If you live or have ever visited Nashville, you know the main focus of the town is music. From Broadway, to the Grand ole Opry, to the Blue Bird Café, music lovers have an endless amount of possibilities. But is that it? Certainly not. Middle Tennessee is full of wonderful places to visit that are close enough to Nashville that they can be done in a day.
Center Hill Lake
Center Hill Lake is about a 1 ½ drive from downtown Nashville. This large reservoir is nearly 29 square miles in area has plenty to offer. From Nashville, Edgar Evins State Park on the North side of the lake is the closest. This 6000-acre state park has a large marina on the lake with a restaurant. It offers boat and cabin rentals, and the observation tower at the visitor center has spectacular views of the lake. For the Hiker, the Millennium Hiking trail is a 2.3 mile loop that passes a rocky beach on the lake before heading up a hill for some great views. Primitive campsites are available off of the trail where you can practice your Bushcraft techniques, or just stop and have a picnic.
Jack Daniel’s Distillery
Jack Daniel’s whiskey is well known all over the world. The whiskey has been made about 1 ½ hours Southeast of Nashville in Lynchburg, TN for over 150 years. The distiller offers tours of their operations that concludes with a sampling of their different whiskeys.
You would think that such a well-known whiskey must have a huge factory. You will be surprised to see that the whiskey is made the same way as it was 100 years ago. The barrels are still built by hand and charred over an open fire. The water for the whiskey still comes from an underground, two-mile deep limestone cave spring that you can see on the tour. The whiskey is mellowed through 10 ft of hard sugar maple charcoal that gives it the classic “Tennessee Whiskey” taste. Finally the barrels are left to age in multiple barrel houses throughout the property for seven years.
While you are in Lynchburg, visit the town square and it will feel like you went back in time. There are small shops to explore and a great BBQ joint called Barrel House BBQ on the corner.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
This state park is about a 2 ½ drive Southeast of Nashville. It is one of the largest and most visited parks in the state. It has over 29,000 acres to explore on top of the Cumberland Plateau. The crown jewel of the park is the Fall Creek Falls waterfall. This waterfall is 256 feet high, and is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States. The park has 30 cabins you can rent on a lake where you can fish from a dock just outside your door. It also has 222 campsites and an 85-room lodge with a full restaurant.
The park is great for families. The 18-hole golf course is one of the best in the state. An Olympic size swimming pool is open from Memorial Day until Labor Day. The park also has four playgrounds and a “Canopy Challenge Course” that you can climb through and test your agility on over 70 aerial obstacles.
If you plan to visit in the winter time, keep in mind that the weather conditions can change quickly on the Cumberland Plateau. Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car and consider packing a get home bag just in case the roads become impassable.
Stones River National Battlefield
For the history buff, this civil war battlefield is a short 1 hour drive South of Nashville. The 570 acre park was the location of a key battle on the last day of 1862. Park Rangers often lead tours of the park, or you may be lucky enough to catch a civil war reenactment. The visitor center includes a museum you can explore, a movie about the battle, and a bookstore that has interesting books and maps about the battlefield.
For a fun family activity, bring your bikes. The park allows bicyclists to explore the park. Park rangers lead guided bike tours one Saturday a month during the warmer months. There is also 4 ½ miles of paved trails along the river for a kid friendly hike and a picnic area where you can enjoy a family picnic.
About 2 hours from Nashville Southeast down Interstate 24, Chattanooga rests on the Tennessee River along the mountains of East Tennessee. The downtown area offers plenty of great shops, restaurants, and breweries. For families, the Tennessee Aquarium is the largest in the state with both salt water and freshwater aquariums. The TN Valley Railroad offers passenger train rides most days. Around Christmas they have a “Polar Express” train ride where children can travel to the “North Pole” and meet Santa.
For the outdoor lover there is Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Incline railway. Rock City’s main attraction is the great view from Lookout Mountain just above a magnificent 140-foot-high waterfall. Ruby Falls is home to the tallest and deepest underground waterfall. Visitors take an elevator 26 stories down into the cavern underneath Lookout Mountain. The Incline Railway takes passengers up to the top of Lookout Mountain on the world’s steepest passenger railway. The observation deck at the top of the railway is the highest overlook on Lookout Mountain.
There is a lot more to see and do in Chattanooga. If you are vacationing in Nashville, you could consider spending a few nights in Chattanooga to explore this great city.
If you live or are vacationing in Nashville, take a road trip day. There is plenty to do outside of the city. The outdoor opportunities are endless, and families can find plenty of fun things to do with the kids.