8 Fall Trips Around Nashville Worth Getting In Your Car For

Tennessee Valley railroad museum Chattanooga TN
Photo: Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

You don't have to fight the crowds at the airport to get away for a relaxing, fun-filled weekend. There's still so much for Nashvillians to explore within a couple hundred miles of the city, especially for those who want to stay close to home. From quick jaunts less than an hour away to road trips commanding a few scenic hours in the car, these eight spots around the South are easy to get to, perfect for a last-minute getaway this fall. We've made it easy on you by rounding up the greatest in each of these locales, from festivals and foliage to outdoor activities, food and beverage experiences, and delightful hotels—and even a few quirky pit stops along the way. Pack your bags with the coziest sweaters and boots, and plan an autumn excursion to remember with one of these fall trips around Nashville.

01 of 08

Florence, Alabama

Natchez Trace Florence, AL
Florence-Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

Hop on the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway—especially glorious in peak foliage, in early November—and in less than 2.5 hours, you'll hit Florence. It's the largest of four towns that make up the area of rich music history known as the Shoals. Catch live music here nearly every night of the week at spots like FloBama, Swampers Bar and Grille, and the Rattlesnake Saloon. Pack walking shoes to stroll through the University of North Alabama campus, with striking architectural features and its own live lion mascot, Leo III. Ogle beautiful Victorian and Colonial homes along the tree-lined Wood Avenue and Walnut Avenue historic districts, then wander over to Court Street to browse works from area artists at Stella & Goose, shop local boutiques, and dine at restaurants like Yumm Thai Sushi and Odette. Book a room at The Stricklin Hotel or GunRunner to stay within walking distance of everything downtown, including classes at welcoming Grit Fitness and excellent breakfast at Turbo Coffee.

02 of 08

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tennessee Valley railroad museum Chattanooga TN
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

You'll still be in Tennessee, but heading two hours southeast of Nashville will transport you to entirely new scenery with a backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains. Vibrant shades of burnt orange, red, and yellow welcome you to this city with abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation. Get a front-row seat to fall with adrenaline-inducing activities like hang gliding at Lookout Mountain Flight Park or rock climbing at Woodcock Cove. Refuel on Afro-Creole cuisine at Neutral Ground restaurant, or give yourself options galore at Food Truck Alley in downtown. The iconic Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel revealed upgrades in fall 2021, but for something more out-of-the-box, stay at Common House. Opened in May 2021, this social club in a historic YMCA building offers comfy common areas for remote working and a brilliant fall menu (think flatbread with delicata squash and Asian pear) at its members-and-guests-only restaurant.

03 of 08

Homewood, Alabama

Valley Hotel Homewood AL

With the opening of its first boutique property, Valley Hotel, this Birmingham suburb three hours south of Nashville has been upgraded to destination status. Opened in February 2021 with 129 rooms, this art-focused hotel has local touches throughout, including a striking piece from Birmingham painter Trés Taylor in the lobby. With a coffee shop, second-floor bar, and Ironwood Kitchen & Cocktails and patio on 18th Street South, Homewood's main strip, you could stay for a weekend and never leave. Yet there's much to explore out the front door. Stop into the original O.Henry's Coffee, a haven for java lovers; grab treats at Cookie Fix; shop locally made art and décor at Alabama Goods; pop into Wild Things for gifts; and carve out an hour to browse Little Professor Bookshop. When you reach the end of shops, cross over Oxmoor Road to explore beautiful residential neighborhoods straight out of a magazine. Then, hop in your car to see Birmingham Botanical Gardens, less than 10 minutes away.

04 of 08

Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, TN
Garrett Sweet

Bluff City is a happening place to be in the fall. On your three-hour drive from Nashville, take a short detour off I-40 to Jackson's quirkiest attraction, Rusty's TV & Movie Car Museum—home to nostalgic artifacts like the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine and Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters. Loretta Lynn's Ranch is also along the way. Once you hit Memphis, check into the mid-century-inspired Hu, a boutique hotel with a stylish rooftop bar overlooking the Mississippi River. Then it's time to eat and drink your way through the city, with stops at new hot spots like Good Fortune Co. (handmade noodles and dumplings), Plant Based Heat (vegan comfort food), Paramount (New Orleans fare), and Magnolia & May (country brunch).

05 of 08

Leiper's Fork, Tennessee

Leipers Fork TN
Matthew Maxey

If you're looking for an easy day trip, head southwest of the city about 40 minutes to explore Leiper's Fork. This unincorporated village is known throughout Williamson County for its boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants, all packed into a tiny, walkable strip of Old Hillsboro Road. Book a massage or a facial at The Spa at Leiper's Fork, an oasis within a historic home, to get in Zen mode. Then, grab a Campfire latte at The RedByrd (a coffee shop in a tiny house) and pop into Leiper's Fork Market, the most upscale gas station around, with a chandelier above a community table and local treats like boiled peanuts. For a perfect fall afternoon, take a short ride to Leiper's Fork Distillery to tour the facilities and taste local spirits. If you want to make a weekend of it, the colorful Pot N Kettle Cottages are right downtown and ooze Southern charm—and its latest offering, the Deal Cottage, is nestled in nature and perfect for larger groups.

06 of 08

Paducah, Kentucky

Paducah, KY
Paducah CVB

After a summer of fruity cocktails, darker spirits like bourbon regain their appeal amidst cooler nights and changing leaves. In just over two hours, you can travel to the state that produces 95 percent of the world's bourbon. A bit quicker to get to from Nashville than bourbon destinations like Louisville, Paducah launched an Entertainment Destination Center that allows to-go drinks around downtown daily. Atomic City Tours offers private bourbon walking tours focused on the city's contribution to the bourbon industry, ending at Barrel & Bond. With 1,600 bourbons and American whiskeys, this spot has one of the largest selections in the country. If you're hungry after all that sipping, hit Parker's Drive-In for burgers and milkshakes with a side of old-timey nostalgia. Time your visit right, in mid-November, and you can enjoy the River's Edge International Film Festival. Art lovers can also visit more than two dozen art galleries within Paducah's Lower Town historic district. In recent years, the city's artist relocation program has drawn many talents to the area.

07 of 08

Columbia, Tennessee

Blythewood Inn Columbia, TN

Less than an hour from Nashville but with a small-town charm all its own, Columbia is an autumn-lover's paradise, especially for families. On Saturdays, visit the Columbia Farmers' Fresh Market and wander through the 60-acre Woodland Park, then spend a few hours at Pumpkin Paradise, which not only offers the orange gourds for sale but teaches children about agriculture in the community. No kids in tow? Columbia has plenty of wineries and breweries nearby where you can sample and soak up the sun on a relaxing fall afternoon: Try Amber Falls Winery & Cellars (with its own guest cottage), Keg Springs Winery, and Bad Idea Brewing. Also in town, the Columbia Arts District, anchored by the Columbia Arts Building, is home to many cool restaurants, coffee bars, and shops, while the Blythewood Inn Bed & Breakfast is a neat historic spot to rest your head.

08 of 08

Tupelo, Mississippi

tupelo MS
Jennie Curlee

The 200-mile trip to Tupelo will go quicker than you expect on the Natchez Trace Parkway, and once you arrive to the city where the King of Rock n' Roll was born, you'll want to stay the whole weekend. Ease hunger pains from the trip at Clay's House of Pig (do yourself a favor and order the BBQ Tater). Grab a soft-serve swirl at Dairy Kream before heading into downtown to pop into a wide range of local shops like Reed's, a department store opened in 1905; Blairhaus, a beautiful home shop curated by interior designers; L.A. Green, an upscale women's clothing boutique; Tupelo Hardware Company, where young Elvis bought his first guitar; and plenty of antique stores, too. You'd be remiss to skip a tasting at Queen's Reward, the state's only meadery, where you can sample a variety of flavors of the honey wine, play lawn games, and pick up a few bottles to take home for your Thanksgiving table. In 2022, the city opened its first boutique property, Hotel Tupelo.

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