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The beautiful Southern city of Nashville is a travel gem within itself. But, if you live there full time and are looking for a change in scenery with a quick getaway, there are lots of great destinations you can visit in just one day. From outdoor recreation and natural beauty to historical sites and cultural attractions, there’s something to explore for every taste and budget.
If you enjoy natural wonders, you’ll definitely want to check out the Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, just about an hour away from Nashville. This massive network of caves is the largest cave system in the world, stretching over a whopping 405 miles, with more yet to be explored. During your visit, you can choose from a variety of different cave tours that range in both length and difficulty. There are also trails in the park for hiking, biking and horseback riding, as well as opportunities for fishing, kayaking and canoeing on the nearby river.
For a day trip with the kids, visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL, about a two-hour drive from Nashville. The Center is the largest space museum in the world and gives tribute to the fact that Huntsville is “Rocket City” – where rockets were first developed that were able to send men to the moon. Besides permanent exhibitions on the first American satellite, the International Space Station and next-generation vehicles, there are also traveling exhibits on a variety of topics from art to dinosaurs. You can also catch an IMAX film and check out the U.S. Space Camp Training Center while you’re there.
Another great option for a family-friendly day trip is the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, about a two-hour drive from Nashville. With so much to see here, you’ll want to spend all day. There’s an Appalachian Forest filled with birds, otters and frogs, an Alligator Bayou with 13 American alligators, and the River Giants exhibit where you can check out a catfish that’s the size of a Volkswagen! Plus, many more live animal exhibits and an IMAX 3-D theater where you can learn about sharks and panda bears or go rock climbing, all on a giant 3-D screen!
Or for a day trip that’s fun just for the adults, take a couple hours’ drive over to the Kentucky Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown and visit Heaven Hills Distilleries, the largest family-owned, independent producer of bourbon in the country. You can choose from two different tours, one that focuses on the history of bourbon and the distillery or one that focuses more on the characteristics of their premium whiskeys. Either way, you’ll get to sample some of their nationally acclaimed whiskeys!
Speaking of distilleries, the home of the world’s most famous brand of whiskey, Jack Daniels, is also just a short drive from Nashville. Located in Lynchburg, the Jack Daniels Distillery offers a variety of different tours to the public that include a behind the scenes look at how the whiskey is made, whiskey tasting and even a down-home meal at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant. You can also pick up a Jack Daniels souvenir to take home with you at the iconic Lynchburg Hardware General Store.
Just about an hour and a half from Nashville is Rock Island State Park, a massive 883-acre that is situated at the intersection of the Caney Fork, Rocky and Collins Rivers. This beautiful park features natural beaches for sunbathing and swimming, trails for hiking and biking, and picnic and camping areas, as well as boat launch ramps and a multitude of great fishing spots. Some scenic spots you’ll definitely want to check out during your visit include Great Falls, a 30-foot cascading waterfall, and the Caney Fork Gorge, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery.
If you don’t have a whole lot of time to spare, there’s also the city of Franklin, another great place to visit, that’s only a half hours’ drive from Nashville. Located just south of Music City, Franklin is loaded with Southern small-town charm and unique things to do. The Factory at Franklin, a complex of 11 restored factory buildings from the Depression era, offers a variety of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues, while The Franklin Theatre offers an old-fashioned entertainment experience in an art deco movie house from 1937. You can also learn about and visit some of the area’s best wineries, breweries and distilleries by following the Masters and Makers Trail through the Williamson County countryside.