As we all know, it has been pretty cold along the Natchez Trace Parkway. We recently made the case for why winter is a great time to visit the Trace, and it seems many folks agree! In fact, the Natchez Trace saw nearly 700,000 visitors during the last month of 2014. That’s an increase of over 200,000 visitors from the same time last year. That figure also puts the 444-mile scenic byway on track to nearly 7 million visitors for the year, and be quite the contender in the Top 10 Most Visited National Park Service Sites (again!) Those aren’t bad numbers to kick off the new year and begin the celebration of the National Park Services Centennial in 2016.
Still, there’s more to the story. In January 2015, Newsmax featured the Natchez Trace Parkway as one of 6 travel tips for those visiting the Nashville, TN area. Of course, if you’ve heard a little bit about the Trace before now, you are well aware that there is far more to the Trace beyond just its northern endpoint. There are 18 communities from Natchez to Nashville, and there’s plenty to see and do in each of them!
Let’s start out just outside of Nashville, in a town called Franklin, Tennessee. Here you’ll find incredible shopping and dining downtown, and the history of the Civil War Battle of Franklin for those that are interested in history along the Trace.
You’ll also find quite the gem a few miles further down the Natchez Trace Parkway in the community of Leiper’s Fork, TN. Here you can take in the beauty of Moonshine Hill Inn, a stunning bed and breakfast set on 20 acres of rolling hills. It’s truly an incredible place- a recent guest visiting all the way from China called Moonshine Hill Inn, “more beautiful than heaven.” If you can pry your bones away from the toasty fireplace at Moonshine Hill, there’s plenty more to be seen further down America’s most beautiful scenic byway.
Before leaving Tennessee, don’t miss Swan View Overlook near Hohenwald, Tennessee. This overlook is located on the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 392.5. The view is beautiful! After all, Hohenwald is the highest town between New Orleans and Chicago.
As you head through Alabama, make a pit stop near Tuscumbia, Alabama to visit Helen Keller’s childhood home Ivy Green. The house and gardens have been meticulously maintained, and visitors can see both the birthplace cottage where Helen did her work, as well as the main house furnished with the original family furniture. Not surprisingly, Tuscumbia’s Spring Park draws up to 100,000 visitors every year.
For a look at plantation life near the Mississippi River, take a short detour from the Trace near Port Gibson, Mississippi. Here you can marvel at Windsor Ruins, an incredible antebellum home situated near the key trade routes of the Mississippi River. The mansion, which costs over $4.5 million to build in today’s dollars, sat on over 2,600 acres and was completed in 1861. During the Civil War, the home became both a hospital and an observation post for both Union and Confederate troops, depending of course on who managed to control the area at any given time. The great home survived the war and housed notable guests such as Mark Twain, only to be burned to the ground by a careless guest’s cigar in 1890.
On the Trace, you’ll find a wealth of recreational activities, too. So now you know why this 444-mile scenic byway is finding itself on so many top lists. Maybe you should put a trip to the Natchez Trace Parkway and its communities (filled with excellent restaurants, lodging and dining) at the top of your list!