While most people choose to vacation and take road trips during the summer and warmer months, we want to bring you some ideas to beat the boredom of wintertime. After the holidays, things seem to get a tad dreary in the months of January and February, and we want to help you beat those winter blues. Here is a list of destinations within a day’s drive from Nashville that make a great weekend getaway.
The Great Smoky Mountains
Visiting the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee is always a jam packed trip. There are things to do for everyone in the family, all year round. In the wintertime, be sure and check out Ober Gatlinburg for a snow-packed adventurous time including skiing, tubing, ice skating and more. Anakeesta is another stop to add to your list, as their Enchanted Winter festival runs through February 13. And in Pigeon Forge, you can ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel and visit the Titanic Museum. There is never a shortage of indoor activities if the weather is too chilly for outdoors, as the area has numerous indoor museums and tours available.
Chattanooga is one of my favorite destinations because it is a quick drive. The Creative Discovery Museum is a great place to visit, especially with younger children, and they have a winter playland going on currently. You can stop by the Chattanooga Choo Choo for Ice on the Landing for some ice skating family fun. If you are looking for more indoor fun, the kids will love the Tennessee Aquarium. You can spend hours exploring and checking out all the different animals. Rock City, Ruby Falls and the Chattanooga Zoo are always great attractions, weather permitting. Check out the Chattanooga Moms website for even more ideas such as 75+ Family Fun Things to Do in Chattanooga and 40+ Things to Do in Downtown Chattanooga.
We all know Knoxville as the home of our beloved Vols, but there is so much more to explore here. While I always recommend riding through the hills and campus of Rocky Top, there are some other great options for you to check out! Muse Knoxville is a wonderful children’s museum, with a low admission cost and many different exhibits, guaranteed to entertain your children. Market Square is a must-see, if weather permits, as it contains many shops and restaurants and a great place to explore. There are also several hotels, making it a great central place to stay. Take a walk to the Sunsphere and you can ride up to the observation deck for an outstanding view of the city. The Sunsphere was built for the 1982 World’s Fair and a great piece of history for the city. Hop on a free trolley and tour the city! And stop by Ham ‘N Goodys for a delicious cookie, or Cruze Farm for a scoop of ice cream. Check out the local Knoxville Moms website for even more ideas such as 25+ Things to Do in Downtown Knoxville and 75+ Fun Family Knoxville Activities.
Memphis is full of history and things to do for the entire family. Visit the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. Not only can you shop, you can stay at the Big Cypress Lodge, ride to the top of the Pyramid and see the city, and bowl! It is an adventure all in one place! I highly suggest visiting the Civil Rights Museum, which is full of important history, and a great place to learn and teach important moments. The kids will also love seeing the Peabody Ducks. The ducks march out daily at 11A and 5P, keeping. 90-year tradition going. You can also stay in the hotel and enjoy an entire VIP duck experience. If weather is permitting, the Memphis Zoo is always a great attraction. Don’t forget to experience some great Memphis BBQ while in town!
Head down south to the state of Alabama, and visit the “Rocket City” aka Huntsville. A must see if the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. There are so many exhibits, movies, simulators and experiences to be had here. And it is a great educational experience, so you learn while you are having fun! There is a year-round ice skating center, the Huntsville Ice Sports Center, that will provide some indoor skating fun! Huntsville also has a hockey team, the Huntsville Havoc, that you can catch hit the ice. Depending on when you are in town, they have fun theme nights for each game. For more indoor fun, check out EarlyWorks Children’s Museum– an interactive children’s museum conveniently located in the heart of downtown Huntsville. It is a great place for younger kids to learn and burn some energy.
I had the pleasure of visiting Helen over the summer, and it is a real treat! When you arrive, you feel as if you have been transported to Germany! The beautiful buildings and architecture, the shops and taverns; there is so much to explore! You can stay in a cabin, or there are hotels nearby. There is plenty of winter hiking and trails to explore, and beautiful waterfalls. You can also ride the Georgia Mountain Coaster all year long. If you visit during the month of February (4th), experience Faschingsverein (a sidewalk parade and tubing, followed by a Fasching party in the evening to celebrate a German Mardi Gras). It is worth the drive over to Cleveland to visit Babyland General Hospital, the home of the Cabbage Patch kids! Admission is free and you can watch new dolls being born and buy your own Cabbage Patch.
Tupelo is the birthplace of the great Elvis, and you can visit! Visit the birthplace, chapel, park and museum. It is a great collection of his life. Check out the Tupelo Buffalo Park! They are home to over 260 animals. You can take a guided tour where you may come face to face with buffalo, zebra, yak, and many other animals! Shopping in downtown is recommended! There are cute boutiques and specialty stores – be sure and check out Tupelo Hardware (where Elvis’s mom bought his first guitar) and Reed’s Department Store, which has been operating since 1905!
Grand Rivers/Paducah, Kentucky
Grand Rivers is located on Western Kentucky, near Land Between the Lakes. Patti’s 1880 Settlement is a great place for family fun. They offer lodging, a great dining experience at their restaurant and through January 29th, they have their Festival of Lights. You can also check out Paducah, which is only about 30 minutes away, and offers great dining and fun as well. I suggest checking out the riverfront and the River Discovery Center. The center offers water-filled exhibits, and simulators to give you the experience of piloting a towboat and more!
Bristol rides the state lines of Tennessee and Virginia, and is a cool place to visit. It is steeped with history and nature, and a great place for a family. Bristol is considered the birthplace of country music and any Nashvillian can appreciate that! Visit the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, which celebrates the historic 1927 Bristol Sessions (which recorded some of the earliest country music in America). Be sure and visit Bristol Caverns, which is one of the oldest and most beautiful attractions in northeast Tennessee. Bristol is also home to the Bristol Motor Speedway, and through mid-January they host an ice rink that you can enjoy. Be sure to get your picture on the state lines of Virginia/Tennessee so you can show you were in 2 states at once!
Union City/Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee
Over in the corner of Northwest Tennessee, sits the area known as Reelfoot Lake. This is a very cool history lesson and area to visit, as the entire lake was formed by an earthquake that caused the Mississippi River to roll backwards. During January and February, Reelfoot Lake is home to thousands of American bald eagles. Experienced park naturalists lead daily bald eagle and waterfowl tours and the annual Reelfoot Eagle Festival in February is a bird watching destination. Be sure and stop by the visitor’s center to pick up a map, learn about the park, or find a souvenir. And be sure and eat some catfish before you leave!
About 30 minutes from the lake, is Union City and the popular Discovery Center of America. It is a great place to take the kids! It is a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot museum sitting on a beautifully landscaped heritage park. You can spend all day exploring!
This area has some great museums and areas to explore for the entire family. The Cincinnati Fire Museum highlights the significant contributions that Cincinnati has made to the firefighting profession. Cincinnati is the birthplace of professional firefighting and we are proud to display its history. Kids may also climb a real-life fire engine complete with sirens and lights. The Children’s Museum is a great museum, ranked in the top 10 of the US, with educational themed play zones and exhibits. This museum offers tons of interactive, hands-on fun for the little ones. The Newport Aquarium is an aquarium located in Newport, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati. It has 70 exhibits and 14 galleries, including five seamless acrylic tunnels totaling over 200 feet in length. Encounter thrilling adventures like the first-in-the-world Shark Bridge, where you can cross inches above a tank full of sharks on a rope bridge! Locals will also tell you to try their famous chili before leaving town.