Best Places To Visit on a 3 Day Trip to Tennessee
Long weekend coming up? Planning on taking advantage of it with a spontaneous trip to Tennessee? The activities below are some of the best ways to take advantage of Tennessee and experience the state with only 3 days!
Nashville is known as the Music City since it is the center of country music! It's also the largest city in Tennessee as well as the capital. Being the center of country music, you'll find lots of country bars, cowboy boot stores, and Country Music Hall of Fame. Johnny Cash, Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum and more started out here! The longest running live radio show Grand Ole Opry can be watched in Nashville as well! Nashville is also the home of Vanderbilt University! There's so much to do in Nashville, you should aim to spend the entire day here, espcially the night if you like to party!
After getting soaked in the rapids, we changed our outfits to something dry, and set off for the Music City of Nashville. Famous as a country music hub, Nashville is packed with beautiful artworks, beautiful music, and some very diverse people. We got to the city late afternoon and you could already see tons of people on the streets looking to have a good time. Shaina was in love with the city and its country music vibe. We walked around its famous broadway street and explored a lot of shops around downtown. Sadly, we didn't go inside any of the bars or clubs because I was still under 21. We didn't get to experience Nashville to the fullest, but all the more reason to return in the future.
White Water Rafting
If there is one thing you should absolutely do while in the state, it's white water rafting in the Smokey Mountains. Ocoee Rafting provided us with an amazing white water rafting experience. They provided all the equipment, including helmets that allow you to strap in your GoPro on it (not including the clip). Ocoee offers rafting on the upper river, middle river, and full river. The prices on Saturday are more expensive than the rest of the week so that's something to keep in mind if you want to save some money. Prices also vary heavily depending on what time of year you visit. Make sure to check out the website for full details on the prices. Before hitting the waters, you get a small course on how to properly row as well as tips to keep you safe. They also have an adventure park and zip-line canopy tours. All of the staff were very kind and friendly! Huge thing to keep in mind, Tennessee is split into two times zones. Majority of the white water rafting places, including Ocoee Rafting, are located in the Eastern Time Zone whereas majority of the state is located in the Central Time Zone.
One of the main reasons that Jane and I wanted to go to Tennessee is because we kept hearing about their awesome white water rafting. Our rafting time was 11:00 AM, which meant that we had to be there latest 10:30 AM. Ocoee Rafting was 2 hours away from our campsite. Our plan was to wake up at 7:00 AM, get going by 8:00 AM, and arrive at the rapids at about 10:00 AM, leaving 30 minutes to spare. Everything was going quite smoothly. We woke up on time, quickly got ready, and were on our way out by 7:45. It was all going great until Jane realized some key information: Tennessee is split into two different time zones. Our campsite was on the Central Time Zone, but Ocoee was on Eastern Time. How could we forget! Instead of having 2 hours till our appointment, like we expected, we only had about an hour. We called Ocoee asking if we could reschedule, but they don't allow rescheduling. They said the latest we could arrive was 10:45 AM before the bus left to the rapids. That's when I took matters into my own hands and went full fast and furious. I hit the accelerator and zoomed through the highway to get to the rapids on time. The speedometer never went below 85. It seemed like I was fighting a losing battle with time, but i kept pushing through as fast as I could and we made it ra split second before the bus left to the rapids.
We got a short safety briefing, put on our helmets, grabbed our paddles, and went out to the rapids. We were lucky enough to get a guide all to ourselves. Our instructor was super cool and made a bunch of jokes. The best part was that he was also from Miami! Talk about a coincidence. We bonded with stories about our state and how the landscape in Florida is completely different from Tennessee. We were able to have friendly conversation, but sometimes it was halted by the instructor screaming "ONE FORWARD!" "TWO FORWARDS!" "ONE BACK!"
We were doing pretty well at rowing and following the instructors directions. There was a calm part of the river that the instructor let us swim along with the raft. Then came one of the worst rapids. The instructor warned us that a lot of people usually fall after this particular rapid, but I was determined not to. We approached the rapid fast and I was so ready to not fall off the boat when all of a sudden... I turn my head and see our friend Shaina, who we'd taken along on our road trip, coming straight at me. At that very moment, I knew there was nothing I could do to avoid ending up in the water. Jane was in the back so she stayed completely dry! She gets so lucky sometimes... Our overall rafting experience was hectic from the beginning of the day, but man did we have a blast!
Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall located within Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The only way to see this 145 ft (44 m) waterfall is by taking a 1.5 hour underground tour! To get to the actual waterfall, you have to join a group tour that starts out with an elevator full of people going 1,000 ft (305 m) underground. After the ride underground, the guide takes you through the mountain where you can see some amazing rock formations. There are rocks that look like bacon and eggs, a potato chip, and even a donkey. The walk to the waterfall and then back to the elevator is approximately 4/5 of a mile. Remember that Ruby Falls is inside a mountain, so there is no light sneaking in from the outside, only lights to help guide you through the cave and the light show that turns on when you get to the actual waterfall (we recommend you bring a tripod)! Beautiful shades of purple, magenta, blue, and green help expose the beauty of the mystic waterfall. It was unlike any other waterfall we'd ever seen!
Rock city is not located in Tennessee but rather inside Georgia! Don't let that scare you away: it's only a 10 minute drive from Ruby Falls. Rock City is almost exactly like what it sounds: it's a man-made little town made entirely from rocks. The experience allows you to walk through tunnels, caves, houses made from rocks, suspension bridges, and it even has a beautiful waterfall. The main attraction is a clearing where you can see 7 different States (Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama) from the lookout point and listening to some live music while you're enjoying the view. On our way back, you pass through a room that vaguely resembles the Disney ride It's a Small World.
Jane and I are obsessed with waterfalls so we weren't going to pass on seeing one of the most famous waterfalls in Tennessee. Getting to the falls was easy enough. Just drive up the side of Lookout Mountain until you get to a crossroads. One way takes you to Ruby Falls, and the other takes you to Rock City. We had never heard of Rock City until the guy at the ticket counter told us about it. After seeing the photo of the beautiful waterfall, we bought our combination tickets to see both at a discounted price. Rock City closes before Ruby Falls so we decided to visit it first. It was a fun journey getting to the 7 State lookout point - we even saw a deer! At times, the tunnels were a little creepy because they had dolls and doll houses along the walls. Creepy might be a little too dramatic, but I don't like dolls staring at me as I walk through dark tunnels. The city was cute, but Ruby Falls stole our hearts. I'm obsessed with both caves and waterfalls, so can you blame me? Our first day in Tennessee turned out to be a successful.
Children (3-12): $11.95
Children (3-12): $11.95
Children (3-12): $21.90
Jack Daniels is the best selling American whiskey in the world! Why wouldn't you want to visit the headquarters and learn about the extensive process that goes on behind every bottle of Jack? And maybe even try some! Out of the five tours offered, the Dry County Tour is the only tour available for all ages. The other four tours are 18+, but you have to be 21 or older to sample the whiskey.
Shaina loves Jack Daniel's Whiskey, so the distillery was definitely something we had to do. Our tour was at 9:45 AM and Lynchburg, Tennessee was two hours away. Don't worry, Lynchburg was in our time zone. We woke up extremely early ready to get some whiskey into our system (only Jane and Shaina though because I was not 21 at the time). We chose the Angel's Share Distillery Tour where I got to experience the tour and Shaina and Jane got to experience the whiskey.
I was a little skeptical about the distillery tour at first, but we had such an amazing tour guide that I had a lot of fun, even though I was sober. Learning about the history of the distillery and how all the bottles around the world are brewed right in that very factory was quite interesting. The tour takes you step by step through the process of whiskey-making. Since we went on a Sunday, none of the factory workers were there, but that didn't stop us from learning about whiskey. My favorite part of the tour was when our guide pulled me to the side and told me that even though I couldn't taste the alcohol, he would let me get a good wiff of the whiskey. I put by face near the lid of a barrel and the tour guide lifted up the lid and started moving it up and down, and then told me to take a deep breath. The air coming out of that tank was pure Tennessee whiskey! I felt like I could taste it! I may not have been able to drink but I still got my whiskey experience!
The whiskey tasting comes at the end of the tour. You're placed in a glass room with chairs and tables that each had 5 shots of Jack Daniel's Whiskey (the tour changed and now the website says its only 4). Everyone else tasted each shot one by one and then rated them. The tour guide guided each of the participants on the proper ways of tasting it to where the tastes come from. Shaina loved all of them, but Jane said they were all way too strong.
A really interesting fact about the Jack Daniel's Distillery is that It's in a dry county in Tennessee. This means the government prohibits the sale of any sort of alcohol! You can't buy a bottle of Jack anywhere in the town except for the gift shop at the distillery. But why can the distillery sell it you ask? Because the bottles in the gift shop are commemorative bottles. You can buy them from Jack Daniel's, but you can't open or taste the whiskey until you're fully out of the county.
Dry County Tour
Cost: $14 Adult
Ages: All Ages
Length: 1 hr 10 min
The Flights Of Jack Daniel's Tour
Length: 1 hr 30 min
# of Samples: 5
The Angel's Share
Length: 1 hr 30 min
# of Samples: 4
Mr. Jack Toast In The Hollow Tour
Length: 30 min
# of Samples: 1
The Taste of Lynchburg
Length: 3 hr
# of Samples: 3
Hiking Machine Falls
Like we said before, Jane and I love waterfalls. Any chance that there's a cool waterfall around, you bet that we'll go explore it. The Jack Daniel's Tour finished pretty early, so we had an entire day ahead of us. There was a lot of nature around us so we figured, why not try to find a waterfall. To our luck, there was a waterfall called Machine Falls just 20 minutes away. The falls can be found inside the Short Springs Natural Area and requires a bit of a hike to get to. When you go inside the forest, you will come across two paths. If you're feeling adventurous, then take the one that isn't Machine Falls first (what we did). If you just want to see the Falls, the Machine Falls loop is an easy 1.6 mile (2.6 km) hike. The waterfall is definitely worth the hike. It was a fun activity to do after the tour and a way for Jane and Shaina to sober up.
Where To Camp: Ballyhoo Family Campground
We planned to go to Nashville and to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are quite a distance from each other so we chose a private little campground in the middle. In the little town of Crossville, Tennessee, the lovely couple from the Ballyhoo Family Campground made our stay very enjoyable and demonstrated the true meaning of southern hospitality. Although we arrived a tad bit late to the campground, the Ballyhoos waited for us and helped us out to pick one of the best campsites in the Campground. It was pitch black when we got there, so we quickly set up our tent, cuddled up into our sleeping bags, and knocked out. The campground was lovely! It contained fire pits for S'mores nights, toilets and showers, and it even included a free souther cookout buffet!
On our second night in the campground, a huge storm plowed through Crossville. I'm terribly afraid of lighting and the storm was no wimp. Lightning bolts, strong winds, and heavy rain were only the beginning of it. Jane cuddled next to me and said "we're fine baby, just close your eyes" and for a second I felt genuinely safe in her arms. That was until the mothership of storms arrived! The wind got much stronger, the rain and lighting were torrential, and the worst part of it all was the hail. Our tent kept getting hit by what we thought was heavy rain, but we quickly understood that rain couldn't hit so hard. It was hail the size of tennis balls hitting the tent at hurricane speeds. In that moment we all knew we wouldn't be safe in the tent, so we quickly ran to the car and drove towards the main office. The Ballyhoos were waiting there and giving people shelter from the hail storm. Even though it was late at night, they stayed up with us until it passed. A bunch of RVs got dented from the giant ice balls, but our car and tent were somehow completely fine.
The Ballyhoo campground was overall a great place to stay with some amazing people. Anyone who loves to camp and wants to check out Tennessee should definitely check out the campground. You will not be disappointed by their amazing hospitality.
Where to Eat: Pigeon Forge
Our last stop on the road trip was the little town of Pigeon Forge, home to Shaina's parents' favorite restaurant: The Old Mill. On our last day, we made sure that we had a traditional southern breakfast to end the trip on a good note. The town itself was super cute. It was like going back to the old days. It was clean, the people were great, and it even gave me a kind of Disneyland vibe. After your meal, Dollywood is only a 6 minute drive!