There’s no denying that Nashville is a fantastic city. As the Country Music Capital of the World, it’s home to some of the country’s best music venues, bars, and restaurants. But what if you’re looking for a change of pace? Luckily, Nashville is also surrounded by several other great cities and attractions that make perfect day trips.
After you’ve soaked up all the country music and honky-tonks Nashville, Tennessee has to offer, consider spending a day exploring some of these other great places. Here are 18 day trips from Nashville that we know you and your crew will adore.
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Our first stop is for all the history buffs out there. Just 20 miles south of Nashville is Franklin, Tennessee. This city played a vital role in the Civil War and is home to many important historical sites.
The most popular spot in Franklin is the Carter House, an 1830s mansion built by the Carter family, who hid in the basement during the Battle of Franklin. A guided tour of the house will give you a fascinating look into what life was like during the Civil War. You’ll get to see the battlefield and a house tour where the Franklins’ middle son was mortally wounded.
After exploring some of Franklin’s darker history, take a walk down Main Street to do some shopping and grab a bite to eat. This historic street is lined with quaint shops and restaurants housed in beautiful old buildings.
Stay Here: Hyatt Place Nashville Franklin Cool Springs
LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN & ROCK CITY
If you’re leaving the hustle and bustle of Music City, you might be looking for serenity. Rock City is the perfect place to find it. This 4,100-acre park on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga is home to amazing views, beautiful gardens, and fascinating rock formations.
The main attraction at Rock City is the Fairyland Caverns. This series of caves and tunnels will take you past all sorts of sculptures from European folklore and fairytales. You’ll see the famous Rock City gnomes and other fantastical creatures.
If you get claustrophobic, consider walking across the Swing-a-Long Bridge instead. This 180-foot-long suspension bridge will give you some of the best views in the park.
The Lover’s Leap is another popular spot at Rock City. Cherokee legend has it that two star-crossed lovers fell victim to the beautiful waterfall. One was captured by enemies and thrown over the falls, while the other chose to jump after them.
Finally, you’ll definitely want to see the Seven States Flag Court. From this vantage point, you can see seven states: Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama.
Rock City is a little over 2 hour drive from Nashville.
Read More: SEE ROCK CITY: STILL AWESOME AFTER 90 YEARS
Stay Here: Garden Walk Inn
Once you’re back in Nashville, try some of these fun activities!
- Take a ride on the Hop-On, Hop-Off Trolley Tour. Discover the attractions of Nashville at your own speed on this hop-on hop-off trolley bus tour. Forget about driving or parking and just sit back, relax, and get off to explore any of the 13 stops.
- Visit the Grand Ole Opry. Enjoy a night out watching the show that made country music famous at the Grand Ole Opry. See legendary artists on the same stage as the stars of tomorrow. Reserve your seat now and see music history live and in person.
- See the animals at the Nashville Zoo. Book this skip-the-line ticket to the Nashville Zoo to make your visit more convenient. Experience seeing animals from all over the world in beautifully natural outdoor habitats & get up close at Kangaroo Kickabout, Lorikeet Landing, or Critter encounters.
Just six miles from Rock City is the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The small town is nestled between mountains, making for some stunning views. It is quickly becoming a tourist hotspot in its own right, with some amazing attractions to check out.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, consider visiting Ruby Falls. This is the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States. You’ll take a guided tour of the cave before reaching the falls, lit up by colored lights. It’s an unforgettable experience.
For something a little more low-key, head over to the Chattanooga Zoo or the Tennessee Aquarium. Both activities are enjoyed by families with kids, as well as couples and groups of friends.
Alternatively, treat yourself to a day of shopping at Hamilton Place Mall, where 200 stores and restaurants await you.
Stay Here: Chattanooga Choo Choo
Knoxville is a little further from Nashville, but it’s worth the drive. The town borders the Tennessee River and is home to the University of Tennessee. Their football team, the Volunteers, is famous in the area. You can catch a game at Neyland Stadium, which can seat over 100,000 fans.
If you’re not into sports, don’t worry. Knoxville has plenty of other activities to keep you busy. Market Square comes to mind first. This pedestrian-only area is perfect for a leisurely stroll and some window shopping. In true plaza fashion, live music often fills the air, and plenty of food options keep you fueled.
For something a little different, consider visiting the Knoxville Museum of Art. This small museum has free parking and features both temporary and permanent exhibitions.
Stay Here: Graduate Knoxville
MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK
Roughly two hours from Nashville, you’ll find Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. As the name suggests, this park is partially part of the massive homonymous cave system. In fact, it’s the most extensive cave system in the world. The park also boasts an impressive above-ground forest with plenty of hiking, picnicking, and camping opportunities.
There are a number of different tours you can take depending on your interests and fitness level. The Historic Tour is popular among first-time visitors. It lasts for about two hours and a half, during which you’ll learn about the cave’s geology and history.
Stay Here: Sleep Inn & Suites Cave City
Keeping with the cave theme, we have Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tennessee. It’s one of the longest caves in the state, and it’s known for its beautiful crystal formations. With experiences ranging from an easy Sunday stroll to an Extreme cave adventure, there’s something for everyone here.
One of the most popular activities at Cumberland Caverns is spelunking. You’ll be outfitted with all the necessary gear before being led into the cave by an experienced guide. What better Instagram photo could there be than you and your friends covered in mud, with your helmets, headlamps, and overalls?
Stay Here: Hampton Inn McMinnville
If you’re a bourbon fan, the name Knob Creek might sound familiar. This small town is home to the famous Knob Creek Gun Range, where you can rent all sorts of firearms and shoot targets to your heart’s content. If guns aren’t your thing, don’t discount Knob Creek just yet—you’ll also find Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace nearby.
Fort Knox, which is a United States Bullion Depository, is also not too far away. Although you won’t be able to enter the fort, it’s still an impressive sight.
Stay Here: Sleep Inn & Suites Dyersburg
If you’re coming from Nashville, aka Music City, you might think you’ve seen it all when it comes to music. But Memphis will definitely give Nashville a run for its money. After all, this is the city where Elvis Presley got his start.
There are a number of Elvis-themed attractions in Memphis, including Graceland, his former home, or the Elvis Presley Museum. You can visit Sun Studio, where he recorded at least 24 songs, including “That’s All Right” and “Mystery Train.” Guided tours are available to immerse you in the history of this famous recording studio.
Of course, Memphis is about more than just Elvis. Beale Street is the city’s famous music district. Here, you’ll find several bars and clubs, each with a unique atmosphere.
Stay Here: The Guest House at Graceland
Huntsville is a remote area for those who need to get away from it all. This small town in Alabama is quite literally surrounded by nature. You’ll need to drive three hours south from Nashville to reach it, but it will be worth it.
There are state and national parks nearby, including the Huntsville Botanical Garden, which features over 118 acres of gardens, nature trails, and more. The Space And Rocket Center is also a popular attraction. As the name suggests, it’s dedicated to the history of space exploration. Affiliated with NASA and the Smithsonian, this is one exclusive place where you can learn about the past, present, and future of space travel.
Stay Here: Hyatt Place Huntsville
Next up is Bowling Green, Kentucky, which is home to the National Corvette Museum. This museum is dedicated to America’s sports car, the Corvette. It features over 80 Corvettes on display, as well as interactive exhibits. You’ll find well-preserved classic cars and brand-new concept vehicles that aren’t yet on the market.
The Lost River Cave is another popular attraction in Bowling Green. This activity takes place in a 6.5-mile-long cave system that you can explore on your own or with a guided tour. A river runs through the cave, and you can even go boating in it.
Stay Here: Hyatt Place Bowling Green
Only 72 miles from Nashville in middle Tennessee is the town of Lynchburg. The old-school charm of this small town will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. One of the most popular attractions in the area is the Lynchburg winery—a scenic location to relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the decor.
The Old Jail Museum is another interesting place to visit. This former jailhouse now houses a museum with exhibits on the history of Lynchburg. You can even explore the cells where prisoners were once kept.
Stay Here: Lynchburg Country Inn
ROCK ISLAND STATE PARK
We’re staying in Tennessee for our next stop, Rock Island State Park. This park, located on an island in the middle of the Caney Fork River, is a popular spot for hiking, swimming, and picnicking.
There are also a couple of waterfalls located within the park. Great Falls is the most impressive, with a drop of 30 feet. During your visit, you can also check out the remains of an old mill that was once used to generate hydroelectric power. Hiking, fishing, and camping will complete your outdoor adventure.
Stay Here: Grandview Experience Lodge
HISTORIC DIAMOND CAVERNS
Remember Mammoth Cave National Park? Well, Historic Diamond Caverns is another great cave system to explore nearby.
The caverns are known for their stalactites and stalagmites, which have been growing for millions of years. Tours are available year-round to take you through the cave and teach you about its history and the science behind its formation.
Stay Here: Hampton Inn Cave City
JACK DANIELS DISTILLERY
Nothing says Tennessee quite like Jack Daniels. The world-famous whiskey brand is produced in Lynchburg, and you can take a tour of the distillery to see how it’s made. The tour includes a stop at the on-site museum, where you can learn about the history of Jack Daniels. You’ll also see the charcoal mellowing process and sample some of the finished products.
Take a deep dive into Mr. Jack’s mind, and learn how he went from Prohibition-era outlaw to international icon. You’ll get to see his office, where the genius went to work. The tour ends with a visit to the gift shop, where you can pick up some souvenirs to take home.
Stay Here: Tolley House
CATHEDRAL CAVERNS STATE PARK
Cathedral Caverns State Park in Alabama, formerly known as Bat Cave, is home to one of the largest cave entrances in the world. The entrance measures 25 feet high and 126 feet wide. Once inside, you’ll be amazed by the size of the caverns. Stalagmites and stalactites adorn the ceilings and floors, with one measuring a staggering 27 feet tall. There’s even a waterfall inside the cave.
You have plenty of ways to explore the caves, from guided tours to a 5K adventure race. A gem mining sluice is also available for those who want to try their hand at mining for rubies, sapphires, and other semi-precious stones. You can cap off your visit and the nearby campsite, where you can stay overnight.
Stay Here: Scottsboro Cabin
GATLINBURG & GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Gatlinburg is a mountain town located in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains. The town is home to many attractions, including Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, and the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel.
But the real draw of Gatlinburg is its proximity to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This park is the most visited national park in the United States and is known for its stunning scenery. You can explore the park on foot, by bike, or by car. You can also participate in ranger-led programs, which will help you explore the countless hiking trails, waterfalls, and historical sites within the park.
Stay Here: Bearskin Lodge On The River
NATCHEZ TRACE PARKWAY
As the name suggests, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a parkway that runs through three states – Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. The parkway follows an old Native American trail that was used for centuries.
Today, it’s a popular spot for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. You can also drive the parkway, a picturesque way to see the countryside.
Cherokee Village in North Carolina is a Native American reservation home to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. The village is located in the Great Smoky Mountains and is a beautiful place to visit. You can explore the village and learn about Cherokee culture, take part in traditional ceremonies, and go try your luck at the casino.
The Museum of the Cherokee Indians is also worth a visit. The museum houses a collection of artifacts that tell the story of the Cherokee people. You can see ancient pottery, tools, and art, as well as more modern items like photographs and films. The museum is a great way to learn about the rich history of the Cherokee people.
Remember that tourism is a big part of the Cherokee economy, so don’t hesitate to spend some money while you’re in the village.
Stay Here: Stonebrook Lodge
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO TENNESSEE
- YOUR TENNESSEE VACATION
- NASHVILLE WITH KIDS: 35 Best Things To Do In Nashville With Kids
- NASHVILLE NEIGHBORHOODS: Visitors Guide to Walkable Neighborhoods in Nashville
- FREE NASHVILLE: 21+ Free and Cheap Things To Do In Nashville, Tennessee
- GETAWAY NASHVILLE: Unplug and Refresh at Nashville’s Newest Tiny Homes
WHERE TO STAY IN NASHVILLE
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