Nashville, also known as Music City, is a vibrant and culturally rich destination in the heart of Tennessee. While the city has plenty to offer regarding attractions and entertainment, it serves as a fantastic base for exploring the beautiful surrounding areas. Planning a day trip from Nashville allows visitors to experience the charm of the South, showcasing its enchanting landscapes, quaint towns, and historic landmarks.
Some of the most popular day trips from Nashville include the picturesque town of Franklin, which is just a short 35-minute drive south, where visitors can indulge in Southern hospitality and enjoy the town’s quaint, historic atmosphere. Another popular destination is Chattanooga, nestled next to the Tennessee River and surrounded by mountains, drawing visitors to its beautiful views at Lookout Mountain.
Outdoor enthusiasts may opt for a visit to the unique Cumberland Caverns, about an hour and 35 minutes away from Nashville. At the same time, those interested in history should not miss a trip to Huntsville, which can be reached in just over an hour. No matter your interests or preferences, there are plenty of day trip options accessible from Nashville that promise engaging and memorable experiences.
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Franklin is a charming town located just 21 miles south of Nashville, and it’s the perfect destination for history lovers. Notable sites include Carnton Plantation, Carter House, and Lotz House, connected to the American Civil War.
- Carnton Plantation: An antebellum house that served as a Confederate field hospital during the Civil War. Tours available.
- Carter House: A historic house that witnessed the Battle of Franklin in 1864. Guided tours available.
- Lotz House: A preserved Civil War-era house showcasing antique furnishings and artwork. Guided tours available.
Approximately 135 miles southeast of Nashville is Chattanooga, a historic city along the Tennessee River. Chattanooga boasts several sites, such as the Chattanooga National Cemetery and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, allowing visitors to glimpse aspects of American history.
Lynchburg, located 75 miles south of Nashville, is home to the famous Jack Daniel’s Distillery. The distillery offers guided tours, allowing visitors to learn about the production process and history of the internationally renowned whiskey brand.
Located 213 miles west of Nashville, Memphis is synonymous with music history, but it also has a rich Civil War history. The National Civil Rights Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about the Civil Rights Movement and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Stones River National Battlefield
An hour drive southeast from Nashville, Stones River National Battlefield is a preserved area that played a crucial role during the Civil War. The park offers various programs and opportunities for visitors to learn about the history of the battlefield.
Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway stretches 444 miles from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS, and is steeped in Native American and early American history. Along the parkway, you can find various historical sites, such as the Meriwether Lewis National Monument and the Gordon House Historic Site.
|Meriwether Lewis Monument||Honors the life of the famous explorer, Meriwether Lewis|
|Gordon House Historic Site||Preserved 1818 house, once part of a larger plantation|
Visiting these historical sites near Nashville allows travelers a chance to explore significant moments in American history while enjoying the picturesque landscapes and vibrant communities surrounding these destinations.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Asheville, North Carolina
Tennessee is known for its beautiful parks and opportunities for outdoor excursions. The Natchez Trace Parkway offers exceptional hiking trails and nature walks for visitors of all levels. For those looking for more challenging hikes, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky is a great choice. Along the way, you can stop at various parks such as Cummins Falls State Park or Rock City Gardens for exceptional views and unique geologic formations.
Rock City Gardens
Located a few hours away from Nashville, the Rock City Gardens in Chattanooga offers a unique set of natural rock formations, intricate pathways, and beautiful views. It is the perfect destination for a day trip, suitable for families and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Rock City Gardens offers a serene environment to enjoy while walking through lush landscapes surrounded by towering rock cliffs.
At Lookout Mountain, you can indulge in the magnificent views from the summit, as well as admire the geological wonders at Ruby Falls. This location provides an excellent opportunity for hiking and enjoying the natural beauty of both Tennessee and Alabama. With its close proximity to Rock City Gardens, a day trip to the area allows you to experience the best of both attractions.
Rock Island State Park
This 883-acre park located in middle Tennessee offers breathtaking views of the Caney Fork River and the surrounding hills. Rock Island State Park is a fantastic destination for hiking, kayaking, picnicking, and fishing. The park also hosts a variety of waterfalls and swimming holes that contribute to a refreshing outdoor experience.
Kayaking and Fishing
There are numerous bodies of water throughout Tennessee, such as the expansive shoreline of Western Kentucky. These locations offer endless opportunities for kayaking and fishing, as well as shoreline picnic spots and biking trails. Be sure to check local guidelines and regulations for fishing licenses and watercraft rentals before embarking on your adventure.
Cummins Falls State Park, just over an hour east from Nashville, is a 282-acre park featuring a stunning 75-foot waterfall. The hike to the falls can be challenging, but it is well worth the effort. This park is one of the most dog-friendly destinations and perfect for those seeking a refreshing dip at the base of the waterfall.
Venture below the Earth’s surface and explore the captivating world of stalagmites and stalactites by embarking on a cave tour. The Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tennessee is home to a network of incredible underground passageways and the renowned Bluegrass Underground concert series. Similarly, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and Cave City offer cave tours that showcase the geological marvels hidden beneath the landscape.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park, located about 1.5 hours north of Nashville in Kentucky, is an ideal destination for nature lovers seeking a day trip adventure. The park is known for its vast network of caves, which are considered the longest in the world. Visitors can explore these underground wonders through guided tours, ranging from leisurely walks to more challenging crawls.
In addition to the caves, Mammoth Cave National Park offers several easy hiking trails for visitors to enjoy. The trails provide picturesque views of the surrounding lush forest and the opportunity to spot native wildlife. Springtime visits are particularly beautiful as the park comes alive with blooming flora.
Located about 2 hours southeast of Nashville in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ruby Falls is an enchanting natural wonder to discover on a day trip. The iconic 145-foot tall waterfall is hidden within Lookout Mountain and requires a guided tour to access the underground caverns.
Inside the caverns, visitors will be amazed by the breathtaking formations of stalactites and stalagmites as they make their way to the main attraction – the illuminated Ruby Falls. This unique experience is perfect for families, couples, and nature enthusiasts alike.
For a thrilling walk with a touch of adventure, the Swinging Bridge in Franklin, Tennessee is a must-visit. Located just 30 minutes south of Nashville, this historic suspension bridge spans 275 feet across the Harpeth River, offering both excitement and scenic beauty.
Nested within the peaceful setting of Valley View Park, the Swinging Bridge provides a fun day trip for visitors looking to walk along the riverside or enjoy a picnic in a serene natural environment. The park also offers additional amenities such as fishing spots and kayak access for those seeking more outdoor activities during their day trip.
In summary, Nashville and its surrounding areas offer an abundance of natural wonders for visitors to explore. From the depths of Mammoth Cave National Park to the awe-inspiring beauty of Ruby Falls and the excitement of walking across the Swinging Bridge, day trips from the city provide a getaway into nature’s marvels.
Food and Drink Excursions
If you’re a fan of spirits, particularly Tennessee whiskey, a day trip to distilleries around Nashville should be on your list. Some notable stops include:
- Jack Daniel’s Distillery: Located about 1.5 hours southeast of Nashville in Lynchburg, this famous distillery offers guided tours and whiskey tastings.
- George Dickel Distillery: This lesser-known but equally historic distillery is found 1.5 hours southeast of Nashville in Tullahoma, offering tours that showcase their traditional distilling methods.
Wine enthusiasts can explore the scenic wineries in the Nashville area, which offer tastings, live music, and beautiful surroundings. Two standout options are:
- Arrington Vineyards: Owned by musician Kix Brooks, Arrington Vineyards is located 45 minutes south of Nashville in Arrington, showcasing a variety of wines and a picturesque setting. The vineyard features live music on weekends and the option to bring your own picnic.
- Honeysuckle Hill: Situated 40 minutes south of Nashville in Springfield, Honeysuckle Hill is a farm, winery, and wedding venue, offering a unique experience along with tastings of their fruit wines.
Nashville has a thriving beer scene with numerous craft breweries, taprooms, and brewpubs. You can visit these popular destinations, many of which have tours, tastings, and food trucks:
|Yazoo Brewing||Downtown||Tours, taproom, and a variety of award-winning beers|
|Jackalope||Wedgewood-Houston||Taproom, food trucks, and a wide selection of innovative beers|
|TailGate Brewery||West Nashville||Expansive taproom, pizza, live music, and an extensive selection of beers|
After exploring wineries, distilleries, and breweries, you may want to stop by some of Nashville’s top-rated restaurants. The city has countless dining spots, ranging from traditional Southern cuisine and live music joints to modern fusion eateries. Some favorites worth checking out include:
- Husk: Located in a former historic mansion, Husk offers a contemporary Southern menu, focusing on local and seasonal ingredients.
- Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint: A staple in Nashville’s food scene, this barbecue joint features slow-cooked meats, house-made sauces, and a laid-back atmosphere.
- The Stillery: Offering brick-oven pizzas, Southern comfort foods, and craft cocktails, The Stillery is a perfect spot to unwind in the heart of downtown Nashville.
Huntsville is a charming city located in northern Alabama. It is known for its space and rocket attractions, such as the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, where you can learn about the history of space travel and explore interactive exhibits. Moreover, Huntsville offers shopping opportunities and various dining options for a delightful day trip.
Knoxville, Tennessee is an urban escapade that combines history, culture, and entertainment. In the heart of the city lies Market Square, a popular spot bustling with shops, restaurants, and outdoor events. An enjoyable experience for all ages, the Tennessee Aquarium showcases the rich aquatic biodiversity of the region. No matter the season, Knoxville serves as a delightful destination.
Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg provides a picturesque getaway from Nashville. This mountain town is a playground for adventure enthusiasts, offering activities like hiking, zip-lining, and skiing during the winter months. While visiting, don’t miss the chance to enjoy the local dining scene and indulge in southern comfort cuisine.
Live Music and Dining
Experience the region’s vibrant music scene by visiting some of these iconic locations:
- Graceland: Explore the famous home of Elvis Presley and learn about his legendary career.
- Sun Studio: This historic studio in Memphis is known for launching the careers of numerous iconic artists, such as Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison.
- Stax Museum of American Soul Music: Dive into the history of soul music at this comprehensive museum in Memphis.
Whether it’s Huntsville, Knoxville, or Gatlinburg, each destination offers an array of dining options, from cozy cafes to exquisite fine dining establishments.
By taking a day trip to one of these urban escapades, you’ll expand your appreciation for the region’s diverse culture, history, and entertainment offerings while making unforgettable memories.
Dollywood Theme Park
Dollywood Theme Park, located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is a popular day trip destination for families, boasting thrilling rides, live entertainment, and delicious Southern cuisine. It’s about a 3.5-hour drive from Nashville, making it an ideal day trip option.
Sewanee, home to the University of the South, is a picturesque town nestled in the Cumberland Plateau. It’s located approximately 1.5 hours southeast of Nashville. This charming location offers various outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing.
Waverly is a small town in Tennessee located about 1.5 hours west of Nashville. It’s rich in history, featuring the Waverly Train Explosion site and other historical landmarks. Visitors can explore the town’s quaint downtown area and nearby nature trails.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a must-visit, situated about 4 hours east of Nashville. There’s plenty for nature lovers to enjoy with over 800 miles of hiking trails, abundant wildlife, and magnificent waterfalls.
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|Key Attractions||Distance from Nashville||Activity/Entertainment|
|Dollywood Theme Park||3.5 hours||Theme park, rides, shows|
|Sewanee||1.5 hours||Hiking, rock climbing, history|
|Waverly||1.5 hours||Historical sites, outdoor activities|
|Great Smoky Mountains National Park||4 hours||Hiking, wildlife, waterfalls|
Cedars of Lebanon State Park
Just 30 miles east of Nashville lies the Cedars of Lebanon State Park, offering over 900 acres of recreational activities. The park is home to numerous rare plant species and features various hiking and equestrian trails. It is an excellent day trip option for those interested in nature and outdoor exploration.
If you’re seeking adventure, ziplining is an exhilarating option not far from Nashville. Many locations offer zipline experiences, providing the opportunity to soar through the treetops and enjoy stunning views. These spots are perfect for thrill-seekers and adventurers.
In conclusion, there is a wide variety of day trip options from Nashville, ranging from theme parks to natural wonders. Each destination offers unique attractions and experiences to suit diverse tastes and interests.
Tips and Recommendations
When planning a day trip from Nashville, consider the various shuttle options available for convenient transportation. Some popular destinations, such as Mammoth Cave National Park and Diamond Caverns, offer shuttle services that transport visitors between the two sites. Make sure to check for availability beforehand, as reservations might be required.
Guided and Self-Guided Tours
There’s an array of guided and self-guided tour options for many day trips from Nashville. For example:
- Mammoth Cave National Park: Join a guided tour to explore the intricate cave systems and learn about geological formations. Simultaneously, you can visit Diamond Caverns to compare the unique layouts of both caves.
- Memphis: Visit Graceland and embark on a guided tour of Elvis Presley’s home, or follow a self-guided itinerary to explore the thriving music scene.
- Chattanooga: Experience the Incline Railway, where a guided tour will explain the history and mechanics of this unique transportation mode. Alternatively, explore the observation deck and captivating landscape on a self-guided tour.
Best Seasons for Travel
- Spring (March-May): Ideal for exploring the Southeast’s lush landscape, as the temperatures are mild and the flora is in full bloom.
- Summer (June-August): While the weather is hot and humid, it is the perfect time for visiting waterfalls and swimming holes, as well as enjoying outdoor concerts and festivals.
- Fall (September-November): Experience the vibrant foliage of the Southeast, especially in the scenic parts of Tennessee and Kentucky.
- Winter (December-February): For those who enjoy indoor activities, this is an excellent time for touring museums and cultural sites. Be mindful that some outdoor attractions like caves might have limited accessibility during these months.
When planning a day trip from Nashville, make sure to check for seasonal closures and special events that may affect your choice of destination. Whether you prefer guided or self-guided tours, shuttle options, or different times of the year, there is a perfect day trip waiting for you.