Road trips are the magic formula for a perfect vacation. The views, the anticipation, and the sense of freedom all make for an unbeatable combo. And when that road trip is through one of the most beautiful states in the country, Tennessee, you know you’re in for a treat.
Tennessee, also called the Volunteer State, is home to some of the country’s most varied and stunning landscapes. There’s something to excite everyone, from The Great Smoky Mountains to the rolling hills of middle Tennessee. And with world-famous music cities like Nashville and Memphis, there’s no shortage of things to do either.
So, look no further if you’re looking for the “ideal” road trip. This Ultimate Tennessee Road Trip Itinerary can be your perfect guide for an unforgettable vacation.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge – Where Mountains Meet Fun
Resting in the foothills of The Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are two of Tennessee’s most popular tourist destinations. Both these mountain towns are merely fifteen minutes apart, which is why you don’t need any extra days in your itinerary to explore both.
Gatlinburg is a quaint mountain town with a walkable downtown full of shops and restaurants. Pigeon Forge, just a few miles down the road, is home to Dollywood, one of the most popular theme parks in the country.
If you’re wondering which town to crash in for the night, we recommend Pigeon Forge. With more hotel options and things to do, it’s a great basecamp for exploring the area. But before you make a booking, do some research online by typing “hotels Pigeon Forge” in the search bar. This way, you can find the best offers, look at online reviews, and find a place with your preferred amenities.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are the perfect place to start if you’re looking for things to do in The Great Smoky Mountains. In Gatlinburg, you can visit Ripley’s Aquarium of The Smokys, tour the Guinness World Records Museum, or ride the Gatlinburg Sky Lift for stunning views of the mountains. And in Pigeon Forge, in addition to Dollywood, you can visit the Titanic Museum, race go-karts at NASCAR SpeedPark, or take a ride on The Great Smoky Mountains Wheel, a Ferris wheel with views for miles.
Knoxville – The Best of East Tennessee
Knoxville is the third largest city in Tennessee. It is located in the eastern part of the state and is home to the University of Tennessee. This city has everything from a thriving downtown to beautiful parks and mountains. Since it is only 47 minutes away from Gatlinburg, the drive won’t exhaust you.
There is plenty to do in Knoxville, so decide the duration of your stay accordingly. Some of our favorite things to experience here include visiting the Knoxville Zoo, hiking to the top of House Mountain, or exploring the Knoxville Museum of Art. For a taste of Knoxville’s nightlife, head to Market Square, a downtown area full of bars and restaurants. The vibe here is chill and relaxed, making it the perfect place to grab a drink after a long day of exploring.
Knoxville isn’t short on hotels if you’re wondering where to stay. However, staying at one of the many Airbnb options in the city won’t be so bad if you’re on a tight budget. You can find some great deals on centrally located places close to all the action.
Before you hit the road again, please grab a bite to eat at the Sunspot, a local favorite serving delicious Mexican food. Your taste buds deserve just as much thrill and excitement as the rest of you, after all!
Chattanooga – A Scenic Stop in Southeast Tennessee
Next up on your road trip should be Chattanooga, a scenic city located in the southeast corner of Tennessee. Just two hours away from Knoxville, Chattanooga makes for a great spot. You can spend two or three days here exploring all the city has to offer.
This city is best known for its outdoor activities, as it sits nestled between the Tennessee River and The Great Smoky Mountains. So, you can imagine the views that’ll greet you as soon as you arrive. We recommend spending some time hiking in The Smokys, kayaking on the Tennessee River, or taking a scenic ride on the Chattanooga Choo Choo.
If you’re traveling with kids, the Tennessee aquarium is a must-visit. They’ll love getting personal with all the mesmerizing sea creatures that call this place home. And, of course, no trip to Chattanooga is complete without a stop at the world-famous Moon Pie General Store. You can’t leave Tennessee without trying one of these delicious treats!
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Nashville – Where the Strings are Singing
Next, move ahead to the capital city of Tennessee – Nashville. The city that’s world-famous for its music, country, and otherwise. It’s centrally located, has an airport, and is full of things to do. Plus, it’s the home of country music, so if that’s your thing, you’ll be in heaven.
There is so much to see and hear in Nashville. Of course, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-visit for any music lover. And if you’re looking for a more hands-on experience, head to one of the many live music venues for some world-class pickin’ and grinnin’.
Of course, you can’t complete your Nashville trip without visiting the Grand Ole Opry. This world-famous country music institution has been around for over 90 years. It is sure to give you a taste of the Nashville music scene.
If country music isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Nashville has plenty to offer beyond that. The city is home to a thriving food scene, with some of the best southern cooking you’ll ever taste. You can treat yourself to a fine dining establishment like Husk or Lockeland Table or go for something a little more casual at Puckett’s Grocery.
There is a lot more in Tennessee that’ll woo you, but these are some of the must-see places in the state. If you’ve got more days to spare, consider driving out to Memphis or checking out some of the smaller towns in Middle Tennessee. You could explore the caves in Cumberland County or go whitewater rafting in the Ocoee River. No matter what you do, Tennessee is sure to give you a road trip you won’t soon forget!
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