West Tennessee is chock full of culture, music, food, and family friendly southern hospitality. What could be a more perfect time to have some West Tennessee cultural experiences than when the autumnal leaves have taken on those warm tones of reds, oranges, and yellows? Here’s where to start planning your West Tennessee road trip.
In the heart of Midtown lies the Memphis Zoo. It sits on 76 acres of land and was founded in 1906. The zoo now has more than 3,500 animals on exhibit. With educational opportunities abounding and aesthetically pleasing enclosures made with viewing in mind, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Memphis Zoo. Beautiful scenes, picturesque foliage, and animals that can keep you in awe for hours; this is surely one West Tennessee fall destination you don’t want to miss!
Next stop is Big River Crossing. When they say “big river” that’s exactly what they mean. This pedestrian bridge crosses the Mississippi River, spanning almost a mile across, and affords a view of downtown Memphis like none other. It’s a must-visit destination spot that has the added benefit of offering exercise opportunities of the best kind. Run, walk or bike across the bridge, or just snap a few selfies while taking in the view. Refreshing views can be found along the way from one side of the Mississippi to the other. Who knows, your family might even get to see a train or two crossing alongside of you, and the kids will love it! It’s an experience you won’t want to pass up while you’re exploring West Tennessee in the fall.
With the Memphis Zoo in the heart of Midtown and the Big River Crossing within walking distance to Beale Street and the Bass Pro Pyramid in downtown, Shelby Farms claims its residence on the eastern side of the Memphis 240 Interstate loop. With five times the acreage of Central Park in New York, it’s hailed as one of the top 20 largest urban parks in the U.S. You could spend days here and still not have experienced everything this urban park has to offer. No matter your flavor of outdoor activities, this park will surely not disappoint. From the Shelby Farms Greenline that is more than 10 miles long, to the hiking trails, fishing opportunities, imaginative playgrounds, zip line adventures, boating, disc golf, horseback riding, BMX racing, and the American Bison herd that calls Shelby Farms home, you will surely find something that suits your taste.
The great autumn advantage is rolled out across Tennessee like a red carpet. The pleasantly cooler temperatures bring many benefits to this corner of the South. The insects are preparing for winter. The trees are putting on a farewell show for those hot summer days, and the opportunities to explore, play, photograph, and experience nature in comfort abound! There are so many ways to spend a day at Shelby Farms, and you will find yourself coming back each fall just to take in a small portion in hopes that your experience there will carry you through the winter season.
One of my favorite spots during fall in Shelby Farms is the tiny pond right across from Hyde Lake’s boat ramp. With Hyde Lake to your back, you can watch fishermen claim their plots and patiently wait to reel in fish from around the pond. Some even take the opportunity to pull their children away from blue glow of their electronic screens for an experience video games can’t quite reproduce. All this unfolds with the beautiful medley of colors serenading the scene with rich colors of fall dancing in the soft breeze momentarily transporting you back to those warmth-filled memories of your childhood.
While Tennessee State Parks never disappoint, they present special opportunities during the fall months to take in their beauty. Just 13 miles north of Memphis you can experience a Tennessee State Park “getting its fall on” for yourself. Meeman Shelby State Park affords this opportunity and so much more right here in West Tennessee. From the free fall festival hosted by park staff, to the gorgeous lake, activity center, playground, horse trails, campgrounds, bird watching, cabins, and Mississippi River boat access, Meeman Shelby State Park will provide ample opportunity for you and your family to take in as much fall foliage and nature as you want.
With more than 12,500 acres to explore, you could make this your weekend destination for all of fall and still not see the half of it. Be sure to check out the video to see what fall in Meeman Shelby State Park looks like during golden hour from both the ground and the air. It’s a pretty spectacular place that your whole family will love exploring together.
Leaving Memphis for a short trek to the Northeast, you’ll come to the small town of Union City. While it is indeed small, don’t let that dissuade you from venturing over to its biggest attraction: Discovery Park of America. Built right along the I-69 corridor, this place is poised to become a major draw for travelers once I-69 is finished. Currently, it is already a popular family destination drawing visitors from all over the U.S. and beyond. You need at least two days to fully experience all it has to offer, and at the rate they keep expanding attractions, you might need three before all is said and done.
The observation tower provides a gorgeous view of the park and surroundings robed in all of its fall beauty. If you’ve never taken the elevator to the top of the tower, fall is definitely the time to hop on that elevator and climb the 120 feet up for the scenic panoramic views.
Perhaps you’d like to venture down a giant slide through a metal man’s chest on one story and exit quickly out his leg on another with a major grin spanning from ear to ear. Space and NASA fans will love the space simulator theater. You can safely experience an earthquake as the story of Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake is told. Trains, vintage and antique cars and more can be found at the Discovery Park. Endless exhibits and interactive experiences are available here. You will enjoy this place so much that after your initial visit with your kids, you’ll want to plan a trip back so that you can experience it kid-free.