Perfectly Small Cities: Clarksville, Tennessee

Author: Alecia Pirulis

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Take the last train to Clarksville, and I’ll meet you at the station … You can be there by 4:30 because I made your reservation …

The famous song, recorded by the Monkees in 1966, was written about a young draftee getting ready to go off to war. He wants to see his sweetheart one last time before heading to Vietnam, where he doesn’t know if he will ever come home. The song is referring to Fort Campbell in Kentucky, which is located along the border of Clarksville, Tennessee, about 10 miles from downtown.

Clarksville is a terrific small town with plenty to offer, from its fantastic weather to its historic downtown. “Tennessee’s Top Spot” was founded in 1785, more than a decade after a group of settlers from North Carolina chose this area for their new village. Due to its location along the Cumberland River, the small settlement grew quickly, and in 1855 it became a city.

This isn’t just a small town, but a college town! Clarksville is home to Austin Peay State University, the state’s fastest-growing university. Austin Peay provides the community with plenty of collegiate sports to enjoy – including football. The Austin Peay Governors football program competes in NCAA Division I as members of the Ohio Valley Conference. You can catch a game (and do some tailgating) at the newly-remodeled Governors Stadium, which seats 10,000.

During the Civil War, Clarksville was the location of three forts. One of those, Fort Defiance, became the remarkably well-preserved Fort Defiance Civil War Park & Interpretive Center. The Interpretive Center is a large 1,500-square-foot facility with a variety of exhibits from the Civil War era. The park also offers hiking trails, group tours, and field trips. The gun platforms, powder magazine, and outer earthworks are still evident in the park.

Dunbar Cave State Park is practically an urban park – it is located just one mile from downtown Clarksville. This extensive cave system has a fascinating history. Artifacts have been discovered dating back to the Paleo Indian time, roughly 10,000 BC-8,000 BC. Pictographs have also been found in the cave that indicated the cave was an important location for Native American spiritual ceremonies. Today, this popular park offers three miles of hiking trails and fishing at the 15-acre Swan Lake.

From May through October, residents of Clarksville can be found in one place on Saturday mornings – the Clarksville Downtown Market! The market is held on the Public Square and features more than 70 vendors, including local farmers, entertainers, artists, and bakers. The market, which is more like a big weekly festival, also features onsite chefs and live music.

While Clarksville is considered a haven for artists, golfers will also appreciate this city, which is home to two municipal golf courses that are open year-round. Swan Lake is located at the Dunbar Cave State Natural Area and is an 18-hole, par-71 course. Mason Rudolph Golf Course is a 9-hole, par-30 course.

And if you enjoy boating, fishing, or are just looking for a great place to take your dog, you’ll love the spectacular Liberty Park & Clarksville Marina! This park has a fun-filled playground, beautiful scenery, a marina and boat ramps, a dog park, a walking trail, a fishing pond, and picnic pavilions.

The great thing about Clarksville is that it doesn’t actually know it is a “small city.” It is the fifth fastest-growing city in the country, it offers a fabulous downtown area filled with shops, restaurants, theaters, and art galleries, it has an active nightlife, and it provides beautiful parks and walking trails. Arts and culture are everywhere – there’s so much of it that you may forget that you are supposed to be enjoying life in a small town. But that doesn’t mean it’ll feel like you are living in a bustling metropolis – this is the South, after all, where the pace is slower and the people are known for their warm hospitality. So stop waiting at the station – take the last (or even the first) train to Clarksville and rent an apartment – you’ll love living in this small city!