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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Charming Towns of Tennessee

For meeting planners, Tennessee’s music heritage, natural attractions and culinary scene pro-vide an inexhaustible source of ways to make meetings unique and memorable.

But through the recession, as many major corporations have brought their events to second- and third-tier cities, Tennessee’s draws have caused hotel prices and venue rental rates in cities like Memphis and Nashville to soar to the point of inaccessibility for many groups.

Due to the state’s infrastructure and easy transit connections, however, there are many areas in Tennessee where groups can find lower prices, free parking for attendees and small-town charm while still staying close enough to major attractions to include a day or evening trip into the city.


Just under 30 minutes south of Nashville, Franklin has made a name for itself as a meeting destination in its own right by combining historical venues with modern conveniences.

“In Franklin, you’ll have great Southern hospitality and the hotels and conference center you need for a traditional meeting, but we have both extremes of traditional and out-of-the-box,” said Ellie Westman Chin, president and CEO of Visit Franklin and the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

One of the hottest event spaces in town, which can be used only for meetings, not for weddings, is the Factory at Franklin, an old stove-works factory with exposed brick and beams. The venue’s 30,000 square feet of space also serves as the backdrop for the Public Broadcasting Service show “Music City Roots,” and groups can work with the CVB to bring in acts for private evening shows there or at the Franklin Theater, a nearly 300-seat theater that dates back to 1937 and that completed an $8 million renovation in 2011 that brought it to LEED Silver certification.

Two historic town staples have also been renovated into restaurants that can be reserved for unusual receptions or luncheons. Gray’s on Main was once the town’s pharmacy, a fact incorporated into the decor using historical medical supplies. In nearby Leiper’s Fork, the Green’s Grocery, which has space for up to 100, looks like a farmhouse but previously served as a country grocery.

Westman Chin’s team has also worked with Vanderbilt University to create an unusual historical team-building program on the grounds of the Battle of Franklin. Described as “leadership lessons learned,” the program walks groups step-by-step through the events of the battle to see why historic leaders made the decisions they did and what the ensuing complications were.


Known best as the home of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Lynchburg is also one of those places that fits the definition of a hidden gem in the travel industry. Apart from the state-of-the art distillery, much of Lynchburg appears unchanged since the heyday of Jack Daniel himself in the late 1880s.

Main Street, which is the original thoroughfare from the settlement’s establishment in 1801, and Courthouse Square are the heart of the Lynchburg Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the best ways to experience Lynchburg’s history is at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House, which has served local favorites, many featuring Jack Daniel’s, to visitors since 1908.

Accommodations in town consist entirely of bed-and-breakfasts and cottages, primarily converted historic buildings, like Ledford Mill Bed and Breakfast, an 1884 gristmill on the Tennessee Heritage Trail also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Trolly House, an antebellum mansion that dates back to the middle of the 19th century.

A tour of Jack Daniel’s, which comes in two flavors — a tour of the distillery and grounds, or a sampling tour — is a must while visiting Lynchburg, but it’s not the only tour worth adding to your itinerary. In addition to other top local distilleries, including Pritchard’s Distillery and Dickel Distillery, visitors can take horse-and-buggy tours of the nearby historic village of Mulberry, home of the 120-year-old Mulberry Home, which has sleeping rooms.

Larger limited- and full-service hotels with meeting space are available in nearby Shelbyville and Fayetteville, among them two Best Westerns, a Hampton Inn and a Holiday Inn Express and Suites.