20 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Nashville

Nashville day trips that will make you want to pack your bags and escape!
20 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Nashville

Who doesn't love Nashville? Try thinking about this amazing city without thinking about awesome music and craving hot chicken. Still, sometimes you want to get out of the city and see everything else our great state has to offer.

So, get ready for a winter road trip that refuses to disappoint! These 20 day trips near Nashville will more than satisfy your spontaneous spirit. Find out where your next staycation is meant to be with this list of great Tennessee spots less than three hours from the Athens of the South.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Time from Nashville: 1 hour 21 minutes

Located in south central Kentucky,Mammoth Cave National Park is the world’s longest known cave system with over 400 miles of explored natural territory.

The park gets its name from the sheer size and intricacy of the cave system. Its mammoth caverns are truly unparalleled by any other cave systems in the world.

Plan your day trip to the caves today and take a tour through the elaborate system that provides a warm shelter from the park’s harsh winter conditions. If you’re up for an icy adventure, take to the park’s nearly 84 miles of trail in the backcountry complete with ridgetops, rivers, sinkholes, and springs. You can even go horseback riding at this national park. Giddy up!

Stones River National Battlefield

Time from Nashville: 37 minutes

Just a short drive away from Nashville is Stones River National Battlefield, where the bloodiest battle of the Civil War took place. The Battle of Stones River took place on the last day 1862 and the Union gains made through the fierce fight that happened here forever changed the people residing in the area.

This historic site has been preserved as a tourist destination for over 100 years, allowing visitors to learn about the most critical point in the American Civil War.

The Stones River National Cemetery holds over 6,000 Union soldier graves, 2,562 of which remain unknown. Nearly 1,000 veterans and some of their family members who have served their country in the time since the Civil War are also buried here.

Cumberland Caverns

Time from Nashville: 1 hour 40 minutes

Take a trip to McMinnville, Tennessee to see one of America’s most extensive known cave systems. Cumberland Caverns boasts more than 32 miles of tourable caves at the historic national landmark that has drawn tourists’ attention since 1955.

Explore the many caving adventure packages the caverns offer, including the newest addition: The Glittering Pass. With this fun and challenging tour package, visitors will walk, climb and crawl their way through portions of the cave that are lined with millions of glimmering gypsum crystals shining through the caves like diamonds.

Travel below the “popcorn” ceiling before sliding down the infamous Screaming Banshee to discover an entirely new side of Cumberland Caverns that many have yet to experience.

Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area

Time from Nashville: 1 hour 45 minutes

Boasting an incredible 170,000 acres of explorable land, the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area offers one of the largest blocks of undeveloped forest in the eastern United States.

Located between the Kentucky and Barkley lakes in western Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively, the park is completely free to visitors and includes a front-row seat to some of nature’s lesser-observed happenings.

Watch white-tailed bucks shed their antlers or see the courtship between resident bald eagles and their mates in January. Access to the lake will give you prime real estate for camping, picnicking, fishing, boating, and hiking. Your adventure awaits at the Land Between the Lakes.

Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek

Time from Nashville: 2 hours

Come see the place where President Abraham Lincoln made his earliest memories at his boyhood home in Knob Creek. This iconic spot is where Lincoln’s most impressionable years were spent between the ages of two and eight.

It was here that the former president first witnessed African-Americans being transported along the Bardstown – Green River Turnpike to be sold as slaves—an experience that would deeply impact the boy and set the tone for his later political career.

Park rangers are eager to share the rich history that accompanies this historic site, and a nearby hiking trail provides a beautiful space for further reflection and exploration. Find out why this area left such a huge impression on Honest Abe.

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park

Time from Nashville: 2 hours 30 minutes

Preserving the site of two major battles from the American Civil War is the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. Referred to as the “death knell of the Confederacy,” the Chattanooga Campaign resulted in an enormous victory for Union soldiers hoping to claim the area known as the Gateway to the Deep South.

Tour the park with a ranger to get a more in-depth Civil War history lesson, or go on a self-guided adventure complete with fabulous hiking in the protected landscape surrounding the Chattanooga area. You can also check out the two visitor centers on site for indoor exhibits detailing the region’s storied past.

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Time from Nashville: 2 hours

Home to the second-largest research park in the United States, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama outlines the incredible history of rocket science and how it transformed the area’s culture. It’s in Huntsville that the first rockets were developed to send U.S. satellites into orbit and place the first man on the moon.

Since opening its doors in 1970, the museum has welcomed more than 17 million visitors and boasts over 650,000 annual tourists. Explore interactive exhibits and be an astronaut for the day at this incredibly interesting and entertaining museum. We guarantee you won’t leave without signing yourself up for Space Camp!

Loretta Lynn’s Ranch

Time from Nashville: just over 1 hour

What proper southerner doesn’t adoreCoal Miner’s Daughter? Lucky for Nashville residents, a trip to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch is just over an hour away. The facility is one of the state’s largest tourist attractions, with concerts, weddings, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking and much more.

Adventure-seekers will enjoy tubing in beautiful Hurricane Creek, hiking or fishing on over 100 miles of trails and experiencing the largest amateur motocross race in the country. Loretta fans can take a guided tour of her replica coal mine, replica Butcher Hollar childhood home and her Plantation home featured in the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter.

History buffs will love the landmarks dating from the 1800s, including the famous mill. This nearby staycation destination has something for everyone to enjoy and should be at the top of your list for your next spontaneous day trip.

Rock Island State Park

Time from Nashville: 1 hour 40 minutes

Experience some of the most scenic and significant overlooks on the Eastern Highland Rim at Rock Island State Park. The Caney Fork Gorge is situated below the Great Falls Dam, featuring a 30-foot horseshoe-shaped waterfall located right beneath a 19th-century cotton textile mill, which the falls powered over 100 years ago.

Rock Island State Park is your one-stop destination for outdoor fun and adventure, including hiking, fishing, boating, camping and much more. It’s never a dull moment when you visit this amazing park in the  Volunteer State.

Historic Diamond Caverns

Time from Nashville: 1 hour 20 minutes

Just off the Mammoth Cave Parkway is the Historic Diamond Caverns, featuring Kentucky’s “most beautiful cave.” The historic cave has welcomed visitors and explorers for over 158 years, featuring intricate drapery deposits that are truly amazing to see.

Take in the natural colors of the calcite walls as you tour the cave to see its thousands of stalactite, stalagmite and flowstone deposits. You won’t believe your eyes when you walk through the entrance to this dazzling diamond beauty.

Cedars of Lebanon State Park

Time from Nashville: 40 minutes

This gorgeous park of eastern red cedar wood trees is just over a half an hour from Nashville and provides over 1,000 acres of forest to its visitors. With 117 campsites featuring picnic tables, grills and electric and water hookups, you can camp out in luxury with the whole family. An additional 30 tent-only campsites are also available for those who prefer to rough it the way the early American settlers did.

The park was named for its resemblance to the Biblical cedar forests of Mount Lebanon, according to the colonists who first discovered it. The magical land earned its status as a state park in 1955 and has been welcoming visitors ever since to enjoy all the natural beauty it has to offer.

Rock City Gardens

2 hours 14 minutes

This incredible natural attraction draws the attention of nearly 500,000 people annually from all over the world. Located at the top of Lookout Mountain in Georgia, Rock City Gardens features an array of rock formations, caves, and gardens that are truly spectacular. The 4,100-foot Enchanted Trail is home to gnome-inhabited caves, beautiful flowers, and Fairyland Caverns, a hand-built tribute to all your favorite fairy tales.

Check out Lover’s Leap and Rainbow Hall at this tourist hot spot for an unforgettable view of the seven surrounding states: Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Virginia. You’ll definitely have to find time to make it out to this incredible vantage point.

Obed Wild and Scenic River

Time from Nashville: 2 hours 15 minutes

First discovered in the late 1700s by English settlers, the Obed Wild and Scenic River has remained much the same as it did all those years ago. A popular fishing, canoeing, kayaking and climbing destination, Obed Wild and Scenic River also offers a great venue for whitewater rafting as well as camping facilities.

For a birds-eye view of the river, take a walk across the Nemo Bridge—the first iron structure to span across the river. Now closed to motor traffic, the hikable bridge offers a unique perspective of the surrounding landscape and is a great spot to take in all that the Obed River has to offer.

Heaven Hill Distillery and Bourbon Heritage Center

Time from Nashville: 2 hours 20 minutes

Founded in 1935 by the Shapira family, the Heaven Hill Distillery and Bourbon Heritage Center is a 15-time Best Whiskey winner and produces such well-known brands as Evan Williams, Larceny and Elijah Craig.

Tour the facilities with one of the distillery’s experienced bourbon experts and invigorate your palate with a tasting of some of their most critically acclaimed whiskeys. Be sure to pace yourself and drink responsibly so you’re able to drive home safely after your day of distillery heaven.

Kentucky Action Park & Riding Stables

Time from Nashville: 1 hour 30 minutes

Get ready to have the most fun of your life at the Kentucky Action Park & Riding Stables. This adventure park features horseback riding, mini golf, zip lining, go karts, cave tours, trampolines and so much more. The only thing that will be difficult for you here is deciding what to do next.

You’ll have to wait until the winter weather thaws away to enjoy all the features of this park, but be sure to add it to your list for when the sun starts making a regular appearance. Don’t miss your chance to make 2019 the most fun ever with a trip to Kentucky Action Park.

Jack Daniel Distillery

Time from Nashville: 1 hour 30 minutes

Jack Daniel’s famously delicious whiskey is produced in Lynchville, Tennessee and is just a short while away from Nashville. Take a tour of the distillery and taste the spirits that inspired Chris Stapleton’s hit song. You’ll be singing too after letting your taste buds savor the flavor that’s taken the South by storm for decades.

While you’re in town, be sure to pay a visit to Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House and Restaurant, a reservation-only dining establishment now in its 110th year of operation. Enjoy the same down-home cooking loved by Jack Daniel himself at this tried and true local restaurant. You’ll need a full stomach to combat the effects of Mr. Daniel’s distilled spirits.

Tennessee Aquarium

Time from Nashville: 2 hours

Home to more than 12,000 animals, the Tennessee Aquarium is an awe-inspiring testament to the aquatic world and all its major players. Get up-close and personal with some of nature’s most fascinating sea life, and explore interactive exhibits throughout the building.

Catch a show at the IMAX theater to learn all about Mother Nature’s amazing creatures on the big screen, or attend one of the daily animal programs offered by the aquarium’s expert staff. You’ll love looking at the colorful underwater world and learning about all its incredible wonders!

Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park

Time from Nashville: 1 hour

Dating back nearly 2,000 years, the Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park was built during the Middle Woodland Period and was once used by Native Americans for 500 years before they abandoned the area. By the time English settlers rediscovered it, they mistook the remains for a fort, which was in actuality used as a Native American ceremonial gathering place.

Today, visitors can enjoy a stroll along the park’s main trail that follows the Old Stone Fort’s walls. Catch the sunrise at the original entrance to the fort, which was designed to face the exact spot on the horizon where the sun rises during the summer solstice. You’ll also find elegant waterfalls tucked away throughout the park, so put on some TLC and chase them to your heart’s content.

Fall Creek Falls State Park

Time from Nashville: 2 hours

One of Tennessee’s largest and most-visited state parks,Fall Creek Falls State Park is a vast playground of 26,000 forested acres. The waterfall for which the park is named is one of the largest in the eastern United States, towering at 256 feet. Additional waterfalls throughout the park include Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades.

Camping is more than welcome at this state park, which features 30 cabins and 222 campsites. You can also go backcountry permit off-the-grid with a valid permit. Get a hands-on environmental education at the park’s nature center, where guests can enjoy arts and crafts, games, naturalist-led programs, campfires, and live music. Your trip to Fall Creek Falls State Park will leave nothing to be desired.

Port Royal State Historic Park

Time from Nashville: 45 minutes

Home to one of the earliest trading posts and colonial communities, Port Royal State Historic Park was first settled in the early 1780s and was a Longhunter camp as early as 1775. Situated in a prime area for navigation of the Red River, surrounding Port Royal quickly rose to prominence serving all of northern middle Tennessee and south-central Kentucky.

The park features many historic sites, including the certified Trail of Tears site, an early Pratt Truss design steel bridge built in 1887, and the remains of the foundations of stores, home and warehouses dating back to the 18th century. See the world through the eyes of America’s earliest settlers at this awe-inspiring, historic location.