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15 Best Weekend Getaways In Tennessee—From The Mississippi River To The Smoky Mountains

Enjoy a weekend getaway in the Volunteer State.

short day trips in tennessee

Whitney Williams / Jonesborough Tourism Department

Measuring roughly 440 miles in length from west to east, Tennessee encompasses diverse geography and culture. If you’ve seen the state’s flag, you may have wondered why it has three stars. Each represents one of the state’s grand divisions: West, Middle, and East. With unique landscapes, history, and activities, the three regions each hold special opportunities for weekend getaways in Tennessee.

Beginning in the west, the state borders the Mississippi River . The land that stretches inland from Memphis is part of the Gulf Coastal Plain. It includes flat stretches of fertile soil that gradually evolve into low rolling hills and wide stream valleys. Crossing over the Tennessee River, Middle Tennessee brings the Highland Rim and Nashville Basin, with level plains, undulating hills, and fertile farmland, before shifting into the Cumberland Plateau—characterized by flat-topped tablelands, crooked stream valleys, rocky cliffs, and plentiful waterfalls. You meet the Tennessee River once again traveling into East Tennessee, where the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains are the defining feature of the state’s eastern border. 

If you’re looking to get a taste of the numerous styles and scenery that Tennessee has to offer, we’ve got you covered with this list of weekend getaways. We’ll start with towns in West Tennessee—where the state’s lowest point stands in the Mississippi River at just 178 feet above sea level—travel through Middle Tennessee, and end with overnights in East Tennessee , where the highest point is Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet in Great Smoky Mountains National Park .

Collierville, Tennessee


With its entire downtown area listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Collierville offers a charming weekend getaway just 30 minutes outside Memphis. Spend your afternoon exploring specialty boutiques around Collierville Town Square—a spot literally out of a Hallmark movie, having been the filming site for “Wedding at Graceland” in 2019. The Little Shop by the Tower is your go-to for regionally made art and souvenirs. For supper, pop into local favorite Raven & Lily Restaurant for Southern-inspired upscale dining.

Paris, Tennessee

While not the Paris you’ve likely heard about, this small northwest Tennessee town still boasts a 70-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower —a perfect photo op for your weekend getaway. Plan your visit in late April to partake in the city’s annual World’s Biggest Fish Fry , where more than 12,500 pounds of catfish and all the fixins are served. Opt to camp at Paris Landing State Park to enjoy water sports and outdoor recreation alongside the 160,000-acre Kentucky Lake.

Savannah, Tennessee

Located on the shores of the Tennessee River in the southwest portion of the state, Savannah is a perfect weekend getaway for appreciating the history and beauty of the river. Start at the Tennessee River Museum for educational and interactive exhibits detailing the unique history of the Tennessee River Valley from prehistoric life through post-war reconciliation. Then head to the Walker Branch State Natural Area to enjoy 520 acres of bald cypress, mature tupelo gum, and other diverse forest types in the Tennessee River’s floodplain. 

Granville, Tennessee

Operated by 200 volunteers and, as the town describes, “punctuated by front porches,” this little Tennessee gem offers a weekend away on the banks of the Cumberland River. A town tour ticket ($7 for adults) gives you access to a range of quirky and historic buildings and museums, such as the Antique Car Museum , Granville Whiskey Decanter Museum (hosting the world’s largest collection of whiskey decanters), and the Mayberry and I Love Lucy Museum . Book your stay at Granville Bed & Breakfast to stay in the heart of the town. Plan your visit around one of Granville’s many annual events, such as Steamboat Days, the Scarecrow Festival, or the Cornbread and Moonshine Festival.

Franklin, Tennessee


About a 30-minute drive south from Nashville, you’ll find yourself in Franklin , a perfect blend of modern amenities, scenic countryside, and historic streetscapes. Drive a section of the Natchez Trace Parkway as it winds its way from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi . Stop in Gray’s on Main in the evening for Southern fare, craft cocktails, and live music. If you’re looking for a memorable place to rest your head, try Southall Farm & Inn , a 325-acre luxury spa resort, wellness retreat, and working farm with 62 guest rooms and 16 cottages.

Lynchburg, Tennessee


Home of Jack Daniel’s Distillery , a weekend trip to Lynchburg isn’t complete without a visit to the facility. You can choose from one of three tours: the Angel’s Share, the Flight of Jack Daniel’s, or the Dry County. Each offers different tasting options paired with unique stories about the whiskey maker’s history. Grab dinner at Miss Mary Bobo’s Restaurant , which has been serving up Southern eats since 1908, just off Lynchburg’s historic town square.

Sewanee, Tennessee

Home to the University of the South and St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School, Sewanee is a perfect weekend getaway for anyone interested in arts and education. The schools host lectures, art exhibitions, and concerts that are open to the public. Outdoorsy travelers will love a stay at the Sewanee Bicycle House , lodging with three bedrooms and two full baths that caters to cyclists, hikers, and other nature lovers. For more traditional accommodations, book a night at The Sewanee Inn , where Southern hospitality and Gothic charm merge. Guests have easy access to the university and can enjoy amenities like scratch-made cocktails, golfing, and comfort food. 

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga blends outdoor culture with vibrant city amenities, making for an eventful weekend getaway. Take a stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge, a pedestrian walkway across the Tennessee River, after grabbing a cone at The Ice Cream Show . Spend your day exploring world-class museums and attractions, such as the Hunter Museum of American Art and the Tennessee Aquarium . For a unique stay, book a night at the Chattanooga Choo Choo , a 24-acre hotel and vacation complex in the heart of the city, where you can opt to sleep in an authentic railcar room .

Ducktown, Tennessee

If you’re looking to get away from it all, head to Ducktown in the southeast corner of the state. This tiny town is surrounded by natural beauty, including the Ocoee River. Schedule a whitewater rafting trip with Wildwater Ltd. for some weekend thrills. Learn about the town’s copper mining history at the Ducktown Basin Museum . Book a stay at The Company House Bed & Breakfast Inn to unwind after your day.

Sevierville, Tennessee

The hometown of American sweetheart Dolly Parton, Sevierville offers Smoky Mountain magic with a more local vibe when compared to its neighbors, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg . The city recently completed a $7.5 million streetscape project as part of an effort to renovate its historic downtown. Make your way there to take your picture with the Wings of Wander mural, painted to celebrate the monarch migration through the Smokies. Enjoy duckpin bowling and retro arcade games at The Pines , the newly restored theater where Dolly played her first paid gig. Dine at The Appalachian for a delicious meal fueled by regional flavors before resting your head at the Historic Central Hotel —all within walking distance of each other.

Knoxville, Tennessee

With vibrant music, art, outdoor, and culinary scenes , Knoxville is guaranteed to offer endless opportunities for weekend fun. Head to Ijams Nature Center , a more than 315-acre urban park along the Tennessee River where you can kayak in Mead’s Quarry Lake, embark on a high ropes course, or attend a naturalist program. Stop by the Sunsphere , built for the 1982 World’s Fair, for panoramic views of the city. Get some shopping done downtown at local businesses like Union Ave Books , Rala , and Earth to Old City . Grab dinner on Market Square at Tomato Head or Café 4 before catching a show at the Tennessee Theatre or Bijou Theatre . Stay close to all the action with accommodations at The Tennessean .

Cumberland Gap, Tennessee


Surrounded by Cumberland Gap National Historical Park , the small town of Cumberland Gap offers a quiet weekend getaway in the mountains. In addition to hiking to Tri-State Peak, where you can see Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia all at once, visitors to Cumberland Gap will enjoy its quaint downtown. Stop by the Little Congress Bicycle Museum for a quirky, hole-in-the-wall homage to pedal power, as well as the Cumberland Gap Artists' Co-Op for a celebration of Appalachian crafts. Book your stay at The Olde Mill Inn Bed and Breakfast , which includes unique rooms like an authentic 1700s log cabin and a king-sized custom millwork masterpiece.

Bristol, Tennessee

If you’re looking for a weekend full of music and fishing, then look no further than Bristol. Visit in September to attend the city’s annual Rhythm & Roots Festival or come year-round to check out the Birthplace of Country Music Museum . Book your stay at the South Holston River Lodge for an all-inclusive experience with professionally guided fly fishing excursions, luxury riverside accommodations, delicious food, and more. You can also find guide services and outfitting a half-mile from the Weir Dam at South Holston River Fly Shop . At the end of the day, grab dinner at Bistro on 6th and then take a quick stroll across the state line into Virginia for dessert at Blackbird Bakery .

Johnson City, Tennessee

For a weekend of brewery hopping and outdoor adventures, set your sights on Johnson City. Spend your days hiking at Buffalo Mountain Park , cycling the Tweetsie Trail to Elizabethton, and mountain biking at Tannery Knobs . If you need an outfitter, Local Motion Cyclery is conveniently located at the Johnson City end of the Tweetsie Trail. Sample beers after an active day at Watauga Brewing Company and Yee-Haw Brewing Company downtown. Go calorie load for your next day’s adventures with dinner at Southern Craft BBQ .

Jonesborough, Tennessee


Tennessee’s oldest town, Jonesborough is the perfect weekend getaway for storytellers and history buffs. The Historic Eureka Inn , Crescent Harbor Train Car , and Historic Stone Cellar Suite all offer accommodations with a side of town lore. Learn more Jonesborough tales at the Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum , which offers walking tours with guides dressed in late 19th and early 20th century-style clothing. Visit in October for the town’s famous National Storytelling Festival , or attend its Storytelling Live! series, featuring afternoon storytelling from May through October. Strolling downtown presents a variety of shops for local gifts, such as Mill Spring Makers Market , Mauk’s , and Jonesborough Antiques & Artisans . Savor breakfast at The Corner Cup , grab lunch at Main Street Cafe & Catering , and end with dinner at Texas Burritos and More .

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If you are just itching to get out of the house but stay close to home, these Tennessee Day Trips are for you. Of course you need to live near or in Tennessee for the day trips to be an option but we have covered most of the state so you do have some choices.


We included 12 National Parks for day trips with family in Tennessee. They are located all over the state and some have hiking and all sorts of activities you can make a day of. Be sure to pack a picnic for extra family fun.

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East Tennessee is where you will find Knoxville, Gatlinburg and Jonesborough. An area rich with history and mountains and plenty of interesting places to spend a day.

Southeast Tennessee just across the Georgia border is Chattanooga with plenty of things to do for a day trip with kids in Tennessee. A day trip from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tn. is a great idea. The drive can be made in under an hour. Spend the day visiting places like Ruby Falls and the Chattanooga Zoo, enjoy a good meal and be back home by early evening.

Middle Tennessee is home to Nashville, Lynchburg and Franklin. You can easily spend a day in any of these cities enjoying food, culture and history.

short day trips in tennessee

Are you an Elvis fan? Memphis is in West Tennessee. It isn’t a long drive from parts of northeast Arkansas or northwest Mississippi. You can easily spend a day at Graceland.

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Day Trip on the Cades Cove Loop Road, Smoky Mountains National Park 

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short day trips in tennessee

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Ah, Memphis – the biggest city on the mighty Mississippi. The place is indeed very fascinating, a great example of Southern charm, a rich history and loads of culture. Rest assured your one day in Memphis will be fantastic.

short day trips in tennessee

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Franklin,  Tennessee  is only about 21 miles from Nashville so it’s easy to visit on a day trip from Nashville.

short day trips in tennessee

A Day Trip to Fall Creek Falls

We are always up for a day trip around Middle Tennessee.  Recently, we made a trek from Nashville to Fall Creek Falls State Park and Lost Creek Falls for a fun family day outdoors.  

short day trips in tennessee

25 Can't Miss Free Things to do in Knoxville TN

If you’re planning a visit to Knoxville, you’ll want to make sure to add these  free things to do in Knoxville TN  to your list. They’re fun, educational and you won’t want to miss them!

short day trips in tennessee

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I hope you can use these best day trips in Tennessee to make your year filled with adventure and family fun. Day trips are the way to go when you are trying to avoid hotel stays to save money. Because Tennessee is a southern state filled with history, culture and down home good cooking, you can find plenty of places to go and things to do for day trips.

Also See our list of 2021 Festivals in Tennessee

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The Best Nashville Day Trips

short day trips in tennessee

Rhonda Stansberry/Getty Images

If you're traveling to Nashville for vacation and don't mind a bit of a drive, there are a number of great adventures within a few hours of the Music City that are perfect for a family day trip.

Although Nashville has plenty to offer guests  including the Parthenon , the Country Music Hall of Fame , Centennial Park, the Grand Ole Opry , and the Johnny Cash Museum, there's nothing like a quick trip out of the city to spice up your family vacation.

From dude ranches to waterfalls, trout fishing to cave spelunking, the following day trips offer visitors hours of family-friendly entertainment all within the state of Tennessee and often for a fraction of the cost of Nashville's popular tourist attractions.

Bucksnort Trout Ranch

Less than one hour west of Nashville, Bucksnort Trout Ranch is located off exit 152 on I-40. Bucksnort is the perfect introduction to fishing for all, but children will especially love the experience of baiting their own lines and reeling in the day's big catch. As an added bonus, there is no finer meal in Nashville than a fresh Rainbow Trout, which you can catch and cook all on your own or have the folks at Bucksnort prepare it for you.

Dunbar Cave State Park

Located 60 miles north of Nashville in Montgomery County, Dunbar Cave State Park offers a wonderful 8-mile long cave along with a fishing and picnic area along Swan Lake and several hiking trails in the surrounding mountains. Although the park no longer holds square dances, radio shows, and big band concerts in the mouth of the cave like they once did, there is still a great lineup of summer programming each year available on the park's website.

Fall Creek Falls State Park

Fall Creek Falls State Park encompasses more than 20,000 acres along the eastern top of the rugged Cumberland Plateau and offers several gorgeous waterfalls and plenty of outdoor activities . Known as Tennessee's largest and most visited park, this park features a number of pristine waterfalls including the 256-foot tall Fall Creek Falls.

Historic Downtown Franklin

Historic Downtown Franklin, located in the heart of Williamson County , is just a mere 30-minute drive from Nashville. The Downtown Franklin District is filled to the brim with plenty of quaint antique shops, cute little boutiques, and delicious restaurants as well as offering its visitors a ton of Tennessee History to explore.

Jack Daniel Distillery

Jack Daniel Distillery is located in the 371-population town of Lynchburg, just 70 miles southeast of Nashville. The town of Lynchburg, as well as the distillery, is a very enjoyable way to spend a slow southern Tennessee day, and although kids won't be able to enjoy the tasting room at the distillery, they might enjoy seeing how one of America's favorite whiskeys is made.

Land Between the Lakes

Land Between the Lakes is a 170,000-acre national recreation area in Western Kentucky located just off I-24, about 90 miles north of Nashville. LBL offers everything from an Elk and Bison Prairie to a Planetarium as well as the Kentucky Dam, Fort Donelson National Battlefield, and access to the Venture River Water Park.

Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain sits just north of Chattanooga and features a number of popular tourist attractions like Ruby Falls and Rock City—which are advertised on billboards all over the state. Other great activities include zip line tours, guided journeys into America's deepest cave, and stunning vistas of seven states at once.

Loretta Lynn's Dude Ranch

Located just off I-40 at exit 143 is the town of Hurricane Mills, Loretta Lynn's Dude Ranch is an entire town that was purchased by Lynn and her husband Mooney in the mid-1960's. With its' own gristmill, post office, general store, and campground, this amusement park and village make for a great family outing that's just over an hour's drive from Nashville.

Natchez Trace Parkway

Natchez Trace Parkway celebrates an ancient trail that stretched over 444 miles from Mississippi through the northern tip of Alabama and into Tennessee. Now, you can drive or bike through this scenic byway or stop along the way for hiking, horseback riding, camping, and more.

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The 15 Best Day Trips From Nashville for Every Style of Adventure

Day trips from Nashville include historical sites from the Civil War, stunning mountain hikes, and lots of bourbon. Find your next Tennessee adventure!

short day trips in tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee, home to the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Jack Daniel’s! “Music City” is an awesome place to spend a few days enjoying live music, but it is also well positioned for some beautiful short getaways. Day trips from Nashville include historical sites from the American Civil War, stunning mountain hikes, and lots of bourbons. So, whether you want to hike off some calories, learn a little about our past, or just have a good stiff drink, Nashville has a getaway for you. Let’s find the perfect one for you and your crew!

We recommend not taking on a day trip that involves more than a 3-hour drive unless you are going to specifically see one site. Within this travel guide, we will hang below the 3-hour mark.

Liven up your Tennessee adventure with a pub crawl!

After all the day-tripping you’re about to do, you may need a refresher when you get back to Music City. Let us guide you through the live music and vibrant nightlife of Broadway on a fun-filled adventure, with a little competition. Our “Nonstop Nashville” Bar Crawl will take you and your friends to all the best bars of the area and challenge you to answer questions and post pics at every stop! It’s the most fun way to experience nightlife in Nashville!

Day Trips From Nashville

Drive times in this guide are based on Google Maps estimates, with the Texas State Capitol Building, in Downtown Nashville, as our starting point. Actual drive times may vary depending on what day and time you choose to travel.

1. Rock City Gardens

Distance: 134.4 miles

Travel Time: 2 hrs 24 mins

Chattanooga Tennessee is a family-friendly and budget-friendly destination just two hours from Nashville. Chattanooga is a longtime tourist hub in Southern America with a huge national forest, a plethora of historical sites, and gorgeous mountain vista views. While the small city has ample outdoor activities and historical adventures, we recommend starting your day at Rock City Gardens. 

Rock City Gardens is often listed as Chattanooga’s most popular attraction, but it is actually about 6 miles from the city of Chattanooga, across the border in Georgia. Rock City has been one of Chattanooga’s most visited sites for a long time, and it’s easy to see why. You can easily spend a whole day in the complex. The woodland and botanic gardens contain over 400 species of plants, and the landscape is really beautiful. Stroll along the 4,100-foot long Enchanted Trail and enjoy the incredible views from Lookout Mountain. 

Take in the views of High Falls, with its towering rock cliffs, rising up out of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Climb to the top of the falls and catch the amazing view from Lover’s Leap. From here, you can see 7 states on a clear day! The Gardens also has an interesting and educational Peregrin Falcon repopulation program, Wings to Soar . The gardens also have a terrifying swinging bridge, should you need a little adrenaline for the day!

Should you decide to make it a weekend getaway, check out some of the other Chattanooga sites. The Tennessee Aquarium is one of the best around. Obviously, there are majestic sea creatures, but it also has an innovative listing of IMAX presentations that allow you to virtually travel all over the world, from the ease of your theatre seat! 

For a more unique way to summit Lookout Mountain, head for the Incline Railway . This glass funicular gets you to the top quickly and allows you to take in the views all the way up! Then, hit up Ruby Falls, the 145-foot, magnificent underground waterfall. You can descend to the base of the fall by a 260-foot glass elevator in the middle of Lookout Mountain. The roar of the tumbling water is a unique and exciting experience. Ruby Falls also offers a 700-foot zipline and guided tours of the caves. You can easily visit Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls, and Rock City Gardens in one full day. It’s one of the best day trips from Nashville for outdoor enthusiasts and families.

2. Jack Daniel Distillery – Lynchburg, Tennessee

Distance: 73.6 miles

Travel Time: 1 hr 26 mins

Lynchburg Tennessee is home to Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, one of America’s most popular whiskeys. The Jack Daniel Distillery opened in 1866! Pretty old by American standards. It is strategically located on the mineral waters of Cave Spring Hollow, which gave the whiskey naturally filtered water. The limestone in the area helps to remove iron from the water and enhance the quality of the whiskey. 

The distillery tour takes you through the whole process of making whiskey and the history of Jack Daniel’s. And, of course, there is a whiskey tasting at the end! You can also explore the barrel houses, located throughout Lynchburg, where reportedly 1.9 million barrels of aging whiskey are scattered about. Grab some lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant. Visit the awesome gift shop while you’re there too. 

The town of Lynchburg is really cute as well. Stroll the cafes and general stores. Visit the Old Lynchburg Jail Museum, and then score some of the best cheese in Tennessee at the Barrel House BBQ . If you are a foodie or a whiskey lover, there is no better day trip from Nashville than Lynchburg!

3. Graceland – Memphis, Tennessee

Distance: 197.7 miles

Travel Time: 3 hrs 13 mins

While a 3-hour drive is definitely pushing it for a day trip, for fans of “The King of Rock and Roll,” it is well worth it. Memphis is home to the quirky mansion of Elvis Presley, Graceland . There is so much to see on the property We suggest you take a full guided tour of the establishment. The Elvis Experience Tour takes approximately 3 hours, but you will learn and see it all! Don’t try to tackle much else. This will be a full day.

Aside from Elvis, Memphis is famous for one other thing … barbeque!! While Kansas City may hold the title, Memphis, is right at the top of the stellar barbeque chart. Central BBQ’s pulled pork is scrumptious! You will have just enough time to stop in for an early dinner before heading back to Nashville. 

4. Rock Island State Park

Distance: 84.7 miles

Travel Time: 1 hr 41 mins

Rock Island State Park is a mecca for nature lovers. The 883-acre park is crawling with hikers, swimmers, fishermen, and kayaking enthusiasts. Hiking trails lace the park and lead to several waterfalls, including Great Falls, which tumbles below a historic 19th-century textile mill. There are 9 trails that run below the dam and lead to falls, so take your pick! 

Continue your hike through the Caney Fork River Gorge, with its panoramic overlooks, deep water pools, and waterfalls. The area is also popular with birders, so bring your binoculars to spot the Belted Kingfishers, Ospreys, and Blue Herons.

White water kayakers love this park too! The waters here are wild and not for the novice kayaker, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you hop in the river. For a slightly less dangerous water adventure, head a little north, to Middle Tennessee, and catch some rays at Center Hill Lake. The lake has over 400 miles of shoreline, including sandy beaches and stunning views. 

5. Mammoth Cave National Park

Distance: 84.5 miles

Travel Time: 1 hr 29 mins

Mammoth Caves are … well, mammoth! It is the longest known cave system in the world, with over 400 mapped miles! The park was established in 1941, and the area is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The grottos are laced with incredible formations including shiny calcite ceilings that sparkle like diamonds, stalagmites, and rare wildlife.

Start at the visitor center and check out your options for guided tours. There are several tours within the cave system ranging from the fairly easy, 1.25-hour Mammoth Passage Tour to the 4-hour, strenuous Grand Avenue Tour. The Historic Tour is the classic Mammoth Caves tour and takes about two hours with a moderate exertion level. The Frozen Niagara Tour is a bit shorter and takes you directly to some of the most famous areas. There are also accessible tours for those with special physical needs . 

This cave system is amazing, but be aware, on most tours, you will traverse several tunnels, slot canyons, and hundred of flights of stairs. Dress appropriately as it is a consistent 54F in the caves and can be 90F outside the system (in the summer).

The caves have a long history of human habitation, and the rangers will fill you in on all the details! Alongside one of the greatest cave systems in the world, the park also has over 50,000 acres of stunning landscape, including 2 rivers, the Green and Nolin. Camping, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing are all popular in the park. A half-day in the sun, on the river, will be the perfect way to thaw out after a morning in the caves. If you are looking for more adventure, head to the treetops for the Mammoth Springs Canopy Zipline Tour . 

6. Bowling Green, Kentucky

Distance: 66.2 miles ​

Travel Time: 1 hr

Bowling Green is a short day trip from Nashville, at just a 1-hour drive north of the city. It’s the perfect spot for sports, car, and train enthusiasts. Start with the National Corvette Museum, where you can see 70 restored “Vets” and a huge collection of photos and ads. The museum also has interactive activities such as driving lessons and go-karts.

Bowling Green is also home to Western Kentucky University. The campus is beautiful and great for a short tour, as well as a view of the city for its hilltop perch. Catch a basketball or baseball game while you are there!

Don’t miss a boat tour through Lost River Cave. The seven-mile cave system is beautiful, and you will learn about the crazy history of the cave as you float through the caverns. The cave has reportedly been an ancient Native American dwelling, a 1930s club, a Civil War campground, and the hideout of the infamous outlaw, Jesse James. 

Train lovers, make sure to visit the antique railcars and railroad museum at the Historic Railpark and Train Museum . Bowling Green has so much to offer, and since the drive is short, you can accomplish a lot in one day!  

7. Cummins Falls

Distance: 82.4 miles

Travel Time: 1 hr 23 mins

Now, let’s head east to Cummins Falls , the 75-foot cascading beauty, on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River. We like this for a day trip from Nashville because the hike to see the falls is pretty easy and family-friendly. Plus, you can swim under the falls! However, if you want to hike down into the Gorge and to the base of the waterfall, you do need a permit . The terrain can be slippery, and there are some small rock scrambles, so make sure to wear appropriate shoes.

Also, climb to the top of the falls to check out the view! Spend the morning hiking and relaxing in the falls, then head for the Old Mill General Store for ice cream!

If waterfalls are your thing, make sure to check out Fall Creek Falls State Park when you’re around Cumberland. The tumbling tower of water is absolutely stunning, and the hiking around the area is pretty great too! There are several small gorges, waterfalls, and cascades to take in!

8. Lost Sea – Sweetwater, Tennesee

Distance: 191.1 miles

Travel Time: 2 hrs 57 mins

Did you know the landlocked state of Tennessee has its own sea? They should have named it Tennessea ! (Sorry, not sorry — that’s funny). You might not know about this sea because, well, it’s lost! It has never shown up on your map, and there’s a good reason for that. 

Lost Sea is not only a registered natural landmark, but it also holds the Guinness World Record for “America’s largest underground lake.” The lake is located inside Craighead Caverns, and we aren’t really even sure how big it is. Like, no one knows how deep it really goes. 

Daily boat tours are offered that traverse about 4 acres of the underwater caverns, exploring a glimpse of the incredible crystal formations. The waters are also laced with huge rainbow trout. It’s a long day trip, but worth it. This place is truly a wonder!

9. U.S. Space and Rocket Center – Huntsville, Alabama

Distance: 111.7 miles ​

Travel Time: 1 hr 49 mins

Less than a two-hour drive south of Nashville, Huntsville is a great getaway, especially for space enthusiasts. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is part of the Smithsonian Institute and is the official visitor center of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. It is seriously fun and super educational all at the same time, so it’s a great day trip for older kids.

Not only does the museum have one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia in the world, but the activities are awesome! The Space Center offers 20-minute interactive tours aboard the Discovery Shuttle Mission Control, an Apollo 11 virtual reality experience, and underwater astronaut training experiences. In the summer, they host a space camp, so you can drop the kids off and go check out some of the beautiful new art galleries and grab a beer at one of the local craft breweries. Huntsville is an up-and-comer in the craft beer and art communities, so new places are popping up all the time.

Huntsville Botanical Gardens also has a beautiful tulip garden, or you can grab a “purple cup” go for stroll through the Quigley Arts and Entertainment District. This area of town hosts the Huntsville Secret Art Trail, a collection of 19 street art pieces viewable in an easy and adult-beverage-friendly walk. 

If you are an art enthusiast, make sure to also check out the Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment . Lowe is the nation’s largest privately-owned art facility. The complex is home to 148 studios and six different galleries, plus performance theaters. You can literally watch the artists at work. It’s a pretty amazing concept. 

10. Stones River National Battlefield

Distance: 33.2 miles

Travel Time: 36 mins

Stones River National Battlefield Park is 570 acres of stunning landscape and is just a 30-minute drive from Nashville. In 1862, one of the key battles in the Civil War was fought on this field. It went down in history as the bloodiest battle of the war. The Union won the battle, changing the course of the war and the lives of the people of the Murfreesboro area.

Take a guided tour of the battlefield and learn all there is know about not only the epic battle fought here but the ecology and wildlife of the area as well. The park also puts on interpretive programs to help visitors better understand the battle and the times. 

After your tour, take a bike trip down more than 10 miles of riverside trails on The Stones River Greenway. Keep a lookout for vultures, mink, and deer while you ride. The landscape is full of unique flora and fauna. Stones River is a perfect Nashville day trip for history buffs and nature lovers. 

11. Cumberland Caverns

Distance: 84.6 miles

Travel Time: 1 hr 36 mins

Have you noticed there are a lot of caverns around Nashville? Cumberland Caverns is located in McMinnville, Tennessee. It was discovered in 1810 and became a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, pretty much from day one. The park has been open to the mass public since 1956, and there are plenty of activities to keep you and your family busy.

The cave system consists of 32 miles of passageways with underground waterfalls, deep pools, and stunning rock formations. Walking tours are available every day, as well as creepy overnight tours. If you are looking for a bit more of a challenge, they also offer spelunking tours. Bluegrass Underground is a monthly concert held in the Volcano Room of the caverns which is a blast, and you can even rent the space for unique weddings or parties. 

While you are in the area, strap on your hiking boots and head for Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Cumberland Gap is the original gateway to the west and has been used by everyone from migrant Native American tribes to frontier explorers. Today, there are more than 80 miles of marked trails to explore!

12. Abe Lincoln’s Home at Knob Creek

Distance: 136.4 miles

Travel Time: 2 hrs 30 mins

Our 16th President, “Honest Abe” was born in very rural LaRue County Kentucky. While not the actual place he was born (that farm is a few miles away), Lincoln spent most of his childhood at Knob Creek . It was the first home he remembered and stated that he had fond memories there. 

The 228-acre farm near Hodgenville was home to Lincoln in his formative years. The original house was torn down in the 1870s, but a replica cabin has been constructed on the spot of the original. The cabin is filled with period-appropriate furnishing, donated by families of the area. Guided tours are available through the national parks service.

13. Loretta Lynn’s Ranch

Distance: 74.3 miles

Travel Time: 1 hr 33 mins

Nashville is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, so it is no surprise that the surrounding area is the dwelling place of some major legends in the music business. The “coal miner’s daughter,” Loretta Lynn, built an 18,000-square-foot ranch in 2001, and it now serves as her official museum, documenting her inspiring life and career. Lynn was a true “rags to riches” story and a bit of a hoarder. She saved everything from her life, so the museum collection gives a detailed rendering of her journey. 

Within the property, there are several smaller museums and exhibits to visit as well. Explore Loretta’s Doll & Fan Museum in the old Grist Mill. It contains gifts that Lynn has collected from her fans over her 60-year career. You can tour Loretta’s Frontier Homestead, original log cabins from the frontier days, filled with over 400 artifacts from tools to cookware, to saddles. The Grist Mill Museum contains farming equipment from the corn production industry of the 1800s.

The ranch lies on a beautiful property with a roaring spillway and is wonderful to explore. Camping is also available in some of the cabins on the property. 

14. Franklin, Tennessee

Distance: 21.5 miles

Travel Time: 26 mins

Franklin is a charming city just outside of Nashville. It is home to country music legends, has a rich Civil War history, is dotted with unique farms to explore, and drips with Americana.

Explore Main Street in Downtown Franklin. There is always something going on in the square. Visit MistleToe Alpaca Farm and love on some cuddly critters, but don’t miss the main attractions, the historical sites. 

The Battle of Franklin was one of the major Civil War battles of the area, and some of the homes involved are still standing today and open for tours. The Carter House is a United States National Historic Landmark. The Federal Style brick house was built in 1830 and taken over by army troops later. The Carter family hid in the home to wait out the Battle of Franklin, and one of the wounded sons died in the home. The house is well-preserved and available for tours. The room in which Mr. Carter died is preserved in its original form. 

The Lotz House was ground zero for the Battle of Franklin, and the home still bears blood stains from the soldiers who died in its halls and holes in the floor from cannonball landings. The Carnton House was home to the mayor and served as the largest military hospital in the region.

Franklin is an excellent destination for history lovers, but it is also just a cute small town with a good amount of locally-owned shops to peruse and quaint eateries to grab a bite. If you prefer to drink your dinner, head for the Arrington Vineyards and try their specialty, the Honeysuckle wine. Visit the Factory At Franklin for a unique shopping experience or take a road trip on the 444-mile national scenic byway, the Natchez Trace Parkway.

15. Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center

Distance: 156.2

Travel Time: 2 hrs 18 mins

If you are going to do the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, then you might as well test the competition. It’s only fair! Take a road trip down the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and spend a day at Heaven Hill Distillery . Heaven Hill is the largest independent, family-owned, producer of bourbon in the United States. 

Unfortunately, the 1934 original distillery burned down in 1996. The new facility hosts several different tastings and historical tours for you to choose from. You will walk through interactive exhibits detailing the mash bills, distilling process, and bottling process, giving you a thorough education on the whiskey-making process. It’s a fun tour, and the guides are extremely knowledgeable about bourbon. Plus, you get three tasty samples!

Closing Thoughts

Nashville is a vibrant and beautiful city with tons of great day trips surrounding it! We hope you found one here that interests you. Let us know in the comments which one you are going to take!

If city trips are more your thing, Knoxville is less than 3 hours from Nashville and would make a great weekend getaway! Check out our list of the best things to do in Knoxville for tips on enjoying this amazing city.

Need a thing or two to do in the city? Check our guides full of things to do in Nashville and Music City’s best museums .

Frequently Asked Questions

There are tons of things to do around Nashville ! Go on a scavenger hunt , experience the amazing Music City museums , or take a day trip and visit the Civil War historic sites of nearby Franklin.

Nashville day trips  are plentiful and varied! Explore Mammoth Cave National Park, drink some bourbon at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, or visit the home and museum of country music legend, Loretta Lynn.

There are some fantastic Nashville day trips for outdoor explorers! Visit the gardens and waterfalls of Rock City, enjoy Spelunking in Mammoth Caves National Park, or go subterranean at Lost Sea.

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short day trips in tennessee

Tennessee Travel: The 15 Best Day Trips from Nashville

The more I see of my home state, the more I want to explore. Lucky for me, I live in a gorgeous part of the South, and there are many places in Tennessee within a couple hours where I can escape to for a day or even a weekend. I rounded up some of the best day trips from Nashville for those of you who also live in the area or may be passing through.

Old Stone Fort State Park: What to See in Manchester, Tennessee

This post was last updated in May 2024.

There are plenty of great places to stay throughout this region of Tennessee, from cabin to vacation rental, boutique hotel to B&B. Here are a few of my favorite drives from Nashville that take two hours or less by car.


Distance from Nashville: 22 miles, 27 minutes

For those who have less than a full day to spare, Nolensville is a great option. Just 25 minutes down the road (sans traffic), it’s a respite from the fast pace of the city while offering biking and walking trails, as well as easy access to Arrington Vineyards. Grab a coffee at Mama’s Java and pose for a selfie with Kim Radford’s This Girl Can mural, then raise a glass at Mill Creek Brewing Co. It’s also apple season, so while you can’t pick your own at Morning Glory Orchard, you  can  stop by the farm store and sift through 13 different varieties of apples to buy, as well as jams, preserves, cider, honey and much more.

Stay in Nolensville, Tennessee

There are a lot of hotels near Nolensville , as well as vacation rentals , or can also stay nearby in Franklin on a pet-friendly farm or in a downtown hotel .

Get Out of Nashville and Take a Day Trip to Nolensville, Tennessee

Related post: Escape the Crowded Cities and Tackle Nolensville’s 31A Trail

Distance from Nashville: 22 miles, 25 minutes

Need I even remind you that Franklin is my favorite town in Tennessee? Fine, I’ll do it again. Boasting the best Main Street in the country, Franklin is full of Civil War History— which you can explore via this tour —historic homes and whiskey-slinging restaurants that line its downtown corridor. Red Pony, Stable Reserve, 1799 Kitchen and Cocktails—there’s no shortage of great places to eat in downtown Franklin. There’s also no shortage of country music artists in Franklin, so this tour of star homes could be fun.

Stay in Franklin, Tennessee

Franklin has many local hotels , but the pet-friendly Harpeth Hotel is by far my personal favorite, particularly as it’s right in the heart of downtown Franklin.

Things to Do in Franklin: Rent a Pedego Bike

Related post: Explore Tennessee’s Civil War History

Leiper’s Fork

Distance from Nashville: 28 miles, 38 minutes

Technically, Leiper’s Fork and Franklin could be a combined day trip as they’re both residents of Williamson County; however, there’s enough to do in Franklin to occupy a weekend if you need a lengthier break—consider taking staying at the Harpeth Hotel for a night or two—whereas Leiper’s Fork is more of an afternoon kind of place, though if you’re the type who likes a slower pace you could easily extend overnight into the next day. This unincorporated town is rife in artist galleries and boutiques, with a few great restaurants sprinkled in the mix, as well as Leiper’s Fork Distillery. Leiper’s Fork is also right off the Natchez Trace Parkway should you want to extend your drive

Stay in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee

The Pot N’ Kettle Cottages make a great overnight if you need a proper staycation and escape from reality. Need a larger home to accommodate a big group? Check into Sweeny Hallow Plantation  or any of Franklin’s vacation rentals .

Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge in Franklin, Tennessee

Related post: Fun Outdoor Things to Do in Franklin + Leiper’s Fork


Distance from Nashville: 49 miles, 55 minutes

While I’ve visited many times over the course of my life, Clarksville has grown and boomed in all the right ways these past few years, and it’s become one of my favorite city breaks in Middle Tennessee. It’s got a thriving downtown district with a three-level brewery, Strawberry Alley Ale Works, some great sculptures and an amazing amount of green space. Plus, one of Tennessee’s coolest state parks, Dunbar Cave State Park, is right off the interstate—you can take a wander around the grounds, then hit Old Glory Distilling Co. for a round on your way back out.

Stay in Clarksville, Tennessee

Clarksville has plenty of hotels  and vacation rentals , but I’d probably opt for this cute carriage house or this chic downtown rental if I were staying over.

Best Day Trips from Nashville

Related post: Plan the Perfect Day Trip to Clarksville, Tennessee

Distance from Nashville: 65 miles, 1 hour

Situated right off exit 110 of Interstate 24, Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester is one of the easiest Tennessee state parks to reach thanks to its central location along a heavily trafficked corridor. Not only is it a glimpse at Native-American life from the Middle Woodland Period, but it’s got a stunning series of cascading falls that are particularly vibrant after a heavy rainfall (the trails aren’t too strenuous, other than some uneven footing, and many are well-suited for kids). On your way out of Manchester, take a stroll along the Little Duck River Greenway (murals, murals and more murals!), grab BBQ at Prater’s, and have a beer or seven at Common John Brewing Co., Manchester’s only brewery.

Stay in Manchester, Tennessee

Manchester has a few hotels —if you go this route, I recommend the Holiday Inn over the rest—as well as vacation rentals .

Hiking with Dogs in Tennessee


Distance from Nashville: 60 miles, 1 hour and 5 minutes

This sweet little town birthed Minnie Pearl but also housed many a world-famous artist, such as Johnny Cash who once had his country retreat here in Bon Aqua, in the rolling hills of Hickman County not far from Interstate 40. The square is quaint and charming, while the Piney River is a great way to get out safely and enjoy the beautiful fall weather. Downtown Centerville has also gots its first-ever mural, Punch Bug by Whitney Herrington, an original piece we curated thanks as part of our Walls for Women initiative.

Stay in Centerville, Tennessee

While Centerville has a few vacation rentals , nearby Columbia has more by way of hotel options .

Centerville mural Punch Bug by Whitney Herrington

Related post: Visit Centerville, the Home of Minnie Pearl

Distance from Nashville: 76 miles, 1 hour and 15 minutes

Speaking of country music legends, Humphreys County is not just home to Loretta Lynn, it also lays claim to her eponymous ranch, which has cabins, tent cabin and RV hookup spots, as well as outdoor offerings to keep families occupied for a full day—or weekend. Humphreys’ county seat is the charming town of Waverly, which has an old Greyhound station that now serves as the chamber, as well as the 1,075-acre Johnsonville State Historic Park, home to the Civil War battle of the same name. Walls Art Park is a free, open-air art gallery in the middle of the woods where several of our muralist friends have painted.

Stay in Waverly, Tennessee

Waverly’s front-row view of Kentucky Lake means it has plenty of stunning waterfront cabins to rent.

Day Trip to Loretta Lynn's Ranch, Tennessee

Related post: Escape to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch

Distance from Nashville: 76 miles, 1 hour and 25 minutes

Arguably one of the best known brands in the world is located in a town of just 6,500 residents, many of them distillery employees. I’ve visited distilleries all over the world, and Jack Daniel’s headquarters in Lynchburg has the coolest tour and experience of all, hands down. Take my pro advice and opt for the Angel’s Share tour , then grab lunch at Miss Bobo’s or Barrel House BBQ. If you want a two-in-one-day distillery experience, continue down the holler to George Dickel (dba Cascade Hollow Distilling Co.) next.

Stay in Lynchburg, Tennessee

Mulberry Lavender Farm and B&B is a charmer. The area is also full of country homes that double as vacation rentals .

Jack Daniel's Tours at the Lynchburg Distillery

Related post: Tennessee Whiskey: How to Do Jack Daniel’s Distillery Right

Short Mountain

Distance from Nashville: 64 miles, 1 hour and 14 minutes

Nestled in the verdant farmland of Cannon County, about 10 miles from downtown Woodbury, the evolution of Short Mountain is a fascinating story . But there wasn’t much for a visitor to see or do until California native Billy Kaufman started making small-batch moonshine at his Short Mountain Distillery once Tennessee distilling laws changed a decade ago, then opened to the public for tours and now has aged products,   a restaurant and a spacious patio to boot—it’s a winning concept all around. Just don’t leave Cannon County without trying the seasonal kombucha on draft and other products made by Hall Hill Farm that the farming duo sells at their downtown shop, Wellness Emporium .

Stay Over: The best place to stay nearby is a cabin in Smithville , which overlooks Center Hill Lake where there are also plenty of vacation rentals .

Short Mountain Distillery in Woodbury

Related post: On the Tennessee Backroads


Distance from Nashville: 74 miles, 1 hour and 19 minutes

Warren County’s positioning between the Barren Fork and Collins River make it a must-visit for outdoor lovers, as do its nearby state parks, Rock Island and Fall Creek Falls. It’s particularly beautiful this time of year as the leaves fade from green to gold. Be sure and walk the recently revitalized downtown, the product of two decades of vision and hard work from the local Main Street program, and venture to see Jenny Ustick’s Hebe mural on the Security Federal Savings Bank complex. My favorite spots in town to grab a beer and a bite are Collins River BBQ downtown and Smooth Rapids, which is also a campground, outfitter and equipment rental shop, right along the river.

Stay in McMinnville, Tennessee

You might want to stay in this music-themed apartment or in a cabin in Sparta or in a vacation rental near the state parks .

Main Street McMinnville: A Tennessee Downtowns program city

Hohenwald earns a place on my list thanks to its spot along the Natchez Trace Parkway —and the fact that it was the final resting place for Meriwether Lewis. This is a town with an extreme amount of potential, if only someone would develop a solid strategic economic development plan and implement some serious placemaking—its Discovery Center at the Elephant Sanctuary alone is a major attraction. Drive the Natchez Trace Parkway from the northern terminus in Nashville down to the Alabama border if you want to see more of this stretch of national park land.

Stay in Hohenwald, Tennessee

Hohenwald doesn’t have many accommodation options, if any, so you’ll want to stay nearby in a vacation rental or a historic home in Columbia .

Drive the Tennessee section of the Natchez Trace Parkway

Related post: Finding Fall Colors Along the Natchez Trace Parkway in North Alabama

South Cumberland State Park

Distance from Nashville: 91 miles, 1 hour and 25 minutes

Is there a park with more epic views in Middle Tennessee than South Cumberland ? I challenge you to find me one. Stone Door is one of our favorite hikes in the area as it delivers rewarding vistas and slot canyons at the end. If the weather is favorable, consider stopping over at Greeter Falls on your way back home or pair a day trip to South Cumberland with a whiskey tour at Short Mountain for the perfect Tennessee afternoon. The closest “city” to the park is Tracy City, where you can grab a pint at Hank’s Corner Grille and see Megan Lingerfelt’s Lantern Light mural.

Stay in South Cumberland, Tennessee

There are a few retreats in Beersheba Springs and vacation rentals near Greeter Falls , plus the awesome Goat Pen Hostel in downtown Tracy City.

Tennessee Travel: Stone Door in Savage Gulf Natural Area

Related post: Hiking with Dogs in Tennessee

Distance from Nashville: 93 miles, 1 hour and 29 minutes

There’s no better place to check out the changing leaves that atop Monteagle Mountain. My former turf, Sewanee, is about as pretty as any college campus gets—and it’s a roomy 13,000 acres at that. While there, grab lunch on the patio at Shenanigan’s, drive out to the Cross, scamper down Natural Bridge and hike the Perimeter Trail. If you’re staying overnight— the Sewanee Inn is a great place to do so, by the way—you can’t go wrong with dinner at High Point.

Stay in Sewanee, Tennessee

Tracy City , Monteagle and Coalmont have several communities of tiny homes and vacation rentals .

Hiking with Dogs: Sewanee's Natural Bridge Trek

Related post: Hiking Sewanee’s Natural Bridge

Tims Ford Lake

Distance from Nashville: 90 miles, 1 hour and 33 minutes

If you’re looking to rent a boat and get out on the water, one of Middle Tennessee’s largest recreational areas, Tims Ford , is your place—it’s located in a 1,321-square-foot state park with three different marinas and ample cabins to rent for the weekend. Golfers will also want to book a round at Bear Trace, an 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus-designed course that skirts the lake and offers ample wildlife sightings.

Stay on Tims Ford Lake, Tennessee

There are a growing number of cabins in Winchester and its outskirts, though you simply can’t beat a waterfront oasis on Tims Ford Lake .

Introducing Twin Creeks Marina and Resort: Buy a Lake House in Tims Ford's New Lakefront Development

Related post: Twin Creeks Marina, Tims Ford Lake’s Newest Hotspot

Huntsville, Alabama

Distance from Nashville: 110 miles, 1 hour and 54 minutes

Whether space history is your jam, you love the arts or you’re in the mood for some damn good craft beer, Huntsville won’t steer you wrong. Just over the border in North Alabama, Huntsville has quickly risen the ranks to become one of my favorite cities in the South. From afternoons spent admiring the creativity of the forces behind Lowe Mill Arts and Campus 805 to sipping our way through brews at Yellowhammer and InnerSpace Brewing to taking a self-guided tour of public art on the adorable city square, I could take a dozen day trips to Huntsville and not grow bored.

Stay in Huntsville, Alabama

Thanks to its space industry and military presence, Huntsville has dozens of hotels . You can’t beat 106 Jefferson right on the square or the pet-friendly Element Huntsville over near the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

What to do in Huntsville in the summer: Visit the botanical garden

Related post: To the Moon and Back: Celebrating 50 Years of the Apollo in Huntsville

Hiking with Dogs in Tennessee

Looking for more day trips from Nashville and beyond? I’ve got a few Tennessee travel ideas for you:

  • Smoky Mountain Staycation
  • How to Get Outdoors Safely in Memphis
  • Street Art USA: The Best Murals in Nashville
  • Drive the Natchez Trace Parkway through the Hills of Tennessee
  • Learn About Black History in Memphis from This Woman-Owned Tour Company


Tennessee Travel: The Best Day Trips from Nashville

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short day trips in tennessee

Great suggestions — some I knew; some I didn’t. We live in Knoxville, and we’re always looking for some one- or two-day trips, especially that we can take while staying away from people. You’ve given us some new ideas.

Can you do one for Knoxville? These are great suggestions for Nashville!

Thankyou for that delightful tour which solves my families visit from Galveston, Texas in August for my 80th Birthday. Is it ok if I just forward your message to them and with your great suggestions, they will be able to figure out where they would like to visiting me in McMinnville… Yea and thankyou for these wonderful photos and suggestions. Love it that you also include places to stay along with the restaurants and important parks and places not to miss. Good to hear from you!!! We love our Hebe Mural!!

That photo from South Cumberland State Park is stunning!

Hi Kristin,

What a great share! I think the same has happened to me. I used to travel a lot, and now I am picking my destinations by distance. I am glad to hear that you got out and had a good time. Some of my distant family lives in Nashville, and I have been thinking to take my parents for a small vacation. I am so glad that you shared your experience. If I do make this trip, I will definitely check out all of the places you suggested.

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short day trips in tennessee

The 15 Very Best Day Trips You Can Possibly Take In Tennessee

short day trips in tennessee

Meghan Kraft

Meghan Kraft loves to travel the world, but she makes her home right here in Nashville, Tennessee. She holds a degree in English, and has worked in the digital marketing realm with companies such as Apartments.com, USA Today and HarperCollins Publishing.

More by this Author

Every once in a while we get the urge to get outta town, and that means we’re researching solid day trips with the best of ’em. If you’re anything like us, you’ve likely researched “ day trips in Tennessee ” more than a handful of times. Lucky for y’all – you have us. And we did all the grunt work for you. Check out these awesome day trips in Tennessee, each one fun and quirky in its own way. Ready to start exploring?

short day trips in tennessee

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short day trips in tennessee

short day trips in tennessee

short day trips in tennessee

short day trips in tennessee

The next time you research “day trips in Tennessee,” we hope this handy list comes to mind. Are there any other day trips in the Volunteer State that you would add to the list? If so, be sure to share them with us in the comments below — we’d love to hear from you!

Can you guess the 11 Strange Habits Every Tennessean Will Defend To The Death ?

OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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Day trips in tennessee.

What are some of the best trips to take in Tennessee?

Here are a few recommendations for some of the best trips to take in Tennessee:

  • Land Between The Lakes
  • The National Cornbread Festival
  • Shiloh National Battle Field
  • RC Cola and Moon Pie Festival
  • Smithville Fiddlers' Jamboree
  • The Lost Sea Adventure
  • Burgess Falls
  • Bell Witch Cave
  • Natchez Trace Parkway

All of these adventures can be found in this Near Nashville Day Trip Article .

What are some fun things to do in Tennessee?

Here are a few suggestions for fun things to do in Tennessee:

  • I Dream Of Weenie
  • The town of Columbia (known as the brewery capital of Tennessee)
  • A cheese road trip
  • Hiwassee Ocoee Scenic River State Park
  • Tellico Plains 
  • Miller's Grocery
  • Big Ridge State Park
  • Hatcher's Dairy Farm
  • The Southern Belle Riverboat

What are some of the best outdoor attractions in Tennessee?

Here are some of the best outdoor attractions in Tennesee:

  • The Natchez Trace
  • The Ocoee River
  • Lookout Mountain
  • Foster Falls
  • Cummins Falls
  • Lost Creek Cave
  • Watauga Lake

The Volunteer State is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. With flowing rivers, dense forests, mountains, and lakes, there's just no shortage of ways to spend time in the great outdoors. Some of our favorite outdoor attractions in Tennessee include Clingman's Dome (the highest point in Tennessee), the Natchez Trace, the Ocoee River, Lookout Mountain, Foster Falls, Cummins Falls, Lost Creek Cave, and Watauga Lake. How many of these incredible natural wonders in Tennessee have you experienced?

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  • 10 Out Of This World Summer Day Trips To Take In Tennessee
  • The Hidden Nature Park In Tennessee With Its Very Own Lake, Otherworldly Rock Formations, And So Much More
  • The Gorgeous, Little-Known River Is One Of The Most Underrated Fishing Spots In Tennessee
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  • These 3 Hobbit House Airbnbs In Tennessee Are Exceptional In Every Sense Of The Word

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Falls Creek Falls one of the best weekend getaways in Tennessee

15 Fabulous Weekend Getaways In Tennessee

February 10, 2021 //  by  Southern Trippers

Are you looking for a list of the best weekend getaways in Tennessee? This guide has all of the weekend trips!

The state of Tennessee is known for quite a few things: the country music of Nashville, the moonshine of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and even the beautiful nature of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

All of these gems make for wonderful weekend getaways in Tennessee. And that’s not all! There are many more amazing things to see in this wonderful state worthy of a weekend trip. Which ones will you choose to embark on?

green mountain at sunset dotted with pink flowers weekend getaways in Tennessee

Get Your Fill Of Country Music In Nashville

Nashville, the most iconic of all Tennessee cities and the land of country music, makes for one of the best weekend getaways in Tennessee. If you’re looking to live it up in the big city, whether it’s for a Nashville girls weekend or a couple’s getaway, Nashville is exactly what you’re looking for.

While during the day you can get your fair share of country music history at the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame, after the sun sets is when Nashville truly comes to life. When the darkness paints the sky, Broadway lights up with pubs, bars, and country music galore. So hop from venue to venue until you find some music that you’d like to listen to all night.

Where to Stay in Nashville :

Check Rates On Hotels.com: Hilton Nashville Downtown Check Rates On VRBO.com: Quiet Cozy Riverfront Condo

Nashville skyline at night

Drink Your Fill Of Moonshine In Gatlinburg

The small town of Gatlinburg is where the locals go for their weekend getaways in Tennessee. Gatlinburg is a hidden gem filled with both relaxation and a lengthy list of things to do for whatever type of trip you have in mind.

One of the best things to do in Gatlinburg is drive the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. This drive allows you to experience the beauty of Tennessee’s nature from the comfort of your own car. You can also get your adrenaline pumping on the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, enjoy your share of whiskey and moonshine, and ski at Ober Ski Mountain. If you’d like, you can even make the short drive to explore the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg :

Check Rates On Hotels.com: Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg Check Rates On VRBO.com: Romantic Mountain View & Cozy Secluded Hideaway

small town surrounded by hills in autumn weekend getaways in Tennessee

Find Something For Everyone In Pigeon Forge

Just a short drive away from Gatlinburg is the adorable town of Pigeon Forge. As a matter of fact, many people combine these two weekend getaways in Tennessee to just one.

During your time in the small town, you’ll be able to find things to do in Pigeon Forge that everyone will enjoy. For country music lovers, head to Dollywood, a theme park named after country music star Dolly Parton.

For history buffs, learn about the tragedy of the Titanic at the Titanic Museum. And for animal lovers, engage with colorful birds at the Parrot Mountain and Gardens. This is truly one of the best romantic getaways in Tennessee!

Where to Stay in Pigeon Forge :

Check Rates On Hotels.com: Hilton Garden Inn Pigeon Forge Check Rates On VRBO.com: Luxury Quiet Cabin

old buildings lining a small river in Pigeon Forge

Soak Up The Sights, Sounds, And Smells Of Nature At Cummins Falls State Park And Burgess Falls State Park

Just about every Tennessee road trip incorporates some sort of nature, such as Cummins Falls State Park and Burgess Falls State Park. And while these two state parks are fantastic road trips stops, they also happen to be some of the best weekend getaways in Tennessee for nature lovers.

The real highlight of Cummins Falls State Park is the 75-foot waterfall. While you can catch a glimpse of this towering cascade of water from a lookout point, the best way to experience it is by trekking to the base and taking a dip in the swimming hole.

As for Burgess Falls State Park, which is just half an hour away from Cummins Falls State Park, it’s filled with even more beautiful nature, including a rival 136-foot waterfall. There are actually four different waterfalls in this park, with trails ranging from beginner-level to expert-level.

Where to Stay Near Cummins Falls State Park:

Check Rates On VRBO.com: New Luxury Mountain Cottage Check Rates On VRBO.com: Upper Cumberland Cabin Rental

waterfall cascading down natural rock steps weekend getaways in Tennessee

Enjoy One Of The Largest State Parks In Tennessee, Falls Creek Falls State Park

If you’re looking for another nature-filled option, Falls Creek Falls State Park is a great stop. At nearly 30,000 acres, Falls Creek Falls State Park is one of the largest state parks in Tennessee.

This enormous state park has every outdoor activity you could ever imagine. Hike, bike, canoe, kayak, fish, zipline, swim, rock climb, or birdwatch. Whatever outdoor activity you enjoy, you can find a way to do it at Falls Creek Falls State Park.

Where to Stay Near Falls Creek Falls State Park :

Check Rates On VRBO.com: Mountain View Cabin. Check Rates On VRBO.com : Creekside Cottage

bridge crossing through red, orange, yellow, and green trees

Spend A Few Days At The Iconic Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If you’re hoping to escape the hustle and bustle of Nashville, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the greatest weekend trips from Nashville. Between the wildflowers of the spring and the fiery foliage of the fall, this national park is always changing, so you can visit over and over again without running out of amazing scenery.

While at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is a wide array of activities that you can do to enjoy nature. Hike, bike, kayak, swim, camp, or picnic – whatever suits your fancy, really – while breathing in the crisp, fresh air. This is also one of the best places for Fall Foliage in Tennessee!

Where to Stay Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park :

Check Rates On VRBO.com : Brand New Cabin. Check Rates On VRBO.com : Relaxing Cabin

rolling hills covered in autumn leaves weekend getaways in Tennessee

Find The Perfect Balance Between City And Nature In Chattanooga

Chattanooga is one of the great romantic getaways in TN. As a small city, it boasts the perfect combination of city life and nature escapes.

The Tennessee Riverpark in Chattanooga is a fantastic example of when city life meets nature. While the Riverpark is nestled in downtown Chattanooga, you’ll also get an up-close view of the Tennessee River, including the flying seabirds and bustling fishing piers.

Other than the Riverpark, Chattanooga also has the breathtaking Tennessee River Gorge, the underground waterfall known as Ruby Falls, and the Tennessee Aquarium. For those looking to experience more of the city side of Chattanooga, there is also the Creative Discovery Museum as well as the many restaurants and shops of downtown Chattanooga.

Where to Stay in Chattanooga :

Check Rates On Hotels.com: Hilton Garden Inn Chattanooga Downtown Check Rates On VRBO.com: River Gorge Paradise

aerial view of two bridges across a river in Chattanooga

Learn A Little Bit More About Elvis Presley In Memphis

After Nashville, Memphis is arguably the most well-known city in the state, making it one of the greatest Tennessee getaways. And it also happens to be one of the most romantic getaways in Tennessee as well.

Some of the highlights of Memphis include the National Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street, and the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. But the real highlight of this city is Graceland. Once owned by the famous singer Elvis Presley, also known as The King, Graceland gives a bit of insight into this famous singer’s life while also showcasing some of Elvis’ most iconic possessions.

Where to Stay in Memphis :

Check Rates On Hotels.com: Hilton Garden Inn Memphis Downtown Check Rates On VRBO.com: Bluff City Blues Pad Townhome Downtown Memphis

street bustling with nightlife in Nashville weekend getaways in Tennessee

Get Off The Grid At Watauga Lake

Watauga Lake is one of those under-the-radar, peaceful weekend getaways in Tennessee. Accessible only by winding mountain roads and surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest, you’ll really find yourself away from the stress of your everyday life.

While you’re off the grid and free of distractions at Watauga Lake, you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail, try your hand at waterskiing, or catch some fish to devour for dinner.

Where to Stay Near Watauga Lake :

Check Rates On VRBO.com: Mountainside Retreat Check Rates On VRBO.com: Waterfront Luxury Home

green trees lining turquoise lake

Head To The Hidden Town Of Jackson

Jackson may be one of the best weekend trips from Memphis. Since Memphis is situated on the southwestern tip of state, it’s tucked away from most of the well-known weekend getaways in Tennessee. Luckily for Memphis locals, Jackson is a great option!

The small town of Jackson is a welcome reprieve from the flocks of people in Memphis. Plus, there are tons of things to do in this hidden town. Dive into nature at the Cypress Grove Nature Park, play any sport that you desire at North Park, or learn about the unique music scene presented at the International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame.

Where to Stay in Jackson :

Check Rates On VRBO.com: A log cabin in the Pines Check Rates On VRBO.com: Serenity Country Cottage Horse Farm

Hike The 40-Mile Trail At Natchez Trace State Park

Natchez Trace State Park is one of the more adventurous weekend getaways in Tennessee. Situated about halfway between Memphis and Nashville, Natchez Trace State Park is a great place for a short trip away from either city.

Natchez Trace State Park is home to all of the typical outdoor activities, including swimming, canoeing, hiking, biking, and fishing. But the real highlight of this state park is the Red Leaves Backpacking Trail. This 40-mile trail will take the entirety of your weekend, and, during that time, you’ll catch glimpses of bright green trees, brilliant sunshine, and flowing creeks.

Where to Stay Near Natchez Trace State Park :

Check Rates On VRBO.com: Country Cabin in the Woods Check Rates On VRBO.com: The Point at Pine Lake

waterfall cascading down rock wall at Natchez Trace State Park

Find The Quaint Southern Town You’ve Been Looking For In Franklin

If you’re on the hunt for a charming, quaint Southern town, Franklin, Tennessee might be exactly what you are looking for. While simply perusing the shops of downtown Franklin while sipping on a freshly brewed coffee is what most people do during their time in this small town, you might be surprised to find that there is quite a bit to do in Franklin.

In addition to strolling through downtown Franklin, you can also peruse the Franklin Farmers Market and visit the Lotz House Museum. But if you’re looking for something a little more hidden, you can also spend the night at the Dark Horse Recording studio or head to Leiper’s Fork Distillery for some world-famous Tennessee whiskey.

Where to Stay in Franklin :

Check Rates On Hotels.com: Embassy Suites by Hilton Check Rates On VRBO.com: Loft on West Main 5 blocks from Downtown Franklin

Civil War era memorials in Franklin Weekend getaways in Tennessee

Decide If Bristol Is The Real Origin Of Country Music

Though most people recognize Nashville has the origin of country music, the Bristol locals will likely argue with that statement, claiming that Bristol is the true origin of the popular music genre. You’ll simply have to go see for yourself which Tennessee city deserves the title.

To back up its claim of being the home of country music, Bristol is home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. This museum tells the story of Jimmie Rogers and the Carter Family recording music that may have been the start of country music in 1927. But country music isn’t all that this town has to offer. You can also head underground to explore the Bristol Caverns, go for a swim in South Holston Lake, or take a picture with the iconic Bristol sign.

Where to Stay in Bristol :

Check Rates On VRBO.com: The Bristol Tree House Check Rates On VRBO.com: Charming Apartment

large blue lake in Bristol

Experience The Wonderful City Of Knoxville

Despite being the third largest city in Tennessee, Knoxville has managed to slip under the radar. While Nashville and Memphis are both packed with people trying to visit the iconic attractions, Knoxville has tons of its own attractions that remain free of hordes of tourists. In other words, if you want to visit a city but still want to avoid the crowds, Knoxville is a fantastic Tennessee weekend getaway option.

One of the most popular things to do in Knoxville is pay a visit to the World’s Square Park. Once home to the 1982 World’s Fair, this park boasted many of the greatest inventions and creations of the time. Today, it continues to be one of the best places to visit in Knoxville, thanks to all of the elaborate renovations done for the World’s Fair. Plus, be sure to visit Knoxville’s Market Square, the Knoxville Museum of Art, and the Ijams Nature Center.

Where to Stay in Knoxville :

Check Rates On Hotels.com: Hilton Knoxville Check Rates On VRBO.com: Sequoyah Hills Villa Private Master Suite

Knoxville skyline featuring iconic golden ball weekend getaways in Tennessee

Take in the Beautiful, Blooming Flowers of Roan Mountain

As the name of both a tiny town and a towering mountain, Roan Mountain is the perfect place to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. While you can certainly spend some down time in the 1,000-person town, the real highlight is the mountain itself.

Filled with trails for hiking and rivers for wading, Roan Mountain gives you the opportunity to experience all that nature has to offer. And while Roan Mountain is beautiful all year round, it truly comes to life each June during the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival. When these bright pink and purple blossoms bloom, the town of Roan Mountain comes to life as well, with both the mountain and the town featuring local food, talented musicians, and of course the breathtaking flowers.

Where to Stay Near Roan Mountain :

Check Rates On VRBO.com: Beautiful Mountain Cabin Check Rates On VRBO.com: Roan Mountain Getaway

sunrise over Roan Mountain dotted with pink flowers

We hope this guide has given you a few ideas of fantastic weekend getaways in Tennessee. There are so many noteworthy spots in this wonderful state that your weekends can always be packed with adventure! Honestly, no matter which of the weekend getaways in Tennessee you choose to enjoy, you really can’t go wrong! If you have any questions, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

helen georgia one of the cutest small towns in the south

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  • Last Updated On
  • November 24, 2023

33 Best Weekend Getaways in Tennessee — Quick Trips!

Tanner Wilkes

Ah, Tennessee. The state of country music, rock and roll, and whiskey.

You’d think planning a trip to Tennessee is as easy as pie until you get to the part about where to stay for the weekend.

Luckily, I’m here to lend a helping hand.

Growing up in Tennessee has taught me a lot about the beauty of its attractions, and coming back every year taught me something else.

I learned that this beautiful city is filled with hotels and resorts that can make or break your experience.

So I’ve visited and rated each one based on room variety, comfort and cleanliness, location, affordability, and family friendliness.

So if you’re down to save time and money, I suggest you keep reading.

Pack your bags, free up your weekend, and dive into the best weekend getaways in Tennessee.

Best Weekend Getaways In Tennessee Compared

Whether you’re in Tennessee to try their whiskey or visit the Great Smokies, here’s a quick comparison of the best getaways in the state.

Editor’s Choice

short day trips in tennessee

The Hermitage

A renowned destination in Nashville, The Hermitage hotel opened its doors in 1910 and has made a name for itself in southern hospitality.

  • Room Variety: 5/5
  • Comfort and Cleanliness: 5/5
  • Location: 4.5/5
  • Affordability: 4/5
  • Family-Friendliness: 5/5

#2nd Best Choice

short day trips in tennessee

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center

A very popular destination for getaways in Nashville, the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center is located around 2 km from the Grand Ole Opry.

  • Room Variety: 4.5/5
  • Comfort and Cleanliness: 4.5/5
  • Location: 4/5 
  • Affordability: 5/5

#3rd Best Choice

short day trips in tennessee

Union Station Hotel Nashville Yards

Set up in 1900, The Union Station Hotel Nashville Yards was formerly a train terminal.

  • Room Variety: 4/5
  • Location: 5/5

Here are the top 33 weekend getaways in Tennessee.

1. The Hermitage (Editor’s Choice)

The Hermitage

231 6th Avenue N Nashville, TN 37219 (888) 888-9414 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Ratings Criteria

  • Excellent location within walking distance to several attractions and restaurants.
  • Luxurious rooms
  • Maintenance in some rooms could be improved

After a day of exploring the music scene in Nashville, a great place to stay and relax is The Hermitage, situated in downtown Nashville.

Recipient of the Forbes Five-star rating in 2015, the AAA Five Diamond rating in 2016, and listed among the “Top 50 Hotels in the United States” by the US News and World Report, the luxurious hotel is regal and elegant, offering the highest level of hospitality.

At The Hermitage, you can enjoy the elegantly appointed accommodations, soak in the tubs made of Italian marble, savor the southern flavors at the Capitol grille and sip cocktails at the Oak Bar after a busy day.

Related: Best Day Trips From Nashville

2. Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center

2800 Opryland Drive Nashville, TN 37214 (615) 889-1000 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

  • Beautiful indoor and outdoor gardens
  • Plenty of family-friendly activities to do on-site
  • Property may be too big for some, which means more walking

Spread across 9 acres, the resort has many atriums, indoor gardens, 4 bars, 15 restaurants and retail stores and has fun activities for visitors all year round.

The indoor park at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center is the main attraction for lil ones.

The resort has around 3,000 rooms and suites ideal for a vacation with your partner or with the entire family.

3. Union Station Hotel Nashville Yards

Union Station Hotel Nashville Yards

1001 Broadway Nashville, TN 37203 (615) 726-1001 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

  • Close to many attractions
  • Spacious family rooms

This was later converted into a hotel and today offers modern amenities and comfortable accommodations while retaining the grand architectural elements of the yesteryear.

The majestic building has awe-inspiring features such as a Tiffany stained glass that is a century old, a stunning lobby atrium and a barrel-vaulted ceiling that is 65 feet high.

A stay at the Union Station Hotel Nashville Yards is a romantic getaway that is truly unforgettable.

4. The Peabody Memphis

The Peabody Memphis

149 Union Avenue Memphis TN 38103 (901) 529-4000 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

The Peabody Memphis is a fantastic alternative to the Union Station Hotel Nashville Yards and Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center.

It’s right in the heart of Memphis and offers cheaper prices for luxury.

If you’re looking for a luxury getaway, then a couple of days at The Peabody Memphis will give you a royal experience that you and your family won’t forget.

Opened in 1869, The Peabody Memphis, also known as the “South’s Grand Hotel,” is a Forbes 4-Star hotel located in downtown Memphis.

The luxurious Memphis icon is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is renowned for its rich history, elegance and hospitality.

The Peabody Memphis’ rich legacy includes the 5 resident ducks, which have become the hotel’s biggest attraction and every day between 11 am to 5 pm visitors can witness the very cute and famous Peabody Duck March, where they strut down the lobby on their red carpet.

The hotel has 464 rooms and suites you can choose from and includes a range of facilities, including restaurants, a full-service spa and salon, Peabody Galleria shops and an indoor swimming pool.


Jackson, TN (731) 425-8240 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

A small and quaint, yet vibrant city, Jackson is the birthplace of Rockabilly Music.

Situated on the southwestern tip of Tennessee, this little city is a great place for a quiet, “me-time” kind of vacation away from the popular, crowded holiday spots.

A visit to Jackson is incomplete without a trip to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum, Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park and Rusty’s TV and Movie Car Museum.

If you love nature, then you’re sure to love the Cypress Grove Nature Park or you can play your favorite sport at the North Park.

And, if you are an avid history buff, then check out the Butler’s Antique Mall or the Vintage Market on Main Street.

Recommended Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton Jackson

Related: Best Restaurants in Jackson

Related: Family Beaches in Tennessee

6. Franklin


Franklin, TN (615) 591-8514 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

A small charming town in Tennessee, Franklin is named after Benjamin Franklin and offers plenty of outdoor and fun activities for visitors.

A major hub of the Battle of Franklin during the Civil War, Franklin has many historic homes that you can visit.

History buffs will love the guided tours of the Carlton Plantation, Lotz House Museum, the Carter home and the 2 antebellum homes, which date back to the 1830s.

You can stroll down the 16-block historic downtown area, enjoy the Victorian architecture and the beautifully preserved buildings, check out the mom-and-pop restaurants and boutiques, shop for art and antiques, explore the farmers’ market or simply soak in the serene atmosphere of the town.

On Main Street, you will find Franklin’s famous eating joints and music clubs where you can enjoy some amazing food and music.

Recommended Hotel: The Harpeth Downtown Franklin, Curio Collection by Hilton


Bristol, TN (423) 989-5500 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

A must-visit for country music lovers, Bristol has been named the “Birthplace of Country Music” in 1998.

The city is home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival and Paramount Theater.

There are lots of other things you can do in Bristol that are not related to music.

Explore the exciting underground Bristol Caverns and Appalachian Caverns, click a photo with the iconic Bristol sign, visit the Steele Creek Park and go to the Ernie Ford Home, which is now a museum or swim in South Holston Lake.

If you’re a racing enthusiast, then the Bristol Motor Speedway, the famous NASCAR short-circuit track is a “must do.”

Recommended Hotel: The Sessions Hotel, Bristol, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel

Related: Restaurants in Bristol, TN

8. Knoxville


Knoxville, TN (800) 727-8045 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

One of the smaller cities in Tennessee, Knoxville is situated to the north of the Great Smoky Mountains and next to the Tennessee River.

Knoxville is a low-key tourist destination, but you can simply beat the charm of the place.

Visit the World’s Square Park and take in a music concert, explore the Knoxville Museum of Art, shop at the historic Market Square or the Ijams Nature Center or stroll down the riverfront.

If you want to do something sporty, then paddle at Mead’s Quarry Lake or for a bike ride in Urban Wilderness.

Kids are sure to love the Knoxville Zoo or The Muse, the museum of science.

Recommended Hotel: The Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel

9. Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge, TN (800) 251-9100 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

If you’re looking for quick trips in Tennessee, Pigeon Forge is a small but fun-filled getaway in the state.

The city is home to the famous Appalachian theme amusement park, Dollywood which is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains and is spread across 150 acres.

Hop onto the Dollywood Express for an overview of the amusement park, enjoy more than 40 thrilling rides at the park or cool down at the Dollywood Splash Country, the fun water park with its lazy river, wave pool and high water slides, visit the replica of Dolly Parton’s mountain home or stay in a luxury cabin that allows you to enjoy the stunning views of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Want to do something fun?

Visit the Hollywood Wax Museum, go up the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, explore the Forbidden Caverns located under the great Smoky Mountain or drive down to Cades Cove for some picturesque views.

The children will love a visit to the Titanic Museum or a trip to the Parrot Mountains and Gardens, where they can see many animals and colorful birds.

Recommended Hotel: Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa

Related: Family Vacation Spots in Tennessee

10. Cummins Falls State Park and Burgess Falls State Park

Cummins Falls State Park and Burgess Falls State Park

390 Cummins Falls Lane Cookeville, TN 38501 (931) 268-7223 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

If you like quick trips, then a road trip to both the Cummins Falls State Park, as well as the Burgess Falls State Park is a fantastic weekend getaway idea.

A state park spread across 282 acres; the Cummins Falls State Park is situated in Jackson County in Tennessee.

The Cummins Falls State Park is home to the gorgeous Cummins Falls, a 75-foot waterfall on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River.

The park is famous for its scenic beauty and is a popular swimming spot.

Half an hour away from the Cummins Falls State Park is the Burgess Falls State Park, where you can get your fill of nature and scenic beauty.

The Burgess Falls State Park is located in the White County and Putnam County area in Tennessee and is spread across 217 acres.

The park is located around a deep gorge into which the Falling Water River drops around 250 feet over 3 waterfalls, ending in a cataract waterfall that falls over 130 feet into the gorge.

The Burgess Falls State Park beginner to expert level trails that you can explore.

Recommended Hotel: Comfort Suites Cookeville

11. Falls Creek Falls State Park

Falls Creek Falls State Park

2009 Village Camp Road Spencer, TN 38585 (423) 881-5298 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Spread across around 30,000 acres of land, the Falls Creek Falls State Park is among the largest and most popular state parks in Tennessee and is situated in the Van Buren and Bledsoe counties.

Sprawled over the top of the Cumberland Plateau, the Falls Creek Falls State Park has many gorges, streams, cascades, waterfalls and virgin hardwood timber stands.

At around 250 feet, the Fall Creek Falls is among the highest waterfalls in the eastern US and some of the other waterfalls in the park include the Cane Creek Falls, Piney Falls and Cane Creek Cascades.

If you love camping, then the Falls Creek Falls State Park offers 222 campsites, 30 cabins, the Lodge Fall creek Falls with its 85 rooms and also backcountry camping with a permit.

If you love the outdoor life, then the Falls Creek Falls State Park has plenty for you to do along with your family, right from short and long hikes, recreational and educational trails, day trails and overnight trails in the 56 miles of trails of the state park.

You can also indulge in a wide range of other outdoor activities, including swimming, kayaking, canoeing, biking, rock climbing, fishing, ziplining or birdwatching.

Recommended Hotel: Grandview Experience Lodge

12. Natchez Trace State Park

Natchez Trace State Park

24845 Natchez Trace Rd Wildersville, TN 38388 (731) 968-3742 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Situated in western Tennessee midway between Nashville and Memphis, the Natchez Trace State Park was named after the historic woodland path, Natchez Trace, a famous wilderness trail during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The park is spread across over 48,000 acres and has many wilderness trails, passing through the forest, fields, streams and lakeshores of the Natchez Trace State Park including the popular Red Leaves Backpacking Trails, a 40-mile overnight trail.

The park has plenty of activities that you and your family will love.

Apart from hiking and biking on the trails, you can go camping, indulge in waterfront activities such as fishing in one of the 4 lakes in the park, canoeing, swimming, fishing and also go horseback riding.

The park also has a museum, camping and picnic facilities, lodges, cabins, boating and a restaurant.

Recommended Hotel: Americas Best Value Inn Wildersville

13. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (865) 436-1200 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Tennessee vacations are incomplete without a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Amongst the most popular destinations in the state, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to more than 100,000 species of plants and animals.

The park has plenty of activities that you can do with friends or family including the little ones.

You can enjoy the nature around while indulging in outdoorsy activities like camping, swimming, biking, hiking, kayaking or simply settle down and enjoy a family picnic.

Enjoy the hiking trails in the park, trek up to the Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in Tennessee or the Chimney Tops Trail, get a view of the gorgeous sunrise or sunset, enjoy the beautiful backdrop or just go up to the Old Smoky Observation Tower and get a 360-degree panoramic view.

For a romantic experience, go for a 1-hour ride in a horse-drawn carriage with your love in the scenic Cades Cove meadow.

You can spend the night in the local campground under the star or stay in one of the several hotels in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg or Townsend.

Recommended Hotel: The Park Vista – A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel – Gatlinburg

Related: Places to Visit in Tennessee

14. Roan Mountain

Roan Mountain

Roan Mountain, TN Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Roan Mountain is a tiny town that is nestled under the mighty Roan Mountain.

A very scenic little town, Roan Mountain is the perfect place to spend a weekend away from the hustle-bustle of the city.

The gorgeous Roan Mountain offers scenic beauty and stunning views all year round, but it truly comes to life during the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival every year in June.

For outdoorsy, adventurous families, Roan Mountain has plenty of exciting hiking trails that you can explore while wading through the many rivers flowing.

A visit to Roan Mountain is incomplete without a visit to the Roan Mountain State Park, which is spread across over 2,000 acres of land, covered by a forest of rich hardwood.

In the park, you can tour the 100-year-old Miller Farmstead, hike along the ridges and creeks or go cross-country skiing during the winter.

And, when you’re done with all the trekking and hiking and want to settle down for something more relaxing, then you can go trout fishing in the Doe River flowing through the center of the park.

Recommended Hotel: Carnegie Hotel & Spa

Related: Best Day Trips From Knoxville

15. Watauga Lake

Watauga Lake

Watauga Lake, TN Visit Website Open in Google Maps

A hidden gem nestled within the Cherokee National Forest and the Appalachian Mountains; the stunningly scenic Watauga Lake is among the most gorgeous lakes in Tennessee.

A 5-hour drive from Nashville and only accessible by the winding mountain roads, Watauga Lake is a beautiful location for a peaceful and rejuvenating weekend getaway.

Watauga Lake may be quiet and serene, but surprisingly it has plenty of things for you to do.

You can either choose to camp close to nature in the backcountry along the Laurel Fork Creek or at the Carden’s Bluff lakeshore and simply relax.

Or, if you want to do something adventurous, then you can go hiking around the lake or through the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which runs through the backcountry of the area.

There is plenty of water recreation including fishing, swimming or enjoying various water sports including kayaking, boating, boat launching or water skiing.

Recommended Hotel: Lakefront Butler Home

16. Choo Choo Hotel

Choo Choo Hotel

92 Choo Choo Ave Chattanooga, TN 37408 (423) 266-5000 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

If you’re in Chattanooga, then a stay at the Choo Choo Hotel offers an experience of a lifetime.

Located in the center of downtown Chattanooga, the Choo Choo Hotel is the perfect example of the history of the city.

Once a train terminal that helped to drive the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century in America, it was converted into a hotel in 1989.

The hotel offers a range of themed accommodations and you can choose from the 48 Victorian train cars, rooms and suites.

The interiors of the train cars have been restored beautifully and fitted with modern luxuries and amenities such as whirlpool tubs, loveseats, king-sized beds and wet bars, that will make your stay at the Choo Choo Hotel truly memorable.

While you stroll through the gardens of the hotel, work out at the gym or relax at one of the many hotel pools, your kids can have a whale of a time on the Chattanooga Choo Choo Trolley.

After the kids have retired for the day, you can continue your day of relaxation by unwinding at the Victorian Lounge where you can sip on your cocktails, handcrafted beer, wine or frozen drinks.

17. Gatlinburg


Gatlinburg, TN (865) 436-4178 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

A little gem nestled in eastern Tennessee with a wide range of attractions, Gatlinburg is a great destination for weekend trips in Tennessee.

Right from enjoying the stunning views of the Gatlinburg Space Needle, Gatlinburg Skybridge and Clingman’s Dome, Gatlinburg has loads of other things to do such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is wonderful for hiking or camping and the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway, which offers stunning views of Gatlinburg’s skyline.

If you want some adventures, then don’t miss the opportunity to ski at Tennessee’s only ski resort, the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort or drive down the Roaring Fork Motor Trail.

The young ones in the family are sure to love the Ripley’s Aquarium and the Guinness World Records Museum, the Anakeesta theme park or ride on the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster.

Recommended Hotel: Greystone Lodge on the River

Related: Things to Do in Tennessee

18. Sewanee Inn

Sewanee Inn

1235 University Avenue Sewanee, TN, 37375 (931) 598-3568 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Located at the doorstep of the University of South campus, the Sewanee Inn is a very popular getaway.

Situated on Sewanee’s renowned 9-hole golf course, the Sewanee Inn is a boutique-style hotel with 43 nicely decorated rooms and suites that offer the stunning sights of the rolling Tennessee Mountains.

The inn also has a full-service lounge and more than 8,000 sq. ft. of event space for weddings and other events.

You can either relax in the elegant atmosphere of the inn enjoying the excellent service or you can get out and explore the attractions the place offers.

If you want to indulge in outdoor activities, then you can enjoy a round of golf on the golf course or you can hike along the numerous Appalachian trails.

Related: Best Day Trips From Memphis

19. Loews Vanderbilt

Loews Vanderbilt

2100 West End Avenue Nashville, TN 37203 (615) 320-1700 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

If you are in Nashville for the weekend, then a stay at the Loews Vanderbilt is a “must do.”

The iconic Loews Vanderbilt Hotel is located in the heart of the city within walking distance of Nashville’s most popular attractions.

The design elements of the Loews Vanderbilt hotel are a combination of retro with modern and the hotel has around 350 rooms and suites offering the highest levels of comfort and relaxation.

You can savor Southern-style food at the Mason restaurant or sip on the hand-crafted cocktails at the Mason Bar.

And, if you are in the mood for some exercise, take advantage of the hotel’s complimentary access to their fully equipped fitness center and burn the calories away.

So, whether you are in Nashville on a fun-filled family vacation or a romantic getaway, you’re sure to love your stay at the Loews Vanderbilt.

20. The Carnegie Hotel and Spa

The Carnegie Hotel and Spa

1216 W. State of Franklin Road Johnson City, TN 37604 (866) 757-8277 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Located in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, The Carnegie Hotel and Spa is a luxurious boutique replica hotel that is a homage to the Carnegie Hotel, which was opened in 1891 in Johnson City before it was destroyed in a fire in 1910.

The Four Diamond property has a gorgeous traditional Baroque décor and a charming ambiance that will give you the experience of the era gone by along with modern amenities to make your stay extremely comfortable.

The Carnegie Hotel has around 140 rooms and suites that are luxuriously appointed with large soaking tubs, soft mattresses and plush pillows that are sure to delight you.

The other amenities offered at the hotel include a full-service spa, a fitness center, a heated indoor pool and the award-winning Wellington’s Restaurant.

21. Deer Ridge Mountain Resort

Deer Ridge Mountain Resort

3710 Weber Road Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (865) 436-2325 Open in Google Maps

If you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway, then check into the Deer Ridge Mountain Resort.

Situated around 20 km from Gatlinburg, the spacious condo resort is tucked away in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A perfect choice for its wonderful views of the stunning sunrises and sunsets in the Smoky Mountains, the Deer Ridge Mountain Resort is perfect for couples or families.

You can stay in one of the secluded cabins or the condos at the resort.

The main building of the resort has an indoor pool, a lounge, a sauna room with a sun deck and a laundry room.

The resort offers other facilities including tennis courts, picnic tables and playground grills.

Related: Things to Do in Tennessee with Kids

22. Chattanooga


Chattanooga, TN (423) 756-8687 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Situated on the edge of the Tennessee River, Chattanooga is among the most romantic getaways in Tennessee.

Chattanooga gets the nickname “Scenic City” for good reason as it is surrounded by mountains all around offering stunning views.

The southern destination has plenty of options that can make your Tennessee vacation truly memorable.

For history buffs, the historical city has loads to offer right from a stay in a train car at the iconic Chattanooga Choo hotel to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

If you’re a nature lover, then you’re sure to love the Riverpark with its views of the Tennessee River, busy fishing piers, the Tennessee River Gorge, the Ruby Falls, an underground waterfall and the Tennessee Aquarium, the Raccoon Mountain Caverns and the Lookout Mountain.

Downtown Chattanooga offers you the taste of life in the city with its shops, restaurants, waterfront walkways, museums, the Creative Discovery Museum, the Coolidge Park with its 100-year-old carousel and tinkling fountains, burgeoning art galleries and energetic nightlife.

Recommended Hotel: The Read House

Related: Best Day Trips From Chattanooga

23. Brookside Resort

Brookside Resort

463 East Parkway Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (865) 436-5611 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

If you’re in Gatlinburg, then the “home with 100 bedrooms”, i.e., the Brookside Resort is a great choice.

Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, the family-owned and run resort has been welcoming guests since the 1930s.

The resort is located in a 10-acre wooded area and has guest rooms overlooking the Roaring Fork Mountain Creek.

The resort’s facilities include 2 swimming pools, an 8-foot waterfall, a BBQ and fire pit, laundry and a well-equipped fitness center.

And, if you’re looking for something to do with your family, then there are many activities including biking, hiking, paddling, golf and fishing.

24. Blackberry Farm

Blackberry Farm

1471 West Millers Cove Road Walland, TN 37886 (800) 557-8864 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Located in the center of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blackberry Farm is a lovely resort spread across 4,200 acres of land, where you can enjoy 5-star service and luxurious accommodation in idyllic surroundings.

Famous for its farm-to-table fare, the resort offers cuisine carefully curated by the master gardener, chef, baker, chocolatier, cheesemaker and sommelier.

The resort has a brewery and working farm on the estate, which produces fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, wildflower honey and ales.

The resort has a hill cottage, a house with a fully equipped kitchen or estate rooms that you can choose from.

25. Memphis


Memphis, TN (901) 545-5731 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

If you’re looking for Tennessee vacation ideas, then you can’t go wrong with a trip to Memphis .

Famous for various genres of music, rock & roll, blues, soul and gospel, a visit to Memphis is sure to get your musical senses going.

There are scores of things to do in Memphis other than just music—explore exciting destinations including the Sun Studios, Beale Street, Elvis Presley’s 14-acre Graceland mansion, Memphis Rock n’ Soul Museum, Cotton Museum and the National Civil Rights Museum.

If you want to do something romantic with your partner, then take a stroll in the tranquil 96-acre Japanese Garden with its Red Drum bridge, koi pond and Moongazing Pavilion.

Go on a romantic dinner and music cruise on the Mississippi River or opt for the Valentine’s Day cruise, sunset cruise or fireworks cruise on special occasions.

A visit to the Mud Island River Park, the Memphis Zoo and the unique and super-cute “Duck March” on the red carpet at the iconic Peabody Memphis are must-dos for families with little ones.

Recommended Hotel: Peabody Memphis

Related: Family Hotels in Tennessee

26. Evins Mills

Evins Mills

1535 Evins Mill Road Smithville, TN 37166 (615) 269-3740 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Originally the estate of Joe Evins, a US Congressman, Evin Mills is a woodland resort today.

The resort is situated in Smithville, Tennessee and offers all the facilities of a luxury resort nestled in a scenic woodland setting.

Bordered by the forests and the mountains, the Evins Mills resort has a rugged appeal.

The 40-acre property offers luxurious accommodations, gourmet cuisine and many on-site activities such as fishing, hiking, swimming, lawn games and bonfires and excursions nearby.

27. Nashville


Nashville, TN (615) 259-4700 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Home to the best country singers and musicians, Nashville is among the best places for weekend getaways in TN.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant birthplace of famous stars like Johnny Cash, Blake Shelton and Toby Keith and visit the iconic places such as the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame and Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Apart from exploring the city’s musical landmarks, you can also visit the lovely historic homes and historical monuments such as the Belle Meade Plantation.

Check out the city’s vibrant food scene, drink whiskey cocktails as you go bar-hopping and get your fill of country music or enjoy an evening cruise on the Cumberland River.

If you’re visiting Nashville with your lil ones, they’re sure to love the Nashville Zoo, see animals and take a trip on the Wilderness Express Train or you can go on a Centennial Park tour.

Recommended Hotel: Drury Plaza Hotel Nashville Downtown

28. Riverstone Resort and Spa

Riverstone Resort and Spa

212 Dollywood Lane Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 (865) 908-0660 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Just minutes away from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Riverstone Resort and Spa is one of the best resorts in Pigeon Forge and is located along the Little Pigeon River.

The resort with its scenic views offers well-appointed luxurious condos and cabins and is a wonderful vacation spot for couples and families.

You can pamper yourself at the spa at the resort, swim in the indoor swimming pool, float on the outdoor lazy river, work out at the fitness center, party at the BBQ area set with picnic tables or explore the various attractions, entertainment and dining options closeby.

29. Music City Loft

Music City Loft

162 4th Ave N. Nashville, TN 37219 (615) 378-5225 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Situated in Nashville, Music City Loft offers convenient, affordable, yet luxurious and comfortable vacation rentals in the city for your weekend getaway.

The Music City Loft has 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom loft rentals and each loft-style room is dedicated to the country music stars like Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and more.

The loft has exposed brick ceilings, hardwood floors and large windows overlooking the city of Nashville, all of which give you an authentic feel.

Located conveniently in the heart of downtown Nashville, Music City Loft is within easy walking distance of all the attractions in the city.

30. Eagle’s Ridge Resort

Eagle’s Ridge Resort

2740 Florence Dr Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 (877) 978-3430 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

Perfect for a family or romantic getaway, the Eagle’s Ridge Resort in Pigeon Forge is an amazing place to stay where you are surrounded by stunning nature.

Stay in one of the 233 well-appointed log cabins that offer you complete serenity in a wooded setting surrounded by foliage and flowers all around.

All the log cabins feature fully-equipped kitchens, hot tubs, fireplaces and whirlpool tubs so that you can enjoy with your loved one or you can use the resort’s swimming pool with the sun deck with other guests.

You can enjoy the in-house activities at the resort’s clubhouse or explore the attractions such as the trails, kayaking, whitewater rafting and more.

31. The Read House Historic Inn and Suites

The Read House Historic Inn and Suites

107 W MLK Blvd Chattanooga, TN 37402 (423) 266-4121 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

If you want to enjoy a historic getaway with unique charm, then The Read House Historic Inn and Suites in Chattanooga is a charming place that you’re sure to love.

Located in the center of the downtown area, the property is located conveniently within walking distance from most attractions such as the Tennessee Aquarium, Tennessee Riverwalk, Chattanooga Choo Choo and AT&T Ballpark and more.

The luxurious property 235 has nicely-appointed, comfortable rooms and suites that you can choose from.

The hotel has a well-equipped business center and fitness center and when you’re done working, you can simply relax at the hotel’s luxurious spa, lie on the outdoor deck and soak up the sun, swim in the indoor pool under the cascading waterfall or simply stroll with your loved one in the fountain courtyard.

32. The Chattanoogan

The Chattanoogan

1201 Broad Street Chattanooga, TN 37402 (423) 756-3400 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Located along Broad Street in the Southside district, The Chattanoogan in Chattanooga is situated very close to the University of Chattanooga and The Tennessee Aquarium.

With its elegant décor and spacious interiors, the hotel offers stunning views and excellent facilities.

Choose from the range of 199 well-furnished rooms and suites, designed to make you feel at home.

The hotel has many facilities where you can enjoy a full-service luxurious spa, an indoor pool, outdoor fire pit, state-of-the-art business center, fitness center, and steam and sauna rooms and 3 restaurants.

33. The Butterfly Hollow

The Butterfly Hollow

28 Bussell Lane Gordonsville, TN 38563 (615) 784-8551 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Perfect for a romantic getaway, The Butterfly Hollow is a hidden gem in Nashville.

Tucked into the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau, this romantic hideaway is a luxurious bed and breakfast that is nestled on 82 acres of secluded land.

The B&B offers 3 private luxurious bedrooms, a relaxing hot tub and a covered porch where you can relax, rewind and refresh yourself.

If you’re done relaxing and are in the mood for some outdoor fun, then The Butterfly Hollow has a range of outdoor activities that you can check out including the several miles of biking and hiking trails near the B&B.

So, if you’re looking for some me-time or a relaxing time with your mate or friends, then The Butterfly Hollow can be the perfect scenic getaway offering the perfect combination of nature, solitude and peace.

So, that brings us to the end of our guide to some of the best weekend getaways in Tennessee.

We hope that after reading about all the places to visit and stay in Tennessee, you will be tempted to add some to your vacation itinerary soon.

Getaway Guide 

Comparing destinations: which one is right for you.

Choosing the right hotel for you doesn’t have to be a headache, and you certainly don’t have to lose sleep over it.

It’s important to choose a hotel that suits your preference the most, apart from it being within your budget.

If you’re more of an indoors person, I recommend going for the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

This huge resort has a mall, is close to several local attractions like the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium, and offers luxurious rooms.

However, the resort is so big you’ll have to do plenty of walking.

The Union Station Nashville Yards is great for people who love to walk and be close to Nashville attractions.

The hotel itself gives off an Old-World vibe in all its luxury, and the service is impeccable.

The maintenance in some rooms could be improved and aren’t as modern, but it’s still worth the stay.

A fantastic alternative to this hotel at Memphis is the Peabody Memphis, a historic hotel known for its rustic luxury.

I had to put the Hermitage Hotel as the top because who doesn’t like a little bit of history?

This hotel is Nashville’s most original and longest standing hotel, with beautiful luxurious family rooms and iconic museums.

It’s known for its impeccable service, and there’s plenty of family-friendly fun on-site.

However, some people might not like it because it’s not as modern. 

How I Picked The Destinations 

I grew up traveling often, so I’ve spent most of my life in hotels and resorts.

And as a parent, I’ve learned to factor in my family’s fun, safety, and convenience when choosing a place to stay.

Of course, I have to stay within budget, which is something I had to do plenty of research on before visiting these resorts.

Our Property Rating Method 

I rate these properties based on the following criteria:

  • Room Variety: I use this to rate the room options offered by every property. What room types are available? Can it accommodate different budgets, group sizes, and preferences? I ask myself these questions when evaluating the property’s room variety. 
  • Comfort and Cleanliness: This measures the overall cleanliness and comfort of the accommodations. Does it have comfortable beds? Are the rooms spotless and dust-free? These are important factors I consider when rating comfort and cleanliness. 
  • Location: This is used to evaluate how convenient and accessible the property is. How close is it to the attractions? Are there good public transportation options near the location? Is it easily accessible for families? These questions are important when I rate the location of every accommodation. 
  • Affordability: I use this to evaluate the property’s affordability. Are the room rates reasonable? Does the property have any additional fees? Does the property offer discounts or packages? I ask myself this in order to rate affordability. 
  • Family-Friendliness: This evaluates the family-friendliness of each property. Does it offer babysitting services and children’s activities? Does it have connecting rooms for families? I use these questions to rate the family-friendliness of the property. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What month is best to visit nashville.

The best months to visit Nashville are April through October when the warm weather brings life to the city’s outdoor activities and renowned music festivals. However, October and November specifically offer pleasant temperatures and beautiful fall foliage, and fewer tourists than the summer months.

What Are Some Outdoor Activities To Enjoy In Tennessee?

Some outdoor activities you can enjoy in Tennessee include hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, kayaking on the Tennessee River, or fishing on the Cumberland River.

short day trips in tennessee

Tennessee is a beautiful state to visit, and its hotels and resorts are countless to accommodate tourists.

Some of these resorts gave us some of the best weekend getaways in Tennessee, and it’s about time you have yours too.

My family loved the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. 

It’s close to zoos and museums, and there were plenty of fun things the kids could do on-site.

The Union Station Nashville Yards was also a great stay, and the best part was the rain forest walk-in shower in our bathroom.

When we visited Memphis, we had to stay in The Peabody to see what the hype was all about, and it was well worth our money.

Not only was it luxurious, but the kids had plenty of things to enjoy and they even had evening entertainment every night.

But personally, and from what I’ve heard from tourists and locals, the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville steals the spotlight.

It’s one of the oldest hotels in the country, and there were plenty of fascinating stories we listened to there.

The family rooms were spacious and luxurious, the food was phenomenal, and it was within walking distance to everything.

It was worth every buck I spent and it’s now our go-to hotel whenever we visit.

grand palladium kantenah travel photo


  • Destinations

25 Best Day Trips from Knoxville, TN

Last Updated By VI on April 23, 2024


Abingdon, va, greenville, sc, lexington, ky.

  • Complete List & Map


The Chattanooga Zoo, Tennessee Aquarium, and Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park are other great family-friendly attractions. Where to Stay in Chattanooga

Abingdon, VA

Some of the must-see attractions in Abingdon include the Martha Washington Inn and Spa, Grayson Highlands State Park, The Great Channels, and the famous Appalachian Trail.

Greenville, SC

Some of the most popular attractions include The Gorge Zipline, which is the steepest and fastest in America, Greenville Zoo, Wildwater, River Falls Spa, and the BMW Performance Center. South Carolina day trips

Lexington, KY

Of course, many people also love to visit the Keeneland Race Course and Kentucky Bourbon distilleries.

Nashville, TN

Nashville, TN

While exploring, spend some time on Lower Broadway to get a taste of the real Nashville music scene.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

More Kentucky waterfalls and Kentucky state parks .

Blue Ridge, GA

Blue Ridge, GA

The live music scene is vibrant throughout the mountain town that is also home to the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and historic depot.

Roanoke, VA

Roanoke, VA

There are also several hotels, bed & breakfasts, inns, and motels, as well as cabins and campgrounds for lodgings.

Huntsville, AL

Huntsville, AL

Visitors wanting to explore the great outdoors in Huntsville can spend the day at Ditto Landing on the Tennessee River, hike at Monte Sano State Park, or take self-guided tours of the city’s urban walking and biking trails. On your trip, be sure to leave plenty of time to explore the great restaurants in Huntsville.

Atlanta, GA

Atlanta, GA

Atlanta is only three hours away from Knoxville and can also provide enough entertainment for multi-day trips.

Alpine Helen, GA

Alpine Helen, GA

There are also several festivals including Annual Fireside Arts and Crafts Show, Celebrate the Arts Festival, Oktoberfest, Christkindlmarkt, and the annual golf tournament. More getaways from Atlanta, GA

Maggie Valley

Maggie Valley

Visit in the summer to enjoy the Annual Folkmoot Festival, Lake Logan Multisport Festival, and outdoor dance and music festivals. ( website link )

Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge

There are cabin, inns, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and campground available in Pigeon Forge along with dozens of choices for fine or casual dining.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

More ideas: Activities in Helen


More ideas: Day Trips from Nashville

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

The 250-room estate was built by George Vanderbilt where more than 10,000 tulips bloom each year. The Blue Ridge Parkways is also just 8 miles away. More North Carolina mountains

Tugaloo State Park

Tugaloo State Park

More ideas: Tennessee Day Trips

Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC

The estate was commissioned by George W. Vanderbilt and featured 250 rooms. Romantic Getaways Asheville

Dahlonega, GA

Dahlonega, GA

You can also explore the nearby Chattahoochee National Forest and enjoy mountain biking, camping, and other outdoor recreation. M

Del Rio, TN

Del Rio, TN

More ideas: Tennessee Beaches

Museum of Appalachia

Museum of Appalachia

2819 Andersonville Highway, Clinton, Tennessee, 37716, Phone: 865-494-7680



More ideas: Waterfalls Near Nashville, TN

Oak Ridge

More ideas: Things to Do in Memphis with Kids

Ocoee River

Ocoee River

More ideas: Things to Do in Murfreesboro


More ideas: Things to Do in Clarksville


  • 1. Chattanooga
  • 2. Abingdon, VA
  • 3. Greenville, SC
  • 4. Lexington, KY
  • 5. Nashville, TN
  • 6. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
  • 7. Blue Ridge, GA
  • 8. Roanoke, VA
  • 9. Huntsville, AL
  • 10. Atlanta, GA
  • 11. Alpine Helen, GA
  • 12. Maggie Valley
  • 13. Pigeon Forge
  • 14. Great Smoky Mountain National Park
  • 15. Gatlinburg
  • 16. Black Mountain
  • 17. Tugaloo State Park
  • 18. Asheville, NC
  • 19. Dahlonega, GA
  • 20. Del Rio, TN
  • 21. Museum of Appalachia
  • 22. Cataloochee
  • 23. Oak Ridge
  • 24. Ocoee River
  • 25. Cookeville

Last Updated on April 23, 2024 in Tennessee Day Trips & Weekend Getaways

More Tennessee Getaways:

Resources: TN Vacation , Visit Nashville , Pigeon Forge , Explore Gatlinburg , Visit Chattanooga , State Parks

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The Crazy Tourist

Home » Travel Guides » United States » Tennessee (TN) » 15 Best Day Trips from Knoxville (TN)

15 Best Day Trips from Knoxville (TN)

Snugly sitting by the Tennessee River, not far from the state lines of Kentucky and North Carolina, the city of Knoxville is a hallmark of Southern hospitality.

With this, comes a unique and irresistible blend of flavors, sights, and sounds.

From street cookouts and revolutionary history to blues music, Knoxville is a perfect example of what a Southern riverside city can offer a curious traveler.

It also happens to be located within stone’s throw of some of the most gorgeous natural attractions – both within and outside of its state boundaries.

Between Tennessee, North Carolina and Kentucky, there are endless national parks, gorgeous lakes and impressive mountain ranges to explore, not to mention other fantastic towns and cities, each with their own allure.

Let’s take a look at some of the best day trips you can embark on from Knoxville.

1. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

A quick hop over the state line into Kentucky and you’ll find one of the most exciting natural escapes around, where you can enjoy the great outdoors to your heart’s content.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park offers some incredible hiking trails, not to mention horseback riding, swimming, and fishing – but its real attraction is a lot more unique.

Affectionately known as the “Niagara of the South”, Cumberland Falls itself is a 125-foot-wide cascade of water, roaring off a 60-foot drop that is a spectacle to behold, whatever the weather.

It also boasts the title of hosting the only “moonbow” in the western hemisphere – a phenomenon wherein a rainbow is formed by the light of the moon instead of the sun!

2. Blue Ridge, Georgia

Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia

Head south for two hours on a beautifully scenic drive through the enormous Nantahala National Forest to find the picturesque and adventure-filled town of Blue Ridge.

Ideal for anyone from thrill-seekers to fishing enthusiasts, the surrounding area consists of mountains, crystal clear waterways like the Toccoa, and carpets of green, gold and red forest as far as the eye can see.

A prime destination is the Ocoee Whitewater Center, where visitors can get their adrenaline pumping with world-class whitewater rafting and kayaking, not to mention some breathtaking hiking trails.

3. Roanoke, Virginia

Roanoke, Virginia

Boasting a proud railroad heritage and bursting at the seams with national history, Roanoke is one of the Blue Ridge Mountain’s most popular and fascinating cities.

Here you can visit the Booker T. Washington Monument or the National D-Day Memorial, as well as countless galleries and museums.

If you’re after something a little more active, take a stroll through the breathtakingly beautiful Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, just north of the city.

You’ll also find that Roanoke is a hub for festivals and cultural events, with many visitors from nearby towns and counties congregating here to celebrate.

4. Huntsville, Alabama

US Space and Rocket Center

Proud home to the largest space attraction on the planet, Huntsville, Alabama is where the U.S. Space and Rocket Center can be found; it draws in thousands of visitors a year.

Here, you’ll be able to experience the surreal sensation of standing under a “full stack”, otherwise known as two real rocket boosters with an entire space shuttle sitting above them! Aside from space-related fun, visitors can also enjoy the gorgeous Huntsville Botanical Gardens and the Huntsville Museum of Art.

5. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia

Positively exploding with dynamic culture, the huge city of Atlanta is a glittering destination for anyone looking to experience some urban excitement in the southeast.

Between the Olympic Park, countless movie filming destinations, and the thriving art scene, it’s impossible not to find something to do in Atlanta.

However, the main attractions are undoubtedly the food and music scenes.

With new restaurants popping up every week – serving everything from hearty southern cuisine to boundary-pushing fusion food – the eats in Atlanta are unmissable.

The same goes for the music scene that is dominated by globally recognized hip-hop and rock; you can be sure to find countless events throughout town on any day of the week.

6. Chattanooga

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Less than two hours from Knoxville, the city of Chattanooga sits in the foothills of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains and overlooks the Tennessee River.

The city is the perfect blend of natural and urban attractions, with everything on offer from lakes and underground waterfalls to railroad museums.

Outdoor lovers should head to Lookout Mountain, just six miles from downtown Chattanooga.

Here you’ll find Rock City, an epic natural playground of rock formations, awe-inspiring waterfalls and hanging gardens with multi-state panoramic views.

If you’re looking to explore the town, then be sure to pass by the Hunter Museum of Art and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

7. Alpine Helen, Georgia

Helen, Georgia

Boasting the accolade of being the state’s third most-visited destination, the settlement of Alpine Helen is an homage to alpine villages found in the Bavarian Alps.

Positively bursting with charm, the town is filled with pointed-roofed, Bavarian-style chateaus lining cobblestone streets and painted in bright colors.

Aside from wandering the fascinating streets, visitors can go to vineyards, take rides in hot air balloons, and, if they’re lucky enough to come in the Fall, enjoy one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the country.

8. Maggie Valley

Soco Falls, Maggie Valley, North Carolina

In less than two hours you can hop over the state line to North Carolina and find the quaint but picturesque settlement of Maggie Valley, situated in the Great Smoky Mountains and bursting with small-town charm.

With plenty of Southern bars and restaurants in town, you’ll instantly warm up to the sense of hospitality, while further afield there are countless adventure excursions to embark on.

The Southern Appalachians offer hiking, fishing, swimming, golfing and more, though possibly the most exciting prospect is the opportunity to ski during the winter.

9. Asheville Treetops Adventures

Asheville Treetops Adventures

Also situated in North Carolina, this day trip is one for the thrill-seekers and not for the vertigo-inclined. Made up of 50 unique activities high up amongst the treetops, Asheville Treetops Adventure Park gives visitors the choice to choose their own routes and begin climbing, rappelling, zip lining and swinging their way through the forest.

Moving at your own pace, you’ll not only have the chance to get your adrenaline pumping, but also to appreciate the natural beauty of North Carolina’s marvelous signature woodland.

10. Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge Mill, Tennessee

The mountain town of Pigeon Forge in eastern Tennessee is remarkably close to Knoxville and has a noticeable abundance of entertainment loved by both visitors and locals.

From mini golf courses to go-kart tracks, it seems like the town was built around attractions.

It’s also a fantastic starting point to make your way up into the Great Smoky Mountains, though with all the restaurants, shops and activities available in town, it’s best to save the hiking for another day.

11. Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park boasts the title of America’s most visited national park and it’s easy to see why.

Ridge upon ridge of ancient mountains are filled with an incredible array of animal and plant life, opportunities for adventure, and Appalachia mountain culture.

With visitor centers like Sugarlands and Oconaluftee, you can learn everything there is to know about the mountain ranges, or set out to see the sights, like Rainbow Falls or Cades Cove.

12. Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The irresistible charms of the mountain town of Gatlinburg are likely to make you want to stay for longer than a day.

The town is nestled into the Great Smoky Mountains themselves, and aside from the scenic charms of its location, has a lot to offer in the way of entertainment.

From distilleries and wineries – not to mention an abundance of restaurants – to all manner of live street and theatre shows, this captivating town has it all.

Of course, if you’re looking to do some outdoor activities, Gatlinburg is the perfect spot to book adventure tours that’ll have you skiing, mountain climbing and whitewater rafting in no time.

13. Dollywood


Boasting both a theme park and water park, Dollywood is an amusement park complex that caters to all ages that can be found only a short drive from Knoxville, in the mountain town of Pigeon Forge.

With rides, world-class cuisine and luxury lodgings, the parks are enjoyed just as much by locals as they are by visitors.

With panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains visible as you plunge and wheel around on rollercoasters, this unique park is the perfect day trip for the whole family.

14. Black Mountain

Lake Tomahawk, Black Mountain, North Carolina

Part of the wider Blue Ridge Mountain range, Black Mountain is one of the most attractive small towns in North Carolina, widely and affectionately known for its thriving arts and crafts scene, not to mention beautifully maintained buildings.

The quiet settlement is the perfect escape for anyone looking to spend a peaceful day strolling around the nearby Lake Tomahawk or admiring the gorgeous landscaping of the town itself.

Complete with endless artisan stores, galleries and live music – usually audible wherever you are – Black Mountain is a wonderful place to unwind for the day.

15. Tugaloo State Park

Tugaloo State Park

Tucked away on a wooded peninsula in Georgia, Tugaloo State Park is a favorite amongst watersport enthusiasts thanks to its location next to the massive Lake Hartwell.

With over 55,000-acres of lake at their disposal, visitors love heading down in the summer to attend fishing tournaments.

You’ll also find water skiing, swimming, sailing and much more.

15 Best Day Trips from Knoxville (TN):

  • Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
  • Blue Ridge, Georgia
  • Roanoke, Virginia
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Chattanooga
  • Alpine Helen, Georgia
  • Maggie Valley
  • Asheville Treetops Adventures
  • Pigeon Forge
  • Great Smoky Mountain National Park
  • Black Mountain
  • Tugaloo State Park

Jonesborough, Tennessee, USA. Editorial credit: Dee Browning / Shutterstock.com

  • 6 Cozy Towns to Visit in Tennessee

Tennessee is every inch the heart and soul of the Southeastern region of the United States . From the blues of Memphis to the country sounds of Nashville , Tennessee is famous the world over for its music, with communities big and small across the state tuned in to this dynamic musical heritage.

The “Volunteer State” is also highly regarded for its famous Southern hospitality, a fact that makes it a great place to visit for those wanting an authentic taste of the South ’s rich culture. Add to this some of the USA’s most stunning scenery, and there are plenty of great reasons to include these six cozy towns in a visit to Tennessee.

Bell Buckle

Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

Let’s face it: Bell Buckle just sounds cozy, doesn’t it? This quaint town of just 500 Southerners is located off the I-24 south of Murfreesboro, making it an ideal add-on to a Tennessee road trip . The “cozy quotient” here is highest in the lovely Bell Buckle Historic District, a must-visit spot noted for its many charming old Victorian homes, antique shops, and art galleries. A walkabout in this National Register -listed historic district also includes the historic campus of Webb School, founded in 1870 and the South’s oldest continuously operating boarding school.

The Bell Buckle Train Depot is another fun blast from the past. Built in 1853, it’s now an event space and museum that offers a glimpse into the town's rich railroad history. Plan to stop in at the Bell Buckle Café, an iconic local eatery serving up hearty Southern cuisine… and, yes, live music. For an added dose of cozy, time a visit to coincide with popular events such as the RC Cola and MoonPie Festival held mid-June with a day full of quirky contests, live music, and a parade, and the Bell Buckle Arts & Crafts Fair in October, showcasing handmade goods, unique crafts, and local art.

Sunrise at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It’s for good reason that Townsend is known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies.” This tranquil town of just 500 souls is located on the northern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park . It is a quieter alternative to the busier towns associated with the Smokies, like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge . Those who do visit should head first to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center for the lowdown on the region's rich cultural history, including Native American history, pioneer life, and the natural history of the Smokies. Visitors can also check out authentic log cabins, a general store, and other historic structures.

Tuckaleechee Caverns is another attraction worth seeing. Dubbed by savvy marketers as the “Greatest Site Under the Smokies,” guided tours lead through a labyrinth of underground formations, including the massive Big Room and the Silver Falls waterfall. Other places to visit in and around this cozy town include Cades Cove, a scenic 11-mile drive through a stunning valley area with diverse wildlife, preserved log cabins, churches, and a grist mill.

City of Gatlinburg in Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains from a bird's eye view.

While the busiest of the Smokies ’ top travel destinations, Gatlinburg isn’t without its cozy corners. Situated at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, couples and families can cozy up aboard the famous Gatlinburg SkyLift, a scenic chairlift ride to the top of Crockett Mountain. Here, the SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America , offers breathtaking views of the Smokies and the town below.

Ober Gatlinburg is another must-visit and is especially cozy in winter when skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes. There’s also a fun tramway with scenic views, a mountain coaster, wildlife encounters, and an ice skating rink to enjoy before cozying up in front of a firepit or fireplace. Other notable Gatlinburg attractions include the family-friendly Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, the Gatlinburg Space Needle, and, for a cozy Christmas retreat, the Winter Magic festival with its always colorful Trolley Ride of Lights.

Leiper's Fork

Fence line on Leiper's Fork Road near Nashville, Tennessee.

Less than 40 minutes from downtown Nashville by car (just follow the I-65 south), Leiper's Fork is another quaint and cozy town with a village-like appeal. It’s a trendy day trip destination for art lovers and is home to numerous studios and galleries. Must-sees include Leiper's Creek Gallery, which showcases an impressive collection of contemporary art, including paintings, sculptures, and mixed media works by local and regional artists, and the David Arms Gallery, housed in an old barn and featuring captivating works by its namesake artist.

Feeling peckish? Cozy up at Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant, This much-loved spot has been serving locals and visitors alike with tasty Southern cuisine and live music since the 1950s and regularly hosts performances by local and nationally recognized musicians. Follow this up with a visit to Leiper’s Fork Distillery for a tour and a tasting. It’s worth mentioning, too, that Leiper’s Fork is located near the fantastic Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile-long historic scenic trail that connects Natchez , Mississippi , with Nashville.


Aerial view of Tennessee's oldest town, Jonesborough. Jonesborough was founded in 1779.

As the oldest town in Tennessee, Jonesborough knows a thing or two about cozy. Founded in 1779 in the Appalachian Mountains , these days this attractive old town is perhaps best known as the storytelling capital of the world for its role as the home of the International Storytelling Center. This world-class facility is itself home to the National Storytelling Festival every October, a popular event that draws storytellers and listeners from around the globe to celebrate the art of storytelling through performances and workshops.

The Jonesborough Historic District is another great reason to visit. In addition to its many well-preserved 18th and 19th-century buildings, it’s home to the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center, a first-rate attraction that serves as a great starting point to get to know the town and the surrounding area. The Chester Inn Museum is another must-visit. This historic inn dates back to 1797 and features exhibits on the town’s history, along with artifacts, photographs, and interactive displays.


Historical district of Greensville, Tennessee. Editorial credit: Dee Browning / Shutterstock.com

Greeneville is another cozy Tennessee town that’s worth visiting. Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast corner of the state, and the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site is located here. Dedicated to the USA’s 17th President , visitors can tour Johnson’s early home, a tailor shop (he started out as a tailor’s apprentice), and even the cemetery where he’s buried. Another excellent historic sightseeing opportunity is presented at the Dickson-Williams Mansion, built in 1815, with exhibits relating to its Civil War history.

Greeneville’s Downtown Historic District is fun to wander, as is the Tusculum University campus. Just a short walk away from the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, here you’ll find the Doak House Museum, the historic home of Samuel Doak, a prominent educator and minister (tours are available).

The Volunteer State, as Tennessee has been nicknamed, offers travelers no end of great excuses to stop in for a visit. Topping our list of reasons to explore this beautiful region of the USA are Tennessee’s many quaint small towns, the best of which offer a genuine taste of everything that’s wonderful about the South. From Jonesborough, the state’s oldest town, to Gatlinburg, the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, each of these six cozy towns to visit in Tennessee is well worth exploring.

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The best day trips from Chattanooga, Tennessee this winter

Dec 19, 2021 • 8 min read

short day trips in tennessee

Conveniently situated along several major interstates, Chattanooga is perfect for day-trippers © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Situated conveniently along the Tennessee River and numerous highways, Chattanooga 's long been valued for its strategic importance (it was dubbed the "gateway to the Deep South" during the Civil War). After you're done all the wintery walks and horse-drawn carriage rides in the city itself it's time to explore beyond. 

Nestled in the bluffs and mountains of the Cumberland Plateau, the city continues to be a convenient jumping-off point for various trips around the region. Just two hours from Atlanta, Nashville, Knoxville and Birmingham, not to mention countless other regional destinations, it's the perfect base for a winter holiday.

If you're wondering what the best day trips from Chattanooga might be, these are our top picks.

Crowd gathers around an artwork at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Head to Atlanta for food, shopping, arts and culture

Just two hours' drive south from Chattanooga (depending on Atlanta's famously snarly traffic), Georgia's capital offers shopping, live music, comedy, arts and culture without the need to overnight. You can easily pop down for dinner and drinks before a show and be home for a late bedtime or pick up a friend from the airport before hitting some boutiques. There are arts and crafts at the  High Museum ,  Center for Puppetry Arts  and SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film.

You can also learn about Black history at the  Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site ,  Ebenezer Baptist Church (New)  and  Center for Civil & Human Rights . Or you can chow down at restaurants ranging from  Waffle House  (a true Atlanta staple) to upscale fare at  Kimball House . Each of Atlanta's neighborhoods is its own little world to explore, so it's easy to find something new every time you pop down for the day.

How to get to Atlanta: It's a straight shot down I-75 from Chattanooga to Atlanta.

Top 15 things to do in Atlanta 

Singer Molly Sue Gonzalez & Jimmy Snyder, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge - Honky Tonk Bar, Broadway, Nashville, USA Martin Thomas AlamyBHBG1E rm.jpg

Nip over to Nashville for dive bars and live music 

Music City has earned a big reputation in recent years with revelers looking to celebrate bachelorette parties, boys' weekends and any other occasion under the sun. But Chattanoogans have an extra advantage in that Nashville is just two hours away, so it's easy to nip up for concerts, shows at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts , a Predators game at  Bridgestone Arena or a prix fixe feast at  Catbird Seat . Just don't forget to factor in the time difference – Chattanooga is as far west as you can go and still be in the Eastern Time Zone, while Nashville is on Central Time.

How to get to Nashville: Nashville is two to two and a half hours away via I-24 West.

Visit Knoxville the gateway to Appalachia

There is more to Knoxville than just the University of Tennessee and Vols football games. Knoxville has several homegrown restaurants worth a visit, from the James Beard–rated  JC Holdway  to Yassin's Falafel House  and has also become the second home of some of Asheville's favorite restaurants like Tupelo Honey Cafe . There's also a thriving brewery scene with fun pitstops like  Balter Beerworks  and  Alliance Brewing Company .

Knoxville also serves as Tennessee's gateway to Appalachia. You can learn more about the region at the  Museum of East Tennessee History , the  Museum of Appalachia  and the  Green McAdoo Cultural Center . You also pass through Knoxville on the way from Chattanooga to  Great Smoky Mountains National Park if you want to extend your day trip into a longer getaway.

How to get to Knoxville: All you have to do is get on I-75 north and keep the pedal to the metal for a couple of hours till you reach Knoxville.


For history and history-making cuisine go to Birmingham

If you are looking for a change of scenery, Birmingham is just the ticket. Its industrial past contributes to a picturesque present, with fun destinations like the  Sloss Furnaces ,  Vulcan Park  and  Railroad Park . You can learn about the Civil Rights movement at the  Birmingham Civil Rights Institute ,  Kelly Ingram Park  and the  16th Street Baptist Church . Or take in some paintings from around the world at the  Birmingham Museum of Art . A meal at  Highlands Bar & Grill  is a must – this is where Frank Stitt revolutionized southern cuisine by blending regional ingredients with French cooking techniques. Leave room for barbecue, though –  Saw's Soul Kitchen  shouldn't be missed either. Birmingham also has a trendy hipster side, which you can peep for yourself at spots like the  Atomic Lounge  and  Marty's PM , where all things retro and geeky are cool. 

How to get to Birmingham: You'll start on I-24 West out of Chattanooga before merging onto I-59 South for the next hundred or so miles, or about a two-hour drive.


Raft, kayak or hike the river valley at Ocoee, Tennessee

When Atlanta hosted the Olympics in 1996, it was actually Ocoee where the paddling events were held. The river is studded with Class III-V whitewater rapids, and all along the drive from Chattanooga past Cleveland, Tennessee, the road is dotted with rafting companies that ferry passengers and equipment to put-ins using old retrofitted school buses. But you don't need a kayak or other watercraft to enjoy a day on the Ocoee. There are plenty of swimming holes, too, as well as hiking trails in the surrounding Cherokee National Forest. Grab a bite at the  Ocoee Dam Deli & Diner .

How to get to Ocoee:  Take I-75 north some 27 miles before taking exit 20 onto US-74 E. The total trip time is about 45 minutes.

Marvel at the faux-Bavarian town, Helen in Georgia

Kitschy Helen, Georgia, is two and a half hours from Chattanooga along one of the prettiest drives in the state. You'll hug the Ocoee River across the floor of southeast Tennessee to the north Georgia border, with gorgeous views of the mountain scenery. Once you reach Helen, there's a lot to see and do. The faux-Bavarian town is packed with shops, souvenir stands, beer gardens and fishing spots.

Float the Chattahoochee on a hot summer day – there are several outfitters, including  Cool River Tubing , to send you downriver. Lots of fun waterfalls and hiking destinations are in the area on your way to Helen, including  Anna Ruby Falls  and  Unicoi State Park . Reward yourself with a frosty one at  King Ludwig's BeerGarden , a can't-miss watering hole with live music at the foot of a replica German castle. 

How to get to Helen: Take I-75 to Cleveland, Tennessee, before jumping onto   US-64 East and US-129 South to State Rte 180 in Union County, Georgia.


See the views atop Monteagle Mountain at Sewanee, Tennessee

Home to the University of South, Sewanee is a curious town on top of Monteagle Mountain. This is a private, Episcopalian liberal arts college that owns 13,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, where a gorgeous Gothic campus is laced with nature trails and surrounded by neighborhoods of pretty historic homes. Like every good college town, Sewanee has some beloved businesses where students, faculty and townies can meet and greet.

The fried zucchini at Shenanigans is worth the drive up from Chattanooga all by itself. A coffee at Sterling's will fuel you up for a day of hiking on the Perimeter Trail or perusing Sewanee's cemetery for sardonic epithets left by late professors and priests. Speaking of priests, head for the Cross, a giant 60ft-tall Christian symbol on the edge of Monteagle Mountain. The base affords incredible views of the valley below.

How to get to Sewanee: It's just a forty-five-minute drive up I-24 West from Chattanooga – but make sure your brakes are in good order on the way back. The drive back down Monteagle Mountain is very steep.

W aterfalls and local artisan shopping in Mentone, Alabama

On the far end of the long ridgeline of Lookout Mountain, the front face of which overlooks downtown Chattanooga, sits the town of Mentone. Mentone's plays host to a bevy of private summer camps, but there is so much more to recommend Mentone for a fun day trip, including the whimsical and well-regarded Wildflower Cafe .

Be sure to check out nearby DeSoto Falls, a beautiful three-part cascade that is the tallest waterfall in Alabama. A small dam creates one level of the falls – it was originally constructed to provide power for the homes that sit on the rim of the canyon carved by the Little River that feeds DeSoto. After you hike around the falls, Mentone is full of cute shops and boutiques full of locally made pottery and other treasures.

How to get to Mentone: It's a 45-minute drive along I-59 S to Mentone.

City Park During Spring

Get into tech in Rocket City: Huntsville, Alabama

Chattanooga may be called the Gig City thanks to its hyper-fast municipal internet, but Huntsville is still Rocket City, a moniker earned from its long association with NASA. You can learn all about Huntsville's tech pedigree at the  US Space & Rocket Center , but there's a lot more to see on a Huntsville day trip than spacecraft.

The  Huntsville Depot Museum  harkens back to older forms of transportation, namely trains and trollies, while  Concerts at Three Caves  takes you underneath the earth instead of high above it. You can find a new appreciation for the diversity of life on our planet at the  Huntsville Botanical Garden . Or get a taste of how varied Southern cooking can be at restaurants like  Betty Mae's Restaurant , a soul food classic, and the upscale  Cotton Row . 

How to get to Huntsville: Start on   I-24 W, then peel off onto US-72 W/ to Huntsville – a trip of only an hour and forty-five minutes.

You may also like: Five cities in the US southeast with a strong coffee culture We've visited 48 US states in a camper van – here are the best 10 Sample bootlegging history at these 4 Tennessee moonshine distilleries 

This article was first published Jul 7, 2021 and updated Dec 19, 2021.

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