"What's there to do here?"
It's a question I get asked often by friends, whether they've just moved back to Rutherford County from living out of state, or more often the case, when they become parents!
I used to rattle off a list of favorite websites and social media pages, but then I realized it'd be more helpful to send friends to a central hub-- one spot to jump from into their own adventures, whether with kids, visiting friends, or just whenever it's time to find a new restaurant.
That's when I began tapping our local Convention and Visitor's Bureau. A CVB is a not-for-profit organization that promotes a destination, including the "fun stuff" of a community that attracts visitors and makes life better for its citizens, like sports, arts, heritage, and dining. I used to think of it as something "only" for tourists, but for those of us who want to tour our own city, it's also for us!
I spoke with Susan Gulley, the director of Cultural and Heritage Tourism with the Rutherford County CVB, about how local families can use the Rutherford CVB to learn more about where they live, and we had so much fun! Check out our seven ways to explore Rutherford County.
1. Click on Visit Rutherford
Our starting point for our conversation was visitrutherfordtn.com, the Rutherford County CVB's website for all things tourism. "It's ever-changing," Gulley notes. Events, sports, restaurants, art resources, and even event space is listed on the site. You can also visit the Visitor's Center located inside the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce at 3050 Medical Center Parkway and use an interactive display to explore the website with a staff member. Peruse brochures and maps to more local and Middle Tennessee attractions, and don't forget to "walk across Rutherford County" on the cement map on the property before you leave!
2. Dig into Dining
Who doesn't love to try a local dish? Visit Rutherford's Dining Guide is updated with new restaurants to help hungry visitors (and locals!) know where to go for great plates. And we're not talking just Southern flavor; Gulley notes more global flavors are coming to the community each year. Check out the clickable--and cravable -- guide online for where to eat tonight.
3. Find the Art
If you've been around town for at least the last year you've seen arts bloom across the county in exciting ways-- from murals to art shows to installments at parks. Not only is this good news aesthetically for our city, it's also simply a lot of fun for photo ops and family adventure. Check out the listing of area artisans and art venues on the Visit Rutherford Arts and Culture page, and take the family on an art hunt with Visit Rutherford's guide to local murals here.
4. See the Past
Whether you're looking for a homeschool field trip or are hosting a history buff, you'll find Rutherford County's historic sites and their events listed on the Visit Rutherford website. Guides to Civil War sites, heritage centers, and museums can be found here, along with hours, admission fees, and contact information.
One of the center's newest guides to combine agritourism, history, and arts has been the Quilt Trail-- a list of where to see quilt squares painted on barns and other local historic sites. Take a look here.
5. Take it Outside
Growing up I wished I lived someplace like Florida or California, so I could have neat outdoor things to do. Fast forward a few years, and I'm dumbfounded that my kids and I still haven't been to every park and trail in Rutherford County! From hiking trails to creative climbing apparatus to kayaking to fishing, local park and recreation departments offer a wealth of fun opportunities in Mother Nature. Get the list on the Visit Rutherford site, and then pack up for your family's next nonscreen adventure.
6. Get Social
While it's impossible to keep tabs on every fun thing going on in the community (and some of us have tried for years), the Visit Rutherford FB and IG accounts are great hubs for finding the many local organizations, flavors, and happenings that make up where we live. "We are kind of like a filter for gathering and sharing information that’s out there," Gulley says, "We find and share original postings from other organizations." Whether it's a new dish served up at a local joint, a public concert, or art showing, you'll hear about it here, and then you can jump onto those shared pages.
Want to get in on the fun? You can tag Visit Rutherford on social media and use the hashtag #discoverrutherford. Great photos will be confirmed and shared on the Visit Rutherford website and occasionally get a spotlight through their social media accounts. (Hint, hint, it's a great opportunity for any young budding photographers, too!)
7. Just Do It
As Gulley and I were chatting, she reminded me that while Visit Rutherford offers a great guide to the community, the most important part of exploring is to just do it."We often think there's a perfect way to do things, " says Gulley, "even our exploring. We have to take the perfect picture, have to do it just right. But that plateaus us and stagnates us. We need to not overthink so much; just learn to observe." She encourages locals and visitors alike to get out of the rut of the norm and simply try something new.
And that's what exploring is all about, isn't it?
What are your tips for exploring Rutherford County? Share your ideas in the comments!
Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama and Murfreesboro native who lives in the Blackman community with her husband and two children. Follow her at @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram. Got a column idea? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.