Knoxville, Tennessee is a hidden gem city known for music, arts, and adventure. Visitors to Knoxville can explore vibrant downtowns full of art, museums, parks, boutiques, and fabulous restaurants, along with historic sites and landmarks. The city is also home to fantastic annual events such as the Where’s Waldo City-Wide Scavenger Hunt, Germanfest, Greek Fest, Hola Fest, International Food Festivals, Knoxville Asian Festival, Tennessee Valley Fair, and Bike Boat Brew and Bark.
People in Knoxville are within a day’s drive of half of the continental United States and is a hub city located off I-40, I-75, and close to I-80. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
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Chattanooga, Tennessee is the scenic city because of its beautiful mountain landscapes and revitalized and vibrant riverfront district. The Riverwalk is a 13-mile paved road meant for pedestrian foot traffic that connects some of the best and most popular attractions in the historic city. Visitors can visit parks, restaurant, riverboat marinas, and more by foot or the free electric shuttle.
Visitors looking for outdoor adventures can head to Lookout Mountain or stay in town and take a stroll through Coolidge Park to the century-old restored carousel. The Chattanooga Zoo, Tennessee Aquarium, and Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park are other great family-friendly attractions.
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Southwest Virginia has some of the most beautiful landscapes on the east coast, and Abingdon is less than 2 hours from Knoxville. This serene mountain town features amazing dining and signature events that draw in crowds from across the nation and world. Nationally acclaimed music artists come to perform on Barter Theater stage during winter months, Virginia Creeper Fest in April, The Highlands Festival in the summer, and Main Street Bucker Fest in the fall. Some of the must-see attractions in Abingdon include the Martha Washington Inn and Spa, Grayson Highlands State Park, The Great Channels, and the famous Appalachian Trail.
335 Cummings Street, Abingdon, VA, 24210, Phone: 276-676-2282
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Greenville, South Carolina is steeped in history and a great place to visit historical landmarks and learn about the beginning days of the United States. Today, Greenville is a cultural mecca and home to more than 250 international businesses and a vibrant downtown supported by those businesses. Greenville is also home to historic Clemson University, and the most populated city in the state, which means there is no limit to entertainment and attractions. Some of the most popular attractions include The Gorge Zipline, which is the steepest and fastest in America, Greenville Zoo, Wildwater, River Falls Spa, and the BMW Performance Center.
Visitor’s Center City Hall Building, 1st floor, 206 S. Main Street, Greenville, SC, 29601, Phone: 800-717-0023
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If you’re a fan of horses, you have to visit the “Horse Capital of the World,” Lexington, KY. The city was founded in 1775 and known for being the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. The Kentucky Horse Park is a must-see attraction featuring 1,200 campuses with museums, art galleries, and all 50 breeds of horses on-site. You can also take horse farm tours, visit historic homes belonging to Mary Todd Lincoln, and family of Daniel Boone, among others. The largest Shaker Village that is restored is also in Lexington with the original 34 buildings still intact on 3,000 acres. Of course, many people also love to visit the Keeneland Race Course and Kentucky Bourbon distilleries.
Visitor’s Center 215 West Main Street, Suite 75, Lexington KY, 40507, Phone: 800-848-1224
Music City is home to the best musical entertainment and live music venues in the world. Some of the best landmarks in Nashville include Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Centennial Park where there is a life-size replica of The Parthenon. You’ll also want to stop by the Grand Ole Opry if you love country music. Take a walk through East Nashville, Hillsboro Village, or 12South if you want to get a taste of local culture, music, food, and shopping. While exploring, spend some time on Lower Broadway to get a taste of the real Nashville music scene.
150 Fourth Avenue North, Suite G-250, Nashville, TN, 37219, Phone: 800-657-6910
6.Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
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Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Corbin is approximately one and a half hours from Knoxville and a place where people can relax in the beautiful hillside of southern Kentucky. In Cumberland Falls you can spend the day at the golf course, spend the day on the lake, go horseback riding, hiking, play sports on the resort tennis and volleyball courts. Children and adults can also enjoy gem mining, birding, fishing, and picnicking.
Visitors can stay in a lodge, cottage, or campsite if they would like overnight accommodations. The historic DuPont Lodge features large stone fireplaces, amazing views, and a large observation deck that looks over the Cumberland River.
7351 Highway 90, Corbin KY, 40701, Phone: 606-528-4121
7.Blue Ridge, GA
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Just over two hours from Knoxville, Tennessee, you can experience luxurious mountain cabins, breathtaking natural landscapes, and maintained trails that guide through the lush forested mountain town to waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Foothills. Visitors can enjoy Blue Ridge all year round with excellent trout fishing in the spring and exciting outdoor recreation through the summer.
Downtown Blue Ridge is artsy with many local galleries, performance theater, and craft breweries. The live music scene is vibrant throughout the mountain town that is also home to the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and historic depot.
152 Orvin Lance Drive, Blue Ridge, GA, 30513, Phone: 706-632-5680
Historic Roanoke Virginia is only four hours from Knoxville and is an island set against the Blue Ridge Mountains. The island is famous for the lost colony of Roanoke established by Walter Raleigh in 1585. Roanoke is America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital with many opportunities for outdoor recreation such as kayaking and paddling on the Upper James River Water Trail. Visitors who prefer the great indoors can explore galleries, museums, and boutiques in historic downtown Roanoke. The historic city also hosts many cultural events and festivals and has an exciting nightlife for adults. There are also several hotels, bed & breakfasts, inns, and motels, as well as cabins and campgrounds for lodgings.
101 Shenandoah Avenue NE, Roanoke, VA 24016, Phone: 540-342-6025
Huntsville, Alabama, is a vibrant southern city that has a bustling culture and rich history. Huntsville is home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Burritt on the Mountain, Historic Huntsville Depot, Alabama Constitution Village. There are also three historic neighborhoods to explore—Five Pints, Old Town, and Twickenham. The history of Huntsville from the Civil War through the Space Age can be explored through guided walking tours.
Visitors wanting to explore the great outdoors in Huntsville can spend the day at Ditto Landing on the Tennessee River, hike at Monte Sano State Park, or take self-guided tours of the city’s urban walking and biking trails.
500 Church Street NW, Suite One, Huntsville, AL, 35801, Phone: 256-551-2230
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If you want to visit the heart of the south, there is no better place to spend the day than Atlanta, Georgia. The state capital is also the largest city in the state and offers dozens of attractions steeped in history, culture, and entertainment. The most popular attractions in the town include the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, The Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Zoo Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park, Center for Civil and Human Rights, CNN Studios, Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta History Center, and MLK Jr. National Historic Site.
Atlanta is a large metropolitan city with endless options for dining and lodging to suit any budget, style, and needs. Atlanta is only three hours away from Knoxville and can also provide enough entertainment for multi-day trips.
11.Alpine Helen, GA
Alpine Helen, Georgia brings Bavarian charm to the heart of the historic Blue Ridge Mountains. The small town has less than 500 residence but is the third most popular place to visit in the state. Alpine Helen is just over 2 square miles and started as a Cherokee settlement before European settlers came looking for gold. The mountain setting is home to one of the finest Bavarian Villages in the southeast and brings Germany to the south.
Alpine Helen is perfect for quiet family getaways, boutique shopping, authentic German food, and wine tours. There are also several festivals including Annual Fireside Arts and Crafts Show, Celebrate the Arts Festival, Oktoberfest, Christkindlmarkt, and the annual golf tournament.
726 Bruckenstrasse PO Box 730 Helen, GA, Phone: 800-858-8027
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There isn’t a better city to visit in North Carolina for a mountain getaway than Maggie Valley. The mountain town offers a nostalgic ambiance where visitors can slow down, take it easy, explore, and be surrounded by nature. Maggie Valley is home to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park which is famous for its wild elk and some of the most scenic hiking in America. Some of the family-friendly attractions in Maggie Valley include Cataloochee Ski Area, Blue Ridge Parkway, Cataloochee Ranch, and the Wheels Through Time Museum. Visit in the summer to enjoy the Annual Folkmoot Festival, Lake Logan Multisport Festival, and outdoor dance and music festivals.
2781 Soco Rd, Maggie Valley, NC, 28751, Phone: 828-926-1686
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Pigeon Forge started out as part of North Carolina in 1788 and was the site of an iron forge constructed in 1820 and named after passenger pigeons which are now extinct. Today, Pigeon Forge lies with Tennessee state lines and is the center for fun in the Smokey Mountains with over 70 attractions down the parkway alone. Some of the top attractions at this vacation hotspot include Dollywood, Titanic Museum Attraction, Wonderworks, and several museums. Adventure seekers will enjoy skydiving, Alpine Mountain Amusement Park, and zorbing along with all the outdoor recreation at Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There are cabin, inns, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and campground available in Pigeon Forge along with dozens of choices for fine or casual dining.
Welcome Center 1950 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN, 37863, Phone: 865-453-8574
14.Great Smoky Mountain National Park
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The culture and natural history of southern Appalachia are preserved at Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Several historic structures, some dating all the way back to Paleo Indians, are preserved on the mountain and available for visitors to see. The park is also home to ones of the best collections of preserved log houses east of the Mississippi River with more than 90 structures still standing.
Nature lovers will enjoy hiking the trails to 11 different waterfalls, bicycling, horseback riding, bass and trout fishing, or stay at LeConte Lodge which is only accessible by foot and found atop Mount Le Conte. The hiking trails to the lodge are anywhere from 5-8 miles depending on where you start. The lodge is only open seasonally however camping is available.
The Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee are what Gatlinburg is known for, and the city is full of adventure, history, and relaxation with their being attractions perfect for the entire family. You can ride on the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway for amazing views of the mountains; go skiing in the winter months at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area and Amusement Park, explore treetop bridges and houses at Anakeesta, or get lost at Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze and Candy Factory. Visitors looking for adrenaline-pumping adventure can go whitewater rafting at Smoky Mountain Outdoors.
For visitors looking for American history sites, visit the Tennessee Heritage Trail where there are numerous stops to learn about the history of Gatlinburg and the Appalachian peoples. Gatlinburg is known for their cabins and resort lodges, but there are many hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts to choose from for overnight trips.
Black Mountain in North Carolina is the perfect place to go for relaxing outdoor recreation without stress. The quaint town features pedestrian streets lined with trees, boutique shopping, Appalachian style craft stores, and an old fashion general store. There are also many impressive fine dining and casual restaurants, a world-class 18-hole golf course, and many hiking and biking trails. Black Mountain is most famous for the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. The 250-room estate was built by George Vanderbilt where more than 10,000 tulips bloom each year. The Blue Ridge Parkways is also just 8 miles away.
201 E State Street, Black Mountain, NC, 28711, Phone: 828-669-2300
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17.Tugaloo State Park
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If you’re searching for serenity Tugaloo State Park on the shores of Lake Hartwell in the Appalachian Mountains Foothills is the perfect place to take the day off. There are cottages and campsites available on the 55,590 acres Lake with Tugaloo State Park offering a huge 6-lane mega ramp for boating on the lake. Some of the cabins have their own boat ramps and docks. Camping, hiking, fishing, boating, and water skiing are the most popular recreational activities at Tugaloo State Park. Families can also play miniature golf, or rent watercraft from the marina seasonally.
1753 Tugaloo State Park Road, Lavonia, Georgia, 30553, Phone: 800-864-7275
People who love the arts will enjoy visiting Asheville, an art colony in North Carolina, just two and a half hours from Knoxville. Asheville is known for being welcoming as well as their prestigious visitors who have included politicians, artists, and luminaries. There are many edgy, locally owned boutique retail shops to explore in downtown as well as dozens of art galleries, fine and casual restaurants. One of the most prominent attractions in Asheville is Biltmore Estate designed by Richard Morris Hunt and landscaping by Frederick Law Olmsted. The estate was commissioned by George W. Vanderbilt and featured 250 rooms.
36 Mountford Avenue, Ashville, North Carolina, 28801, Phone: 828-258-6129
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Dahlonega, Georgia is a town rich in history and southern charm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The first significant gold rush happened in the mountain town that is located in the middle of the lush Georgia wine country. Many visitors to Dahlonega come to tour the vineyards or hike that mountain trails that lead to ethereal waterfalls and winding streams. Downtown is full of art galleries, local restaurants, and boutique shopping, as well as being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can also explore the nearby Chattahoochee National Forest and enjoy mountain biking, camping, and other outdoor recreation.
13 South Park Street, Dahlonega, Georgia, 30533, Phone: 706-864-3711
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20.Del Rio, TN
The small unincorporated town of Del Rio is surrounded on all sides by the Appalachian Mountains making it one of the best mountain getaways you could imagine. Stone Mountain overlooks the town that was infamous for moonshine making during prohibition in the early half of the 20th century. Today the town is known for its annual Christy Festival in the Smokies which celebrates the novel “Christy” by Catherine Marshall, and 1990s television show based on the book that was filmed in Townsend.
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21.Museum of Appalachia
The Museum of Appalachia seeks to instill knowledge and appreciation for the culture of the Appalachian Mountains people. The museum offers self-guided tours daily and can accommodate groups, educational programs, and private events. The Display Barn houses the museum's collections of relics and artifacts throughout two floors. Visitors should also explore The Village which is a replica of a pioneer village as well as the Hall of Fame, the largest building on the campus. The Hall of Fame is the three-story antebellum estate with over 15,000 square feet of exhibit and special events space.
2819 Andersonville Highway, Clinton Tennessee, 37716, Phone: 865-494-7680
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The Cataloochee Valley is a region of the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina made up of Canton, Clyde, Lake Junaluska, Maggie Valley, and Waynesville. When on the western side of North Carolina, visitors can enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains, National Park. Visitors to Haywood County are surrounded by the mountains in towns with modern amenities and great cultural attractions. You can enjoy the gorgeous mountains year-round with skiing in the winter months and wine touring in the summer. The Cataloochee Valley is known for their cabins, bed, and breakfasts, and lodges; although there are many hotels, resorts, motels, and camping available.
Visitors Center, 1110 Soco Road, Maggie Valley, NC, 28751, Phone: 800-334-9036
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Considered the “secret city,” Oak Ridge, Tennessee is a peaceful waterfront town that was built during World War II by the U.S. Government to be an atomic bomb assembly site. The top-secret weapons plant in the valley was part of The Manhattan Project and is part of a 3 site park that includes branches in Los Alamos, NM, and Hanford, WA. The collections in the museums at the park house artifacts related to the atomic bomb building and World War II. The American Museum of Science and Energy and Oak Ridge Children’s Museums are other great family sites to see. There are also a number of sites available to tour related to the Manhattan Project including the Hotel, Chapel, and burial ground.
1400 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, TN, 37830, Phone: 865-483-1321
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The Ocoee River is where people who love outdoor adventure love to spend the day going white water kayaking and exploring the outdoor in Chattanooga. After braving the river visitors can tour the Chattanooga Whiskey Distillery, eat at one of the local restaurants or breweries, and spend an afternoon at The Tennessee Aquarium. You can also hike up the Clingmans Dome 6,643 feet to the observation tower which offers impressive 360-degree views of the mountains.
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Cookeville has many great attractions for history buffs including the Baxter Depot Museum, Bee Rock, Cookeville Depot Museum, Doll Collection at Patton House Museum, and Cookeville History Museum. The town also includes a historic residential district with 19th and early 20th century homes, the historic westside cultural district, and much more. You can also check out the live music scene at the downtown bars and live music venues, which are saturated in country music. Cookeville is also home to the BlueCross Bowl, Christmas in the Park, and Bacchanal Art, Wine and Food Festival, among several other world-class events.
One West First Street, Cookeville TN, 38501, Phone: 931-526-2211
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Knoxville, TN
- Chattanooga, Photo: Ritu Jethani/stock.adobe.com
- Abingdon, VA, Photo: Melinda Fawver/stock.adobe.com
- Greenville, SC, Photo: Kevin Ruck/stock.adobe.com
- Lexington, KY, Photo: Jesse Kunerth/stock.adobe.com
- Nashville, TN, Photo: susanne2688/stock.adobe.com
- Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Photo: Diane Johnson and Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- Blue Ridge, GA, Photo: Laura Ballard/stock.adobe.com
- Roanoke, VA, Photo: ablokhin/stock.adobe.com
- Huntsville, AL, Photo: Jeff/stock.adobe.com
- Atlanta, GA, Photo: f11photo/stock.adobe.com
- Alpine Helen, GA, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Maggie Valley, Photo: Jim Vallee/stock.adobe.com
- Pigeon Forge, Photo: Scott Prokop/stock.adobe.com
- Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Gatlinburg, Photo: Nick/stock.adobe.com
- Black Mountain, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Tugaloo State Park, Photo: Anette Linnea Rasmus/stock.adobe.com
- Asheville, NC, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Dahlonega, GA, Photo: TOimages/stock.adobe.com
- Del Rio, TN, Photo: Mark/stock.adobe.com
- Museum of Appalachia, Photo: quasarphotos/stock.adobe.com
- Cataloochee, Photo: David Carillet/stock.adobe.com
- Oak Ridge, Photo: Melinda Fawver/stock.adobe.com
- Ocoee River, Photo: Sandra Burm/stock.adobe.com
- Cookeville, Photo: Tobias/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Kevin Ruck/stock.adobe.com