Family To Solo Summer Road Trips From Nashville (Under 3 Hours)

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Tomiko Harvey

A day trip from Nashville can offer an array of history, food, music, and fun. These cities and towns are just an easy drive from Nashville (between a half-hour and three hours) and are full of natural, historical, and culinary wonders that are ripe for a quick solo or family adventure. 

Whether you find yourself exploring a drive-through zoo or finding hidden treasures at the unclaimed baggage service center which is where all of the lost luggage goes from the airports across the country. Here are seven of my favorite day-trip destinations.

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Photo credit: Danielle

1. Cummins Waterfall

Location: Cookeville, Tennessee

Drive time from Nashville: 1 hour, 45 minutes

What to do: Located in Jackson County, Cummins Falls is one of Tennessee’s most popular waterfalls. The hiking is perfect if you’re ready for a bit of a challenge, so make sure you’re wearing shoes that can get wet and dirty. 

Most of the hike is wading through water, which only makes the reward of getting there even better! Seeing the water splash over the rocky ledges will make you want to dive right in the swimming hole as soon as you get there. Take a dip or lounge on the rocks as you take in the greenery and streaming water surrounding you.

 

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Photo credit: Seth Haynes

2. Go white water kayaking at Rock Island State Park

Location: Rock Island, Tennessee

Drive time from Nashville: 1 hour, 34 minutes

What to do: If nature is your thing we suggest exploring Rock Island State Park’s 883 acres.  You’ll enjoy a day full of nature excursions no matter if you are looking to relax and unwind from social media or you are truly an adrenaline junkie looking to get your heart pumping. 

The park offers a 30-foot horseshoe waterfall that once powered the 19th-century cotton textile mill located above it. You can either hike past the waterfall, hike one of nine trails located below the dam or if you are truly the adrenaline junkie you proclaim to be, try your hand at kayaking where you can tackle the water and paddle your way downstream.

cave-city-kentucky

Photo credit: Kim Dinan

3. Underground National Park in Cave City, Kentucky

Location: Cave City, Kentucky

Drive time from Nashville: 1 hour, 21 minutes

What to do: Cave City is a unique and family friendly tourist destination that it offers visitors two areas to explore the cave. The first area you will find shops, restaurants, museums, and other attractions.  The second area which is below the surface is surrounded by hundreds of miles of shallow caves that cross the Kentucky landscape. Your family will have the opportunity to view rock formations, underground rivers, and caverns that are thousands of years old. 

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4. Tour Beale Street in Memphis

Location: Memphis, Tennessee

Drive time from Nashville: 3 hours

What to do: The drive from Nashville to Memphis is the quintessential l day trip, if you are a music and food lover – there is no other destination like Memphis.  One of our favorite things about Beale Street is simply enjoying the scenery by people watching and walking up and down the strip.  There are over two dozen bars, nightclubs, restaurants and the famous bbq on Beale Street –  there are both family friendly and adult only options. 

Before you leave Beale Street you must try Memphis’ signature drink, the Walk Me Down – a frozen blue cocktail with seven different liquors which is known to “walk you down”. Last but not least watch the Beale Street Flippers turn the cobblestone street into a runway for aerial somersaults as onlookers line the sidewalks 

5. Navigate the Lost Sea in Sweetwater

Location: Cave City, Kentucky

Drive time from Nashville: 1 hour, 21 minutes

What to do: Designated a registered natural landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior and listed as ‘America’s largest underground lake’ by Guinness World Book of Records, the Lost Sea is a massive body of water located in a historic cave system known as the Craighead Caverns. 

The true size of this body of water is unknown, but you can glide across its four-acre surface and catch a glimpse of the crystal formations and colossal rainbow trout that inhabit the caverns.   There is a tiny natural opening on the side of the mountain and the cave expands into a series of huge rooms which allow you to explore each room where you will find a range of Indian artifacts including pottery, arrowheads, weapons, and jewelry. 

6. Unclaimed Baggage

Location: Scottsboro, Alabama

Drive time from Nashville: 2 hour, 10 minutes

What to do: If you’ve lost your luggage while traveling chances are it’s on sale and by sale I mean dirt cheap at the Unclaimed Baggage store in Scottsboro, AL.  Unclaimed Baggage is the only store in America that sells the contents of every traveler that has lost their luggage while vacationing, business trip or general travel. 

If you lost your computer, Ipad, Apple watch,  luggage with your brand new vacation clothes that you just purchased for your vacation – guess where all of your items end up? I was able to find a cute Tory Burch Bag and Flats.  I also purchased my daughter a brand new Mac computer and Apple watch for almost 60% off retail price. 

The highest-priced items in its “Unusual Finds” section include an 18-karat diamond ring selling for $5,985.99 and a Chanel tweed jacket and skirt set for $1,200.99. The store also has a jewelry section that rivals New York’s Diamond District with pages filled with high-end pieces, the highest-priced of which is a 7-inch diamond tennis bracelet selling for $8,720.99, with an appraisal included. 

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7. Harmony Safari Park

Location: Huntsville, Alabama

Drive time from Nashville: 2 hours, 17 minutes

What to do: Harmony Park Safari is the ultimate family road trip – the park is located south of Huntsville, Alabama. Your family will be able to view exotic & endangered animals as you drive through Harmony Safari Park and if you are lucky an Emu or Buffalo might just stick their heads in your window. 

Visitors can enjoy a two-mile drive through a federally licensed nature preserve in the safety of their own car. Get up close and personal with zebra, llamas, Bison, bulls, deer, giraffe, pigs, buffalo, ostriches, turtles, baboons- View the reptile house: spiders, iguana, snakes, and alligators! Harmony Park Safari is a great family experience and must see adventure just a few hours from Nashville!

This excursion is $7 a person and for an additional fee you can purchase a bucket of food to give the animals. 

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2 Comments

  • You didn’t mention the Black historical sites in Memphis, with the Stax museum and eating a great soul food lunch or dinner at the Four-way restaurant. Also the Civil rights museum as well as the blues museum. Great learning in Black American history. Also fun!!

    • Yes, that sounds amazing! We need to definitely get on this guide right away and you are giving us a great start.

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