Camden, TN, located a bit west of Nashville, is a delightful small city where you can’t help but embrace the beautiful outdoors.
It’s on the edge of a huge reservoir formed by the Tennessee River and manages to balance agriculture with industry successfully.
A company that churns out freshwater pearls may be the ultimate expression of this. Sadly, it’s also the place where one of country music’s brightest stars met her end.
We’ll get to know more about Camden’s history and culture, including this sad chapter, as we spend a beautiful day there.
Are you ready to embrace Camden, TN? Let’s go.
About Camden, TN
Established in 1836, this county seat of Benton County has a population of around 3,700. It’s only about 94 miles west of Nashville via Interstate 40.
The drive is a few miles shorter and more of a straight shot using U.S. Highway 70. Camden is about an hour’s drive northeast from Jackson, TN, and about 145 miles from Memphis.
Camden has a large farming industry. It’s also a bedroom community for workers at the DuPont chemical plant and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TVA, a massive utility company, is also responsible for that big reservoir called Kentucky Lake.
Overall, you could say Camden has mild weather, but residents here definitely experience all four seasons.
You’ll see summer highs generally in the high 80s and winter lows in the 30s, but nothing too extreme. This means you’ll have lots of opportunities to get outside to enjoy Camden’s inviting waterways and its lush, hilly terrain.
Traveler’s Tip: Hit up the Nashville suburb of Antioch to enjoy the vibrancy of the city with fewer crowds.
There’s so much to see and do in Camden that we’ll hit the ground running. We’ll start with a tasty and nourishing breakfast at one of the town’s favorite morning spots. Our next destination may make us stop in our tracks for some time to reflect.
Enjoy Breakfast at the DayMaker Cafe
Address: 49 E Lake St, Camden, TN 38320
Menu options: The restaurant’s savory Breakfast Flatbreads are a surprise favorite. You may also love the eye-opening sweet treats like Caramel Apple French Toast and Cinnamon Roll Pancakes.
The eatery’s signature Scrambles are eggs served with potatoes and fruit. You can also get bagels or a croissant panini.
Why You Should Go: Come early for some of the best coffee in town in a cozy, cheerful setting. DayMaker Cafe, right on the town square, has a welcoming vibe for both locals and visitors.
Their creative menu highlights fresh, from-scratch flavors. It’s not fast food, and you won’t feel rushed. In fact, you may want to come back later and settle in again for ice cream or cheesecake.
Take a Morning Hike to the Patsy Cline Memorial
Address: Mt Carmel Rd, Camden, TN 38320
Why You Should Go: Nearly 3 miles down this country road, a trail leads to where Patsy Cline and three others died.
The 1963 plane crash also claimed the lives of pilot Randy Hughes and two other well-known performers, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins.
They were on a return trip to Nashville after doing a show in Kansas and flew into a heavy rainstorm. You may wind up with a bittersweet feeling at best as you pay your personal tribute.
A narrow gravel road winds through the lovely and secluded wooded area to the crash site. A large rock with a touching inscription marks the spot where the aircraft made its impact.
You may also see bouquets of flowers that other fans have left in remembrance.
Head back to town for a more traditional lunch and visit a unique and innovative business. If you think you know where pearls come from, think again.
Grab Lunch at The Grainery
Address: 256 W Main St, Camden, TN 38320
Menu Options: The Grainery is extremely popular because of its all-you-can-eat servings of good ol’ country cooking.
Fill your plate with Southern favorites like fried chicken and catfish, plus home-style vegetables and desserts.
If you’ve never indulged in chicken and dumplings or frog legs, this may be your chance.
Why You Should Go: The great thing about Southern-style lunch buffets is that you get to sample a little bit of everything.
At The Grainery, they also serve up some southern hospitality. And the country music playing overhead adds to the ambiance.
Learn About Freshwater Pearls with a Museum Tour
Address: 255 Marina Rd, Camden, TN 38320
Why You Should Go: Pearls come from oysters, right? In this part of the world, the Washboard mussel produces them. The freshwater pearl (Tennessee’s state gemstone) is another one of this area’s claims to fame.
The mussels that create these beauties thrive in the pristine conditions of Birdsong Creek, off Kentucky Lake. The Tennessee River Fresh Water Pearl Farm, founded in 1979, is the only freshwater pearl farm in the United States.
You can visit the beautiful Birdsong Resort and Marina, where you can also tour a museum and jewelry showroom.
We’ll spice things up with a fun, tasty dinner from south of the border. Afterward, it’s off to the races with some fast-paced dirt track action.
Enjoy Dinner at El Vallarta
Address: 225 US-641, Camden, TN 38320
Menu Options: This is where the locals go for satisfying Mexican dishes, starting things off with chips and salsa, of course. From shrimp quesadillas to chicken enchiladas to their grande steak burrito, there’s something for everyone at El Vallarta.
Vegetarians may want to try their veggie fajitas with broccoli, squash, peppers, and onions. Dessert options include flan, sopapillas, and fried ice cream.
Why You Should Go: Whether you’re traveling as a couple or a family, you can enjoy this lively but laidback place to gather. It’s casual, clean, and colorfully decorated with Mexican-style art and artifacts.
Cheer on Some Dirt Car Racing at Camden Speedway
Address: 500 US-70 BUS, Camden, TN 38320
Why You Should Go: Auto racing is big in this region, and you won’t have to go far to experience it. Camden Speedway’s dirt track has been part of the scene for over a decade.
You can watch the Saturday night races safely from the grandstand or get into the action yourself with go-kart races. This family-owned business takes pride in having the smoothest track in the area.
Where to Stay
To get a feel for what it would be like to live in Camden, you can turn to Airbnb. We have two solid possibilities to recommend.
Entire Home with Fenced Backyard
Amenities: This spacious, comfy brick house has two baths and three bedrooms.
It has central heat and air and an Ethernet connection, so you’ll have excellent connectivity for entertainment or work. One of the bedrooms has a king-sized bed.
Why You’ll Love Staying Here: It’s in a quiet neighborhood conveniently located near Highway 70 and the downtown area.
The mostly fenced backyard, which backs up to a wooded area, gives a nice feeling of privacy.
View this stay on Airbnb →
Charming Villa Retreat
Amenities: This quaint retreat, dubbed Whistling Acres Villa No. 2, packs a lot of charm and amenities into a compact space. It has a queen-sized bed and two trundle-style twins separated by a custom glass partition with velvet drapery.
It has a kitchen, a full bath with a free-standing tub, and a dining table that doubles as a desk. You may also love the charming boho-chic interior design.
Why You’ll Love Staying Here: The river is less than a mile away, and there’s a boat launch close to the villa.
You can relax on the spacious wooded deck, at a separate picnic pavilion, or around the fire pit. Up to two dogs are welcome, too, for an extra fee.
View this stay on Airbnb →
A Day in Camden, TN
While seeing the spot where Patsy Cline and other stars’ lives came to a tragic end is a sad experience. Thankfully, Camden, TN, has many traits to celebrate, including its proximity to the beautiful Tennessee River.
Just 20 miles off the interstate, this tight-knit community is a pleasant diversion between Memphis and Nashville. You’ll enjoy a slower pace and a hometown feel unique to the middle-Tennessee region. What are your favorite places in Tennessee?