The South is known for many things; country and blues music, home cooked meals, agriculture, rich US history, and boundless adventures. It’s no wonder that many southern states, Tennessee included, are top destinations for fun-filled weekends and summer breaks. We’ve rounded up the top 10 Tennessee weekend getaways to make planning your next road trip, staycation or southern holiday a breeze.
Nashville and Radnor Lake State Park
It only seems appropriate to kick off a top 10 Tennessee weekend getaway list with a stop in the state’s famous capital, Nashville. Interstate 40 runs through Nashville, making its wide range of activities for people of all ages, easily accessible. Be sure not to miss the Music City Walk of Fame or the Grand Ole Opry and get your fill of historical sites and museums. On the outskirts of the city, find yourself immersed in over 1,300 acres of forest and lakeside beauty at Radnor Lake State Park. Fill your day with hiking, water activities, birding, and photography before heading back into the city for a meal at one of Nashville’s top restaurants.
Mississippi River and Memphis
Drive the Old Blues Highway and bask in the history and music that makes Memphis a gem among Southern cities. Snag some of the best BBQ the nation has to offer and bounce between blues clubs to sample some of the finest food and music in Tennessee. Snap a photo at the famed Sun Studio and catch your thrills with a walking ghost tour! Take a jaunt down to the Mississippi river and catch a boat cruise, kayak, walk the one mile pedestrian bridge that spans the river, and let the kids burn off energy at Mud Island River Park.
Cleveland and Ocoee State Park
Cleveland is the gateway to the Cherokee National Forest and the perfect city to base your Ocoee State Park adventures out of. The city itself is brimming history, arts and entertainment venues, farmers markets, and plenty of shopping districts. We’ve even narrowed down the best places to eat to make your dining decisions easier. When you’ve filled your need for urban experiences, escape the streets and crowds with a whitewater rafting experience on the Ocoee River. The Ocoee State Park offers everything from fishing and rafting to horseback riding and campgrounds that just can’t be beat.
Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Head to the mountains for outdoor activities that create lasting memories for years to come. Gatlinburg is known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and it packs a big punch in the scenic and adventure departments. In the city, visit the aquarium, tour a few distilleries, ride a skylift, and get the adrenaline pumping on the rides at the Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park. Fill your car up with gas before heading into the mountains, as there are no gas stations in the national park itself, and go explore the famed Cades Coves, Clingman’s Dome, Sugarland Visitor’s Center and Laurel Falls.
Dollywood and the Smoky Mountains Opry Theater
Also near the Great Smoky Mountains is an iconic theme park you’d be remiss to skip out on. Owned by Dolly Parton and located in Pigeon Forge, Dollywood is the top ticketed attraction in all of Tennessee. With over 40 rides, multiple museums, award-winning shows, entertainers and artists from around the world, concerts, fireworks, and seasonal celebrations, this theme park is recognized as one of the world’s best theme parks. As a bonus stop on your way to or from the park, pull over and check out the Smoky Mountains Opry Theater. Thrilling performances and unmatched talent provide family-friendly shows you don’t want to miss!
Franklin and Civil War History
This one is for all of you history buffs! The site of the last big battle of the American Civil War, the Battle of Franklin, is located just 30 minutes south of Nashville. The city of Franklin is named after US founder Benjamin Franklin and boasts a delightful arts district as well as a variety of historical homes you can tour and incredible restaurants you can relax and enjoy fine southern cooking in.
Big Ridge State Park and Norris Lake
Pack up your kayak and set out for northern Tennessee where Norris Lake and Big Ridge State Park provide your family with a weekend packed full of swimming, fishing, boating and hiking. Located along the lake’s shores are several restaurants for all your dining needs and the lake even boasts a couple of wi-fi access points for those of you who have to check an email or two or post your favorite lakeside photos to your social media accounts.
Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain
Tennessee’s fourth largest city is located at the base of the Appalachian Mountains. Chattanooga is the perfect launch pad for not only your weekend getaway, but for continuing your exploration of the South down into Alabama if you feel so inclined. Ride the Chattanooga Choo Choo and visit the Tennessee Aquarium. Then, head over to Lookout Mountain where you can enjoy Ruby Falls, the famed underground waterfall that visitors ride an elevator to access.
Knoxville- Sunsphere, Canopy adventures and Ziplining
A city that thrives on outdoor adventures and historical tours, Knoxville is the family-friendly destination you’ve been searching for. Hike in the mountains, clip onto a zipline or trek in an aerial park canopy tour and get your fill of nature’s best thrills. In the city itself, you can cheer at an Ice Bears hockey game, visit the zoo, overlook the city from the Sunsphere, and stroll Market Square.
Jackson and Natchez State Park
Jackson’s streets hold wonders for all ages with distilleries, car museums, nature parks, museums and a minor league baseball stadium. And, located just an hour and a half outside of Jackson, is the Natchez State Park. Famous for horseback riding and hiking, Natchez State Park offers a variety of campsites and cabins available for overnight stays. Check out the park’s event calendar for updates and schedules of available activities to enhance your weekend getaway.
Any one of these top 10 Tennessee weekend getaways are bound to help you unwind and replenish your soul.