Calling all animal lovers! Tennessee zoos in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis and Knoxville allow you to interact with all kinds of creatures – from furry and cute to scaly and slimy. Pet a red kangaroo at Nashville Zoo’s Kangaroo Kickabout, or hand-feed a giraffe at the Chattanooga Zoo. The Memphis Zoo is one of only three zoos in the United States where you can see giant pandas from China. At Zoo Knoxville, book a starlit nighttime safari and watch what the animals do after dark.
Families love Gatlinburg for its scenic beauty and never-ending entertainment. Marvel at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, explore the underwater world at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, get lost in Ripley’s Mirror Maze or hang on tight at Ripley’s Moving Theater. Stroll along Anakeesta’s 16-bridge Treetop Skywalk, and let the kids test their skills at the new TreeVenture Challenge Course. Walk across the Gatlinburg SkyBridge for spectacular panoramic views of the mountains with glass-floor panels adding to the thrill, or walk the Gatlinburg Skytrail, which connects both sides of the SkyBridge and follows the slope of Crockett Mountain. At Ober Gatlinburg, the only ski resort in Tennessee, ride an aerial tram, zip down the alpine slide or take the family ice skating.
When was the last time you petted a stingray or watched a penguin waddle? See what’s swimming at the Tennessee Aquarium on the Chattanooga waterfront, housed in two buildings called River Journey and Ocean Journey. Come face to face with a Giant Pacific octopus, watch river otters play and snap a selfie with a sand tiger shark. In 2020, the Tennessee Aquarium successfully hatched seven endangered baby turtles and a pair of gentoo penguin chicks. While in Chattanooga, take the little ones to the Creative Discovery Museum, which sparks kids’ curiosity through hands-on play.
Have an Elvis fan or a wannabe musician in your group? At Graceland in Memphis, you can walk through Elvis Presley’s mansion, see his cars and custom jets, and explore the gardens on his more than 13-acre estate. Head across the street to explore Elvis Presley’s Memphis, a full city block of Elvis-themed museums, exhibits, shops and restaurants. Ride America’s tallest freestanding elevator to the top of the iconic Memphis Pyramid and take in 360-degree views from the outdoor observation deck. Owned by Bass Pro Shops, the Pyramid invites you to shop, dine, view Tennessee wildlife and stay at the Big Cypress Lodge with rustic treehouse-style cabins. Take the kids to the award-winning Children’s Museum of Memphis for memorable learning experiences through hands-on exhibits. Be sure to ride the 1909 fully restored Grand Carousel.
Get lost in a corn maze, cuddle with farm animals or pick berries at a Tennessee farm. Falcon Ridge Farm in Bolivar opens to the public for its annual Fall Festival complete with pig races, a pumpkin patch, pony rides and petting zoo. Falcon Ridge also offers pick-your-own strawberries in the spring and an Easter festival and egg hunt. At Carver’s Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant in Cosby, load up on freshly picked apples, fried pies, homemade candies and apple butter, and feast on authentic Southern cooking with mountain views.
Take in panoramic views of seven states from Lover’s Leap at Rock City, perched atop Lookout Mountain. Walk across the 180-foot Swing-A-Long Bridge, explore more than 400 species of plants and trees, and make your way along the Enchanted Trail to discover unusual rock formations. Deep within Lookout Mountain, you’ll find Ruby Falls, the nation’s tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public. Ruby Falls has been welcoming visitors from around the world for nearly a century.
Want to feel like a kid again? Immerse yourself in the genuine experience of Dollywood, an award-winning Pigeon Forge theme park that offers more than 50 rides and attractions. Feast on Southern-style cuisine and watch Dollywood’s master craftsmen at work as you stroll through the park. Catch a live show – Dollywood’s world-renowned entertainment features country, bluegrass, Southern gospel, rock ’n’ roll and Appalachian music, as well as special seasonal performances. The park’s newest addition, Wildwood Grove, invites you to snap a photo under The Wildwood Tree adorned with colorful butterflies and experience a fun day in the beautiful Smoky Mountains. Don’t miss Dollywood’s Flower & Food Festival in the spring, Dollywood’s Harvest Festival in the fall, and Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas during the holidays.
Tennessee summers call for cooling off at a waterpark! The kids will love the new Eiffel Tower Park splash pad in Paris with its sprinklers and mini water tower. Soundwaves at Gaylord Opryland® Resort & Convention Center in Nashville combines water experiences with all types of music, so you can choose your own vibe at the one-of-a-kind indoor/outdoor water attraction. Nashville Shores in Hermitage delights families with fast slides, a wave pool, lazy river and an aerial adventure course. Make a splash at Soaky Mountain Waterpark in Sevierville – don’t miss Avalaunch, a first-of-its-kind water coaster that’s sure to get your heart pumping. Dollywood’s Splash Country provides endless opportunities for wet and wild play.
Set up camp or book a cozy cabin at the scenic Fall Creek Falls State Park, home to the highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River. The 26,000-acre park in Spencer (one of Tennessee’s 56 state parks) is perched atop the Cane Creek Gorge and offers breathtaking views and unusual geological formations. A new, 85-room lodge is scheduled to open in late 2021. Savage Gulf State Natural Area in Palmer has been dubbed one of Tennessee’s most scenic wilderness areas, with sandstone cliffs and rugged canyons. For a room with a view, head to the newly renovated lodge at Pickwick Landing State Park in Counce. Boating, golfing, fishing and hiking are just a few of the activities you can enjoy, as well as a delicious meal with amazing views at the lodge restaurant.
Ready for even more family fun in Tennessee? Choose your adventure for an unforgettable vacation.