With Bonnaroo just around the corner, it was high time I update my post on what to do in Manchester, Tennessee, particularly as the area has no official tourism site. Need travel recommendations to Coffee County? I’m your girl. Just call me the region’s officially unofficial tourism director.
I’ve written a lot about Bonnaroo in the past for magazines like National Geographic and Food + Wine—not to mention, plenty of past Roo posts covering everything from the food to the fitness to the music and what to expect from the festival itself—but this is a snapshot of what to do in Manchester, Tennessee when you’re not on the Farm. And I genuinely hope you’ll save some time to put this Manchester guide to good use!
In fact, I even created a handy, color-coded map so you can get out and about and enjoy Manchester’s murals, shops, iconic restaurants like Jiffy Burger, and distilleries (George Dickel, Jack Daniel’s, Short Mountain) in the rural region surrounding Coffee County. There are so many state parks and natural areas within a 50-mile radius that it’s a shame to come all this way and not partake in exploring the area surrounding us.
This post was last updated in March 2021.
Heading this way? Here’s a rundown of what to do in Manchester, Tennessee—as well as what to eat, drink and photograph—whether you’re coming for ‘Roo or not.
The area around Manchester is known for its outdoors offerings, the numerous waterfalls in particular.
Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park (732 Stone Fort Dr., Manchester)
Just two miles from downtown, Old Stone Fort State Park is the largest and most complex hilltop enclosure in the South; it also contains a ceremonial site that was established during the Middle Woodland Period, roughly 2,000 years ago, and used through the 5th century A.D. But beyond the history, I love it for the cascading waterfalls that drop off the Highland Rim plateau.
The 50-acre park is also one of my favorite places to go for a trail run. You can take the kids and go for a dip if you venture far enough down the path to where the pools are shallow. The park also hosts myriad special events and educational programs for little ones; they’re good at keeping their Facebook page up to date so you can see what’s going on in any given weekend.
The Southern Magnolia Mural (121 S. Spring St., Manchester)
I may be biased because it’s part of our nonprofit’s work, but I think this beautiful Southern magnolia flag mural is one of the prettiest murals in Middle Tennessee. Kudos to Tara Aversa for her vision and superior talent.
Take a photo and post it on social media so we can see your best interpretation of it! Bonus points if you do so in a shark suit. For more about the backstory of our murals, check out our nonprofit DMA-events’ website.
The Manchester Postcard Mural (909 Hillsboro Blvd., Manchester)
This was our second mural effort, for which we fundraised very quickly and installed on the side of the Hershman family’s building right by Jiffy Burger. It was painted by Eric “Mobe” Bass and Kyle “Folek” Barton in less than eight hours.
The Little Duck Greenway Murals (beneath the Woodland Street bridge, Manchester)
Two of Manchester’s murals, the American Eel triptych by Ivan Roque and the American Dragonfly painted by Sarah Pearson were both added as part of the River Romp festival that SVV’s and my public art nonprofit, DMA-events.
They’re both accessible along Manchester Parks and Recreation’s Little Duck Greenway—park at Fred Deadman Park by the Ada Wright Building just off of Wilson Street—and we have several other murals in the area, which you can find via the below map.
Bell Buckle (Railroad Square, Bell Buckle)
Just 25 minutes from Manchester, the town of Bell Buckle is one of my regular stops on my show-tourists-my-favorite-parts-of-Middle-Tennessee route. It’s really just a small downtown square, but it’s packed with antique stores and other novelty shops, as well as the iconic Bell Buckle Cafe and the brand-new Wellness Emporium. It’s also, famously, the home of MoonPies and RC Cola. Want a dose of nostalgia? Get thee to Bell Buckle. Bonnaroo weekend happens to coincide with the annual RC-MoonPie Festival, too; it’s always held on the third Saturday of June.
Stone Door (1183 Stone Door Rd., Beersheba Springs)
One of our favorite pet-friendly hikes in Tennessee to take Ella on is to Savage Gulf State Natural Area in South Cumberland State Park, due east of Manchester and about an hour by car, where the relatively flat and easy mile hike out to Stone Door promises grandiose views and fun slot canyons to explore.
Be sure and visit Laurel Falls, really close to the parking lot, on your way out. When you’re done there, take a dip in Greeter Falls, which is about 15 minutes back toward Manchester in Beersheba Springs.
The University of the South (735 University Ave., Sewanee)
Sewanee is one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous colleges in the nation. But tooling around the campus is not all to do there: There’s 13,000 acres of wooded terrain to explore on the campus alone, a Perimeter Trail, a giant cross overlooking a valley, and plenty of fun spots like Shenanigans and Sewanee Inn from which to enjoy a meal.
Serene Day Spa (108 N Spring St.)
Licensed massage therapist Becca Franks Jones bought a building on the square right across from the courthouse a couple years ago and opened a full-blown day spa, complete with massages, skincare and nail services. She has an aesthetician on staff, as well, and I like that you can get an appointment at Serene with just a few days’ notice (but do be sure and call ahead!).
Tims Ford State Park (570 Tims Ford Dr., Winchester)
This is one of the biggest and best lakes in all of Tennessee in my opinion. We spend many a lazy summer day boating around Tims Ford Lake, waterskiing, wakeboarding, putting our SUPs to use, and just enjoying the facilities at both Twin Creeks Marina and Holiday Landing.
Manchester is convenient to numerous distilleries along the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, including the most iconic spirits brand in the world.
Jack Daniel’s Distillery (133 Lynchburg Hwy., Lynchburg)
Jack Daniel’s global headquarters is just 25 miles southwest in Lynchburg and occupies a recently updated facility with expanded space and tour options. Our personal favorite Jack Daniel’s tour is the Angel’s Share, a 90-minute tour for $25 that ends with a flight of some of the best single-barrel Jack products served from the shiny, new barrel tasting room.
Be sure and make your bookings in advance, though; while walk-ins are accepted, you often will be waiting a couple hours. If you haven’t planned that far out, arrive and put your name on the list while you enjoy exploring the quaint Lynchburg square, lined with general stores, cafes and shops aplenty.
Want to do the whole Tennessee Whiskey Trail while you’re here? Check out these posts:
- Experience Franklin’s Masters & Makers Trail
- How to Travel the Tennessee Whiskey Trail
- The Urban Distillery Takeover of Memphis and Nashville
- On the Whiskey-Fueled Tennessee Backroads
- Sip Your Way Through East Tennessee’s Moonshine Culture
Beans Creek Winery (426 Ragsdale Rd., Manchester)
Located adjacent to the interstate and a stone’s throw from the Bonnaroo campgrounds, Beans Creek Winery is Manchester’s premier vineyard and a great addition to an area steeped in tourism. A collective of nine families banded together to bring wine to the community back in 2004, and for more than 17 years, Beans Creek has hailed as one of the area’s top attractions.
Former firefighter Josh Brown now runs the show after learning how to make wine from his late father and beloved community member, Tom. Best of all, unlike much of Manchester which closes up shop on weekends and many a Monday and Tuesday, as well, Beans Creek is open 361 days a year (i.e. every day but major holidays); it also hosts many special events with live music, food trucks and more, like my personal favorite, the summer Grape Jam series.
Cascade Hollow, formerly George Dickel (1950 Cascade Hollow Rd., Tullahoma)
Though it’s recently undergone a name change, Cascade Hollow Distilling Co., George Dickel is the distillery’s most recognizable brand as it’s been around since long before Prohibition. It’s also well worth the trip “down to the holler” because the setting is just so charming, and you get a true taste of the bucolic life of rural Tennessee.
Ole Shed Brewing Co. (516 E Carroll St., Tullahoma)
When Tullahoma got its own brewery seven years ago, the heavens opened up and the angels rejoiced. And while not technically in Manchester, Ole Shed is located on Highway 55 between the two. Ole Shed keeps a well-curated collection of a half dozen brews on tap—the Potbelly Porter is my favorite, while SVV always goes for the Southern Pale Ale—and the Bourbon Barrel Aged Pot Belly Porter is worth investing in a growler if they have any when you wander in.
The taproom itself is only open on Friday and Saturday from 4 to 9pm, but you can pick up six-packs of Ole Shed at some of the area liquor stores like Manchester Liquors and Liquor Locker and Wine Shop in Tullahoma.
Half Hill Farm (110 W High St., Woodbury)
A few years back, SVV discovered the magical elixirs of Half Hill Farm, kombucha specifically, and the charming men behind it: Christian Grantham and Vince Oropeza. Meeting them introduced us to the fermenting empire that lives atop Short Mountain and around Woodbury (we’re also a fan of distiller Billy Kaufman and his Short Mountain Distillery bourbon).
We go to their Wellness Emporium on High Street in Woodbury on the regular to fill our growlers with seasonal kombuchas—like honeysuckle apple, tart cherry and ginger lemon—but they also sell their other bottled goods out of the Wellness Emporium in Bell Buckle with another outpost coming to Murfreesboro soon.
If you’re shopping in Manchester, you’re most likely to stumble upon antique shops and other artisans, particularly as the town is positioned right along the Appalachian Quilt Trail.
Foothills Craft & Gift Shop (418 Woodbury Hwy., Manchester)
If you like to take a piece of the local culture home with you, the art at Foothills Craft right off of I-24 is the place to do just that. Stocking an assortment of vetted, handmade goods—from wire-wrapped jewelry and quilts to jams and spices—this craft collective has been around since 1981 but recently went through a revitalization with a changing of the guard.
Sprout Children’s Shop (112 S Spring St., Manchester)
The sign of a burgeoning community is a children’s store, and mother-daughter team Sharon Gilliam and Emily Skinner identified a hole in the fabric of downtown by opening Sprout two summers ago, stocked with kids’ apparel from some of my favorite brands like Milkbarn, as well as stuffed animals galore (is it wrong to be an adult and want to own everything Jellycat makes?).
Warning: You will come out having purchased something, whether you have kids or not. Everything is just too cute!
While you won’t find a lot of diversity in food options in Manchester—other than our beloved Mexican market—you will unearth some damn good Southern food.
Jiffy Burger (1001 Hillsboro Blvd., Manchester)
Around for more than 50 years, Jiffy Burger is arguably the most iconic spot in all of Manchester. It’s a drive-in, old-fashioned-style, but also a dine-in. The team there is about as friendly as they come, and they’re always hustling burgers, fries, tots and baked potatoes with a side of Southern hospitality.
There’s no alcohol here, but Jiffy Burger is one of the few places in town open six days a week (closed Sunday like nearly everywhere in town). If you’re feeling extra hungry, go big or go home with the Bonnaroo Burger.
Mercados Patty (2161 Hillsboro Blvd., Manchester)
Think it’s weird to come to Manchester and try Mexican food? Well, then clearly you haven’t experienced Mercados Patty, which is not just the best Mexican food I’ve had in Tennessee, but holds up a torch of Hispanic culture to anyone. In the back of a grocery store, the owner Francisco’s wife cooks up some of the best street tacos, tortas and other traditional Mexican fare while Francisco tends to the cash register or slices up cactus leaves.
Order a little of everything, but don’t leave without sampling the aqua fresca, of which there are usually at least six kinds. Mercados is closed on Tuesdays.
The Mercantile/Sweet Simplicity (102 W. Fort St., Manchester)
A pair of sisters bought this former antique store/restaurant on the Manchester square a few years back and gave it a much-needed makeover, reopening it under the original name, the Mercantile. The result is a traditional Southern meat-and-three restaurant with rotating specials and a killer dessert counter, Sweet Simplicity, with extended hours and fresh baked goods made daily. The Merc is open for lunch every day but Tuesday and Saturday.
Owner Renee Holt also caters many a wedding and special event around Tennessee and often hosts a Friday fish fry at the restaurant, too, and she recently added a general store and a fridge section where you can pick up fast meals to go.
Prater’s Bar-B-Que (620 Woodbury Hwy., Manchester)
You’ll see Prater’s on site at the Bonnaroo Music Festival as they’re one of the biggest caterers of the fest, but they have a location just a mile from us off of Woodbury Highway that’s open seven days a week and serves BBQ, beer and live music.
Bites of Europe (1306 Hillsboro Blvd., Manchester)
Stocking a good selection of German brews, best enjoyed in the outdoor beer garden, Bites of Europe is run by a British expat and open daily on Monday through Saturday from 11am to 9pm (and Sundays until 3pm). They whip up bratwurst, bangers and mash, burgers, sauerkraut and other European regional specialties.
J&G Pizza (520 McMinnville Hwy., Manchester)
This long-time, family-run institution serves up the best pizza and Italian fare in Manchester (and the surrounding area), and it’s parking lot is always packed (meaning you know it’s damn good!).
For more tips on travel to Manchester, Tennessee and its surrounds, see these posts:
- Traveling the Tennessee Whiskey Trail
- A Work of Street Art: The Best Murals in Nashville
- Visiting Tims Ford Lake State Park in Winchester
- Exploring Franklin’s Historic Downtown
- A Night Out at the Grand Ole Opry