April 20, 2021
Bike wheels rolling over wooded trails. Laughter among Tennessee's lush gardens located around the state. The pure adrenaline rush you feel as you fly along the tracks of the world's fastest wooden coaster. The awe of the vast scenic landscapes, history, and exhibits that transform learning into a fond memory. Check out these kid-friendly places for the ultimate Made in Tennessee family vacation.
*Updated to reflect 2021 safe travel information
Explore Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium's 3,500 acres along beautiful hiking trails and mountain bike trails. See artifacts from the earliest families who settled on Bays Mountain in the mid 1800's. Take a trip through space or catch a glimpse of bobcats, wolves, river otters, turtles or white-tail deer. Face coverings are required in park buildings. Please maintain a physical distance of six feet from others and wash hands frequently. Nature programs and barge rides are limited to 15 participants.
Dollywood is home to the world's fastest wood coaster, Lightning Rod. Breaking coaster barriers are what Dollywood does best, which also has Wild Eagle, America's first wing coaster, and FireChaser Express, America's first dual-launch family coaster, launching them forward and backward. Couple that with award-winning shows, southern food and wonderful festivals and you have the perfect theme park you'll enjoy year-round. Dollywood encourages everyone to Play Safe. Face masks are required in areas where you can't physically distance outdoors for all visitors ages 2 and older, with some exceptions including while eating, on water park attractions or select coasters. There is limited capacity on rides, attractions and dine-in restaurants.
Opening for summer fun, May 15-16 and daily after May 22, Soaky Mountain Waterpark in Sevierville has thrills and fun for kids of all ages. For the little ones, go to Boomer's Bay which has smaller versions of the big kid rides including a wall ride, twisting slides and more. There's also a Mini Mayhem featuring kid-sized gravity challenging walls, with a big splash finish. The Hive has multiple water play features including a water bucket dump, body slides and body bowl slides. Adolescents and teens will love Hang 10essee, a dual FlowRider surf system; American Racer's Rush featuring translucent slides with stars and stripes and a fireworks finish; and Holler!, a body slide that has a heart-thumping drop. Physical distancing is encouraged and guests will be asked to gather in groups of 10 people or less and remain at least six feet from other groups of guests. Masks are encouraged, but not required, when social distancing can't be maintained or when in common areas around other guests. See more of Soaky Mountain Waterpark's Safer at Play Program.
From rock climbing, fishing and biking, you can find adventure just a few minutes from Knoxville's downtown. Ijams is a 315-acre urban greenspace with more than 12 miles of natural-surface trails. There are also more than nine miles of mountain bike trails in the Mead's Quarry and Ross Marble Natural Area. Cool off in Toll Creek, discover Mead's Quarry Lake by canoe or kayak or take a swim in the quarry. Outdoor Knoxville can supply all the equipment you need to have a great outdoor adventure. So, get outside along the blueways and greenways, parks and natural areas Knoxville has to offer.
From seeing Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina at Lover's Leap to discovering Fairytale Caverns and Mother Goose Village, the kids will love expelling some energy among the beautiful gardens at Rock City. Take them along the 180-ft. suspension bridge, a perfect place to snap a picture of the Chattanooga Valley. Timed entry tickets are available online or at the ticket window when you arrive. Masks are required for guests over the age of 12 inside all buildings, at the ticket plaza and when physical distancing can't be maintained between other guests not in your party. See more travel protocols and tips.
Descend 260 feet into Lookout Mountain to see the tallest and deepest underground waterfall, Ruby Falls. See unique rock formations malong the cavern trail and learn the story behind the discovery of the cavern. Above ground, you can enjoy shopping at the Village Gift Shop filled with curated gifts, a rock candy mountain and more; High Point ZIP Adventure featuring amazing views of Lookout Mountain and beyond; and dining at The Back Porch, Ruby's Kitchen and the Cavern Cafe. Walk up to the Blue Heron Overlook to see views of the Tennessee Valley. Here, you'll also find a colorblind viewfinder outfitted with Enchroma lenses, designed to alleviate red-green colorblindness. Advanced reservations are required and masks are required for guests over the age of 2 inside Ruby Falls cave and facilities. Learn more about Ruby Falls' Covid-19 protocols.
The Museum of Appalachia is home to 36 historic log structures, exhibits filled with thousands of authentic Appalachian artifacts, gardens and free range farm animals keep kids of all ages entertained for hours. Learn how life was like for the first Tennessee settlers. Museum of Appalachia requests guests to wear masks and maintain physical distancing guidelines.
The Museum of Scott County is a museum built, curated and maintained by students, for students (and the general public) is making its mark on Scott County. Exhibits are vast, ranging from the prehistoric era to coal mining and a Pioneer Playroom where children can dress up and participate in "hands on" experiences. Couple that with historic structures and farm animals for a uniquely educational visit.
Exploration awaits at Adventure Science Center with interactive activities that are found in the Adventure Tower where Earth Science, Creativity and Innovation, Sound and Light, Air and Space, and Health and Energy are blended to create non-stop fun. Continue on to Space Chase where cosmic rays, the Star Walk and Infrared Wall can be found. Catch a performance in the planetarium. Adventure Science Center has a number of health precautions in place to know before you visit including required masks, limited capacity, timed entry admission tickets and more. Review Adventure Science Center's protocols.
Civil War history comes to life with the stories that are included with the tours at Carnton. Learn why the Battle of Franklin was significant, travel up the wooden stairs to the second floor where it was said body parts of soldiers reached the second story window. The floors are still stained with these men's blood. Take in some fresh air in the Garden at Carnton and extend your tour with a silent walk through the Carnton cemetery. Masks are mandatory inside the historic home. See more information about touring Carnton safely.
Children can have fun learning at the Discovery Center in Murfreesboro. Interactive exhibits include the great outdoors, learning about the five senses, phosphorescence where kids can play with shadows and a tiny town complete with a postal center, music store and more. The museum's capacity indoors is 200 guests at a time. Face coverings are required for all guests ages 4 and up while inside the museum and physical distancing is encouraged. Learn more about the Discovery Center's reopening plans.
Kids and adults can challenge themselves mentally and physically on 4 levels of adventure courses featuring over 110 climbing elements at Soar Adventure Tower. Enjoy two hours of climbing and maneuvering the course with the Tower Adventure Pass, or spring for the Twilight Pass during the last two hours of the day for $30 to enjoy the sunset while you navigate. Soar also has mini golf for families to enjoy. All of the clubs and golf balls are washed after each use, but guests can bring their own equipment if they prefer.
Learn the incredible story of the railroad hero Casey Jones through interactive exhibits and artifacts at Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum. Enjoy a meal at the world famous Brooks Shaw's Old Country Store Restaurant; tour the Providence House and The Village Chapel, Casey Jones Mini-Golf and the Shoppes at Casey Jones Village. End your visit sweetly with some confections from the authentically recreated 1890's Ice Cream Parlor & Fudge Shoppe. All staff wear masks and thoroughly clean and sanitize the dining and service areas. Seating inside the restaurant is at reduced capacity and physical distancing is encouraged.
Plows, fertilizers and planters pulled by mules and horses are on display at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center to help tell the story of West Tennessee's cash crop: cotton. An old roller gin, cotton baskets and sacks are also displayed. Kids can see 11 species of catfish a model of the alligator snapping turtle and hear stories from Uncle Luther, modeled after the late Luther Windrow who grew up on the Hatchie River. Face coverings are required while inside the buildings and limited capacity is implemented. Learn more about West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center's reopening protocols.
An immersive experience of a wide range of topics is just inside this multi-million dollar museum, Discovery Park of America. Experience the historic 1811-1812 earthquakes that formed Reelfoot Lake; take a 40-minute interactive ride through outer space in the Starship Theater; and see West Tennessee from new heights by climbing up to The Tower and step on the two glass floor panels in side and four panels outside for a different view. Beginning April 22, 2021, masks are optional for guests. Learn more about the health protocols Discovery Park has implemented.
Explore the 70 acres of habitats that house more than 3,500 animals at the Memphis Zoo. Be sure to check out the Zambezi River Hippo Camp, an immersive experience where you can stand on a balcony of a lodge to see hippos and crocodiles. Underwater views and an explorative fishing village are all included in the new exhibit. The Memphis Zoo currently has a limited capacity of 5,000 guests in the facility at one time. Please check the Memphis Zoo page for capacity announcements on the day of your visit.
At the Children's Museum of Memphis, kids of a variety of ages can play and learn through interactive exhibits and games. For children 4 and under, activities include exploring a school bus, castle, tree house, Little Light Bright and the Mini Airways exhibition spaces. Additional exhibits for kids 5 and up include basketball, learning about earthquakes, dinosaurs, automobiles and more. Masks are required for guests over the age of 2. Physical distancing is highly encouraged as well as frequent hand washing. Learn more about the Covid-19 protocols.
With so many kid-friendly places for kids of all ages, Tennessee is the best place to explore with your family.