1. Cookeville is not a small town. Byrdstown, Woodbury, Red Boiling Springs -- these are small towns. Cookeville is a “micropolitan” college town, which means we have a lot in common with bigger places like Knoxville and the Boro. Just hang out in the traffic on Willow Avenue to be cured of the notion that there is nobody here doing nothing.
2. There is something to do on the weekend. Things may be slower around the Tech campus on Saturday and Sunday, but there is theater, art, and live music in the clubs, bars, churches, streets, and parks. This weekend you can hear live music from a huge variety of folks at Art in the Alley, an outdoor festival near Cookeville’s square from Noon until 7pm on Saturday!
3. We have great local coffeehouses! As a serious coffee drinker who travels a lot, I rely on Starbucks to get me through, but if the only coffeehouse you check out is the campus Starbucks, you are missing out. Cookeville has some great local coffeehouses, with Poets on the Square being the real icon and hangout space for conversation and the occasional live music. But for a real gem and the best frozen coffee drinks I have ever had, try Perk Up on Jefferson (near Hobby Lobby). The people who run Perk Up are so genuine and nice, too!
4. WalMart is not the only store. You don’t ever need to go there. I go once or twice a year for some masochistic proletarian check-in with mass culture. I have heard that if you must Wal-Mart, the Algood Walmart is better than the Cookeville Wal-Mart.
5. Local food sustains us. Green markets are everywhere. We have two excellent Farmers’ Markets! Check out the original farmers’ market on Mahler street, north of First and near the railroad tracks. Or the Downtown Green Market in the parking lot of First Presbyterian Church, on Broad at Dixie, adjacent to Dogwood Park.
6. We love our waterfalls but be careful. The people at Cummins Falls State Park aren’t kidding! Please be safe! Wear hiking sandals or sturdy water shoes, not flip flops or high heels. When they say bring a backpack and not a plastic shopping bag, they mean it. When they say the hike to the falls is strenuous, they aren’t bluffing. When they say people have fallen from the rocks or drowned to meet their maker there, they are telling the truth. This is one of the best parks in the world, and I go as often as I can. But be safe not stupid. Be prepared!
7. Walking is for everyone. Don’t drive your car everywhere. Walk to Sherlock Park or the Quad on campus or walk downtown to Dogwood Park and then the West Side. A short drive can take you to Cane Creek Park for more walking. Jaywalking on Dixie at the busiest times of day is dangerous. Look both ways and use the crosswalks!
8. Being a vinyl-collecting hipster isn’t just for people from Nashville. Check out Compact Discovery at the old Cookeville mall for great used records and new records on Record Store Day. I have gotten great scores there that I never would have found in Nashville ‘s finest record stores and for a fraction of the price.
9. Health fiends find some good news here. Fast food isn’t just your traditional fast food. Check out the drive thru juice bar on Jackson near Staples. The Turn Around is your place for great juices as well as salads and sandwiches.
10. This is the Bible belt but not all the churches are conservative. If conservative is your thing, there are lots of churches to choose from, but Cookeville also has a growing group of religious progressives and liberals. For an open-minded and social justice-oriented faith community, check out the United Church of Cookeville, First Presbyterian Church, Unity Church of the Cumberlands, and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cookeville.