15 Best Day Trips from Nashville for 2023 (By a Local)
Nashville is a great city to explore on its own, but if you have the time to take a few day trips from Nashville, it’s worth it to explore other places during your trip.
Tennessee and the surrounding states in the southeast have so much to offer. The landscape in the area is incredibly diverse and beautiful. You’ll enjoy just traveling from one location to another.
As a Nashville local, I will guide you through some of the best day trips from Nashville. Looking for outdoor adventure, thrilling theme park rides, or a quiet charming getaway? No matter what you enjoy you’ll find something to love near Nashville on this list.
Oh, and before diving in, be sure to bookmark my guide to the best things to do in Nashville
Table of Contents
- 15 Best Nashville Day Trips
- FAQs About Day Trips From Nashville
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15 Best Nashville Day Trips
📍 Distance from Nashville: 3 to 3.5 hours | Google Maps | Destination Website
Located on the Tennessee River in east Tennessee, Knoxville is the perfect destination for anyone looking for urban outdoor adventure. The city is home to Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, a 1000-acre inside the city with over 50 miles of trails. Visitors can enjoy hiking, climbing, kayaking, biking, fishing, and swimming without ever leaving the city.
Knoxville also has a hip downtown area for visitors to enjoy. Market Square is an especially popular location downtown. You’ll find festivals and other seasonal activities happening year-round. Don’t worry if there are no special events scheduled though. There are still plenty of dining and shopping options to occupy an afternoon.
Knoxville is at least a 3.5-hour drive from Nashville. It works better as a weekend trip from Nashville than a one-day trip, and you’ll enjoy the extra time.
📍 Distance from Nashville: 30 to 40 minutes | Google Maps | Destination Website | 👉 Suggested Shuttle to Arrington Vineyards
For a relaxing afternoon, take a short drive south to Arrington Vineyards.. You can order a wine flight to sample what the winery has to offer. Pack a picnic or order from the food options on-site. Enjoy your food with your wine while overlooking the vineyards.
On Food Truck Fridays throughout the summer, guests can enjoy free live music while eating some of the best local food truck fare. Saturdays and Sundays in the summer are also popular. Bluegrass bands are onsite playing live in the pavilion during the weekends.
Visiting Nashville without a car or don’t want to worry about how much wine you sample? You can book a round-trip shuttle to Arrington Vineyards from Downtown Nashville. Then, you won’t have to debate whether you need another glass of frosé.
Mammoth Cave National Park
📍 Distance from Nashville: 90 minutes to 2 hours | Google Maps | Destination Website
With over 400 miles of underground caves, Mammoth Cave is one of the most unique National Parks. Mammoth Cave is the largest cave system in the world. Visitors can take one of several guided tours or go on a short self-guided tour. Plan to book tickets in advance because cave tours sell out during popular travel times.
Besides the natural wonders inside the caves, Mammoth Cave National Park has several easy hiking trails. Hiking and biking around the park is especially beautiful during the spring when things begin to bloom.
Located north of Nashville in Kentucky, the National Park is a perfect day trip adventure.
👉 Pro Tip: Mammoth Cave is located near Diamond Caverns. Consider visiting both caves during the same day. You’ll love getting to compare the differences in the layout of the two caves.
📍 Distance from Nashville: 1.5 hours | Google Maps | Destination Website
Diamond Caverns is located right next to Mammoth Cave. These caverns offer another option for adventurous travelers. These caverns in Kentucky were discovered in 1849. The cave got its name due to the way the calcite formations inside sparkle. Today, the caverns are considered Kentucky’s most beautiful cave.
Guided tours through the cavern are available on a daily basis. Diamond Caverns particularly stands out for its many breathtaking formations. If you want to see a cave full of stalagmites, stalactites, and columns, then the historic Diamond Caverns is the place to visit.
📍 Distance from Nashville: 3.5 to 4 hours | Google Maps | Destination Website | 👉 Top Suggested Tour
Nashville may be known as Music City, but Memphis is also a great place for music lovers to visit. Memphis is home to many historic music sites including Graceland, Sun Studio, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
Of course, there’s plenty more for visitors to discover. The city has legendary barbeque joints like A&R Bar-B-Que, the Rendezvous, and Interstate Barbecue. Be sure to check out the South Main Historic Art District just one block from Beale Street. This neighborhood has been quietly revitalizing over the past several years. It’s now a cool place to find independent shops, breweries, and restaurants.
You can drive from Nashville to Memphis and back in a day. But, consider making this a weekend trip so that you’re not rushed through all that Memphis has to offer. This Memphis Discovery Tour can help you maximize your time in Memphis.
📍 Distance from Nashville: 30 to 40 minutes | Google Maps | Destination Website
Franklin is a charming city just south of Nashville filled with historic neighborhoods and a quaint downtown area. The downtown features 14 blocks of historic buildings with vibrant shops, antique stores, and delicious restaurants. Plus, there are many fun things to do in Franklin!
Different festivals take place on Main Street throughout the year, so check to see what’s going on. I highly recommend going during PumpkinFest in October.
History lovers will also enjoy visiting Franklin. The city has several historic sites related to Civil War History, including three house museums. Carnton, Carter House, and Lotz House each offer insights into the experience of the families that lived there during the Battle of Franklin.
At Carter House, visitors will find the most bullet-riddled building from the Civil War still standing, and at the Lotz House Museum they can also view architecture and furniture from the mid-1800s.
Franklin is such a close day trip from Nashville. There’s no reason not to visit if you have the time!
📍 Distance from Nashville: 3.5 to 4 hours | Google Maps | Destination Website
Dollywood is one of the most unique theme parks in the United States. This theme park owned by country legend Dolly Parton first opened in 1986. It has been delighting visitors since then. The entire park is based on the culture and history of the Smoky Mountain area. The park has all the classic rides and wild roller coasters that you’d expect. There’s even a 19th-century steam engine that takes visitors on a 5-mile ride in the Smoky Mountains.
Naturally, there’s amazing live music and performances. Plus, the park has a Dolly Parton Museum fans will love.
The food and dining options feature delicious, classic southern fare. Make sure to get at least one pull-apart cinnamon bread during your visit.
Dollywood requires a little more driving than some day trips from Nashville. But, it’s entirely worth spending a day (or more) at the park and resort.
🛏️ Accommodations: If you plan to make a weekend trip to Dollywood, consider staying at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. Transportation is available from the resort to the park. There’s even a gift shop in the resort, so you don’t have to worry about carrying souvenirs with you through the park.
Stones River National Battlefield
📍 Distance from Nashville: 30 to 40 minutes | Google Maps | Destination Website
This battlefield was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Today, the National Park Service maintains the site as a place to teach civil war history. The park also preserves the unique natural resources in the area.
Stones River National Battlefield is about 30 miles south of Nashville in Rutherford County. The park has a visitor’s center with a small museum. Guests can take a self-guided tour through the Stones River National Cemetery. There’s also 7 miles of hiking and walking trails in the park. The trails connect to the Murfreesboro Greenway System.
This park is the perfect day trip for Civil War history buffs as well as for people who want to spend time outdoors enjoying nature.
👉 Read Next: 19 Best Restaurants in Nashville
📍 Distance from Nashville: 2 hours | Google Maps | Destination Website
Huntsville, also known as Rocket City, is best-known for its role in space travel. The city is still a hub for engineering and technology, but there’s a lot of other cool things going on here as well. Huntsville is also a great place for art exhibitions, outdoor adventures, and unique culinary moments.
Art lovers can visit the Huntsville Museum of Art or Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment, the largest privately-owned art studio in the US. Visitors can also enjoy Huntsville’s beer trail that features unique craft beers. Huntsville has too many amazing restaurant options to mention. For a solid start, head to Blue Plate Cafe for a classic southern meat and three.
Of course, you can’t leave Huntsville without visiting the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. It’s one of the world’s largest space museums. Only a two-hour drive south of Nashville, Huntsville is the perfect day trip for everyone from families to solo travelers to couples.
📍 Distance from Nashville: 2.5 to 3 hours | Google Maps | Destination Website | 👉 Top Suggested Tour
Surrounded by mountains and next to the Tennessee River in east Tennessee, Chattanooga is one of the most beautiful day trips from Nashville. Visitors have flocked to Chattanooga for years. Beginning in the early 1900s, visitors came to visit Lookout Mountain. The crowds are still coming today. Rock City Gardens and Ruby Falls are two more classic attractions that have been drawing visitors for years.
There’s plenty of new attractions in Chattanooga, too. Chattanooga is home to the Chattanooga Zoo, the Tennessee Aquarium, and the Creative Discovery Museum, one of the premier children’s museums in the United States.
Chattanooga is the perfect day trip for families, but there’s more than enough to do there for everyone. If you love the mountains, you’ll love visiting Chattanooga.
👉 Don’t Miss: For a unique tour through Chattanooga, take a paddleboarding and kayak tour. You’ll get to see local landmarks while paddling down the Tennessee River, and you’ll even get to a hidden cave.
📍 Distance from Nashville: 1.5 hours | Google Maps | 👉 Top Suggested Tour + Transportation
Lynchburg is a small town in Middle Tennessee about an hour and a half south of Nashville. You may not have heard of Lynchburg before, but you’ve probably heard of its most famous product. The tiny town is home to the Jack Daniel’s headquarters.
Visitors are able to tour the Jack Daniel distillery to see how the whisky is made. Monore, where Lynchburg is located, is a dry county. But, visitors still get to sample whisky flights at the end of the tour. While the distillery is the main tourist draw, Lynchburg also has a charming downtown. Visitors can enjoy the shops, antique stores, and dining options. Don’t miss stopping by Velma’s Candy to pick up some fudge and truffles.
Of course, Lynchburg is a must-visit for whisky enthusiasts. But, it’s also a nice day trip for anyone looking to experience the hospitality of one of Tennessee’s small towns.
If you’re traveling to Nashville without a car or if you don’t want to drive, book a Jack Daniels Tasting Tour. The tour departs from Nashville’s Downtown. Live entertainment is provided on the bus to Lynchburg and back.
📍 Distance from Nashville: 2 hours | Google Maps | Destination Website
Sewanee is one of the most unique small towns located in Tennessee. This tiny town on top of Monteagle Mountain is home to The University of the South. With only 2300 residents, Sewanee has a welcoming atmosphere that will instantly make you feel at home.
Explore the university campus and enjoy the gothic architecture from the 1850s. Be sure to go to All Saints’ Chapel to admire the mosaics.
Even though the town is small, you’ll find boutique shops in the Sewanee Village. There are also great options for dining. For fine dining, try IvyWild, a contemporary restaurant with menus that rotate seasonally. For a more casual atmosphere, try The Blue Chair Cafe and Tavern.
Sewanee makes the perfect day trip in Middle Tennessee to get away from the bustle of Music City.
🍽️ Read Next: 21 Best Restaurants in Nashville
Rock Island State Park
📍 Distance from Nashville: 1.5 – 2 hours | Google Maps | Destination Website
Tennessee has no shortage of awe-inspiring state parks. Despite the stiff competition, Rock Island State Park stands out as one of the best state parks in Middle Tennessee.
The park has nine different hiking trails. The trails range from moderate to strenuous in difficulty. Great Falls and Twin Falls offer stunning waterfall views. These two sites are the most popular places to visit in the park.
Center Hill Lake is also worth visiting to see the natural sand beach surrounding the lake. Swimming is permitted, but there is no lifeguard on duty.
Rock Island State Park is one of the best trips for people looking to hike and enjoy Tennessee’s natural beauty. The Twin Falls and Down River Trail also made my list of top hiking trails close to Nashville.
👉 Pro Tip: Some of the trails through the gorges will get your feet wet. Come prepared with appropriate footwear.
📍 Distance from Nashville: 1.5 to 2 hours | Google Maps | Destination Website
Located about 75 miles west of Nashville, Waverly is a small town with big attractions for music fans. Loretta Lynn, one of country music’s legends, bought 3500 acres nearby in the 1960s and has since opened Loretta Lynn’s Ranch to the public. Guests can enjoy camping, hiking, swimming, kayaking, and all kinds of outdoor activities.
Besides the Ranch, take time to visit the Walls Arts Park in Waverly. It’s a park with 18 different walls that artists can paint, so there are always gorgeous murals to admire. Waverly is also home to Johnsonville State Historic Park, part of Tennessee’s awesome state park system.
Be aware that Waverly is still recovering from flooding in 2021. While the sites we’ve mentioned are open and welcoming visitors, other places in the area may be more severely damaged.
Natchez Trace Parkway
📍 Distance from Nashville: 30 minutes | Google Maps | Destination Website
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile road. It roughly follows the original Natchez Trace from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS. Driving the entire path takes about 5 days, but driving just a portion of the path is a wonderful day trip, and makes my list of the top places to go in Tennessee.
There are stops all along the parkway for visitors to enjoy. After beginning the drive at the Northern Terminus, you’ll soon see a stop for the Double Arch Bridge. It’s a great place for photos of the beautifully artistic bridge and valley. Just a few miles later is Timberland Park, which is a great place to stop for a hike.
Driving farther, you’ll find exits for cities and towns to explore as well as stops for other outdoor attractions and monuments. Fall is a great time to make a leisurely drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway as the leaves change.
👉 Read Next: To find out more about what to expect during different seasons, read about the best time to visit Nashville.
FAQs About Day Trips From Nashville
Where should I go outside of Nashville?
A few of the best day trips outside of Nashville are Knoxville, Mammoth Caves, and Dollywood. There are lots of great places to go within a 4-hour drive of Nashville no matter what you enjoy doing.
What is close to Nashville to do?
Less than an hour away from Nashville, the best day trips are Franklin, the Natchez Trace Parkway, Stones River National Battlefield, and Arrington Vineyards.
Are there any day trips from Nashville that I can do without a car?
To take a day trip to Lynchburg, Tennessee or to Arrington Vineyards, you can book a shuttle to transport you directly from Downtown to your destination. For most day trips from Nashville, you will need your own vehicle.
👉 Read Next: Is Nashville Safe for Travel?
With so many great trips from Nashville, it can be hard to choose. Hopefully, my guide helped you figure out where to start.
If you’re still planning your trip to Nashville, be sure to check out our guides on where to stay in Nashville and the best things to do in Nashville.
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