A father and daughter at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis
Photo Credit: Journal Communications/Jeff Adkins

Kid-Reviewed, Family-Approved Attractions in Tennessee

Traveling with the whole family in tow? You’ll find attractions that appeal to a wealth of ages – and reviewed by kids themselves.

Everyone (especially Mom) needs a little help when planning a family vacation. Where’s the best place to go, eat and stay? Well, the reviews are in from kids themselves.
Several popular family destinations across Tennessee recently set up “Kid Reviewed” booths, where children could voice their opinions about what they liked best. They also wore a “Laugh Tracker” device that measured both excitement and laughter.
When you’re ready to plan your next Tennessee family vacation, check out these candid reviews.

Dollywood - Pigeon Forge

If you haven’t visited Dolly Parton’s iconic Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, it’s time for a Smoky Mountain getaway. Visitors from around the globe have visited Dollywood since 1986 to reconnect with family amid the park’s 40 famous rides, entertainment venues and award-winning restaurants. In 2019, Dollywood opened its newest expansion, Wildwood Grove – a magical land of enchantment with sparkling creeks, a charming village and new rides including Black Bear Trail, the Great Tree Swing, and Frogs and Fireflies.

Discovery Park of America - Union City

Put the town of Union City on your travel itinerary – it is home to the impressive Discovery Park Of America, a world-class educational museum with more than 70,000 square feet of galleries and interactive exhibits featuring nature, science, technology, history and art. Feel the ground shake in the Earthquake Simulator, marvel at dinosaur fossils and Native American artifacts, and take a planetary tour in the Starship Theater. Don’t miss the park’s outdoor attractions, which span 50 acres and include an 1800s gristmill, the new Children’s Discovery Garden, the new Hugh Wade Feed Store which has local merchandise, old-fashioned candies and more, log cabins, farm equipment, a replica of the Liberty Bell and a more than 100-year-old chapel.

Shelby Farms Park - Memphis

Families can spend time together, enjoying the outdoors.
Photo Credit: Journal Communications/Jeff Adkins

Shelby Farms Park in Memphis is one of the nation’s largest urban parks, covering 4,500 acres. Spend some time in nature along the 40 miles of trails, canoe or paddle one of the park’s lakes, ride a horse or play disc golf. Children love the park’s Woodland Discovery Playground and splashing in the Water Play Sprayground. You can even play laser tag, paintball and arrow tag on 10 acres of parkland dedicated to these activities.

Museums in Tennessee

Exciting interactive experiences are at the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, where children can play in the Rooftop Fun Factory and get a bird’s-eye view of Chattanooga from atop Lookout Tower. While in Nashville, catch a planetarium show at the Adventure Science Center. The small town of Whitwell attracts visitors for its Children’s Holocaust Memorial, featuring an authentic railroad boxcar that transported children and their families to Nazi concentration camps. The museum is open by online reservation only. At the Children’s Museum of Memphis, kids can manipulate air currents to produce an indoor tornado and learn about nature in the treehouse. In Murfreesboro, the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring has a 2 1/2-story super slide, play farmers market and butterfly garden. Elephant lovers shouldn’t miss the Elephant Discovery Center in Hohenwald, which increases public knowledge about the threat of poaching, habitat loss and capture. Science enthusiasts will enjoy the American Museum of Science and Energy, where you can learn about energy, nuclear power and the role the town of Oak Ridge played in the Manhattan Project. Or, stop in Tullahoma at the Beechcraft Heritage Museum, which is committed to aviation education.

Waterparks in Tennessee

Beat the heat of summer at water parks across the state, from Wilderness at the Smokies (Sevierville) and Dollywood Splash Country Water Adventure Park (Pigeon Forge) to Wetlands Water Park (Jonesborough) and Soundwaves at Gaylord Opryland® Resort & Convention Center (Nashville). The newest place to get wet is Soaky Mountain Waterpark, opening in Sevierville in 2020. The $90 million water park will offer a first-of-its-kind water coaster, a 35,000-square-foot wave pool, a kids play-and-spray area and other fun features.

Aquariums in Tennessee

Oceans of fun are waiting to be discovered at Tennessee’s two premier aquariums in Chattanooga and Gatlinburg. Watch playful otters scamper and splash or come nose to nose with a toothy shark at the Tennessee Aquarium, which houses the most diverse group of freshwater animals in the nation. At Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, explore more than 10,000 exotic sea creatures in 10 themed galleries. Crawl through clear underwater tunnels to get an up-close look at penguins in the Penguin Playhouse; and touch a smooth stingray as it glides by in Stingray Bay.

Sports in Tennessee

Have a sports fan in your crew? Take the family to a professional, minor league or college sporting event. Tennessee hosts nine minor league baseball teams in big and small cities. Nashville is home to teams such as the Tennessee Titans (football), the Nashville Sounds (minor league baseball) and the Nashville Predators (ice hockey). Cheer on the Memphis Grizzlies (basketball), Memphis Redbirds (minor league baseball) or experience the need for speed at Bristol Motor Speedway (NASCAR). Nashville is preparing to have its own Major League Soccer team, too, which will begin play in 2020.

Places in this article

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