There’s nothing quite like a Southeastern road trip. Whether you’re looking for a laid-back weekend at the lake or an action-packed vacation in the city, you’ll find it in Tennessee. The warm weather, the friendly people, and of course, the fantastic food, all make for an unforgettable experience.
Home to amazing outdoor adventures, popular attractions, big cities, family friendly destinations, and tons of fun — there is always something new to see in Tennessee.
Ready to learn more? Here are 13 of the best weekend getaways in TN that you don’t want to miss!
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FALL CREEK FALLS STATE PARK
Only three hours from Atlanta, you may begin your Tennessee adventure at Falls Creek Falls State Park. This mostly outdoor activity is ideal for those who love nature and all it has to offer. With gorges, hiking trails, and Fall Creek Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the Eastern U.S., this state park is a must-see.
The sheer size of this park makes it impossible to see everything in just one day. So, to make the most of your time, we recommend staying overnight at one of the many campsites or cabins. This way, you can explore the park at your own leisure and take in all its beauty. If rustic camping isn’t your style, don’t worry, there’s a luxurious lodge on-site as well.
With a full bar, restaurant, and even a swimming pool, you’ll be able to relax in style after a long day of hiking. An 18-hole golf course is also available if you want to add a little competition to your trip. Finally, adrenaline-seekers will love the Canopy Challenge Course, which includes zip lines, rope bridges, and more. Get a bird’s eye view of the park as you zip through the trees!
Stay Here: Grandview Experience Lodge
If you’re looking for a more urban weekend getaway, consider Chattanooga. What started as a small river town has now transformed into a bustling city with plenty to see and do. But before leaving the wilderness, make sure to stop at Lookout Mountain. This mountain contains incredible rock formations, caves, and a jaw-dropping surprise at the top.
Reach Rock City for an unobstructed view of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The Incline Railway will take you to the top of Lookout Mountain, where you can also visit Ruby Falls, the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the country.
Once you make your way back down the mountain, stroll through the Chattanooga Choo Choo, a hotel and entertainment complex housed in an old train station. Here you can grab a bite to eat, see a show, or even stay the night in one of their vintage train cars.
Kids will love the Tennessee Aquarium, where they can learn about and see all the different types of animals that call Tennessee home. While aquariums typically refer to fish, this complete complex also has mammals, reptiles, and birds on display. An IMAX theater is available for those who want to take a break from the heat and catch a movie.
Chattanooga is also full of history. Learn about the city’s role in the Civil War at the Chattanooga National Cemetery, where you may pay respect to the tombstones and plaques commemorating the fallen. Or, for a more light-hearted look at the past, take a ride along Missionary Ridge. This scenic highway served as the stage for an important Civil War battle, where history buffs can now enjoy winding roads and tunnels.
Read More: 22 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE
Stay Here: Chattanooga Choo Choo | Book This: Derailed Trolley Tour and Train Ride
Just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We’ll explore the majestic mountains next, but this small town is definitely worth a visit. With its own unique charm, Gatlinburg offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Downtown Gatlinburg is lined with cute shops and cafes, perfect for a leisurely afternoon stroll. The highlight, however, is Anakeesta. This outdoor adventure park is known for its trademark and highly photogenic Anavista observation tower. Granted, you must climb 86 steps to reach the top, but the view is more than worth it.
If you don’t feel like walking, take a ride on the Chondola lift for breathtaking views of the mountains and surrounding cityscape. The Treetop Skywalk is the longest tree-based bridge in North America and provides amazing views of the treetops. You can even complete it at night when beautiful lights illuminate the pathway in the forest’s darkness.
A newer nighttime activity to discover is Astra Lumina. These experiences have been popping up everywhere in North America, but Gatlinburg’s is one of the best. The immersive experience takes you through the wilderness surrounded by projections, lighting, and music.
Finish your night off at the Cliff Top bar and restaurant in Black Bear Village for some of the most incredible views of Gatlinburg.
Read More: 33+ ESSENTIAL THINGS TO DO IN GATLINBURG TN FOR FAMILY FUN | 29 DELICIOUS GATLINBURG RESTAURANTS & FOODIE TREATS OUR FAMILY DEVOURED
Stay Here: Bearskin Lodge On The River | Book This Adventure: Impossibilities Magic and Mind-Reading Show
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Most people in Gatlinburg are there to rest and relax after a long day of hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Travel through the park on your bicycle or, better yet, on horseback for a truly unique experience. You can also camp in one of the many designated areas throughout the park.
Once again, cascades, waterfalls, and hikes abound in the Smokies. Stop by Grotto Falls to see a 26-foot waterfall you can walk behind or hike to the top for some of the most incredible views in the park. Abrams Falls is another popular destination, known for its 20-foot drop and scenic pool at the bottom.
There is also plenty of wildlife to see in the park. Keep your eyes peeled for coyotes, groundhogs, black bears, and wild turkeys. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a bald eagle or peregrine falcon. The park contains many miles of Appalachian forest, so there’s plenty of opportunity to see some amazing animals in their natural habitat.
Lastly, Cades Cove is a must-see for anyone visiting the Smokies. This 11-mile loop is a road in an isolated valley that allows motorists to see wildlife up close. The cove is especially known for white-tail deer sightings. Stop at one of the many overlooks to take in the scenery or go for a hike.
You can explore at your own pace without fatigue and see some of the historic buildings preserved from the area’s early settlers.
Stay Here: The Park Vista – A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel | Book This: Great Smoky Mountains National Park Self Driving Tour
Another mountainside getaway destination worth visiting is Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This beautiful town is nestled in the foothills of the Smokies and is known for its many family-friendly attractions. Perhaps the most famous attraction to visit in Pigeon Forge is Dollywood. This world-famous theme park is filled with thrilling rides, live entertainment, and delicious food.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the park is named after its owner, Dolly Parton. The legendary singer grew up nearby and is proud to have her name on such a beloved attraction. You’ll find her influences throughout the park, such as the DreamMore Resort & Spa, inspired by Dolly’s childhood memories.
Outside of Dolly’s park, there are plenty of other things to do in Pigeon Forge. A 20-minute steam train ride through the mountains is also available to park guests. It’s a fantastic way to see the Smokies up close and get incredible views.
Visit The Island in Pigeon Forge for some top-tier shopping, dining, and entertainment options. The Titanic Museum takes you on a journey through the ship’s history and even lets you experience what it was like to be on board. Likewise, the Alcatraz East Museum provides an immersive and fascinating look at America’s most infamous prison.
Read More: 12+ EXCITING THINGS TO DO IN PIGEON FORGE
Stay Here: Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa | Book This: Pigeon Forge: French Broad River and Lake Helicopter Trip
As the world’s Country Music Capital, Nashville is a must-visit for any music lover. In fact, Music City is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country. This vibrant city is home to many groovy attractions, including the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and Grand Ole Opry.
The latter is nearly a century old and hosts one of the most iconic radio shows in the world. You can see a live performance at the Grand Ole Opry House or take a guided tour of the historic building. Make your way backstage and immerse yourself with Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood’s immersive theater experience.
For kids, Nashville has all the traditional activities you can expect from a big city, including a Science Center, Zoo, and plenty of museums. The Johnny Cash Museum is worth a visit, as it tells the story of one of country music’s most iconic figures. See the Bad Boy of Country’s stage costumes, instruments, and more.
Nashville is also famous for its eateries. Whether you’re looking for some Southern cooking or want to try a Nashville hot chicken, your palate is sure to thank you. Finish your trip with a visit to one of Nashville’s many honky-tonks. These bars are known for their live music, cold beer, and friendly atmosphere.
Read More: 21+ CHEAP AND FREE THINGS TO DO IN NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE | VISITORS GUIDE TO 11 WALKABLE NEIGHBORHOODS NASHVILLE LOVES | 35 BEST THINGS TO DO IN NASHVILLE WITH KIDS
Stay Here: Homewood Suites by Hilton Downtown Nashville | Book This: Hop-on Hop-off Trolley Tour
You’ll find one of the cutest small towns in the South on a short day trip from Nashville. Franklin, Tennessee deserves its own entry on our list due to its rich history and charming atmosphere. The town is located just south of Nashville and is filled with beautiful antebellum homes, historic sites, and delicious restaurants.
Franklin was the site of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles. You can learn all about this battle at the Carter House, which was one of the premier farms in the area. Five minutes away is the Carnton Plantation, which was used as a Confederate hospital during the war. These two historic sites offer a unique look at the Civil War from both sides.
In addition to its historical significance, Franklin is also a nice place to shop and eat. The downtown area is lined with quaint shops and delicious restaurants. You can find everything from clothes and antiques to books and jewelry.
If you happen to visit in September, the small town erupts with activity during the Pilgrimage Music Festival. Six stages are set up downtown and feature a variety of musical acts, making it an exciting event for music lovers of all genres.
Read More: 18 THINGS TO DO IN FRANKLIN TN YOU’RE GONNA LOVE
Stay Here: Tru By Hilton Franklin Cool Springs Nashville, TN | Book This: 1.5 Hour Haunted City Tour
Nashville might be the Country Capital of The World, but Memphis is the official home of rock ‘n’ roll. Home to legends of the genre like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and B.B. King, Memphis is a must-visit for any music fan. Of course, no trip to Memphis would be complete without paying your respects to the King himself.
Elvis Presley’s Graceland is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Tour Elvis’ gigantic mansion, learn about his life and career and see some of his famous stage costumes. You can even tour his private jet and see The Chapel in the Woods, where he may or may not have cried.
If you want to see where the recording magic happened, visit Sun Studio. This studio was responsible for launching the careers of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. The blues are also big in Memphis, as is made evident by the Blues Hall of Fame and Beale Street.
In addition to its musical history, Memphis is also home to several other worthy attractions. The Memphis Pyramid is one of the most photographed landmarks in the city. Once an abandoned sports field, it now houses a hotel, Bass Pro Shops, an indoor swamp, a bowling alley, and restaurants.
The Memphis Zoo is also a cool place to spend an afternoon. With over 3,500 animals, it’s one of the largest zoos in the country.
Read More: 34 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN MEMPHIS YOU’LL LOVE
Stay Here: The Guest House at Graceland | Book This: Hop-On-Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus Tour
Bristol is a twin city, meaning it’s actually two cities in Tennessee and Virginia. It’s located on the state line and is the birthplace of country music. Bristol is a small place with a unique culture and a lot of history.
Bristol is home to the Bristol Motor Speedway, which hosts NASCAR races and other events throughout the year. If you’re a racing fan or just want to see all the fuss, consider attending one of the races. Even if you’re not into racing, the experience is worth it just to see the massive size of the speedway and the deafening noise of the cars.
If you’re more interested in the history of Bristol, there are several places you can visit. The Paramount Center for the Arts was built in the late 1930s and is one of the most historic theaters in the country. It’s still used today for concerts, movies, and other events.
Stay Here: Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Bristol
Next on our list is Knoxville, the third largest city in Tennessee. Located in the eastern part of the state, it’s known for its beautiful mountains and rivers. Knoxville is also home to the University of Tennessee, making it an excellent place for college football fans to visit. The campus is as impressive as the football team and worth a walk-through.
Knoxville is a beautiful place to hike, bike, and explore the outdoors. There are several parks and trails to choose from, including the Knoxville Urban Wilderness. This park has over 50 miles of hiking, biking, and kayaking trails.
For a taste of Knoxville culture, head downtown to Market Square. This square is full of shops, restaurants, cafes, and a beautiful statue commemorating the city’s role in the fight for women’s suffrage. A twice-weekly farmer’s market is also held here, so you can stock up on fresh, local produce.
Read More: 30+ AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN KNOXVILLE TN THAT YOU’VE GOT TO TRY
Stay Here: Graduate Knoxville | Book This: Wine and Moonshine Tour
Sevierville is a small town located just outside of Knoxville. It’s best known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the country. There are several things to do in Sevierville, but most revolve around the great outdoors.
One of Sevierville’s most popular tourist attractions is the Sky High Air Tours. Fly 1,000 feet above the ground in an open cockpit biplane and take in the stunning views of the Smoky Mountains. It’s an unforgettable experience and one you won’t find anywhere else.
If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, Sevierville is also home to several wineries and distilleries. Tennessee whiskey is famous worldwide, and Sevierville is the ideal place to try it.
Read More: 13 UNIQUE EXPERIENCES & THINGS TO DO IN SEVIERVILLE TN (video) | THE RIDGE OUTDOOR RESORT: FAQ’S ABOUT SEVIERVILLE’S HIDDEN GEM
Stay Here: Clarion Inn Willow River | Book This: French Broad River and Lake Helicopter Trip
If you find yourself in Western Tennessee, be sure to visit Jackson. While it might be slightly off the beaten path, it’s a nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Jackson is where you’ll find Rusty’s TV and Movie Car Museum, which contains over 50 iconic cars from TV shows and movies. If you’re a fan of films or just want to see some cool cars, this is the place for you.
For something a little more historic, visit the Casey Jones Village. This village is named after the famous train engineer who died in a wreck in 1900. The village has a museum, shops, restaurants, and a motel.
Read More: 14 THINGS TO DO IN JACKSON TN YOU’RE GONNA LOVE
Stay Here: Hampton Inn & Suites Jackson
Last on our list is Loudon, a charming small town located just outside of Knoxville. While it might be small, Loudon has a big effect on those lucky enough to visit. The town is home to several wineries with unique offerings, set among the beautiful scenery of the Tennessee River.
The historic downtown area is also worth a visit. Stroll down the brick-lined streets, pop into the shops, and grab a bite to eat.
If you’re looking for something truly unique, check the Windy Hill Farm And Preserve in Loudon. As one of the most romantic getaways in Tennessee, this resort and hunting lodge offers an all-inclusive experience complete with wine hiking, whiskey tasting, and even in-room massages.
Finally, the dining experience at the on-site restaurant, Wilder, is not to be missed. The chef uses ingredients sourced from the on-property garden to create seasonal, farm-to-table dishes that will tantalize your taste buds.
Stay Here: La Quinta by Wyndham Loudon
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO TENNESSEE
- YOUR TENNESSEE VACATION
- TN WATERFALLS: 13 Amazing Waterfalls In Tennessee You Should Chase
- TN WATER PARKS: 7+ Water Parks In Tennessee Your Family Needs To Visit Now
- TREEHOUSE RENTALS: 22 Sensational Treehouse Rentals Tennessee Offers Vacationers
- RESORTS: 24 Best Hotels & Resorts In Tennessee You’ll Love
WHERE TO STAY IN TENNESSEE
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