10 Best Family Day trips from Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee is bursting with live music and entertainment, family-friendly activities, great food, and outdoor adventures. However, Music City is also a short drive away from surrounding small towns that make great day trips from Nashville and show off an authentic and fun slice of Tennessee. Through their outdoor attractions, restaurants, museums, fun things to do, and yes, music, these Nashville day trips can create wonderful memories for locals or visitors. 

The following list of day trips are located under a two-hour drive from Nashville’s downtown and can easily be visited in a day, but they could also be great weekend getaway destinations if you wanted to stay overnight.

Natchez Trace Parkway just outside of Franklin TN
Scenic fall views of the Natchez Trace Parkway just outside downtown Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy Visit Franklin)

Day Trips from Nashville

Note: Please check all attractions, tours, and museums for reservation requirements, seasonal hours and requests for travelers.

1 – Franklin, TN

Girl in a jean jacket feeding alpacas at Mistletoe Farm in Franklin TN
Visitors interact with the alpacas at Mistletoe Farms just outside Franklin, Tennessee. Photo courtesy Visit Franklin.

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville:  30 minutes

Located in close proximity to Nashville in Middle Tennessee, Franklin is a perfect day trip to escape from the big city. Franklin oozes classic Americana and Southern charm and is rich with civil war history, country music legends, and spaces to play and explore. There are also farms speckled throughout Franklin where you can pick flowers or cuddle with alpacas, among other things.

Favorite things to do in Franklin:

  • Explore the shops and restaurants along Main Street and in the downtown Franklin Square (they also have seasonal festivals here)
  • Picnic, listen to music and parents drink wine at Arrington vineyards
  • Reach for the sky at Soar Adventure Tower
  • Visit Mistletoe Alpaca Farm for an incredible alpaca experience 
  • Hear how the Battle of Franklin occurred at the doors of several historical sites including Carter House, Lotz House and Carnton

2 – Leiper’s Fork, TN

Leiper's Fork Distillery in Franklin TN
Leiper’s Fork Distillery in the village of Leiper’s Fork sits on 20-plus beautiful acres and is where they make bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. Photo Courtesy Visit Franklin.

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville:  40 minutes

Leipers Fork is an unincorporated town (technically part of the city of Franklin) full of artist galleries and boutiques, with a few great family-friendly restaurants sprinkled in the mix.  The original Puckett’s is a must, as well as Leiper’s Fork Distillery for the grown-ups. Leiper’s Fork is also located right off the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is popular for road trips and makes for an especially beautiful scenic drive from Nashville. 

Favorite things to do in Leiper’s Fork:

  • Eat and listen to music at Puckett’s Grocery
  • Parents can do a whiskey tasting at Leiper’s Fork Distillery 
  • Visit Leiper’s Fork Market for some southern charm
  • Pull up a chair at Lawnchair Theater which hosts music and free family-friendly outdoor movies in the summer

3 – Bowling Green, KY

Fountain Square and main street in Bowling Green KY
Fountain Square in Bowling Green, KY

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville: 70 minutes

Bowling Green is about an hour north of Nashville just over the border in Kentucky. This small, quaint southern town has plenty to do and discover during a day trip from Nashville. Plus, Western Kentucky University sits atop a hill over the city and is lovely to explore…or catch a college baseball or basketball game if you time it right.

Favorite things to do in Bowling Green:

  • Walk around downtown Fountain Square Park
  • Check-out the Western Kentucky University Campus and attend a game or event
  • Visit the historic rail park and train museum
  • Tour the lost river cave and play in the natural playground area
  • Enjoy homemade ice cream and kids activities at Chaney’s Dairy Barn and Restaurant

4- Ethridge, TN

Family farm in Ethridge TN (Canva)
Family farm in Ethridge, TN

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ethridge is south of Nashville and home to a vibrant Amish community with lots of ways to learn about and support this unique group. One of the shops, an “Amish Welcome Center,” gives out a map listing 57 Amish homes which operate businesses as well as the products and services they offer (molasses, wood furniture, hand pies, braided rugs, squirrel corn, and so much more). This is always a fun cultural experience for families of all ages.

Favorite things to do in Ethridge:

  • Visit Amish Heritage welcome center and museum
  • Explore Amish Country Mall
  • Take a horse and wagon tour through the Amish farms
  • Grab a map and drive through the farm community stopping to buy goods

5 – Cummins Falls, TN

Cummins Falls waterfall with people swimming (Canva)

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville:  1 hour 25 minutes

Cummins Falls is a waterfall on the Blackburn Fork River and is located in southern Jackson County, Tennessee, East of Nashville. By volume, it is the eighth largest waterfall in Tennessee. A family-friendly hike to the falls where you can cool off in the water and swim under the falls makes an awesome outdoor day trip. After, be sure to stop at the Old Mill General Store for ice cream and snacks. You can sit on the rocking chairs to rest before heading back to Nashville.

Favorite things to do in Cummins Falls:

  • Hike to the falls
  • Hike to the look-out above the falls
  • Visit the Old Mill Camp and General Store

6 – Clarksville, TN

Brick and white building with clock tower in Clarksville TN (Canva)

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville:  60 minutes

Just an hour’s drive from Nashville, this history-filled town has tons of outdoor activities, an increasingly sophisticated restaurant scene, and a newly-revitalized downtown. Located along the Cumberland River, there are plenty of walking trails and picnic benches to enjoy the area as well.

Favorite things to do in Clarksville:

  • Explore the Customs House Museum Downtown
  • Miss Lucille’s Marketplace and cafe
  • Play with your kids (or kids-at-heart) at The City Forum
  • Dunbar Cave & Dunbar Cave State Park
  • Stroll the riverfront

7 – Mammoth Cave, KY

Stairs leading down into Mammoth Cave (Canva)
Mammoth Cave National Park

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville:  1 hour 30 minutes

Mammoth Cave National Park is one of the world’s largest cave systems. While the caves are the centerpiece of the area with a variety of cave tours, ranging from easy to challenging, if you don’t love caving, you can also enjoy yourself above ground. Activities such as hiking and biking backcountry trails, canoeing the Green River, or visiting the Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum are all pretty spectacular. 

Favorite things to do in Mammoth Cave:

  • Take “the historic tour” or “the Frozen Niagara tour” inside the caves
  • Explore Sloan’s Crossing Pond
  • Ride the Green River Ferry or rent a canoe to paddle & grab some food at Green River Cafe
  • Adventure though the Railroad hike and bike trail
  • Discover Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum

8 – Chattanooga, TN

Bridge over river in Chattanooga (Canva)

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville:  2 hours

Chattanooga, Tennessee seamlessly mixes outdoor adventure with laid-back charm. The riverfront, the aquarium, the mountains, the history…Chattanooga ticks off all the boxes for the southern traveler. The two hour drive from Nashville always feels shorter. Plus, once in Chattanooga, everything feels very accessible and mostly walkable depending on the area where you are spending your time.

Favorite things to do in Chattanooga:

  • Explore the Chattanooga Aquarium
  • Play hard at Creative Discovery Museum
  • See Rock City
  • Stroll across the Walnut Pedestrian Bridge
  • Ride the Incline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain or visit Ruby Falls

8 – Sewanee, TN

Historic cemetery in Sewanee TN (Canva)
Historic cemetery in Sewanee

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville:  1 hour 25 minutes

Sewanee is a quaint college town atop Monteagle Mountain full of charm and outdoor appeal. Sewanee has a gorgeous college campus with a roomy 13,000 acres of space to explore. While there, grab lunch on the patio at Shenanigan’s, drive out to the Cross, scamper down the Natural Bridge and hike the Perimeter Trail. 

Favorite things to do in Sewanee:

  • Wander through The Sewanee Village
  • Explore the University Grounds 
  • Cross the natural bridge and hike the perimeter trail
  • Discover South Cumberland State Park

9 – Lynchburg, TN

Jack Daniel's old No. 7 shot glass and splash (Canva)

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville:  1 hour 20 minutes

Arguably one of the best known brands in the world — Jack Daniel’s — is located in this town of just 6,500 residents, many of them distillery employees. And the Distillery tour is full of history and fun for all ages! But in addition to learning about the history of Jack Daniel’s, Lynchburg, Tennessee has some great restaurants and small town spots to explore. Also, this quaint southern town is a gorgeous, leisurely drive on a nice day from downtown Nashville.

Favorite things to do in Lynchburg:

  • Learn some history and taste some whiskey at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery guided tour
  • Break out of the Lynchburg old jail museum
  • Enjoy southern fare at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House restaurant
  • Explore the historic Lynchburg Hardware and General Store

10 – Huntsville, AL

U.S. Space and Rocket Center and traffic at night Huntsville AL (Canva)

Approximate Driving Time from Nashville:  1 hour 50 minutes

Just over the border in North Alabama, Huntsville has everything for the space enthusiast, the art lover or the outdoor adventurer. Most notably, Huntsville is home to Alabama’s top tourist attraction, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. This amazing and giant complex houses one of the world’s largest space museums and collections of rockets and space memorabilia. They also host Space Camp for kids in the summer. But, this dynamic city also has a growing art and food scene and some great craft breweries.

Favorite things to do in Huntsville:

  • Blast off at the US Space and Rocket Center
  • Discover local artists Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment
  • Tiptoe among the tulips at Huntsville Botanical Gardens
  • Try the secret art walk to see amazing public art
  • Sip craft brews and lots of great food option at Campus 805

If you are a music lover coming to town to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame or take in a show at the Grand Ole Opry, plan to add a day or two to your itinerary exploring one of these small towns located within a couple of hours drive from Nashville’s downtown area.

About the Author

This is a guest post written by Sarah Wilson. Sarah is a Nashville-based freelance writer, editor, and marketing / Public Relations consultant & strategist. Sarah writes about kid-friendly Nashville and expanding her family’s worldview through travel, food, books, and engaging in our local and international communities at The Wandering Rumpus. Follow Sarah’s daily adventures on Instagram @TheWanderingRumpus

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10 Nashville family day trips

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Publish Date: May 31, 2021

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