I’ve recently had the opportunity to travel to Tennessee and explore a little. It’s a beautiful state with lots of lush forests and waterfalls, warm and friendly people, and the cutest backcountry towns I’ve ever seen. I just had to share with you one of those cute towns and tell you why you should visit Bell Buckle, TN.
Even the name ‘Bell Buckle’ grabs your interest doesn’t it? There are several theories for how it got its unique name, but most likely it came from nearby Bell Buckle Creek, named after a carving on a tree that resembled a cowbell and a buckle. Keep reading to learn why a small town with a funny name and only 450 residents is such a great visit!
1. Surrounding Landscape
If you haven’t been to Tennessee, you might not know just how beautiful a state it is. I can aptly describe it with one color: GREEN — green forests and green pastures. And along with those pastures are the most picturesque barns. Tree-lined country roads, cows dotting the hills, lakes, bridges, rivers, waterfalls…the list goes on and on. So when you visit Bell Buckle, you’re going to drive through a beautiful landscape. In fact, if I had been the one driving, we might not have ever made it to Bell Buckle. I’d have been tempted to stop too many times to take photos.
2. Antiques and Boutiques
Bell Buckle is chockfull of the cutest little shops — antiques and also boutiques. I could have easily spent an hour in each. I bought antique spoons, vintage fabrics, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, postcards, and Moon Pies (more about that in the next paragraph!). The only reason I didn’t buy more is because I was flying home with only carry-on luggage and my space was limited. I have no idea if all of the antiques were local to Tennessee, but I do know there was a large selection AND the prices were very good. Many of the boutique items were locally created.
3. Annual RC and Moonpie Festival
Every third Saturday in June, Bell Buckle sponsors the RC and Moonpie Festival — a festival to honor two Tennessee homegrown products, RC Cola and Moonpies. The festival draws crowds of up to 30,000 from all over and includes races, a craft fair, performers, a parade, a King and Queen Coronation, games and prizes, and the WORLD’s LARGEST MOONPIE! Don’t know what a Moonpie is? It’s a wonderful little sandwich of marshmallow and cookies, covered in chocolate (or other flavors, too). Normally, it’s about 4″ wide. But Bell Buckle’s giant Moonpies can measure 4″ tall and up to 40″ in diameter!
4. Bell Buckle Cafe and Southern Fare
You simply must eat Southern cuisine when in Bell Buckle, because the Bell Buckle Cafe serves up the best! In fact, it’s been rated one of the top ten restaurants to visit in the state of Tennessee. What kind of food can you enjoy here? Delicious comfort-food entrees like Chicken Pot Pie, Smothered Pork Chops, Chicken & Dumplings, Catfish Filets or Chicken Fried Steak will be sure to thrill your taste buds. Or feast on side dishes like Turnip Greens, Succotash, or Fried Okra. And complete your meal with a fruit cobbler or Moonpie Sundae!
I had the misfortune of visiting Bell Buckle on a day when the Bell Buckle Cafe was closed. Sorry day! But I was so grateful to the Bluebird Antiques and Ice Cream Parlor for stepping up and serving a wonderful southern lunch menu to fill in the gap. And they sell the most heavenly fried fruit pies!
5. Bell Buckle’s Quaintness Factor
Bell Buckle was founded in 1852 as the railroad between Nashville and Chattanooga was established. It brought instant prosperity to the town, and Bell Buckle was once the largest shipping point for livestock between the two major cities. At the turn of the century, the town began to decline as railroads became less popular. It might have faded into oblivion if it weren’t for an effort in the 1960’s to preserve its heritage and renovate Bell Buckle.
Today, Bell Buckle has a thriving art community (and lots of murals!), charming eateries and shops, The Webb School preparatory academy, and hosts a number of festivals and holiday events. Bell Buckle is also part of the Jack Trail, one of the regional trails in Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways.
And here’s why you really need to visit Bell Buckle — it’s just as quaint as it was in its heyday and still holds great historic southern charm! In fact, Southern Living recently named it “the top small town in the South.” The original Victorian and Arts & Crafts homes are still there, and many of Bell Buckle’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has come into the 20th century while bringing the best of its past with it.
I have to pause here to thank my daughter-in-law for taking time out of her busy-mom life to take my husband and I to visit Bell Buckle. It was such a treat, and I’m sure you’ll love it too!