Just south of Nashville, a series of eclectic small towns with names like Leiper's Fork and Bell Buckle spans a 70-mile stretch of rolling hills and roaming horses far removed from the big city's neon-lit bustle. And there's no better time to visit than in June, when Bell Buckle hosts its annual RC Cola-MoonPie Festival devoted to two Southern icons (June 15; bellbucklechamber.org). After eating your weight in marshmallow filling, head to surrounding towns for less sugary pursuits, such as sorting through antiques, listening to live bluegrass, and enjoying a nightcap on a stunning porch. Trust us: You'll feel 'mallowed out in no time.
Scope out Serenite Maison , a 1914 building-turned-decor wonderland for the playful mix of French, Italian, and American antiques; vintage signs; and jewelry by Texas designer Richard Schmidt. Feel free to pick up a guitar and play in the "picker's corner." serenitemaison.com
Walking horses hail from Middle Tennessee. Learn about the breed at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Museum in Wartrace ($5). 931/205-1683
Long before there was a Puckett's Grocery in Nashville and Franklin, there was the original in Leiper's Fork. Order a pimiento cheese sandwich from the hot bar ($3.99) and pull up a chair at the free Thursday open mike nights, where Nashville singers and songwriters perform away from the limelight. puckettsofleipersfork.com
Best Place to Stay the Night
Built in 1930 and restored by Tennessee natives, Lane Street Inn in Shelbyville is an easy drive to Bell Buckle, Wartrace, and Lynchburg. Settle in to one of its six well-appointed guest rooms and enjoy a nightcap on the front porch. (Rooms from $179; use code SLDEAL to get 20% off in June.) lanestreetinn.com
Lynchburg's BBQ Caboose is not an actual train but a restaurant filled with railroad memorabilia. Try the pulled pork sandwich ($5.95) and bread pudding ($3; bbqcaboose.com). At Shelbyville's Midway Diner, pull up next to horsemen and order the burger ($2.75). Save room for a slice of cherry pie ($2; 931/437-2330). In addition to 'cue and catfish, the Bell Buckle Cafe offers a MoonPie sundae served with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge ($3.49). bellbucklecafe.com
No trip to this part of the world would be complete without a pilgrimage to Lynchburg's Jack Daniel Distillery, where the free 1½-hour tour includes plenty of lore about Gentleman Jack. A new two-hour tour ($10) offers samples and greater insight into the distilling process. jackdaniels.com