• Kara Cushway

7 Day Trips from Clarksville, TN

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

Note: In this post I include links to several business's websites, but please be aware that this post is not sponsored or partnered with any of these businesses. These are just a few places I recommend based on personal experience, that I think you might enjoy, too!

Nashville was our only real big-city neighbor when we lived in Clarksville, so a few of these day trips are places that can be found in the city. One thing we found while living in Tennesse was that it can get kind of boring going to the same city over and over again when you’ve lived in the area for a while. So here I’ve compiled some of our favorite places that we explored while we were living in Clarksville, not all of which are in Nashville!

For Nashville fans, there’s nowhere like Music City. Every night feels like a Friday night on Music Row, and there’s no shortage of good food, live bands, and shopping – but you know that already. The first three locations on this list are personal favorites of Kyle’s and mine, and since you already know about shopping and live music, these are a few places we consider must-sees that are outside the usual realm of Nashville destinations.

Grassmere Zoo at Nashville.

We went to the zoo multiple times while living in Clarksville. This might be laughable to some of you, but for a girl from Michigan who’s been to maybe two true zoos in her entire life, Grassmere is amazing. (Although our trip to the Garlyn Zoo in the Upper Peninsula is a favorite memory of ours, too – check out my favorite haunts in the U.P. in this post.) Grassmere Zoo isn’t JUST a zoo – my first spiel about this zoo has nothing to do with the wildlife, in fact – because it has an absolutely epic play area for kids. How do I know that this play area is epic, not having kids myself? Because every time we go, Kyle and I run around and explore in this play area. It’s lit. There are climbing nets to rival the best obstacle courses, and towers laid out like a big maze, with tunnels, slides, and bridges. It even looks over a little pond! It’s so fun, and we always make time for it when we visit the zoo, even if the adults (and little kids, tbh) look at us weird.

The next best thing about the Nashville Zoo is that it has multiple vendors selling Dippin’ Dots ice cream. I mean. Need I say more?

The last cool thing about this day-trip destination is that this zoo features the Croft Historic Home, which is a big old plantation home with flower and vegetable gardens laid out behind it. Tours are given regularly and the house is air conditioned (!!) so it’s a nice break from the heat, if you go in the summertime. If you go in the fall or around the holidays, though, you might be in for a surprise! We’ve only ever gone during the summer, but I hear that they deck the house out in all sorts of haunted regalia for Halloween, and put up festive holiday decor around Christmas. Fun for all ages, which is the only kind of fun, in my book. (Oh, and if you’re into ziplines, this zoo does have a sort of seated zipline ride – Kyle and I tried it, and, yes, it’s cool to see from up high like that, but the ride is so short that it’s not really worth the long lines to get on. You’d be much better off spending the money on a parting cup of Dippin’ Dots.)

Mammoth Cave National Park.

This is another destination we visited several times when we lived in Clarksville, and it's a great day trip for literally anyone. You could go alone, or with your kids, with friends – you could even bring a grandparent or elderly relative along if they’re fit enough to walk for an hour or so. The cave tours range from low intensity to high intensity, which makes them perfect for anyone at any fitness level – and it’s so cool to see inside a real cave, like the kind you think of from old pirate stories. Mammoth Cave Park is just under two hours away from Clarksville, and if you’re hungry after a cave tour, they do have a restaurant at the park, but why waste your hard-earned dollars on overpriced national park fare? Especially when you could drive half an hour away to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for lunch at of their many modern cafés. Kyle and I went to one coffee shop that served these great paninis, so we had lattes and paninis for lunch on our way home from the caves. Yum.

Smoky Mountains/Gatlinburg.

Some of you may not be able to see the Smoky Mountains in the same way we did, but if you have a motorcycle, let me assure you: this is THE way to do this trip! We had a blast traveling with my mom and her husband, Jeff. We stayed at a hotel in the middle of the Smokies, and made several day trips from the hotel out to different branches of the mountains. This trip is a must if you’ll be living in Tennessee for any length of time. The views are breathtaking in every sense of the word, and on a bike you can see so much more than if you drove around with your head hanging out a car window. There are great hikes, rivers to travel along, and sights to see. And once you’ve used up your stamina for nature (as if), you can head into Gatlinburg for a fun shopping trip or lunch date.

Gatlinburg gives off strong fair/carnival vibes, with all the open-front shops and the smell of funnel cakes in the air, and is a great spot to get a souvenir from your trip to the Smokies. We did this trip over three days, and would have loved to have stayed longer if we'd had the time. If you have a long weekend free for the filling, keep in mind that, no matter where you live in Tennessee, it only takes a few hours to get to Gatlinburg. And it's so worth it.

Opryland Hotel.

Jeff will never forgive me if I don't give credit where it's due, so... thanks to Jeff for introducing us to the Opryland Hotel! We visited this Nashville destination on our way back from our trip to the Smokies, and were able to take a quick tour. We were only there for about thirty minutes, but you could easily spend all day here, especially since, when we were there in 2017, they were in the process of adding on an indoor water attraction to supplement the many atriums, shops, and restaurants within the hotel. Oh, and I’m sure that if you were staying at the hotel, a spa treatment wouldn’t go amiss. Check out their website here.

Renaissance Festival, Murfreesboro, TN.

We lived in Clarksville for nearly 3 years, but we were only able to make it to the Renaissance Festival once, which was kind of sad, because it was a great experience. We didn’t dress up, either, although you better believe that if we had had cloaks and hand-sewn kidskin boots and tunics and flower crowns at our disposal, we would’ve been rocking them. The Ren Fest in Murfreesboro takes place every weekend in May, and includes everything you’d expect at a Ren Fest: jousting and other live performances, giant turkey legs, and vendors speaking in old English accents. It’s truly awesome. You can buy swords (Kyle bought two, if I remember correctly) and armor; clothes, charms and other jewelry; herbs; and baked goods or handmade gifts, all medieval- or Renaissance-themed. It would be a great place to start knocking out some early Christmas gifts! There were so many booths, I’m not even sure if we hit them all, and we were there for 4 or 5 hours. I have to recommend their vanilla roasted nuts – I would’ve gone back this year just for those, because they were beyond addictive, and though I considered them to be pretty overpriced compared to any other roasted nut, the truth is I can't even say that with any conviction, because I would’ve happily paid that much for them again. That’s how good they were. This Ren Fest also features the “Castell Gwynn,” which is a beautiful modern home built in the mode of a Renaissance-era castle, with towers, a great room, and various exhibits, with tours available on Festival weekends.

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens (Nashville).

I was on the lookout for botanical gardens to tour when I came across this one in Nashville. We were unable to tour the enormous plantation-style mansion that dominates the grounds, as it was undergoing renovations when we visited, but we did explore every pathway we could reach, and took a long tour of the gardens. This is a fun trip for the whole family because there are so many interesting nooks and crannies and there are hundreds of types of trees and plants and flowers to learn about. This estate also features lots of artwork, and has some fun seasonal activities, too. Here's a link to their website.

Radnor Lake State Park (Nashville).

On one of those boring no-plans weekends in March, Kyle and I grabbed sub sandwiches and chips for lunch and made our way to Nashville’s Radnor Lake State Park. Like Dunbar Cave State Park (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my previous post on things to do in Clarksville, TN here), the trails at Radnor Lake are visible and well-maintained, but not paved. In most instances, I think unpaved trails are infinitely superior to paved, as they’re easier on your knees and stealthier to walk along. However, I understand if you want paved trails for walking your baby in a stroller or something along those lines – but maybe check out the portion of this post that tells you all about the Greenway in Clarksville, if you’re interested in nice, paved trails. Radnor Lake State Park is a lovely trail system, not too big, that circles Radnor Lake on all sides. It took us at most two hours to circumnavigate the entire lake, but we weren’t going too fast. This is a great park to look into exploring if you’re weary of the sounds of the city and want to escape into the wilderness for a while.

Bonus – Tyne Boulevard.

The reason this is a bonus is that I don’t think this is worthy of being a day trip all by itself. After all, it’s only one road ... unless you go and explore Hillsboro Pike ... and Belle Mead ... and all the roads that branch off of these roads. Okay, so there's a lot of rich people in Nashville. But anyway, on your way to the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, or to Radnor Lake State Park, maybe you’ll find yourself on Tyne Blvd. This (and Hillsboro Pike and Belle Mead, among others) is where some of the most extravagant mansions and homes in Nashville are located, and if you’re anything like me, a trip through the neighborhoods of the bourgeoisie is always a treat, with their rolling velvet lawns, French country-style stonework, and (my favorite) gas lanterns mounted by enormous, solid wood front doors. Or if you’re like Kyle, you’ll enjoy seeing the owners of these estates pulling off their bricked driveways in Teslas and Audis and other who-knows-how-much-they-cost vehicles.

I’m so glad Kyle and I were able to check out so many amazing places around Clarksville when we lived there – we miss it, but we made some great memories! And there are a few more places I think would be worth talking about, so look for those in an upcoming post! (For several things to do in the U.P. of Michigan, check out this post, too!)

Are you from the area, or have been to the Clarksville area before? What are some of your favorite places destinations or day trips from Clarksville?


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