Like everyone I know, it seems, my radius for traveling over the past few years has shrunk from that of “the world is my oyster” to “where can I get from my home in half a day by car?” Lucky for me, I live in a gorgeous part of the South, and there are many places in Tennessee where I can escape to for a day or even a weekend. I rounded up some of the best day trips from Nashville for those of you who also live in the area or may be passing through.
This post was last updated in January 2023.
There are plenty of great places to stay throughout this region of Tennessee, from cabin to vacation rental, boutique hotel to B&B. 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 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 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.
Stay Over: There are a lot of chain hotels near Nolensville, but Sol y Luna is the nicest spot to stay near the city specifically. You can also stay nearby in Franklin on a pet-friendly farm or in a downtown hotel.
Related post: Escape the Crowded Cities and Tackle Nolensville’s 31A Trail
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, Company Distilling 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.
Stay Over: Franklin has many local hotels, but the pet-friendly Harpeth Hotel is by far my personal favorite.
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 enough to do in Franklin to occupy a weekend if you need a lengthier break—consider taking 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, as well as Leiper’s Fork Distillery. Leiper’s Fork is also right off the Natchez Trace Parkway should you want to extend your drive
Stay Over: The Pot N’ Kettle Cottages make a great overnight if you need a proper staycation and escape from reality. Need a larger home to accommodate a big group? Check into Sweeny Hallow Plantation.
Related post: Fun Outdoor Things to Do in Franklin + Leiper’s Fork
Distance from Nashville: 49 miles, 55 minutes
While I’ve visited many times over the course of my life, Clarksville has grown and boomed in all the right ways these past few years, and it’s become one of my favorite city breaks in Middle Tennessee. 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.
Stay Over: Clarksville has plenty of hotels, but I’d probably opt for this cute carriage house or this chic downtown rental if I were staying over.
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.
Stay Over: Manchester has a few hotels—if you go this route, I recommend the Holiday Inn over the rest—as well as a couple rental homes like this single-story house.
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 gots its first-ever mural, Punch Bug by Whitney Herrington, an original piece we curated thanks as part of our Walls for Women initiative.
Stay Over: While Centerville lacks lodging, nearby Columbia has myriad hotel and rental options.
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 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. Walls Art Park is a free, open-air art gallery in the middle of the woods where several of our muralist friends have painted.
Stay Over: Waverly’s front-row view of Kentucky Lake means it has plenty of stunning waterfront cabins to rent.
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 (Cascade) holler to George Dickel next.
Stay Over: Mulberry Lavender Farm and B&B is a charmer.
Related post: Tennessee Whiskey: How to Do Jack Daniel’s Distillery Right
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.
Stay Over: The best place to stay nearby is a cabin in Smithville, which overlooks Center Hill Lake.
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.
Stay Over: You might want to stay in this music-themed apartment or in a cabin in Sparta or Spencer near the state parks.
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.
Stay Over: Hohenwald doesn’t have many accommodation options, if any, so you’ll want to stay nearby in Columbia at a historic home like this one.
Related post: Finding Fall Colors Along the Natchez Trace Parkway in North Alabama
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.
Stay Over: There are a few retreats and vacation rentals in Beersheba Springs and around Greeter Falls.
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.
Stay Over: Tracy City, Monteagle and Coalmont have several communities of tiny homes and vacation rentals.
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 ample 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.
Stay Over: There are a growing number of cabins in Winchester and its outskirts, though you simply can’t beat a waterfront oasis on Tims Ford Lake.
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 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.
Stay Over: Thanks to its space industry and military presence, Huntsville has dozens of hotels. You can’t beat 106 Jefferson right on the square or the pet-friendly Element Huntsville over near the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
Related post: To the Moon and Back: Celebrating 50 Years of the Apollo in Huntsville
Looking for more day trips from Nashville and beyond? I’ve got a few Tennessee travel ideas for you:
- 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
Great suggestions — some I knew; some I didn’t. We live in Knoxville, and we’re always looking for some one- or two-day trips, especially that we can take while staying away from people. You’ve given us some new ideas.
Can you do one for Knoxville? These are great suggestions for Nashville!
Thankyou for that delightful tour which solves my families visit from Galveston, Texas in August for my 80th Birthday. Is it ok if I just forward your message to them and with your great suggestions, they will be able to figure out where they would like to visiting me in McMinnville… Yea and thankyou for these wonderful photos and suggestions. Love it that you also include places to stay along with the restaurants and important parks and places not to miss. Good to hear from you!!! We love our Hebe Mural!!
That photo from South Cumberland State Park is stunning!
What a great share! I think the same has happened to me. I used to travel a lot, and now I am picking my destinations by distance. I am glad to hear that you got out and had a good time. Some of my distant family lives in Nashville, and I have been thinking to take my parents for a small vacation. I am so glad that you shared your experience. If I do make this trip, I will definitely check out all of the places you suggested.