5 Small Towns for a Great Tennessee Day Trip

Want to take a vacation this summer, but don’t want to travel far? Get away from it all by taking a day trip to one of Tennessee’s small towns. Whether you’re interested in learning more about American history, spending time in the great outdoors or visiting animals at a safari park, there’s plenty to do in some of Tennessee’s most scenic and historic small towns.


Take a 20-minute drive east from Johnson City to visit Elizabethton, a must-see for any American history buff. The city was one of the first permanent settlements outside of the original 13 colonies and played a pivotal part in the Revolutionary War.

Visit Sycamore Shoals State Historic Site, the site where the city’s residents established the first organized government with a majority-rule system in American history. It’s also where the famed Overmountain Men met in 1780 before heading out to win an epic battle against the British at King’s Mountain, North Carolina.

Next, head downtown to check out the historic covered bridge. The 134-foot bridge was constructed in 1882 and spans the Doe River. There are plenty of spots for a picnic in the riverfront park. Or, check out the antique shops and restaurants along Broad Street.

Church Hill

Located 85 miles northeast of Knoxville, Church Hill has a lot to offer outdoor enthusiasts. Head to Laurel Run Park, located on the banks of the Holston River, to explore nearly 40 miles of trails. Check out abandoned homesteads that dot the mountainside or hike up to Laurel Falls or Kiner Creek Falls.

If you really want to stretch your legs, make the seven-mile hike from Laurel Park to Bays Mountain Park where you’ll find even more hiking and biking trails, a planetarium, nature center and 44-acre lake.

Discover more places you and your family will enjoy in Tennessee.

Union City

Take a two-hour drive west from Clarksville to visit Union City, home to Discovery Park of America. The museum offers 70,000 square feet of exhibits including military history, regional flora and fauna, Native Americans, children’s hands-on activities, everyone in your family will find something interesting here.

When you’re done at the museum, make the short drive to Reelfoot Lake State Park. The 15,000-acre lake offers visitors the chance to take a canoe or pontoon boat tour of the swamp and see bald eagles and cypress trees.


Most people associate Mark Twain with Missouri, but his parents called Jamestown home until just before the author’s birth. The town, located 50 miles from Cookeville, is home to Mark Twain Park, where visitors can view the family’s cabin and a life-size carving of the celebrated American author.

Make your way to Big South Fork National Recreation Area and the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Park, where you can see the farm and gristmill owned by the World War I hero. Finish your evening at Pickett State Park, the only state park in the southeast certified as dark sky viewing location. Head to the astronomy field to get a great view of the stars.


Animal lovers should head for the Tennessee Safari Park in Alamo, located just 20 miles from Jackson. Upon entering the park, you’ll receive a bucket of food to feed ostriches, buffalo, llamas and other animals that come right up to your car.

With some 80 animals in its collection, the park is one of three breeding sites for the endangered Damara Zebra. You’ll also find a petting zoo, snack bar and picnic area at the park.

How do you make time to travel? Have you visited any of these small towns in Tennessee? Let us know in a comment!

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