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From thrills to chills or cozy to party, Tennessee has everything you could want to spend an fall vacation with family, friends or solo. Mix and match as you see fit or enjoy your trip with a fun theme.
Outdoor Thrills Fall Vacation Ideas
With majestic riverfront campsites, the Nolichucky Gorge Campground & Cabins offers fresh Appalachian air and easy access to the surrounding Cherokee National Forest. After the day’s adventures, you can sleep in a tent under the stars or enjoy the comforts of home in a cozy cabin. Along with close proximity to incredible hiking trails – including the Appalachian Trail – this campground has access to eight miles of class three to class four whitewater rapids.
Head on to the Tennessee / Virginia border for some incredible Italian food at The Angry Italian. With a promise to serve delicious, authentic Italian cuisine, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at this family-friendly eatery. From arancini – creamy fried risotto balls with fresh mozzarella or a classic deep dish pizza, you’ll earn those calories back that you burned out on the trails. Oh, and executive chef/owner Keith Yonker isn’t really angry, just animated.
Hiking on The Appalachian National Scenic Trail has become a sacred pilgrimage for some, and there’s a good reason why. This storied path runs from Georgia to Maine and some hike it in one go, others attack it piece by piece over time. But no matter whether you’re a day hiker or a through-hiker, The AT, as it’s fondly known, provides some incredible views and vistas.
Watauga Lake is a beautiful 6,430-acre Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir. Its 106-miles of shoreline is adjoined by the Cherokee National Forest and the Appalachian Trail runs along its northwestern edge. An abundance of public land makes Watauga a great spot for bank fishing and camping. On this spectacular lake, you can expect to reel in smallmouth bass, walleye and trout.
Cozy Fall Vacation Ideas
Luxury at your leisure, The Dwell Hotel in Chattanooga is the perfect place to spend your fall weekend evenings, cozied up by the fireplace in your suite. Each of the 16 rooms in this boutique hotel are retro-reimagined with a fun theme for each. There’s even a queen suite named The Autumn, with a beautiful earth tone color scheme.
What’s better than a cup of coffee and a cozy video game at Game Shack Cafe? Order yourself a Sweater Weather latte with white chocolate, caramel and toasted marshmallow flavors and sit down with your favorite gaming console for just the right dose of nostalgia. Maybe lattes aren’t your thing? They have smoothies, frappes, hot chocolate and soda. Oh, and make sure to come hungry for some award-winning biscuits, breakfast burritos or lunch time confections like chicken noodle soup or a BLT. On top of the video games, they also have board games, card games or chess.
See the Leaves on the Incline Railway – Chattanooga
Start at Rock City by ordering some hot cocoa at the onsite coffee shop and wind your way through the enchanting exhibits and mesmerizing rock formations. Autumn is the perfect time to “See Rock City” with fiery and golden foliage you can see for miles. In fact, you’ll be able to see those beautiful fall leaves in seven states. Then head over to the Incline Railway, just down the road from Rock City to view the sights on this mile-long railway heading to the top of Lookout Mountain.
Reach peak hygge at the gorgeous book shop The Book & Cover filled with You’ve Got Mail vibes. Grab yourself an espresso drink as you walk in and peruse at your leisure for the perfect novel to curl up with later. Can’t wait to get started on your selection? Find a seat in the sunroom to snuggle up and start reading right there. The store has a great kids’ section, with The Giving Tree and Dr. Seuss themes, plus an inviting environment as well as a diverse and engaging inventory. Here, they encourage all those who visit to read books and stay curious.
Spooky Encounters Fall Vacation Ideas
If you want a chilling experience, make sure you book Captain Lawrence’s Quarters at The Commodore Hotel in Linden. Guests have described “a presence” while staying in this room and even have heard voices. Built in 1939 and restored in 2007, this historic hotel has kept the building’s charming qualities like the original hardwood floors and brick walls. Perhaps that’s why whatever or whomever else occupies Captain Lawrence’s Quarters feels quite at home in the hotel.
For a devilishly delicious meal and your chance at making your own witches brew, make sure to visit The Mad Herbalist in Clarksville. Their seasonal menu focuses on the freshest ingredients. From the incredible pesto tomato grilled cheese to the comforting and nutritious Buddha bowl, everyone can find something they will love to eat. But the real fun comes when you choose your tea. Consider picking a flight of teas so you can try them all, and choose to have them hot, iced, sparkling or spiked. Or mix and match to your liking. For a fun twist at the end, create a bath or body product from a selection of seasonal fragrance oils like rosemary, apple or bergamot. Oils can be blended into a hand soap, sanitizer, body spray or body oil.
Franklin witnessed one of the bloodiest battles in the American Civil War in 1864, and homes like The Lotz House, Carter House and Carnton were front and center in The Battle of Franklin. Carnton saw the carnage up close as a field hospital, sheltering more than 300 wounded and dying soldiers. Stained floorboards inside the home show the bloody results of necessary amputations and surgeries of the suffering soldiers. Tour the property’s cemetery, which serves as the final resting place for nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers. The apparitions of a young girl sweeping the floors, a woman floating across the back porch, a Confederate general pacing and a mischievous spirit have been reported here, among many others.
Equal parts eerie and fascinating, a tour of this cave tells about the Mississippian people who lived along the Red River in the 14th century and saw Dunbar Cave as a sacred place and may have believed the cave to be a portal to the Underworld, as part of some Native American storytelling and traditions. The Mississippians left many drawings on the walls of the cave, which are protected at Dunbar Cave State Park and are the only dark zone drawings able to be viewed by the public. While we do not know exactly what the drawings meant, the symbols hold sacred meanings even today for modern indigenous peoples of the Southeastern United States.
Relax and Refresh Fall Vacation Ideas
The fine folks at Southall Farm & Inn in Franklin want to help transport you to a simpler time when the pace of life was more mindful and deliberate. With 325 acres of working farmland, you can be sure to experience the restorative qualities of the natural beauty of Tennessee. In its spacious guest rooms, suites and cottages, you can commune with nature. Visit the spa for a soothing and replenishing treatment with a host of ancient techniques and modern therapies. Indulgent spa amenities include a steam room, sauna, relaxation lounge and mineral pool.
What’s more relaxing than being able to find your favorite thing on a menu? At Little Bite of Everything in Dickson, that’s the idea. The owners wanted to be able to provide a delicious and satisfying experience for all by offering a little bite of everything. From fried green tomatoes to chicken sandwiches, the LBOE club sandwich to fried mac & cheese, you’ll be in food heaven. Oh, and you gotta try the “OC” burger. There’s a reason why it’s been voted Dickson’s best burger four years in a row.
There’s something so relaxing about the golden sunlight, crisp air and majestic autumn leaves. Enjoy a laid-back Sunday (or Saturday) drive on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which stretches 444 miles through Middle Tennessee and on down into Alabama and Mississippi. You can begin this National Scenic Trail in Bellevue, just outside of Nashville, and continue on as long as you want, stopping in hidden gem small towns like Collinwood, Hohenwald and Leipers Fork. Though the Trace is traveled year-round, autumn is truly the best time to experience the brilliant foliage.
Meander the pumpkin paradise at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens in Nashville. Beginning in mid-September through the end of October, Cheekwood becomes a harvest haven with an explosion of the classic favorite orange pumpkins. Stroll through the Bradford Robertson Color Garden display filled with pumpkins and chrysanthemums. Then visit the Pumpkin Village for an incredible photo opportunity and meander through the scarecrow trail, beer garden and the new p’mumkin topiary. You can even pick out your favorite pumpkin to take home and carve with the family.
Family Fun Fall Vacation Ideas
Take a load off at Reelfoot Lake State Park in Northwest Tennessee. Famous for being created after a series of violent earthquakes in the early 1800s, this shallow, 15,000-acre lake offers incredible learning opportunities with an ecosystem unlike any other in Tennessee. Here you can see almost every kind of shore and wading birds, as well as the golden and American bald eagles. Kayak through the flooded cypress forest or head out further for some excellent fishing. Stay in a premium cabin, which are pet friendly and feature full-sized kitchens, dishwashers, central heat and air and an electric fireplace. Or perhaps the family wants to cozy up by the fire pit and roast some s’mores and one of several RV and tent campsites, all within a close proximity to Reelfoot Lake and the Mississippi River.
Offering not only delicious made-from-scratch food, The Grind Mac & Cheese Burger Bar provides its patrons an experience. Stop in to enjoy a Star-Spangled Burger made with prime grind beef, or some fried mac & cheese balls. Just make sure to leave room for the grand finale, an over-the-top milkshake with all the fixings piled high making you question whether the dessert you just received is something to eat or a work of art. (Here’s a hint: It’s both.)
Bring the family to quaint downtown Paris for a fun day of shopping and small-town charm. Downtown Paris delightfully blends two centuries of community history and architecture with current trends in retail and dining. Enjoy shopping at Bo & Co Boutique for a refresh on your style, American Honey Mercantile for a fall-scented candle or two, or Iron Place Furniture & Gifts for some fun seasonal finds. Of course, you’ll need to get your family photo op at Eiffel Tower Park and then top the whole trip off with a sweet treat from Sweet Jordan’s.
Round out your weekend with a special animal encounter right from your car. At Tennessee Safari Park, drive along the 7.5-mile safari trail where you’ll feed some hungry ostriches, get up close and personal to some llamas and even stand next to a giraffe to really see how tall they are. Stretch your legs and continue your journey with 20 acres of additional animal exhibits and a petting zoo with friendly pygmy goats.
Foot-tapping Fall Vacation Ideas
Stay in luxurious style as The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself would have stayed. Located just a few steps from the gates of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, The Guest House at Graceland reflects Elvis’ personal style and the character of his Memphis home. This extraordinary resort hotel experience is inspired by the warm Southern hospitality Elvis always showed his guests from the tasty on-property dining experiences, sparkling swimming pool to the stylish yet welcoming guest rooms.
Look good and eat good at this hip and trendy restaurant in the location that formerly housed Priscilla Presley’s curl-and-dye spot. The Beauty Shop Restaurant is located in the Cooper-Young Historic District of midtown Memphis and leans into its predecessor’s style with campy 50s-style décor and choice seating offered beneath hooded Belvedere hair dryers. Oh yeah, and the food is next level with a weekend brunch menu featuring a bloody Mary or mimosa with some hearty dishes. For lunch and dinner, dine on creative salads and innovative main dishes.
Listen, Memphis isn’t called the home of the blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll for any old reason. This is the city where Elvis recorded his first song and B.B. King made a name for himself, after all. So you have to spend a night of dancing and music on Historic Beale Street, “America’s Most Iconic Street.” Here you can step into the original B.B. King’s Blues Club, experience the Rum Boogie Café or see the Jerry Lee Lewis Café & Honky Tonk. There’s plenty to do and so much to see on this famous street, you’ll be set for the whole night.
When the party has died down and the sun is just coming up, enjoy a little bit of peace and quiet by the mighty Mississippi River. From Beale Street, you can access the paths along the river as part of the Big River Park, Mud Island, newly renovated Tom Lee Park and even on up to the Greenbelt. You’ll be awed and awakened by the beauty of one of the most iconic rivers in the world.