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In West Tennessee, your family vacation can be filled with adventure like getting up close to native fish, feeding giraffes and other exotic animals, exploring space and ending the day on a lakeside campground or in a luxurious outdoor lodge. Choose what your family will do in Tennessee below.
Aquarium or Planetarium?
Kids will love the Regional History Gallery found inside Discovery Park of America. The gallery showcases the unique natural history of Northwest Tennessee, including Reelfoot Lake, the only large natural lake in Tennessee. Experience what the 1811-1812 earthquake felt like on the Earthquake Simulator. Get an up-close look at the largemouth bass, bowfin, shortnose gar, smallmouth buffalo and blue and channel catfish in the aquarium.
As you explore the immersive history, science and nature exhibits at the Memphis Museum of Science & History, make time to see a show in the Planetarium. The AutoZone Dome at the Sharpe Planetarium has a screen area of 3,925 square feet, making it the largest projection screen in Memphis. It’s a great way to travel through space to see constellations, planets, black holes and space travel.
Feed a Giraffe or Safari Adventure?
Take part in the unique Giraffe Feeding Adventure at Memphis Zoo. Every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 13-Oct. 26, you can feed giraffes by hand. Get up close to giraffes and learn about the special way they feed. $5 gets you three pieces of lettuce, supplied by the zoo. After making friends with the giraffes, head over to KangaZoo to meet one of Australia’s largest marsupials, the red kangaroo. Tickets to walk through the exhibit to see free range kangaroos is $4 for zoo members and $5 for nonmembers. Keeper chats, a sea lion show and various animal feedings are special events that happen daily at the zoo.
Your family will love the drive-thru experience at Tennessee Safari Park. Here, you can drive 5.5 miles along the designated path and stop to feed the animals from your car. Feed cups are $3 each or four cups for $10. After your drive, enjoy the walk through zoo where you can see monkeys, goats, giraffes, camels and more. Children can enjoy the playground area and enjoy the petting zoo.
The 240-acre Falcon Ridge Farm is a working farm that opens seasonally for the annual Harvest Festival and Christmas seasonal fun. Plan to attend the 2022 Harvest Festival (dates announced soon, but usually starts at the end of September through Oct. 31) where you can pick pumpkins in the pumpkin patch, shop local items and grab a caramel apple or chili hot dog at the market and make your way through the corn maze. A highlight is going through the petting zoo where you can get up close to peacocks, turkeys, ducks, goats, horses, pigs, chickens and more.
Splash Pad or Kayaking?
When the temperatures start rising, bring the kids to The Children’s Museum of Memphis’ H2Oh! Splash Park. Over 7,700 square feet of water fun, the garden-themed exhibit includes more than 40 sprayers including jet streams, geysers and water tunnels. Explore Bubble Gardens and make kid-sized bubbles at five bubble stations. Enjoy lunch at the picnic tables lining the area or bring a lawn chair. The splash park is open seasonally, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
At Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, you can rent kayaks and tandem kayaks or bring your personal kayak to explore Poplar Tree Lake. Kayaks are $10 hourly and tandem kayaks are $15 hourly. Here, you can spot wildlife like bald eagles and various waterfowl while enjoying the stillness and quiet of the lake.
Botanic Garden or Exploring Artifacts?
How will you spend a leisure afternoon? One way may be to visit the beautiful Memphis Botanic Garden. Now through Oct. 31, 2022, you can walk through Alice’s Adventures at the Garden, full of larger-than-life Alice in Wonderland themed sculptures made of mosaiculture (topiary-like structures using thousands of bedding plants). Alice, The Cheshire Cat and The Red Queen among others make for a great photo backdrop. Each month presents Alice-related programming from family-friendly teas to garden chats and date nights. During Holiday Wonders at the Garden, the sculptures will be transformed with light creating a magical winter wonderland.
Let the stories of yesterday come alive when you visit Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park which contains at least 15 Native American mounds. Archaeological evidence suggest the mounds were used as both burial and ceremonial. Pinson Mounds contains the largest Native American Woodland Period mound group in the U.S. Step inside the museum, designed as a Native American mound replica, which includes 4,500 square feet of exhibits full of prehistoric Native American tools, trade and ceremony items, fieldwork information and the history of the Pinson site. Then, see the mounds for yourself on a short walk to Sauls Mound where you can access paved loops that lead to the barrow pit, Duck’s Net and Mounds 12, 15, 17 and 28.
Rock Climbing Gym or Treetop Adventure?
No matter your age, build or ability, climbing is a fun way to build confidence, problem solving skills and presence of mind. Take the 45-minute climbing class at Memphis Rox to get acquainted with the sport from tying a rope, top rope belay, climbing commands and more. Then, enjoy the rope climbing and the bouldering courses.
At Shelby Farms Park, you can choose your experience whether it’s the treetop adventure which includes 40 obstacles and a 624-foot zipline; treetop journey which has 25 obstacles and a 190-foot zipline; treetop discovery with 15 obstacles with the longest course zipline at 625 feet, axe throwing, put putt or traversing the aerial courses at night during Nights at Height. Whichever adventure you choose, you and your family are sure to have a fun time in the trees.
Gooey Cookies or Ice Cream Dream?
Your eyes will sparkle at the sweet spread found at Frost Bake Shop in Memphis. Cookies, cupcakes, cakes, pies and cheesecakes are ready for you to order or pick up. Cupcakes come in standard and mini sizes bursting with flavors such as banana, snickerdoodle, strawberry, vanilla with lemon and Memphis Cream. Cookies are baked fresh daily with flavors like gooey butter, gooey chocolate, funfetti, lemon crisp and Scottish shortbread.
What's better than pairing a cupcake with ice cream? Let your sweet tooth sing in delight at Small Cakes Cupcakery & Creamery in Collierville where you can get cakes, ice cream, cookies and cupcakes. The locally owned and operated Cupcakery & Creamery makes the ice cream in small batches in-house and cupcakes are baked fresh daily. You have to try the Small Cakes Smash, your favorite two scoops and cupcake are "smashed" together for a unique treat.
Sleep with the Fishes or Under the Stars?
Outdoor-themed luxury hotel Big Cypress Lodge is located inside the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in Memphis. While the alligators and fish snooze in their aquariums on the shop floors, you can tuck into your big, comfy bed in a premier room, deluxe room or suite. Rustic elegance is highlighted in the decor and ambiance of the rooms. Suites feature views of the indoor Cypress Swamp or downtown Memphis and have themes like the treehouse, fly fishing lodge and duck cabin. Premiere rooms have balconies overlooking Bass Pro Shops and have king-size beds and electric fireplaces. Deluxe rooms are the largest hotel rooms in Memphis with king-size beds, electric fireplaces, luxury bath features and some have outside-facing windows.
Sleep under the stars along the quiet Kentucky Lake at Birdsong Resort in Camden. The 53-acre complex has stunning water views with over 50 RV pads and primitive tent areas. Spend your day fishing, boating, swimming, hiking and more. The Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Museum, Farm and Tour makes for a great day trip. When you stay at the resort, you have full use of the swimming pool, children's playground, volleyball sandpit, horseshoes, shuffleboard and so much more. Open campfires and pets on a leash are permitted.
Explore even more family-friendly trip ideas in West Tennessee.