Rutherford County Combines Big-city Amenities and Small-town Charm
Rutherford County offers big-city amenities while maintaining a small-town feel.
Over the years, Rutherford County has become a big place wrapped in a small package. With a growing number of retail options and cultural amenities, the county offers attractions as appealing as those found in larger metro areas. Yet life in the county flows along at a slightly slower, more leisurely pace than in big cities, providing residents with an affordable cost of living, close-knit communities and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. “This is a great area that has really grown into a city, but still has that small-town feel,” says Kathy Jones, a realtor with Parks Realty in Murfreesboro. “You can drive in any direction from downtown and find a nice subdivision, good schools and great shopping. Then when you get out into the county, there are all these hills and streams. It’s just a beautiful place to be all around.” A Lively Quality of Life There are numerous reasons why more and more people are calling Rutherford County home. For starters, the Murfreesboro-Smyrna area has lower housing costs than many cities in the region, according to the Cost of Living Index put out by the Council for Community and Economic Research. The new $267-million Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital opened in 2010, more than doubling the size of the previous facility. And the county's schools are ranked among the best in the state, with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) supplying the vibrancy that comes with a college town. Then there is the shopping. Perhaps nothing better illustrates the recent growth in Rutherford County than the increase in retail outlets. The Avenue is an open-air shopping center in Murfreesboro with more than 100 stores and restaurants, including the designer clothing store Buckle scheduled to open in 2015. Stones River Mall underwent a major renovation and expansion in 2008 and now consists of nearly 70 stores. Construction is set to begin in 2015 on the 130,000-square-foot Shoppes at StoneCrest along Interstate 24 in La Vergne, which will offer a mix of restaurants and retail, including the off-price retailer T.J. Maxx. “We’ve added a lot of great retail centers over the last few years,” Jones says. “I know we have a lot of people who used to drive to Nashville to shop who can now do all their shopping here in Rutherford County.” Kid-Friendly Museums, Historic Attractions Rutherford County is also home to many historical sites and museums. One of the newest is The Earth Experience, a natural history museum that opened in October 2014. It is filled with more than 100,000 artifacts that were accumulated by several local collectors, including two MTSU professors. “Now we have a place to show them off,” says museum director Alan Brown, who donated his collection of dinosaur bones. Visitors are greeted by a statue of a dinosaur with a saddle, providing an ideal photo opportunity for children. Displays include a 38-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, as well as a wide variety of rocks, minerals, gemstones, fossils and artisan jewelry. Brown says there is at least one item in every room that children are allowed to touch, such as dinosaur bones and pieces of petrified wood. Another kid-friendly museum, Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, was recently named by USA Today one of the best museums for children in the Nashville area. Along with the hands-on art and science exhibits and programs within the museum, the center also includes 20 acres of surrounding wetlands. For outdoor lovers, Stones River National Battlefield combines the history of the Civil War site with the natural beauty of a 709-acre national park. “We have seven miles of trails, and people will come out here to walk their dogs or jog and just enjoy seeing the trees and flowers,” says Stones River park ranger and education coordinator John McKay. Other popular attractions in the area include The Historic Sam Davis Home & Plantation, which holds tea parties, camps and ghost tours throughout the year; Cannonsburgh Village, which recreates 1800s life in Rutherford County; and the Oaklands Historic House Museum, which hosts an award-winning Wedding Dresses Through the Decades exhibit showcasing wedding dresses worn every decade from 1860 to present-day and a popular flashlight tour allowing visitors to explore the darkened corners and crevices of the 200-year-old mansion. Find out what it's like to live in Rutherford County, TN.