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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Meet in the middle in Murfreesboro

Courtesy Rutherford Chamber

Where is Murfreesboro, Tenn.?

Murfreesboro, in Rutherford County, is 30 miles southeast of Nashville on Interstate 24. The largest city in the county, Murfreesboro has a population of 100,000.

How do we get there?
Rutherford County is 35 miles from the Nashville International Airport. The county is bisected by I-24, which links Nashville and Chattanooga. Bright blue directional signs — 135 of them — were recently installed to help visitors find their way around town.

What types of meetings best suit Murfreesboro and Rutherford County?

Murfreesboro hosts a large number of sporting events, from state high school championships to regional soccer tournaments. Many state associations also choose the area because of its central location. Walking-horse shows are another niche. And the area’s ties to the Civil War have helped it win clients such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans National, which will have a reunion in Rutherford County in 2012.

What’s new?
Sports*Com recently turned its outdoor pool into a water park.
A new visitors center, slated to open in November in Murfreesboro, will have touch-screen kiosks, a gift shop and exhibits.

Tell me about some sites worth seeing.
Visit the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The 600-acre Stones River National Battlefield, operated by the National Park Service, has living-history presentations, encampments, tours, a museum and a national cemetery.

More than a half-million Nissan cars and trucks roll off the assembly line at the Nissan North America plant in Smyrna, and free tours given on Tuesdays and Thursdays allow visitors to watch the work done at this massive facility, which covers 5.4 million square feet.

While in Smyrna, stop by the Sam Davis Home and Museum and learn more about the Confederate hero who refused to give valuable information to Union soldiers and was executed as a result.

There’s a focus on Civil War history at the new Heritage Center in Murfreesboro, but exhibits go beyond the war, and complimentary tours of the town’s historic square are offered daily on the hour.

Pretend to be a pioneer at Cannonsburgh Village, a reconstructed Southern village with a gristmill, a working blacksmith’s shop, a general store and a museum.

Need to stretch your legs? Look for one of the eight trailheads along the Murfreesboro Greenway System, a 4.5-mile paved, handicapped-accessible trail that follows the Stones River and Lytle Creek. A pavilion at the General Bragg trailhead can be booked for group outings.

For an eye-appealing afternoon, see the work of noted photographers in the Learning Resources Center and the work of regional and national artists at the Todd Gallery at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Or check out the variety of exhibits in the permanent gallery at the city’s Center for the Arts. Housed in a restored 1909 building downtown, the center includes a 168-seat performance hall and an art gallery.

Tell me about the main sites for meetings.
The city’s largest hotel and meeting space is also one of its newest. The 283-suite Embassy Suites Murfreesboro Hotel and Conference Center is two miles from Old Fort Golf Course, less than two miles from Avenue Murfreesboro and less than four miles from MTSU. In a county with 64,000 square feet of meeting space, the Embassy Suites dominates, with 43,325 square feet of meeting space. There are 2,850 guest rooms in Murfreesboro and another 1,000 hotel rooms in Smyrna and La Vergne.

Tell me about some offbeat spots for off-site events.
The Oaklands Historic House Museum, a former plantation, can be a special setting for receptions and dinners, from libations on the lawn to a reception in the antebellum mansion.

High-stepping horses make the rounds regularly at Tennessee Miller Coliseum, a venue for local, state, regional, national and international horse shows. The facility includes a 150-foot-by-300-foot arena floor, a covered warmup area and almost 500 stalls. The coliseum will seat 4,600 people and can be extended to a capacity of 6,500.

The cedar-lined driveway that leads to the Sam Davis Home in Smyrna slows the hectic pace; more than 160 acres of the original plantation offer locations for outdoor events.

For a true taste of Murfreesboro …
Hot-water cornbread, fried dill pickle chips, corn nuggets and other satisfyingly Southern treats are a great way to start a culinary exploration of this area. On downtown’s square, try the Maple Street Grill, where Southern style is served with a twist, or the Goodness Gracious Cafe, known for its homemade dishes and desserts. Enjoy some of the best down-home cooking and bluegrass music at Miller’s Grocery, an antique-filled country cafe just outside Murfreesboro.

Did you know?
-Murfreesboro is nicknamed “the Heart of Tennessee,” because it is at the geographic center of the state.

-The city is home to the largest undergraduate university in the state, Middle Tennessee State University, and its 23,000 students.

-The Doubletree Hotel Murfreesboro is one of 17 certified Tennessee Green Hospitality hotels. The 101-room Murfreesboro Hampton Inn was designated among that chain’s top-performing hotels.