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If Tennessee isn’t on your radar as one of the best places for a family vacation, then add it to your list. Tennessee is packed with activities that are fun for everyone. There’s something for every age and every interest in Tennessee, and these fun locations around the Volunteer State are filled with adventures for you and your family to discover.
Outdoor excitement, world-class zoos and aquariums, theme parks, delicious food, all in a scenic setting full of history? Yes, Tennessee has all of those things and more.
Let this guide to things to do in Tennessee with kids inspire you to make some great family memories.
Things To Do In Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge is one of the most family-friendly spots in Tennessee, and there’s a long list of things to do. The listed activities just scratch the surface of what’s available in Pigeon Forge.
Dollywood is the best theme park for family fun. It has rides for everyone, including the fastest wooden roller coaster in the United States, in a beautiful, tranquil garden-like setting with lots of Dolly stories and Dolly memorabilia to discover.
There’s also Dollywood Splash Country Water Park, which has a wave pool, water slides, a lazy river, and more. It’s easy to hop between Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country.
2. Titanic Museum
Although the real Titanic never sailed to Tennessee, an extensive museum will make you feel like you’re walking through the halls of the fated ship. You can even get your picture taken on the grand staircase replica.
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The museum contains artifacts from Titanic. Visitors can take part in interactive, hands-on stations, such as walking on a sloped floor that mimics the ship’s angle as it sank.
Where to Stay
There are places to stay at various prices in and around Pigeon Forge. If you plan to visit Dollywood, consider staying at Dollywood’s Dreammore Resort and Spa or in one of Dollywood’s cabins. Both offer perks for park visitors, such as early admission and free transportation.
Camp Margaritaville RV Resort and Lodge is another excellent choice. It’s an obvious pick if you’re an RVer, but the lodge has comfortable rooms and many amenities. Their King Deluxe Family Room offers tons of space and privacy, plus a cute indoor tent for the kids.
Things To Do In Chattanooga
Located on the Tenneessee-Georgia border, Chattanooga is a charming small city with a walkable downtown (and free shuttle service if you don’t feel like walking) and loads of outdoor things to do that the whole family will enjoy.
There’s Civil War history throughout the southeast United States. Still, Chattanooga has a particularly interesting piece of Civil War and military history – the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a military member started in Chattanooga.
FYI: The Chattanooga Choo Choo isn’t a train but rather a building. Today, the Chattanooga Choo Choo is a fun shopping and dining experience. If you’re a train buff, you can also include a stop at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Chattanooga is big on museums and has several to choose from, including a great children’s museum.
3. Rock City
Rock City is a nature center with rock gardens at Lookout Mountain’s top. You’ll find moderately easy walking paths and panoramic views across seven states. Rock City is actually in Georgia, but it’s only six miles from downtown and is considered one of the city’s most popular attractions.
SheBuysTravel Tip: A fun addition to your visit to Rock City is a ride on the incline railway. You’ll be able to hear the train when you’re exploring Rock City.
4. Tennessee Aquarium
The Tennessee Aquarium in downtown Chattanooga is divided into two separate riverfront buildings, Ocean Adventure, and River Adventure. One admission will get you entry into both exhibits.
5. Ruby Falls
Ruby Falls is a waterfall located deep inside Lookout Mountain. Guided tours inside the caverns (purchase tickets in advance) last about an hour. Ziplining is also available onsite if you want the treetop view of the gorgeous scenery.
Where to Stay
The Read House in the heart of downtown Chattanooga has an elegant vibe, but the rooms are comfortable, and the atmosphere is generally approachable for kids. There’s an indoor pool for year-round swimming, an onsite restaurant, and a Starbucks. The restaurant might initially seem unapproachable, but it’s very chill and kid-friendly.
Things To Do In Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer easy access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a destination of its own (see below.)
6. Hillbilly Golf
There are a ton of places to play mini golf throughout Tennessee (both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have lots of fun places, too), but the most fun and unique place to play is Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg. An incline train takes you up to the top of the hill, where you’ll choose between two courses and play your way back down.
7. Ripley’s Aquarium
Although landlocked Tennessee might be the last place you’d expect to find extensive information about life under the sea, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokys is home to sharks, stingrays, penguins, and more. A fun add-on is the glass-bottomed boat ride which glides over Shark Lagoon.
Fun fact: Gatlinburg is home to the only in-state ski resort, so if you’re planning a vacation during the winter season, keep this in mind.
Where to Stay
Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg is an excellent spot to stay. Despite its name, the resort is super family-friendly, with a great pool/waterpark area and outdoor games.
Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If you’re looking for outdoor things to do with kids in Tennessee, this popular national park is a don’t-miss. Great Smoky Mountains National Pak has 384 miles of mostly paved roads, making it a great national park to tour by car. The best and most scenic spots to drive are Cades Cove Loop Road, Newfound Gap Road, and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
Tennessee and North Carolina
A portion of the park is in North Carolina, so consult the National Park Service’s website to see what entry point works best for you. If you’re coming from Gatlinburg, the Sugarlands Visitor’s Center is how you’ll enter the park. Take some time to explore the visitor’s center. They’ve got some interactive exhibits, and you can check to see what ranger-led programs are available and grab a map.
8. Clingman’s Dome
Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in Tennessee and on the Appalachian Trail. There’s a half-mile paved trail leading up to the 54-foot observation tower. It’s a very steep climb, but the views from the top are worth the work.
If you’re interested in camping or other hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, check the park’s website for more information, and make sure you’re up to speed on bear safety.
Where to Stay
If you don’t want to camp in the park, check out the ‘Where to Stay’ sections for Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. You can also look at lodging options in Sevierville. All of these locations are within an easy drive of the park.
Things to Do in Memphis
Many people flock to Memphis to take the self-guided tour of Graceland, and that wouldn’t be a bad way to experience the city, but there is so much more to do. Elvis Presley’s iconic home in Memphis is certainly a place to start but don’t leave it there.
9. Memphis Zoo
The Memphis Zoo has various wildlife, including pandas, penguin habitats, and a Komodo dragon. The zoo’s website has an interactive tool that helps you plan your day based on arrival time and how long you plan to stay. You can do a self-guided tour, but if you don’t feel like walking? A guided tram tour will take you around the zoo, an excellent option for families with younger kids.
In addition to visiting with the animals, the Memphis Zoo has a farm train and children’s rides. Sensory-sensitive people can download the free Kulturecity app, which will provide a zoo preview and a map of where to find sensory-friendly activities. Check their website for special events.
10. Go Ape Zipline Park
Go Ape Zipline Park is the perfect outdoor activity for adventurous tweens and teens. Climb and zipline through the treetops at this adventure park, suitable for kids 10 and up.
11. Visit Graceland
Graceland has several tour options if you can’t leave Memphis without visiting Elvis’ iconic home. The Elvis Experience Tour is the best value for a look inside the mansion, plus access to Elvis’ custom jets, cars, and more. More extensive backstage access tours are available if you have more time and money.
Where to Stay
The ultimate place to stay in Memphis is the famous Peabody Hotel. Yes, this is the iconic hotel where ducks regularly parade through the lobby. The accommodations fall firmly in the upscale category, but room prices are surprisingly affordable.
Things to Do in Nashville
Music-loving families will enjoy a visit to Nashville (AKA Music City) with many fun things to do. The downtown Nashville area is a popular adult party spot with many bars and music clubs. Do what you will with that info, whether that avoids the downtown area or carve out an adults-only night on the town.
12. Country Music Hall of Fame
See artifacts and memorabilia from the genre’s biggest superstars over several decades. From country music pioneers to current favorites, there’s something for everyone here. And you don’t have to be a country music superfan to enjoy this. The exhibits are very well done, and there’s lots of outside space to move around.
13. The Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is Nashville’s ultimate live music experience. Check their website for available experiences. From seeing a live show to grabbing souvenirs in the gift shop, there are many opportunities to make memories through epic family getaways.
14. Nashville Zoo
The Nashville Zoo has a bevy of interesting animals, such as the red panda, two-toed sloth, and many others. Carve out a full day to explore the zoo and petting zoo.
15. Frist Art Museum
The Frist Art Museum has a variety of art on display in its galleries. You’ll find static and rotating exhibits, so repeat visitors will always find something different. The Frist Art Museum is one of the most family-friendly museums in the country. Not only are there interactive exhibits kids love, but admission is always free for anyone under 18, which is a definite win for family travelers.
Other Things to Do in Nashville
Adventure Science Center has a ton of interactive things to do. And don’t forget to check out the Parthenon. This Nashville landmark stands proudly at Centennial Park, Nashville’s premier urban park.