When most people think of Nashville, they think of country music and the Grand Ole Opry. Dubbed Music City, there's no denying that Nashville's history and charm are heavily rooted in music. However, there is much more to this vibrant city than just country music. Nestled in the heart of middle Tennessee, Nashville is a great place to explore the outdoors, try delicious southern food, and visit historic sites.
Once you've exhausted all that the Nashville city limits have to offer, and that will take a while, consider adding a few exciting day trips from Nashville to your itinerary. Explore the scenic state parks, venture into caves, delve into Civil War history, and find even more music-themed attractions to visit.
Before you embark on any of these Nashville day trips, make sure you have a place to store your belongings. Visit a Bounce luggage locker and let us take care of the bags while you worry about having fun. And, if your day trip plans get thwarted by rain, you can always visit one of the best museums in Nashville, like the Country Music Hall of Fame. No matter what you like to do, the city's attractions and the best day trip options will keep you busy for ages.
How to get out of Nashville
When it comes to how to get around Nashville itself, the options are plentiful. From taxis and rideshares to buses to trains, there is lots of public transportation at your disposal. The WeGo Star train, also known as the Music City Star, connects downtown Nashville out to Lebanon and is close to the Lebanon State Park, but otherwise, getting out of Nashville definitely involves a long bus ride or a rental car.
If you don't want to bother driving or renting a car, trips will take quite a bit longer, and some won't be possible. Nashville day trips from the central Greyhound bus station will take some planning. The best way to explore around Tennessee is definitely by car.
Luckily, Nashville has a total of six interstates that meet within the city limits making getting in and out of the city a breeze. Just try to avoid prime commuting hours, or you'll end up stuck in traffic. It won't be too difficult to park at the day trip locations on this list as most are parks and smaller towns.
From Nashville to Rock Island State Park
Rock Island State Park is located at the confluence of the Collins, Caney Fork, and Rocky Rivers in Rock Island, Tennessee. The park is home to a variety of plant and animal life, as well as several historical and cultural sites. Visitors can enjoy walking the hiking trails, camping, fishing, picnicking, and swimming. Rock Island State Park also offers a variety of educational programs and events throughout the year run by park rangers.
A highlight here is Center Hill Lake and the scenic rivers and waterfalls that surround it. For a dose of history in this state park, check out the Great Falls. The impressive waterfalls are 30 feet high and were once used to power a textile mill back in the 19th century.
How to get to Rock Island State Park
As you might guess, the best way to get here is by car. The journey east of Nashville will take about an hour and a half.
From Nashville to Mammoth Cave National Park
Located in south-central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park has to be on any list of the best day trips from Nashville. It has a complex labyrinth of more than 400 caves. Mammoth Cave developed from limestone deposits that formed during the Mississippian-aged cave system and is the longest known cave system in the world. This area is also home to several species of endangered bats, as well as multiple sinkholes and springs. Above ground, visitors can enjoy hiking through the backcountry or exploring one of the numerous trails that wind through the park.
Don't miss out on one of the guided cave tours here, either. They fill up fast, so book in advance if you can.
Also within the Mammoth Cave National Park are the historic Diamond Caverns. Deep beneath the Tennessee hills lies this hidden treasure just waiting to be discovered. This natural wonder is one of the oldest caves in the country, and it’s home to some of the most stunning rock formations you’ll ever see. But the real gems of Diamond Caverns are the sparkling crystals that line its walls and ceiling. These “diamonds” are actually calcite deposits that have been slowly growing over time. And while they may not be worth a fortune, they’re definitely a sight to behold.
How to get to Mammoth Cave National Park
No public transit is available to get here, so you'll definitely need a car for this one. You won't have to spend too much on gas, though; the drive will take you north of Nashville for a little over an hour into southern Kentucky.
From Nashville to Stones River National Battlefield
Stones River National Battlefield commemorates the Battle of Stones River, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The battlefield, located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is a unit of the National Park System and preserves over 5,000 acres of land.
The battle was fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863, and resulted in a Union victory. Over 23,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle, which was one of the deadliest of the war. This can be a harrowing Nashville day trip, especially if you choose to visit the Stones River National Cemetery. The battlefield offers visitors a chance to learn about the history of the battle and see some of the key sites where it was fought.
How to get to Stones River National Battlefield
This location is about 30 minutes by car southeast of Nashville. It's also possible to take the bus, but it will take you about an hour and a half and involves a transfer.
From Nashville to Chattanooga, Tennessee
There's so much to do in nearby Chattanooga that you might want to change this day trip into one of your weekend trips from Nashville. The city is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and is home to many outdoor activities. Chattanooga is also home to many historical sites, museums, and art galleries.
Your first top should be at Lookout Mountain. It's just outside of Chattanooga and offers several hiking trails, a scenic railway, and amazing city views. While you're here, don't miss out on exploring Rock City Gardens as well. Rock City is a park located on Lookout Mountain that's home to many rock formations, caves, and beautiful gardens.
Chattanooga is a great destination for anyone with kids as well. Head to the Chattanooga Zoo, which has over 500 animals from all over the world. The zoo also offers educational programs, tours, and events. You can also visit the Tennessee Aquarium for an up-close experience with marine life. It is home to over 12,000 animals.
If your legs and feet are tired, you can always just take a scenic drive around the area. Chattanooga is surrounded by beautiful mountains and valleys with impressive views around every corner.
How to get to Chattanooga
Chattanooga is about two hours south of Nashville by car. If you need public transportation, Greyhound runs a route between the two cities that takes a little over three hours each way.
From Nashville to Old Stone Fort State Archeological Park
This state park is located along the Duck River in Manchester, Tennessee. The Old Stone Fort is a prehistoric Native American site that was used as a ceremonial and social gathering place for the people of the Mississippian culture during the middle woodland period.
The old stone fort's walls are definitely impressive, and the park also features a museum with exhibits on the archeology and history of the Old Stone Fort and the Mississippian culture. The park is open year-round and offers camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, and canoeing opportunities.
How to get to Old Stone Fort State Park
This is another state park that is best reached by car. It's only about an hour south of Nashville along I-24.
From Nashville to Memphis, Tennessee
Now this one is a bit of a stretch from Nashville but must be mentioned as one of the best weekend trips from Nashville. Known for amazing music, informative museums, and the king himself, Elvis, the trip from Nashville is definitely worthwhile.
There are a few key things to do on your day or weekend trip to Memphis. Start out by taking in some live music on vibrant Beale Street. Then head to the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. The museum tells the story of the American Civil Rights Movement through interactive exhibits, educational programs, and public events.
A trip to Memphis is never complete without a visit to Graceland, the former home of American singer and actor Elvis Presley. After Presley's death in 1977, Graceland became a museum, and now it is the second most-visited house in the United States after the White House.
How to get to Memphis
Three hours by car along the I-40 will get you right into Memphis. Greyhound also covers this route, and the trip, which involves two stops, lasts about four hours.
From Nashville to Franklin, Tennessee
Just a short drive from Nashville is the scenic town of Franklin. This charming town is home to historic buildings, quaint shops, and restaurants. Visitors can also take advantage of the many outdoor activities available in Franklin, such as hiking, biking, and kayaking, making this a definite on any list of the best day trips from Nashville.
One of the key things to do in Franklin is a visit to The Carter House. It's a historic house museum that was once the area of a bloody Civil War battle. The house was built in 1828 by Amos Carter, a prosperous farm owner, and slaveholder. During the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, the Carter House served as a field hospital for Confederate soldiers. More than 1,000 men were treated for their injuries at the house, and many of them died there. Today, the house is open to the public for tours and educational programs.
The Lotz House is another similar house museum that was involved in the same battle, so history lovers and Civil War buffs won't want to miss this one either.
How to get to Franklin
Franklin is just half an hour south of Nashville by car, and there are no public transportation options to get you here, so a car is a must.
From Nashville to Centerville
Centerville is a small town with big claims to fame in the music and entertainment industry. It's the birthplace of comedian Minnie Pearl who appeared regularly on the Grand Ole Opry and was in the iconic television show Hee Haw. Johnny Cash also had a country retreat here. Time your visit on a Saturday morning, and you can shop the local farmer's market for produce and handmade souvenirs.
This charming tiny town offers a glimpse into the simple life common in many of the small towns in the south and is perfect to rest and recharge. Besides, if it was good enough for Johnny Cash, it's good enough for us!
How to get to Centerville
Centerville is only about an hour (60 miles) from Nashville by car.
From Nashville to Lynchburg, Tennessee
Lynchburg is a small town located in the southern part of the state, about 1.5 hours south of Nashville. The town is known for its production of Jack Daniel's whiskey, and for history buffs, Lynchburg is home to a number of historical sites and museums. The Jack Daniel's Distillery is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. Visitors can take a tour of the distillery and learn about the process of making whiskey. The Lynchburg Museum is another popular destination. The museum features exhibits on the history of the town and the American Civil War.
For those interested in the outdoors, Lynchburg is home to a number of parks and hiking trails. Tims Ford State Park is located just outside of town and offers a variety of activities such as hiking, fishing, and swimming. Lynx Hollow State Natural Area is another popular spot for those looking to enjoy the great outdoors. The park features a number of hiking trails as well as a lake for swimming.
How to get to Lynchburg
Get in the car and drive about 75 miles south.
The day trip possibilities from Nashville are almost endless, with tons of sprawling state parks, quaint small towns, and many historic landmarks, especially related to the Civil War. Once you've done Nashville, get out and explore everything there is do in the vicinity. You definitely won't regret it!