Bonnaroo is just the beginning. Pack your bags for a post-festival day trip. (Photo: Kristin Luna)
For four days each June, the tiny town of Manchester becomes one of Tennessee’s largest cities as up to 100,000 people descend upon 700-acres that’s been lovingly dubbed “the Farm.” And while many jet in and out for the annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, not lingering after the last act has left the stage, there’s plenty to do in the vicinity beyond the campgrounds.
Plan your time accordingly and tack on one (or all) of these easy day trips, each within an hour’s drive from the ‘Roo before you say goodbye to Tennessee.
Old Stone Fort
A sacred Indian burial ground just five minutes from the Bonnaroo grounds, Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park is the largest and most complex hilltop enclosure in the South. Spanning 50 acres, this Tennessee state park houses a ceremonial site established roughly 2,000 years ago during the Middle Woodland Period and used through the fifth century.
But it’s primed for outdoor-lovers just as much as it is history buffs thanks to multiple waterfalls, abundant wildlife, numerous hiking trails and well-equipped sites for both RVs and tent campers.
Jack Daniel’s Distillery
Arguably the most recognized whiskey brand in the world, Jack Daniel’s global headquarters is located just 30 minutes from the Farm in the 6,000-person town of Lynchburg. The iconic distillery celebrated its 150th birthday in 2016, and a recent $103 million expansion makes the visitor’s experience even more enjoyable.
Guides offer year-round daily tours of the grounds, which include visits to the barrelhouse (which stores more than 20,000 barrels), the rickyard, the underground spring and the White Rabbit Saloon.
Be sure and arrive in time for lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House and Restaurant. A favorite spot of Jack’s back in the day, the space has been operating for more than 100 years. Its family-style lunch offers some of the best down-home Southern cuisine in the area.
One of the prettiest university campuses in the nation, this mountaintop enclave also has a number of nearby outdoor attractions to pursue, such as Natural Bridge, Fiery Gizzard Trail, Foster Falls and a massive cross that overlooks the surrounding valley (no strenuous activity involved).
Fancy yourself a waterfall fan? Located in the same county as Bonnaroo, the town of Tullahoma lays claim to a pair of gushers: Machine Falls and Rutledge Falls. Barely 15 minutes from the Farm, this duo is conquerable in an afternoon. Pack your hiking shoes and a bathing suit and prepare to cool off post-festival in true Tennessee style.
Experience a bygone era during an afternoon in the quaint, old-fashioned town of Bell Buckle (pop. 500) as you shop the charming antique stores and nosh on a meat-and-three at the eponymous country café.
Bell Buckle hosts an annual fest all its own, also in June. Now in its 23rd year, the day-long, sugar-fueled RC & Moon Pie Festival — with cloggers and rock bands, arts and crafts booths, the Olympic-style RC & MoonPie Games, Knights of the MoonPie Round, and the world’s largest MoonPie — has become a beloved Tennessee pastime.
A recreational area 45 minutes out near Beersheba Springs, the Savage Gulf and Stone Door area of South Cumberland State Park comprises 55 miles of hiking, vistas and watering holes.
One of the highlights is undoubtedly the Great Stone Door, a cliff line with impressive views of the gulch, which is accessed via an easy 1.6-mile walking trail. Just up the way, Greeter Falls is also worth a gander, and the roadside Dairy Bar in Gruetli-Laager is the perfect place to refuel.