Tennessee Weekend Getaways Sure to Put a Smile on Kids’ Faces
When you vacation in Tennessee, you’re gearing up the family for some adventure, exploration and non-stop fun while simultaneously spending some quality time together. Here’s an itinerary for each region in Tennessee geared toward children, adolescents and teenagers so that every kid, no matter what age, can soak up all the fun Tennessee has to offer.
There’s no better place for little ones with big imaginations than West Tennessee. Touch museums, zoos, exploration stations and more await children who want to learn about life’s everyday wonders.
Dinosaurs, fossils, Civil War history and a replica of the first self-service grocery store in the country, Clarence Saunders’ Piggly Wiggly can be experienced at the Pink Palace Family of Museum in Memphis, Tenn. Stroll through the Coon Creek Science Center, one of the most important fossil sites in North America as it has preserved Cretaceous marine shells and vertebrate for 70 million years.
See more than 400 animals of 80 different species at the Tennessee Safari Park in Alamo, Tenn. Visitors are welcome to feed, pet and photograph the animals through the drive-thru safari tour. Hillcrest Farm was started in 1867 as an agricultural farm but quickly became an animal preservation in 1967 starting with the first herd of buffalo owned in Tennessee. Animals like the red kangaroo, reticulated giraffe, fallow deer, dromedary camel and miniature zebu make their homes at the park. The safari park is open every day. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children 12 years old and younger.
Middle Tennessee is a treasure trove of adventure and exploration, perfect for exciting the minds of adolescents. Canoeing, kayaking and even spelunking will make this family getaway one for the photo album.
The Harpeth River beckons to be tamed with a canoe or kayak ride with Foggy Bottom Canoe and Kayak Rentals in Kingston Springs, Tenn. The Harpeth River runs over 100 rural miles of Class 1 floating. Lose a few hours, a day or a week along the river as you can load up your canoe with picnic lunches, coolers, inner tubes and whatever else you desire to make a day on the river one to remember. Trips range from one hour to five hours and cost from $32-$38 per canoe and $29 per kayak.
Visitors can enjoy the climbs and crawls of Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee’s largest show cave and U.S. National Natural Landmark in McMinnville, Tenn. Adolescents can get down and dirty during the daytime spelunking adventures which include unusual sites and formations, tight squeezes and muddy messes. Kids will love to spend a night 500 feet underground as Cumberland Caverns offers overnight spelunking tours throughout the year. Give them a reason to brag to all their friends about conquering Rocky Topper, an opportunity for a first-time spelunker to get a taste of untamed underground through Rocky Top’s “Devil’s Quarry,” “Lemon Squeezer” and “Bubble Gum Alley.”
Constantly connected with Facebook, tweeting and scrolling through Tumblr, teenagers have a way of creating their own world (where One Direction reigns supreme). Help them reconnect with the natural world around them by taking them to Gatlinburg in East Tennessee, one of the “Best Destinations for Teenagers,” according to USA Today.
With bicycling, hiking, winter sports like skiing and snowboarding at Ober Gatlinburg, along with bright-light attractions downtown and restaurants cooking up culinary delights that are totally Instagram worthy, there’s no better place to spend a weekend getaway than Gatlinburg when you have a household of teenagers.
Take them whitewater rafting where there are miles of Class III and IV rapids on the Big Pigeon River and other regional rivers. The rapids are forces to be conquered with names like “Vegamatic,” “Razor Blade,” and “Too Late.” Let them soar high above the trees as they get hooked up to some of the wildest rides in the Smokies. They can fly under the forest roof and over streams and valleys by ziplining up to 50 miles an hour with one of the many outfitters stationed in Gatlinburg. Let them discover Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, America’s No. 1 Aquarium which houses an underwater tunnel with 12-foot sharks, giant sea turtles and more, dive/feeding shows and more. End the day with a hearty meal at The Peddler Steakhouse, Gatlinburg’s tradition of fine steaks. Dine on the river with prime rib, fresh trout or marinated chicken.
What are some of your family’s favorite attractions? Let me know in the comments below!