Home to the Parthenon, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry, and so much more, it seems like there’s no way your trip to Nashville will take you away from this city. The state of Tennessee and its neighbors has so much to offer though, far different from what Nashville has but just as interesting and worthwhile. From the huge system of spectacular caves and deep gorges, magnificent waterfalls, and historical sites, as well as parks which offer horseback riding, zip lining, and rock climbing – there’s so much to choose from and most are just quick drives away. Here’s a list of best day trips from Nashville, Tennessee that will surely steal you away from the music city, even for five hours at the very least.
- 12 Best Day Trips from Nashville, Tennessee
- 1. Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek
- 2. Mammoth Cave National Park
- 3. Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
- 4. Stones River National Battlefield
- 5. US Space and Rocket Museum
- 6. Cumberland Caverns
- 7. Rock Island State Park
- 8. Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
- 9. Carter House
- 10. Rock City Gardens
- 11. Kentucky Action Park & Riding Stables
- 12. Jack Daniel Distillery
12 Best Day Trips from Nashville, Tennessee
1. Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek
An hour and ten minutes drive from Nashville is former US president Abe Lincoln’s boyhood home, located in a farm estate in Hodgenville, Kentucky.
The Lincoln family lived on 30 acres of the 228-acre Knob Creek Farm from the time Abraham was two and a half until 1816 when they moved to Indiana. The original house where the Lincoln family lived was torn down in 1870 and the cabin that is now part of the park was reconstructed in 1931 on the original site.
Some of the furnishings in the cabin are original antiques donated by families of early occupants.
2. Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave is known as the largest cave system in the world, and Mammoth Cave National Park was established in 1941 to protect this magnificent area. The cave is located deep under layers of limestone in central Kentucky. This is an exciting day trip from Nashville if you are an explorer at heart and not afraid of dark or enclosed spaces.
The National Park Service offers cave tours to visitors – well-lit tours that last from one to six hours where visitors can see some interesting features of the system such as Frozen Niagara, Grand Avenue, and Fat Man’s Misery.
3. Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is established to preserve the original sites of two major American Civil War battles: The Battle of Chickamauga and the Chattanooga Campaign. An interesting place to visit whether you’re into military history or not, this is located on the slopes of Lookout Mountain.
Observation decks are strategically placed on the Chickamauga Battlefield, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, to allow observers and students to imagine the scale of the grand campaign that extended 150 miles in front of them during the civil wars.
4. Stones River National Battlefield
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A great way to commune with nature and get some fresh air is to hike or bike through the 570 acres of Stones River National Battlefield Park. Only 35 minutes away, this is a good day trip from Nashville where you can also learn about one of the important moments in United States history.
Along the Stone River is the site of one of the key battles in the American Civil War, although the park preserves only a fraction of the land where the battle was fought.
In the park, you can see part of Fortress Rosecrans, the Stones River National Cemetery, and the Hazen’s Brigade Monument.
5. US Space and Rocket Museum
Showcasing rockets, various artifacts and achievements, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville is a museum celebrating the United States space program, less than two hours from Nashville, it is one of the largest space museums in the world, which opened in 1970. Here, you can see original Apollo Program hardware, interactive science exhibits, go into the Space Shuttle, and even observe various Army rocketry and aircraft.
A perfect day tour for space nerds, the U.S. Space Camp offers interested participants more in-depth exposure to the American space program through the use of simulators, training exercises and lectures.
6. Cumberland Caverns
A show cave located in McMinnville, Tennessee, Cumberland Caverns was discovered in 1810 by the land surveyor Aaron Higgenbotham. This Cave quickly became a favorite for local adventurers in the 19th century and has been open to the public since 1956. Here, you can explore more than 32 miles of caves and passageways, rock formations, underground waterfalls, dark pools, and some spectacular underground rooms. Only an hour and thirty-five minutes away, this is a great Nashville day trip for the active, outdoorsy types. Cumberland Caverns has also recently become a popular venue for unusual weddings, birthday and other parties. A monthly concert called Bluegrass Underground is also held in the Cumberland Caverns, in its Volcano Room.
7. Rock Island State Park
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Rock Island State Park is a ruggedly beautiful 883-acre park popular for hiking, exploring, fishing and kayaking, and an ideal day trip if you’re up for some adventure. It is situated at the confluence of the Caney Fork, Collins and Rocky Rivers, and just one hour and thirty minutes from Nashville.
Check out the Caney Fork Gorge, which offers some of the most scenic views of the Eastern Highland Rim. When you hike, you’ll definitely pass by Great Falls, a 30-foot waterfall that drops below the historic 19th-century textile mill. There’s also the Center Hill Lake with its natural sandy beach and boating access, as well as the Tennessee State Park cabins which are popular accommodation for luxurious camping.
8. Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
Located on a peninsula between Kentucky and Barkley lakes, the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is made up of dense forests, miles of wetlands, and open lands.
Spanning 170,000-acres, this is situated in Western Kentucky and Tennessee, and among the largest tracts of undeveloped forest on the East Coast. It has around 300 miles of unspoiled shoreline, and home to 240 different species of birds such as hummingbirds which migrate in August. There are also 500 miles of diverse trails for biking, hiking, horseback riding, and off-road riding.
9. Carter House
Only a thirty-minute drive from Nashville and located in Franklin, Tennessee, is the Carter House. It is the centerpiece of the Franklin Battlefield, and U.S. National Historic Landmark historic district. The Battle of Franklin was the last battle in the American Civil War. The Carter House was where the Carter family hid while waiting for the second Battle of Franklin to finish.
The federal style brick farmhouse was built in 1830 and was taken over as the headquarters of the Twenty-Third Army Corpse. Today, it is essentially a museum that has certain rooms preserved in its original state. The Carter House and its land are open to the public and available for tours.
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10. Rock City Gardens
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One of the most breathtaking places you’ll find yourself in the Rock City Gardens has a magnificent 360-degree view of nearby seven states, the city spread at your feet and an unbelievable variety of plants, many in bloom. It’s just a little over two hours away, a perfect day trip from Nashville that takes you to a magnificent creation of nature made of massive prehistoric rock formations.
Take the Enchanted Trail where you’ll pass by the Fairyland Caverns, waterfalls, beautiful blooms, Mother Goose Village, and even great food at the Big Rock Grill.
11. Kentucky Action Park & Riding Stables
For a fun day at the stables, drive just an hour and twenty minutes from Nashville to the Kentucky Action Park & Riding Stables. This is one of the largest and oldest stables in Kentucky, where you can ride one of their sweet, gentle horses along 500 acres of trails.
If you’re afraid of horses but still fancy some thrill ride, go on the alpine slide that takes you on a chairlift to the top of the mountain, sit on a slide and off you go. There are also zip lines, Go Carts, Bumper Cars, Boats, Green River Canoe, and Outlaw Cave Tours, and so much more.
12. Jack Daniel Distillery
Jack Daniel Distillery was the first registered distillery in the United States and established in 1866 by master distiller Jack Daniels. Located in Lynchburg it is adjacent to the mineral waters of Cave Spring Hollow, which is used in making their whiskey. An interesting Nashville day tour, discover how the popular drink is made as well as its history, and trivia. Make sure you stop by the distillery’s visitor center that has a gift shop and memorabilia related to its history.