While Tennessee is a bit of a chuck from Indianapolis, it is still a driveable destination – a very scenic drive, at that. Whether you are looking for last-minute fall break ideas or are thinking ahead to summer vacation, Tennessee is home to a number of destinations that are packed with family fun. Here are just a few of our favorites.
Located along the Tennessee River near the southeastern corner of the state, Chattanooga is a hotbed of family fun. In the city’s vibrant downtown, both the Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum will delight young visitors. Explore the riverfront at Coolidge Park, where for just $1 you can take a ride on the park’s namesake antique carousel. Take in gorgeous views of the city, the river and the mountains beyond with a stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge, a 19th century truss bridge that now serves as a pedestrian walkway connecting the hip “north shore” and the revitalized south side. Sundays in April through November, shop for fresh produce, baked goods, and arts and crafts at the Chattanooga Market, named one of the top 10 public markets by Frommer’s travel guide.
Just six miles outside of town, Lookout Mountain is home to fantastic views and several family-friendly activities. Rock City is a true marvel of nature featuring massive ancient rock formations, gardens with more than 400 native plant species and breathtaking “See 7 States” panoramic views. Little ones will love the Enchanted Trail woodland path, as well as Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village.
Also atop Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls is the nation’s largest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public. Guided walking tours of the Ruby Falls cavern run daily, taking guests 1,120 feet underground. Adjacent to Ruby Falls, the ZIPstream Aerial Adventure Course takes your family through a series of suspending obstacle courses high in the treetops.
For more on Chattanooga, visit www.chattanoogafun.com.
Gatlinburg is nestled at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in America. And fall is the perfect time of year to visit. There are a number of ways to explore the park – from a scenic drive along the Cades Cove loop to a hike or horseback ride along one of the numerous trails. Or hop aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and enjoy picture-perfect views of the fall foliage.
After spending the day exploring the park, head to the downtown parkway, which runs from one end of the city to the other. This strip is filled with a mind-boggling number of shops, restaurants and attractions ranging from Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies to miniature golf courses to a wide range of live shows. For a quieter stroll, take the river walk and enjoy the peaceful sounds of the Little Pigeon River.
Enjoy panoramic views of the vibrant town and the mountains beyond from the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle (featured photo) or by hitching a ride on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway.
In nearby Pigeon Forge, thrill seekers and country music fans alike will enjoy a day at Dollywood, home to 40 world-class rides, high-energy entertainment and delicious dining options. For a more laid-back vibe, take a drive through the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, a historic 8-mile loop that is home to the largest group of independent artisans in North America.
To learn more about all that Gatlinburg and the surrounding area has to offer, visit www.gatlinburg.com.
Nashville is synonymous with country music, and there’s no better place for visitors to immerse themselves in the city’s musical heritage than at the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. A behind-the-scenes tour offers a glimpse into this legendary music venue. At the Country Music Hall of Fame, kids can explore instruments in the musical petting zoo and take part in programs for all ages. And, of course, no trip to Nashville would be complete without taking in a show at the current home of the Grand Ole Opry.
Nashville may be best known for its connection to country music, but it has also been dubbed the “Athens of the South” due to the numerous higher education institutions established here. High on a hill in Centennial Park, a full-scale replica of the Parthenon complete with 42-foot statue of Athena pays homage to this distinction. It is a must see. Nashville is home to a gorgeous riverfront downtown and the best views can be found by taking a stroll across the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, which connects downtown with the suburb of East Nashville.
When it comes to accommodations, Gaylord Opryland, with indoor and outdoor pools, nine acres of indoor gardens and waterfalls and its very own boat ride, is not just a place to stay – it is a destination in and of itself.
Find more on this musical city at www.visitmusiccity.com.
From relaxing mountain hikes to high-energy entertainment, museum visits to scenic city strolls, Tennessee truly has something for your whole family to enjoy. Happy Travels!