The Best Tennessee Getaways for Spring
You’ve probably heard of the three Tennessees: east, middle, and west (or Memphis, Nashville, and the mountains, depending on your perspective). These three regions all have distinctive personalities, making it possible to find Tennessee vacation spots that offer totally different experiences. A trip to Memphis doesn’t look anything like a weekend in Nashville—and the Smokies are worlds away from either one (but not all that far). All three regions are cradles of American music–from blues and country to bluegrass and Appalachian folk. You can stay anywhere from a classic Southern hotel like the Peabody in Memphis to a sleek downtown loft in Nashville to a cabin–or Margaritaville—in the mountains. The scenery is gorgeous, and the indoor fun isn’t bad, either–shopping, dining, live music, museums, distilleries–you name it. Whether you’re searching for Tennessee vacations for families, romantic getaways in TN, or a girlfriends’ getaway, check out these destinations.
Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
All of your favorites—from pancake houses to moonshine tastings—are here, but this area has newer offerings that are perfect for a long weekends. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is ideal for a group of girlfriends and families, with all kinds of creative lodging options, a pool to die for, and enviable perks for Dollywood visitors. Gatlinburg has a new Margaritaville Resort and Anakeesta mountain attraction, with shops, dining, and outdoor adventure. It’s a great time to head for the mountains. Tell Dolly we sent you.
There might be newer, hipper lodging options, but we still say it’s worth driving to Memphis just to park yourself in the stately Peabody lobby, have an adult beverage, and watch those bloomin’ ducks. Great food and drink, blues music, and Elvis. What better spot for a girlfriends posse–or a couple getting away for a few days? Plan your trip with Travel Editor Hannah Hayes's guide to the city.
Your better hotels—even chains with amenities—have gotten pricey in Music City. But you can affordably rent a cool loft that sleeps a small group of your girlfriends right downtown, walkable to lots of music and nightlife. Make the pilgrimage to Broadway, but also check out hot neighborhoods like The Gulch, where you’ll find creative chefs ramping up the food and cocktail scene. Or indulge your inner collector in the 8th Avenue/Melrose antiquing district.
For a crowd pleaser with something for everybody, Chattanooga is tough to beat. Explore the Riverwalk, Tennessee Aquarium, and Bluff View Arts District, then cross the Tennessee River on a pedestrian bridge to Coolidge Park (it has a carousel) and happening Frazier Avenue. There’s adventure to be had rafting the Ocoee River, hiking Stringer’s Ridge—a 92-acre urban wilderness park–testing your mettle on the Ruby Falls ZIPstream Aerial Adventure, or hang gliding off Lookout Mountain. For indoor fun, check out the new London Calling speakeasy or Whiskey Thief inside The Edwin Hotel.
If you’re a fan of NASCAR or country music, Bristol’s worth a road trip. The Carter Family’s original sessions were recorded in this border town—half of State Street is in Virginia, and the other side is in Tennessee—making Bristol a fitting home for The Birthplace of Country Music Museum. And the Bristol Motor Speedway is legendary. Shop historic downtown and venture out to natural beauty on area lakes and rivers, not to mention the Cherokee National Forest. FYI, Hank Williams supposedly had his last meal at Bristol’s Burger Bar.
Check into The Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel on Henley Street near World’s Fair Park and explore shops, bars, and restaurants in several distinctive districts, including Old City, Gay Street, and Market Square. Knoxville’s Ijams Nature Center is an urban nature park with 10 miles of trails, a canopy experience, and water access on Toll Creek, Mead’s Quarry Lake, and the Tennessee River. Enjoy gorgeous scenery on the Little River or take it indoors and see the work of East Tennessee artists at the Knoxville Museum of Art. (P.S. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to occasionally shout, “Go Vols!” while you’re in town.)