Like everyone I know, it seems, my radius for traveling this year seems to have shrunk from that of “the world is my oyster” to “where can I get from my home in half a day and not have to interact with a soul?” Lucky for me, I live in a gorgeous part of the South, and there are so many places nearby in Tennessee I can get away for a day or even a weekend. I finally spent the time rounding up some of the best day trips from Nashville for those of you who also live in the area or may be passing through.
Here are a few of my favorite drives from Nashville that take two hours or less by car.
Distance from Nashville: 22 miles, 27 minutes
For those who have less than a full day to spare, Nolensville is a great option. Just 25 minutes down the road (sans traffic), it’s a respite from the fast pace of the city while offering plenty of biking and walking trails, as well as easy access to Arrington Vineyards. Grab a coffee at Mama’s Java (and pose for a selfie with Kim Radford’s brand new This Girl Can mural), raise a glass at Mill Creek Brewing Co. and dine at Pork Belly Farmhouse if you’re sticking around through dinner. It’s also apple season, so while you can’t pick your own at Morning Glory Orchard, you can stop by the farm store and sift through 13 different varieties of apples to buy, as well as jams, preserves, cider, honey and much more.
Distance from Nashville: 22 miles, 25 minutes
Need I even remind you that Franklin is my favorite town in Tennessee? Fine, I’ll do it again. Boasting the best Main Street in the country, Franklin is full of Civil War history, historic homes and whiskey-slinging restaurants that line its downtown corridor. While not in the town limits, H Clark Distillery is on the Masters & Makers trail in Thompson’s Station, just a 15-minute drive from downtown. Time it for dinner, and you can do a tour and tasting (I recommend making a reservation), then pop next door to Circa.
Related post: Explore Tennessee’s Civil War History
Distance from Nashville: 28 miles, 38 minutes
Technically, Leiper’s Fork and Franklin could be a combined day trip as they’re both residents of Williamson County; however, there’s plenty to do in Franklin to occupy a weekend if you need a lengthier break—consider taking advantage of great pandemic deals and staying at the Harpeth Hotel for a night or two—whereas Leiper’s Fork is more of an afternoon kind of place, though if you’re the type who likes a slower pace you could easily extend overnight into the next day. This unincorporated town is rife in artist galleries and boutiques, with a few great restaurants sprinkled in the mix, 1892 and the original Puckett’s being my two favorites, as well as Leiper’s Fork Distillery where you’re going to want to book a tour to explore (it’s often sold out, so heed my advice and make an advanced reservation). Leiper’s Fork is also right off the Natchez Trace Parkway should you want to extend your drive, and the Pot N’ Kettle Cottages make a great overnight if you need a proper staycation and escape from reality.
Related post: Fun Outdoor Things to Do in Franklin + Leiper’s Fork
Distance from Nashville: 49 miles, 55 minutes
Clarkvsille is fresh on my mind as I’ve been there twice in the last month, and my has it grown in the past three years! It’s got a thriving downtown district with a three-level brewery, Strawberry Alley Ale Works, some great sculptures and an amazing amount of green space. Plus, one of Tennessee’s coolest state parks, Dunbar Cave State Park, is right off the interstate—you can take a wander around the grounds, then hit Old Glory Distilling Co. for a round on your way back out.
Related post: Plan the Perfect Day Trip to Clarksville, Tennessee
Old Stone Fort State Park
Distance from Nashville: 65 miles, 1 hour
Situated right off exit 110 of Interstate 24, Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester is one of the easiest Tennessee state parks to reach thanks to its central location along a heavily trafficked corridor. Not only is it a glimpse at Native-American life from the Middle Woodland Period, but it’s got a stunning series of cascading falls that are particularly vibrant after a heavy rainfall (the trails aren’t too strenuous, other than some uneven footing, and many are well-suited for kids). On your way out of Manchester, take a stroll along the Little Duck River Greenway (murals, murals and more murals!), grab BBQ at Prater’s, and swing by Foothills Crafts—a crafts collective that’s been in existence longer than I have—to browse the gift shop and check out the mural our nonprofit installed on the side as a tribute to teen Channing Smith.
Distance from Nashville: 60 miles, 1 hour and 5 minutes
This sweet little town birthed Minnie Pearl but also housed many a world-famous artist, such as Johnny Cash who once had his country retreat here in Bon Aqua, in the rolling hills of Hickman County not far from Interstate 40. The square is quaint and charming, while the Piney River is a great way to get out safely and enjoy the beautiful fall weather. Downtown Centerville has also got a brand-new resident: its first ever mural, Punch Bug by Whitney Herrington, an original piece we curated thanks to a Tennessee Arts Commission grant as part of our Walls for Women program!
Related post: Visit Centerville, the Home of Minnie Pearl
Distance from Nashville: 76 miles, 1 hour and 15 minutes
Speaking of country music legends, Humphreys County is not just home to Loretta Lynn, it also lays claim to her eponymous ranch, which has cabins, tent cabin and RV hookup spots, as well as myriad outdoor offerings to keep families occupied for a full day—or weekend. Humphreys’ county seat is the charming town of Waverly, which has an old Greyhound station that now serves as the chamber, as well as the 1,075-acre Johnsonville State Historic Park, home to the Civil War battle of the same name. Relatively new, the Walls Art Park is a free, open-air art gallery in the middle of the woods where several of our muralist friends have painted (I’ve yet to visit, but it’s on my radar).
Related post: Escape to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch
Distance from Nashville: 76 miles, 1 hour and 25 minutes
Arguably one of the best known brands in the world is located in a town of just 6,500 residents, many of them distillery employees. I’ve visited distilleries all over the world, and Jack Daniel’s headquarters in Lynchburg has the coolest tour and experience of all, hands down. Take my pro advice and opt for the Angel’s Share tour (reservations recommended and masks required), then grab lunch at Miss Bobo’s or Barrel House BBQ. If you want a two-in-one-day distillery experience, continue down the holler to George Dickel next.
Distance from Nashville: 64 miles, 1 hour and 14 minutes
Nestled in the verdant farmland of Cannon County, about 10 miles from downtown Woodbury, the evolution of Short Mountain is a fascinating story. But there wasn’t much for a visitor to see or do until California native Billy Kaufman started making small-batch moonshine at his Short Mountain Distillery once Tennessee distilling laws changed a decade ago, then opened to the public for tours and now has aged products, a restaurant and a spacious patio to boot—it’s a winning concept all around. Just don’t leave Cannon County without trying the seasonal kombucha on draft and other products made by Hall Hill Farm that the farming duo sells at their downtown shop, Wellness Emporium.
Related post: On the Tennessee Backroads
Distance from Nashville: 74 miles, 1 hour and 19 minutes
Warren County’s positioning between the Barren Fork and Collins River make it a must-visit for outdoor lovers, as do its nearby state parks, Rock Island and Fall Creek Falls. It’s particularly beautiful this time of year as the leaves fade from green to gold. Be sure and walk the recently revitalized downtown, the product of two decades of vision and hard work from the local Main Street program, and venture to see Jenny Ustick’s Hebe mural on the Security Federal Savings Bank complex. My favorite spots in town to grab a beer and a bite are Collins River BBQ downtown and Smooth Rapids, which is also a campground, outfitter and equipment rental shop, right along the river.
Hohenwald earns a place on my list thanks to its spot along the Natchez Trace Parkway—and the fact that it was the final resting place for Meriwether Lewis. This is a town with an extreme amount of potential, if only someone would develop a solid strategic economic development plan and implement some serious placemaking—its Discovery Center at the Elephant Sanctuary alone is a major attraction. Drive the Natchez Trace Parkway from the northern terminus in Nashville down to the Alabama border if you want to see more of this stretch of national park land.
South Cumberland State Park
Distance from Nashville: 91 miles, 1 hour and 25 minutes
Is there a park with more epic views in Middle Tennessee than South Cumberland? I challenge you to find me one. Stone Door is one of our favorite hikes in the area—and if Ella can do it, so can you—as it delivers rewarding vistas and slot canyons at the end. If the weather is favorable, consider stopping over at Greeter Falls on your way back home or pair a day trip to South Cumberland with a whiskey tour at Short Mountain for the perfect Tennessee afternoon.
Related post: Hiking with Dogs in Tennessee
Distance from Nashville: 93 miles, 1 hour and 29 minutes
There’s no better place to check out the changing leaves that atop Monteagle Mountain. My former turf, Sewanee, is about as pretty as any college campus gets—and it’s a roomy 13,000 acres at that. While there, grab lunch on the patio at Shenanigan’s, drive out to the Cross, scamper down Natural Bridge and hike the Perimeter Trail. If you’re staying overnight—the Sewanee Inn is a great place to do so, by the way—you can’t go wrong with dinner at High Point.
Related post: Hiking Sewanee’s Natural Bridge
Tims Ford Lake
Distance from Nashville: 90 miles, 1 hour and 33 minutes
If you’re looking to rent a boat and get out on the water, one of Middle Tennessee’s largest recreational areas, Tims Ford, is your place—it’s located in a 1,321-square-foot state park with three different marinas and plenty of cabins to rent for the weekend. Golfers will also want to book a round at Bear Trace, an 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus-designed course that skirts the lake and offers ample wildlife sightings.
Related post: Twin Creeks Marina, Tims Ford Lake’s Newest Hotspot
Distance from Nashville: 110 miles, 1 hour and 54 minutes
Whether space history is your jam, you love the arts or you’re in the mood for some damn good craft beer, Huntsville won’t steer you wrong. Just over the border in North Alabama, Huntsville has quickly risen the ranks to become one of my favorite cities in the South. From afternoons spent admiring the creativity of the forces behind Lowe Mill Arts and Campus 805 to sipping our way through new brews at Yellowhammer and InnerSpace Brewing to taking a self-guided tour of public art on the adorable city square, I could take a dozen day trips to Huntsville and not grow bored.
What’s your favorite day trip from Nashville? Are there any I left off the list?
Looking for more Tennessee travel ideas in Nashville and beyond? I’ve got a few:
- Smoky Mountain Staycation
- How to Get Outdoors Safely in Memphis
- Street Art USA: The Best Murals in Nashville
- Drive the Natchez Trace Parkway through the Hills of Tennessee
- Learn About Black History in Memphis from This Woman-Owned Tour Company