Nashville is Tennessee’s capital and most populous city and is particularly well-known for its abundant historic and country music attractions.
Many visitors to the city of nearly 700,000 have no problem finding fun and educational ways to occupy their time within city limits, but for those who’d rather get out into the country and explore less touristy attractions, there are a variety of options as well.
Though a number of guided tours originate in the city, many do-it-yourselfers opt for self-guided excursions to towns like Clarksville and Murfreesboro.
Below are 15 guided and unguided day-trip options that rank high on many visitor’s itineraries.
1. Civil War History Tour
During the Civil War, Nashville and small towns in the hinterlands saw their fair share of battles and skirmishes between Union and Confederate Troops.
One of the bloodiest and most historically significant battles took place in the town of Franklin; for lovers of history who’d like to spend a day delving into the area’s past, this seven-hour tour would be a great fit.
The package includes transportation to and from Nashville, and in addition to the battlefield tour and narration, there are side-excursions to three mid-19th century homes that give visitors unique insights into the lives of those who lived through the bloodiest chapter in American history.
2. Historic Tennessee Sightseeing Tour
Lovers of history, culture, and architecture who find themselves with a free day while visiting Nashville would be wise to consider the Historic Tennessee Sightseeing Tour.
The tour generally lasts between six and seven hours and includes stops at several historic homes, including The Hermitage, which was one of President Andrew Jackson’s residences in the early part of the 19th century.
Belle Meade Mansion is another of the tour’s centerpieces and one of the most well-preserved examples of Greek-Revival architecture in the American South. It was once a world-renowned horse breeding farm comprised of nearly 5,000 acres.
3. Nashville to Graceland Memphis VIP Tour
According to many music lovers and historians, Memphis is the undisputed birthplace of rock ‘n roll. For those staying in Nashville who don’t mind the drive, it’s one of those must-visit attractions.
Tour guests enjoy VIP access to Graceland, which includes Elvis’ burial site, the classic car museum, and the Jungle Room, to name a few. From there, guests will depart for famous Sun Studios.
Probably the most famous of all the country’s recording studios, Sun Studios has the distinction of being the first place Elvis ever recorded a song. It’s also hosted other musical greats over the years, like Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison.
4. Rural American Farm Tour
Though Nashville is a large urban center with plenty of in-city attractions, it doesn’t take long to get into some very rural areas once outside city limits
The Rural American Farm Tour has been designed for those interested in getting a unique look at farming, and the tour visits a number of farms that have clung to traditional methods while most others have eagerly embraced modernization.
In addition to touring farms, guests will meet farmers and learn more about the area’s history and culture than they ever thought possible. It’s all topped off with lunch at a popular locally-owned restaurant known for its hearty fare.
5. Long Hunter State Park
Murfreesboro’s Long Hunter State Park is comprised of more than 2,500 acres of natural and historical attractions that make it a popular day-trip option for those staying in Nashville.
The park is divided into four distinct areas and is a favorite destination for anglers, boaters, amateur photographers, hikers, and mountain bikers.
The park includes nearly 20 miles of multi-use trails that wind their way through a variety of habitats. In the Sella’s Farm portion of the park, there are Native American mound sites that date back more than 1,000 years.
Remember that if you plan on fishing, you’ll need a Tennessee fishing license.
6. Batey Farms
Pick-your-own farms are great places to spend a few hours enjoying the fresh air and getting your hands dirty, and they’re especially popular with those traveling with children.
Batey Farms is located in rural Rutherford County just a few miles outside Murfreesboro; it’s been owned and operated by the same family for eight generations.
The family farm primarily produces pork, corn, and a variety of berries. It’s a favorite late-summer and fall destination, when much of the produce is ready to be harvested.
There’s also a farm store on-site that offers a variety of products made on the farm, like bacon, sausages, and jam.
7. Historic Cannonsburgh Village
Located on South Front Street in downtown Murfreesboro, Historic Cannonsburgh Village is a unique and historically accurate recreation of what the downtown area looked like in the era between the early 19th and 20th centuries.
The village includes a historic schoolhouse, a wedding chapel, a general store, and a blacksmith’s shop. For many, it’s about as close to a trip into the past as they’re ever likely to get.
Guests usually spend about an hour showing themselves around, and the village is close enough to other area attractions to make it a good spot for those who’d rather explore on foot than by car.
8. Discovery Center
Since it was opened in 1986, the Discovery Center in Murfreesboro’s has been one of the area’s most popular children’s attractions; it’s full of engaging and educational interactive exhibits that touch on science, the natural world, art, and farming.
The discovery center is one of those places that generally ends up monopolizing more of visitor’s time than they’d originally intended. There’s a 20-acre outdoor wetland portion as well that’s home to a variety of plants and animals.
The outdoor areas are connected by elevated boardwalks that make it possible to explore the unique habitat without getting wet and muddy.
9. Customs House Museum and Cultural Center
Located on South Second Street in downtown Clarksville, the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center is one of the state’s largest museums. Its exhibits touch on a wide variety of topics, including history, art, and culture.
Many of the museum’s exhibits have been designed with kids in mind, and throughout the year, it frequently hosts temporary exhibitions from other institutions and private collections.
The museum is housed in an old post office building that features an eclectic mix of architectural styles. Though much of what’s on display is of a local nature, there’s a significant amount of state and regional history as well.
10. Beachaven Vineyards and Winery
Like many rural areas of the country that aren’t traditionally associated with grapes or wine, Tennessee has experienced a bit of a wine renaissance in recent years.
The Beachaven Vineyards and Winery has been in business for nearly three decades and is located just a few miles outside of downtown Clarksville.
The area is characterized by lots of green rolling hills, and the climate and soil are surprisingly conducive to growing wine grapes.
Guided vineyard and winery tours are offered daily, and during the summer months, they provide evening live entertainment as well. Don’t forget to pick up a few bottles at the gift shop before heading back to Nashville.
11. Dunbar Cave State Park
Dunbar Cave State Park is made up of more than 100 acres just outside of Clarksville and is one of the region’s most accessible cave complexes.
In ages past the cave was used as a shelter by prehistoric men and animals, and throughout the year, it maintains a relatively constant 58 degrees inside regardless of the weather.
The only way to get inside the cave is by guided tour, and they’re offered seasonally between May and August.
Due to their popularity, tours often fill up quickly, so it’s wise to reserve spots in advance of your trip or arrive at least an hour before scheduled tours begin to avoid a frustrating sold-out situation.
12. Fort Defiance Civil War Park
Fort Defiance is one of the South’s most well-preserved Civil War-era forts, and it’s located at the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers just outside Clarksville.
The fort was a Confederate stronghold strategically positioned to defend the local waterways and city of Clarksville from Union troops, and for lovers of Civil War history, it’s a must-visit attraction.
Fort Defiance Civil War Park includes bulwarks, earthworks, firing platforms, and an indoor interpretive center full of exhibits, memorabilia, and artifacts that make it one of the most complete historical attractions in the area. Free guided tours are offered regularly.
13. SOAR Adventure Tower
Especially for those traveling with energetic and easily bored little ones, the state’s historic attractions can get a bit old. For those who’ve taken the time to drive to Franklin, there’s no better place to spend a few exhilarating hours than SOAR Adventure Tower.
It’s a unique attraction that towers over the surrounding landscape and features dozens of individual climbing elements.
Though some of the tower’s areas are strictly for fit and fearless adults, there are many areas around the base that are perfectly safe and suitable for young ones.
Day passes and long-term memberships are available, and most guests agree that their time spent at SOAR was fun and memorable.
14. Franklin Farmers Market
Farmers Markets are great ways to stretch your legs, meet locals, and have access to a wide variety of locally grown and produced products.
Since 2002, Franklin Farmers Market has been a year-round local attraction. Though its beginnings were humble, it’s attracted quite a loyal following and now includes more than 70 vendors selling everything from arts, crafts, and seasonal produce to prepared food items, fresh baked goods, and health and body products.
The market is open every Saturday from 8 AM until 1 PM and regularly hosts special events, fairs, festivals, and live entertainment.
15. Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures
For those who aren’t afraid of heights, there’s really no better way to get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding landscape than by hot air balloon.
Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures is a family-owned and operated business in Franklin that prides itself on providing guests a unique, safe, and utterly unforgettable experience.
Central Tennessee features beautiful rolling hills, and on clear days it’s possible to see Nashville.
Morning and afternoon options are available, and some even include amazing sunsets. The season lasts from April until November, though out-of-season tours can be arranged as well if done so in advance.