Featured in this Article:
The winter months are an exciting time in Tennessee. You'll find ample reasons to plan a winter getaway to the state. Here are just a few ideas on how to make some snowy memories:
Family-Friendly Winter Hikes in Tennessee
Tennessee's largest city-owned park is in Kingsport. Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium is a 3,550-acre nature preserve that includes wolves, bobcats, reptiles and raptors. More than 25 hiking trails cover most of the park; so take a stroll around the lake or trek up to the fire tower. However you spend your day at Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium, you can be sure there will be plenty of winter magic to discover.
Explore 24,000 acres of wilderness made of hiking, biking and horse riding trails at Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg, about 46 miles from Knoxville. The peak of the Cumberland Mountains at 3,324 ft. is covered in ice and snow in the winter months. Perfect for that always-coveted Instagram photo op.
Dependent on temperatures and snow accumulation, you just might be lucky enough to see one of Tennessee's gorgeous waterfalls in all its frozen beauty, like Foster Falls. This 60-foot plunging waterfall is in Sequatchie, Tennessee and is a favorite among locals and visitors for its thundering waters and picturesque location.
Explore 10 miles of hiking trails through the forested loops in and around Cedars of Lebanon State Park. Hiking with toddlers or small children? Take the Cedar Glades Trail, a half-mile trail that leads you through cedar woodlands and expansive glade openings. Stop at the educational signs peppered throughout the trail to learn about the ecology of the park and identify animals and plant species. If you want a longer adventure, embark on the Hidden Springs Trail, a 4.2-mile hike featuring streams, a deep sinkhole, rock formations and cedar woodlands. Enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature while passing through reclaimed home sites and crossing old country roads.
Henry Horton State Park is located on the shores of the historic Duck River, one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Fishing, biking, golfing, hiking and even a trap and skeet range (includes skeet, trap, wobble trap and five stand shooting) can be experienced at the park. More than 10 miles of hikes are at Henry Horton, including the Wilhoite Mill Trail. This 0.7-mile trail begins near the site that late 1700s settlers made after the first known crossing of the Duck River. Then, the trail winds its way through old farm fields, remnants of abandoned farm homes, cedar glades and more. You'll see remnants of a mill as well. For views of the wetland and native grass fields, do the Adeline Wilhoite River Trail which leads to a 20-foot observation tower. The trail connects to the Wetland Trail and the 1.65-mile Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Loop.
Bask in Tennessee’s winter glory at Fall Creek Falls State Park with their abundance of waterfalls and over 56 miles of hiking trails. Make it a family-friendly weekend with your teens and spend the night at the park’s new lodging option, opening early 2022. The Lodge at Fall Creek Falls will be the perfect hideaway for families or a friend’s reunion where you can escape into the woods of Tennessee, hike, go rock climbing, test your skills on the canopy challenge course, golf and go birding.
While enjoying the blues, barbecue and soul of Memphis, take some time for some fresh air at T.O. Fuller State Park. Historically, it was the first state park open for African Americans east of the Mississippi River and is home to the Chucalissa Indian Village. You and your kids can see the village and surrounding wetlands on the four-mile Discovery Trail. The state park is also a great place for birding, where you can see rare black-bellied whistling ducks and nesting black-necked stilts.
See 15 Native American ceremonial and burial mounds at Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park, a national historic landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. Step into the museum first to learn about Native American culture and see artifacts. Then, hit the hiking trails where some are paved and ADA-accessible. You can walk or bike near the mounds, including the Sauls Mound, where you can climb the stairs to the observation deck. Follow the nature trails to see cypress swamps and woodlands. A boardwalk will let you view wildlife and plants at the cypress swamp and the Forked Deer River.
Big Hill Pond State Park in Pocahontas, Tennessee, approximately 92 miles east of Memphis, is potentially one of the most under-the-radar, backcountry hiking and camping spots in the state. With more than 4,000 acres of forested hills and swampy bottomlands visitors adventure on the 14 miles of equestrian trails, seven hiking trails and fish in Old Big Hill Pond. During the winter months, be sure to check out Turkey Call Trail’s Dismal Swamp Boardwalk, Tuscumbia Trail’s Lookout Tower, Fox Hollow Trail and Rocky Knob Trail.
A wealth of history from animal crossings to Native American trade and travel routes can all be found at Natchez Trace State Park. Walk through forests and fields and along streams on the 13.5 miles of hiking trails, ranging from half-mile to 4.5-mile trails. Visitors can spend their days winding through Tennessee’s forests, explore the park’s museum, bike along the multi-use fire trails and go horseback riding over 250 miles of terrain.
As the weather ranges from chilled to frigid, it’s a great time to visit the largest natural lake in Tennessee located in Tiptonville, directly adjacent to the Mississippi River. Reelfoot Lake was formed by an earthquake in 1811-12 and during its formation there were reports of the Mississippi River flowing backwards and filling the lake. In January and February, take the family on one of the Reelfoot Lake State Park's popular Eagle tours. Reserve your spot today to catch a glimpse of an eagle soaring across Reelfoot Lake.
Every winter the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency hosts the annual Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival in Birchwood which showcases the migration of thousands of Sandhill Cranes that soar across the Hiwassee River Wildlife Refuge on their yearly migration. This breathtaking event that occurs Jan. 15-16, 2022 is a fun activity for the whole family and is something that you cannot experience anywhere else across the state.
Family-Friendly Skiing and Tubing in Tennessee
Yes, Tennessee is home to its own ski resort, Ober Gatlinburg, where you can ski and snow tube, ice skate indoors and take a ride on the Ski Mountain Coaster year-round. Purchase a ski area ticket for unlimited access to all the slopes during your session. Ober Gatlinburg has all your gear covered as you can rent skis and snowboards, jackets, pants and helmets. After hitting the slopes, grab a bite to eat at Seasons of Ober Restaurant where you can soak in the views while dining on steaks, chicken and more from the seasonally-inspired menu. Take a spin on the indoor ice skating rink, open year-round, and browse the shops for apparel, gifts, jewelry and more.
Experience America's first indoor snow park at Pigeon Forge Snow, where winter fun can be had all year. Leave the parka at home as Pigeon Forge Snow is always 60-70 degrees inside. For snow tubing, children must be at least three years old and 38 inches to ride. The SnowPlay area, where you can build snow forts and snowmen, make snow angels and more, is perfect for children of all ages and heights, including toddlers.
Get into the wintertime spirit at Gaylord Opryland with their ever-popular ice tubing, skating and bumper cars. Race down the 15-foot-high ice tubing hill, glide in Tennessee’s crisp air on the hotel’s ice skating rink or sign up to take private lessons, and spend the day driving around on the ice with friends and family. Check out all of Gaylord Opryland’s wintertime fun and experiences.
Family-Friendly Tennessee Ice Skating Rinks
Have a party or enjoy an afternoon skating the ice rink every day with extended hours in late December to early January at the Ice Chalet in Knoxville. View the full schedule to plan your day accordingly. You can purchase a public season pass for $30 which includes five sessions on the ice or a Public Session Pass Plus which includes skate rental for $60 and five sessions. One day admission is $7.50 and $7.50 for skate rentals.
Bring the whole family to the historic Glenn Miller Outdoor Gardens at the Chattanooga Choo Choo to enjoy the seasonal return of Ice on the Landing Ice Skating Rink. Get a season pass for $100 or a family pass for $200 for a family of four so you can experience the rink unlimited days and times Nov. 19 through Jan. 30, 2022.
Take a spin around the outdoor ice rink in the Winter Wonderland Nov. 17-Jan. 9, 2022 at Wilderness at the Smokies. Just in time for the holidays, bring the family to enjoy fresh air, some hot cocoa and s'mores around one of the fire pits and see Christmas decorations throughout the property. The rink is a ticketed attraction for the public and included in room rates for guests if you use the code ICESKATE at time of booking. Skates will also be available and skating lessons will be offered every Saturday (except Dec. 4, 2021).
Have a holly jolly holiday in Elizabethton by showing off your ice skating skills. Sail away on an open-air ice skating rink at Covered Bridge Park Nov. 27-Jan. 16, 2022. Make a reservation on Thursdays-Sundays for $10 which includes skates.
Take the family for a winter afternoon of ice skating at the Ford Ice Center in Antioch. Register online in advance to secure your spot for a public skate session. Skate sessions are $10 and include rental skates if needed. Need to learn how to ice skate? Take the seven-week session which includes ice skate rental for classes, a 30-minute group instruction with instructors on the ice at all times.
Skate the winter blues away at Clarksville’s Downtown Commons Winter Ice Rink. Nestled in the heart of downtown, the rink is a great winter activity to get the family out of the house and test out your ice skating abilities.
Small TN Towns if You Love Winter
Immerse yourself in history in Tennessee’s second oldest town, Greeneville. Established in 1783, Greeneville oozes southern charm on every street corner and takes you on a journey back through time with its numerous historical sites and museums. Shop around in local boutiques, visit 17th President of the United States Andrew Johnson’s home, explore the David Crockett Birthplace State Park, and take in the beautiful surround mountain views.
Take a step back in time when you step foot in the charming small town of Granville. This quaint town is full of preserved homes and buildings including the famous T.B. Sutton General Store, the homestead of Mr. Sutton and the Granville Museum which is located inside a historic church. On Saturday nights, make plans catch a bluegrass concert as part of Sutton Ole Time Music Hour and feast on a delicious meat-and-three dinner. Then, spend the night at Wildwood Resort where you can wake up to waterfront views and unwind in lakeside luxury.
You'll be enriched by the storied past found in Shiloh where you can explore the Tennessee River, learn about early Native American culture, eat at a haunted catfish hotel and walk the battlefield where nearly 110,000 American troops clashed at the Shiloh National Military Park. Considered one of the best preserved battlefields in the U.S., the park not only preserves the battle history, but it’s also a U.S. National Cemetery with 4,000 soldiers and their families laid to rest.
Looking to warm up a little bit? Tennessee is home to the cutest coffee shops. Whether its Awaken Coffee in Knoxville, the Bell Buckle Coffee Shop & Book Shop in Bell Buckle or To the Last Drop Coffee Shop in Trenton, these local coffee shops will warm up your freezing hands and provide a cozy ambience. Check out this full list of Cozy Coffee Shops across Tennessee.
Where to Get Hot Chocolate in Tennessee
Take the kids to shops across the state for a hot chocolate treat. At The Hot Chocolatier in Chattanooga, sweet connoisseurs will find house-made hot chocolate made with the highest quality ingredients. Try a hot chocolate bomb at Sugar Magnolia Bakehouse in Spring Hill. It's like a bath bomb, but in a mug with warm milk poured on top. Your kids will jump for joy at the UrbanHouse Venue in Henderson when you order them gourmet hot chocolate to chase away the winter chills.
Tennessee is home to seven genres of music. It’s where legendary songwriters and soon-to-be greats share the same stage. Tennessee Songwriters Week (Feb. 20-26, 2022) supports music venues, generates awareness of songwriters’ contributions to Tennessee, paves the way for future artists and inspires travelers to experience the state’s music stories, history, attractions and venues. While on vacation with your teens, catch a Qualifying Round at venues across the state of one of the six Showcase events. For more music-filled adventures, check out the places, people and events that inspired the music on the Tennessee Music Pathways. From big cities and small communities, this program identifies, explains and preserves the legacy of Tennessee and is a great way for you to dive deeper into Tennessee’s musically rich storied past.