When I moved to Tennessee 20 years ago, I quickly discovered that one of the best things about my new home was its cozy historic small towns, filled with quirky antique galleries, whimsical gift shops, and nostalgic roadside diners. By now, I thought I had visited all of them in Middle Tennessee. As it turns out, I was wrong.
Historic downtown Nolensville is a quick drive from both Franklin and Nashville, yet somehow it took me two decades to visit. Now that I have, I’m here to make sure you make the trip a lot sooner than I did — This place is definitely day trip-worthy!
According to legend, Nolensville’s very existence is an accident. In 1797, William Nolen’s wagon broke down here while he and his family were making their way through Middle Tennessee. While waiting for the wagon to be repaired, Nolen took a look around and noticed the area had plenty of water, game, and general awesomeness. Mr. and Mrs. Nolen and their five kids decided to stay put — and Nolensville was born. Today, the original Nolen log cabin still exists within the Nolen House, and the downstairs portion of the home is available for rent on Airbnb.
Over the last 200 years, Nolensville survived the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Great Depression, multiple fires, and one major flood. Although the area as a whole is benefitting from Nashville and Franklin’s collective boom and new homes and shopping centers are popping up everywhere you look, a charming hodgepodge of historic homes and structures still line the streets of a small stretch of Nolensville Road, and herein lies the town’s unique charm. Whether you’re on a date, looking for something fun to do with the kids, or out on a shopping adventure with your besties, historic downtown Nolensville has something special to offer you.
You won’t want to miss The Painted Dragonfly, located inside a 1930s-era farmhouse and featuring beautiful home decor, clever gift ideas, women’s clothing, baby gear, and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor. I absolutely loved the shop’s selection as well as its prices. Everything seemed like a good deal — a feeling I don’t get very often in Nashville!
Next door is a true Tennessee treasure — the Nolensville Toy Shop. Step inside this beautiful historic home and prepare to wander through a labyrinth of high-ceilinged rooms chock full of toys, games, dolls, costumes, and more. It is a true paradise for children and adults alike and absolutely worth the drive for families — especially if you stop afterward at Itty Bitty Donuts, which is conveniently located right behind the toy store! More on that later in the post.
Enter uber-trendy Nellamoon and you’ll swear you’re on the set of an Instagram photoshoot. This hip boutique includes on-trend clothing, accessories, skincare products, and its signature, Nashville-made candle line. I am absolutely certain you’ll feel about 100% more relevant after stopping in.
Across the street from Nellamoon is the charmingly rustic Nolensville Feed Mill Amish Market. The structure was the Nolensville Mill Company from 1890 until 1986, but today it’s filled with Amish bread, cheeses, candy, popcorn (if you haven’t had Amish popcorn, you’re in for a treat!), jams, jellies, and much more, as well as a takeout counter with made-to-order sandwiches and beloved chicken salad.
If you visit Nolensville on a Saturday, you won’t want to miss the Nolensville Farmer’s Market, a year-round affair in the parking lot of the Mill Creek Church of Christ on Nolensville Road. We were thoroughly charmed on our recent visit to the winter market, where we found lots of locally sourced meats, local baked goods, and Christmas gift ideas. Special mention goes to the heavenly snowballs from Dulce Arielle — The coconut-encrusted, custard-filled sweet bread may well go down as the best dessert I’ve ever purchased from a farmer’s market. We also adored the fresh-baked soft pretzels from Knot Us, and we clearly weren’t alone — We bought the very last bag!
No day trip is complete without a memorable meal, right? Not to worry, friends! Nolensville’s got you covered.
Located in the heart of historic downtown Nolensville, Southern Hospitality is a classic meat and three featuring southern favorites like country fried steak, fried green tomatoes, and sweet potato casserole.
For a date night, Pork Belly Farmhouse puts a sophisticated twist on classic Southern favorites. Afterward, consider stopping for craft cocktails at the brand new Happenstance Social, which is just a mile or so down the road.
Just behind The Painted Firefly, you’ll find delicious made to order donuts and specialty coffee at local favorite Itty Bitty Donuts. Consider a stop here a must-do in between shopping stops.
Outlanders Southern Chicken is a self-proclaimed chicken shack serving up fried chicken tenders and wings, fried mac and cheese balls, amazing fries, and buckets of beer and locals absolutely love this place.
And right next door to Outlanders, you’ll find Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in its new and much larger location across the street from the original Martin’s. This beloved barbecue restaurant is a staple now in Middle Tennessee and across the Southeast, but Nolensville is where the local chain got its start.
Other Nolensville Adventures
While you’re here, check out these other unique Nolensville offerings!
Pixel Planet Arcade is a new, family-friendly entertainment center offering pinball, classic and new arcade games, and ticket games and prizes. The arcade also has a party room available for reservations.
Nolensville is also home to both Mill Creek Brewing Co. and Wheeler’s Raid Distillery. Be sure and stop by for a tasting or a tour while you’re in the area.
Looking for a great photo op? Check out Nolensville’s first mural on the side of Mama’s Java Cafe. It was painted by artist Kim Radford as part of Tennessee’s Walls for Women project. While you’re there, stop inside for a steaming cup of Mama’s Java’s air roasted coffee.
Between June and November, you’ll find local fruits, vegetables, honey, jams, preserves, cider, and fresh brown eggs at Morning Glory Orchard, a second-generation Nolensville family farm.
How much did we love Nolensville? We visited this past Saturday and my husband is already lobbying for another trip — next weekend! Come see it for yourself and we’re betting you’ll love it just as much as we did.