it’s well-worth staying the night to catch a show or songwriter session, explore the surrounding scenic areas like the Natchez Trace Parkway and soak up the southern hospitality.
From sippin’ spirits to browsing at the farmer’s market, here are five of the best things to do in Leiper’s Fork.
Enjoy live music at Fox & Locke
Satisfy that country craving at Fox & Locke, an iconic BBQ joint/concert venue that’s the heart and soul of Leiper’s Fork.
Performers have come from near and far for more than seven decades to wow the crowds at its Thursday night open mic sessions, and the stage has been graced by everyone from up-and-comers to Grammy winners.
Arrive early to get a table near the front, and tuck into buckets of cold beer and fried favourites while enjoying the music; with each act only allowed to play two songs, you’ll see a wide variety of musicians including some hoping to catch the eye of a record label scout.
Sample Tennessee Whiskey at Leiper’s Fork Distillery
Whet your whistle at Leiper’s Fork Distillery just outside town, where Tennessee whiskey is distilled inside a production room that’s so stunning it’s often used to host events and epic songwriting sessions–there’s even a dazzling, multi-tiered chandelier.
The property is surrounded by green, rolling hills, and features a log cabin outfitted with giant wooden beams, an antler chandelier and rustic stonework.
A popular stop on the Masters & Makers Trail, Leiper’s Fork Distillery offers excellent guided tours and tastings of their Old Natchez Trace White Whiskey, rye and bourbon, while walking visitors through the process of small batch whiskey making.
They pride themselves on using pure limestone filtered water and local ingredients in their high-end spirits, in a nod to the early settlers who brought their still to the area many generations ago.
Visit the world’s cutest gas station
Leiper’s Fork Market might just be the cutest place ever to fill up your tank–and chances are you’re gonna want to stay awhile.
From the outside it looks like a normal gas station, but step through the wide, wooden doors and you’ll quickly realize it’s anything but. There’s a welcoming front porch complete with rocking chairs. A burger joint in the back. Guitars. Heck, there’s even a barn-style table complete with a chandelier.
In the adjoining yard you’ll find plenty of picnic tables, and a tiny house where the owners live which also doubles as a coffee shop. Leiper’s Fork Market is the place to be on the first Thursday of every month, when the grassy area hosts a farmer’s market complete with live music.
Go shopping in Leiper’s Fork TN
Southerners love decorating their homes, so it’s no surprise that many of the beautifully-curated stores in Leiper’s Fork centre around housewares. David Arms Gallery, Copper Fox Gallery and the Creekside Trading Company have a great mix of decor, antiques, clothing and jewelry.
Leiper’s Creek Gallery houses works from 27 artists (including 16 locals) in a former auto shop, and also brings in one-of-a-kind furniture pieces from Europe.
Just down the road, the custom, handcrafted cowboy boots at Moo Country are to die for, and the Tenn Turquoise Co. (founded by Chris Stapleton’s wife Morgane) is the perfect place to pick up vintage silver and turquoise jewelry.
Once you’ve enjoyed some retail therapy, dig into some good ol’ southern cooking at one of the excellent Leiper’s Fork restaurants like the laid-back, family favourite Country Boy which is beloved for its biscuits and gravy.
Over at 1892, tuck into faves like deviled eggs and whipped pimento cheese, while keeping an eye out for the talented head chef who’s none other than Dylan Morrison, son of Michael McDonald from the Doobie Brothers. Who knows, you might even spot a famous face here: George W. Bush’s twin daughters Jenna and Barbara were among some of the first diners when the restaurant opened in 2017.
Pull up a chair at the Lawnchair Theater
One of the best spots to experience the down home, community feel in Leiper’s Fork is at the Lawnchair Theater. The rustic log building and stage adorned with twinkling lights were originally used to host–what else–live music, and artists like Willie Nelson have performed here.
In 2003, the grassy, tree-framed outdoor space started being used as a venue for showing free family-friendly movies every Friday night during summer, complete with a concession with grilled burgers, hot dogs, buttered popcorn and fresh, locally-grown veggies. The rest of the time, this area tucked behind the art gallery is used to host events like wedding receptions and long table dinners.
The only rule for hosts is that, in true southern fashion, you’re expected to feed whoever happens to show up!
Where to stay in Leiper’s Fork
Pot n’ Kettle Cottages: This quaint group of cottages are decorated in true southern style, like guitars hanging on the wall, clawfoot tubs and big ol’ front porches. Located less than a mile from the shopping area, the cottages can accommodate anywhere from five to 10 guests (which is a good thing, since it’s easy to make fast friends ‘round these parts).
White’s Mercantile Room and Board: Gwyneth Paltrow was one of the first guests at this GOOP-approved spot, which is owned by her good friend Holly Williams who’s the daughter of country star Hank Williams Jr. and also the founder of the gorgeous boutique White’s Mercantile. Originally built in 1892, this historic home right on the main street was beautifully updated with gorgeous touches like a chef’s kitchen and brass features, while maintaining enough classic touches like subway tile and enough shiplap siding to make Joanna Gaines proud. Click here to book
Globe Guide explored Leiper’s Fork as a guest of Visit Franklin. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.
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