Tennessee has so much to offer it is hard to narrow your trip down! But we have picked our favorite stops to help you plan your Tennessee Road Trip!
Table of Contents
- Stop 1 on your Tennessee Road Trip: Nashville
- Day 2 in Nashville
- Stop 2: Chattanooga
- Day 4 Chattanooga
- Stop 3: Gatlinburg
- Day 6 Gatlinburg – Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Cades Cove
- Day 7 Pigeon Forge
Stop 1 on your Tennessee Road Trip: Nashville
To be honest we almost didn’t do Nashville. We were thinking it wasn’t really a family travel destination. But we were wrong! Nashville had a lot to offer for visiting families!
You can get tickets to see a concert at the Grand Ole Opry. This is such a Nashville thing to do that it should be on your list. You can also get tickets to do a behind the scenes tour. Even with kids it was worth it to do to learn more about the history of the Grand Ole Opry.
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
This HUMONGOUS place is awesome for taking the kids and letting them explore or finding one of the big open areas where they can just run. They also offer a boat ride through the river in the building. And there are lots of shops and restaurants throughout.
The nice thing is it is free, so you can come and stay as long as you want and if you are disciplined you can leave without buying anything. But then again, where’s the fun in that!
When you are in Nashville stop at one of the shops and buy everyone a cheap Cowboy hat! Now you are ready to go. It is fun walking down the street in Nashville and listening to all the music coming out of the bars, people watching, and feeling the Nashville vibe. It is called Music City after all!
Wild Horse Saloon
If they aren’t having an event make a stop at Wild Horse Saloon where you and the kids can hit the dance floor and boogey down to some good ole Country music. They also have a great menu if you want to eat and hang out for some drinks.
You will want to start your day off with breakfast at the Pfunky Griddle.
It is an awesome restaurant where they give you pancake batter and the fixings and you cook your own pancakes right at the table. If your kids are like ours, they LOVE to do things by themselves so they really enjoyed having breakfast here.
I will warn you it is a small building with limited seating but it is worth it!
If you are looking for more concerts be sure to check out the Ryman Auditorium schedule.
Day 2 in Nashville
Belle Meade Planation
When we were in Nashville I wanted to be sure to see a planation and show the kids how people use to live in the South. Belle Meade was actually a horse planation, but it was still very cool to see. We did the planation tour and I will say it was a bit of a struggle with the younger kids.
What they really enjoyed about the visit was being able to walk around the grounds and check out all the old buildings. What we really enjoyed was the FREE wine sampling at the end of the tour.
Nashville Adventure Science Center
The Science Center was perfect for the kids with lots of hands on activities for them to do. This was great after being at the planation where they couldn’t touch much! If you want a day to let your kids have fun and just play, this is a perfect stop for you and your family. It was also on the reciprocal musuem list when we were there so if you have a membership be sure to check that out.
For outdoor fun on your Nashville Family Road Trip, check out Cumberland Park. You can walk over the bridge from Downtown to get there or you can drive over. Either way it is a great way for the kids to burn some energy before heading into Nashville to go out to eat.
Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery
Yes it is a chain restaurant, so not totally authentic Nashville – if you are looking for that I would walk the streets of Nashville and pick the place that has the best music. If you are looking for a simple and good family friendly place then the Rock Bottom Brewery is perfect.
For more detailed information about visiting Nashville check out our post here.
RV Park: When we were in Nashville we stayed at the Nashville Jellystone. We were there in the off season so we got a Passport America rate and there wasn’t really much going on at the campground. After staying at a Jellystone in Caledonia, WI for 5 months this one definitely did not compare with campground amenities. We were happy with it because of how close it was to Nashville and would recommend it for that reason.
And if you have a chance to take a romantic trip without kids there is a lot that Nashville has to offer for adults!
Stop 2: Chattanooga
We really did not know what to expect when we visited Chattanooga but we really liked it! It has the feel of an up and coming city and just an overall great vibe. Chattanooga is located right outside of the Cumberland Plateau – the southern part of the Appalachians that spread across east Tennessee.
There really are a lot of great things to do in Chattanooga for families!
Julie Darling Donuts
When you are in Chattanooga you HAVE to go to Julie Darling Donuts. No seriously, I will be mad at you if you don’t! We like to check out local donut places when we visit a new city and these are at the top of my list. They are YUMMY!!
This was an awesome ride straight up the side of a mountain to get to the top of Lookout Mountain. When you are there you can get out and walk a few blocks down to the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park. They have a great visitor center and there are amazing views from within the park.
Time to check out an awesome waterfall that is in an underground cave. If you have never been in a cave now is the time. When you get there you take an elevator down underground – yup I know sounds a little creepy (and it is), but is also really cool.
A guide then takes you on a tour through the cave to show you the waterfall. It is a half mile walk to get there and a half mile walk back. So depending on the age of your kids you may not want to do this. Our youngest was 2 at the time and he didn’t really like it.
After the 1/2 mile hike you get to see this amazing waterfall that seems to come from nowhere. It definitely made the hike worth while.
Take note as you leave here and most of the other attractions you will exit through a gift shop . . . which is all fun and good, but by the time you hit your third one you may not want to spend any more money. So giving you a heads up!
Chattanooga River Walk
Walk along the Tennessee River at the Chattanooga River Walk. There are over 16 miles of trails here that you can walk on. You can also get out on the river to paddle board.
Day 4 Chattanooga
Rock city is part of a 3 attraction pass you can buy with the Incline Railway and Ruby Falls. At first I was hesitant if it would be worth it. But I am so glad we went. There were amazing views and the fairyland caverns were really cool. Plus we all loved the trails and suspension bridge!
*Look out for the gift shop on the way out*
High Point Climbing and Fitness Kid Zone
As we were driving through downtown we saw this awesome rock climbing place where people were climbing rock walls on the outside of the building, plus there looked like there was a specific kids area. We stopped in to check it out and it was AWESOME! The kids area was perfect for our kids (7, 5, 5, 3). And they even tried the outside wall.
Learn more here.
When you are done climbing head right across the street to Mellow Mushroom. This is a great family pizza place that you can find all over the US. We know we are at the right place when they take us to a table in a room around the corner and in the back and then we realize they just keep bringing more families back. PERFECT we were placed in the family eating room. Love it!
RV Park: We stayed at Racoon Mountain RV Park and Campground They actually have a cave tour you can take right at he campground. Unfortunately we didn’t do it. The campground was nice and was close to all of the attractions that we did.
For more detailed information about visiting Chattanooga check out our post here.
Stop 3: Gatlinburg
Another great thing to do in Tennessee is Gatlinburg! You could really spend a week or 2 in Gatlinburg exploring the city and especially the Smoky Mountains.
It was on the smaller side, but it was a nice aquarium and there were a few unique things you could do. Like walk in the shark tunnel and stand up in the middle of a fish tank.
Ripley’s 5D Movie Theatre
A moving movie theatre where you also get sprayed with water and wind blown in your face. It was pretty cool and at first the kids weren’t to sure but by the end they liked it.
Walk the Streets
Walk the streets of Gatlinburg and stop in for a FREE Moonshine sampling or wine sampling. They don’t mind if you bring kids in.
Ober Gatlinburg Tram
You take a tram from the middle of the streets of Gatliburg 2 miles up to a ski resort. It was a fun ride and kids 5 and under were free. Then at the top they had a ski lift you could ride (our kids were to young) to get even higher. And they also had an indoor ice skating rink, BUT you need socks and you need to have one adult per kid under a certain age (we have to many kids for the 1 to 1 ratio). So if you are interested in that I would do a little more research to find out all the details.
The resort was cool, but the tram right up and down was the best part.
Smoky Mountain Brewery
Have dinner at the Smokey Mountain Brewery you can have one of their local brews and get dinner for a really reasonable price.
Day 6 Gatlinburg – Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Sugarlands Visitor Center and Trail
There was a huge visitor center for you to look around and learn all about the Smokys. There was also a ranger there with some different fur and bones for the kids to touch. This trail was perfect. It was all well marked and it was busy. If you are taking little kids out for the first time hiking in the Smoky Mountains this is the way to do it.
There was a fallen log over a stream that the kids had a ball walking/crawling across and at the end of the trail there was a waterfall that they could climb up by.
AMAZING! If you do one thing in the Smoky Mountains, this is the thing to do. The drive up was a little scary, but also beautiful and then when you get to the parking lot you have a half mile hike on a really steep incline to get to the top. The whole trail is paved so that isn’t a problem but the incline was hard!
When you get to the top you can climb up to the lookout tower. For an amazing view of the Smokys all around you. It really is worth the hike to the top. And the hike back down is always interesting!
It was WAY colder when we hiked up the trail so be sure to bring a winter jacket, hats, and gloves even if it seems warm down in Gatlinburg.
Take a drive through Cades Cove and stop to do a hike or to explore the many stops on the road. We enjoyed stopping and seeing the farmsteads and learning more about the people that had settled here.
The drive is slow and the kids ended up sitting in our truck bed for part of the drive. Be ready for that! We didn’t see any animals but it is a place that can be busy with bears.
Day 7 Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge is close by Gatlinburg, so it is worth taking the beautiful drive to go over to check it out. There are also multiple lookouts you can stop at to see beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains.
Once we got to Pigeon Forge, we got some ice cream, visited a pottery store where we could watch the guy make pottery, and then ran around a huge field. I know there was more to do there but we had fun doing the simple things and really enjoyed the ride to and from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg.
For more detailed information about visiting Gatlinburg check out our post here.
There you have it your week long family trip through Tennessee. Tennessee is a beautiful state and is well worth it to take a Tennessee Family Road Trip!
If you want to add more stops check out:
Burgess Fall State Park – a top recreational area in Tennessee.
Cumberland Gap – National Historic Park.
Memphis, TN where you can learn about Martin Luther King Jr and the Lorraine Motel he was shot at and Visit the National Civil Rights Museum. Visit Beale Street – home of the blues. There are a lot of Things to do in Memphis. If you have time you should add it to your road trip.
You will also find a lot of great small towns through Tennessee. If you want to check any of them out on your trip!
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