Welcome to Tennessee, a state full of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and exciting family activities. Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, a historical experience, or a relaxing getaway, Tennessee has something for everyone. Kids of all ages will enjoy the plentiful nature found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the up-tempo music cities of Nashville and Memphis, and the countless opportunities to uncover American history that can be discovered along the way.

Whether it’s music that ranges from classical and jazz to gospel and country; bountiful hiking trails and opportunities for swimming, spelunking, rafting, biking, and boating; or the nearly 1,500 Civil War battles that were fought in this state alone — there are so many ways to make memories while on vacation here.

In this guide, we’ll explore some of the best Tennessee vacations for families that are sure to delight all ages.

1. Nashville

Downtown Nashville skyline at sunset.

While Nashville is sometimes called the “Country Music Capital of the World,” that only scratches the surface of what this cosmopolitan city offers families. Music City is one of the best vacation spots in Tennessee for families since it provides easy access to affordable Southern cooking and international cuisine that will appeal to a range of tastes. Select one of the many Nashville rentals in neighborhoods like Belmont-Hillsboro, Buena Vista, or Green Hills, which are ideal for families. Some vacation rentals even come with a pool! When you’re ready to hit the town, sightseeing options include city tours, tours of country music stars’ homes, and more.

Things to Do in Nashville

  • Grand Ole Opry. A 1920s radio show put Nashville on the map as the country music capital, growing into a celebrated venue that continues to host performers like Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. ​​Tours are available seven days a week. You should also visit the Country Music Hall of Fame if you’re a fan.
  • The Parthenon. Nashville has some great museums, and the Parthenon is one of them. Yes, it’s a facsimile of the structure that once stood in Athens, boasting a spectacular 42-foot statue of Athena. It also serves as a museum with an impressive permanent art collection.
  • Belle Meade Historic Site. Located a few miles southwest of downtown Nashville, this Greek Revival-style mansion was built in 1853 and displays bullet holes from the Civil War. This historic mansion is centrally located on the plantation’s 30 acres of well-manicured grounds. Guided tours give insights into Civil War history and the road to emancipation.

2. Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg Area

Towering 200 feet tall, the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel sits at the foot of the most visited National Park in the United States.

Pigeon Forge is a beautiful town nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Whether you want to spend your nights at family-friendly restaurants, play laser tag or mini-golf, or explore the endless attractions, you’ll find it all here (and in nearby Gatlinburg). The best part? These towns are popular gateways to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a world-renowned natural oasis with incredible wildlife and scenic views.

Select one of the many Gatlinburg rentals in town to be close to all the action. Looking to get away from it all and enjoy some family time? Pigeon Forge cabin rentals are what you’re after, especially if you guys want to soak in the abundant nature found throughout the Smokies. What’s more, you’ll find a number of 18-hole golf courses if your family enjoys hitting the links. The almost endless amount of things to do make these towns world-class vacation spots in Tennessee for families.

Things to Do in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg Area

  • Dollywood. Set against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dolly Parton’s Dollywood is a theme park that features rip-roaring rides, delectable fare, and stellar entertainment. Besides roller coaster rides, water slides, and outdoor pools, you’ll find live music and craftsmen showing off their considerable skills. Pigeon Forge is close to Sevierville, where Dolly Parton was born.
  • Extreme adventures. If your family is older or more adventurous, you can try extreme adventures, such as whitewater rafting, free falling at an indoor skydiving facility, or rolling downhill in a gravity park.
  • Great Smoky Mountains. The possibilities in the Smokies are endless. Grab a Great Smoky Mountains cabin rental and enjoy hikes through thousands of acres filled with wildlife as varied as white-tailed deer, elk, black bear, and turkeys. Cades Cove — the most visited area of the Great Smoky Mountains — is also known for its beautiful landscapes.

3. Chattanooga

Chattanooga, Tennessee's view from Lookout Mountain at dawn.

Nestled beside the Tennessee River among the mountains, Chattanooga rentals are a great way to experience the so-called Scenic City. Don’t worry, Chattanooga lives up to this reputation and more. You can enjoy beautiful views and attractions on Lookout Mountain, where you can see seven states on a clear day. If you decide to go with one of the downtown Chattanooga vacation rentals, you’ll be well situated, as Nashville and Knoxville are both under three hours away, as well as the National Forests of Nantahala and Chattahoochee-Oconee in nearby Georgia. And since it once stood amid the brutal action of the Civil War, it’s a great educational and historic destination for families.

Things to Do in Chattanooga

  • Tennessee Valley Railroad. Chattanooga was the grand central station for southern railway travel in the 19th and 20th century. You’ll find restored trains and a mobile museum that features a series of passenger cars built in the early 1900s powered by either steam or diesel engines.
  • Chickamauga. Found on Lookout Mountain, the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park allows you to explore terrain once crossed by Civil War troops. This is the oldest and largest of America’s Civil War parks and includes several sections of land north and south of the Tennessee-Georgia border.
  • Ruby Falls. This natural landmark is home to the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the USA. Descend 26 stories by elevator into the cavern, then explore on foot along scenic pathways to the breathtaking waterfall — passing stalagmites, stalactites, drapery formations, flowstone, and more. After viewing the waterfall, you can try zip lining, rushing across over 700 feet of treetops.

4. Memphis

Fountains and a clocktower in Memphis.

Whether you want to hear original blues or the rocking sounds of Elvis, the largest city in Tennessee is the place to be. Any Memphis family vacation will surely soak up this city’s cosmopolitan spirit, which is magically intertwined with its abundant Southern charm. Vacation rentals in Midtown and East Memphis are great spots for families with lots to do; heck, the city’s name itself even offers a teachable moment! Named for an ancient Egyptian city, Memphis boasts a gleaming 320-foot pyramid right on the riverbank. Made of gleaming steel instead of stone blocks, it’s two-thirds the size of the world’s largest pyramid in Egypt. A trip to the Memphis Zoo is also popular with many families.

Things to Do in Memphis

  • Graceland. Elvis Presley’s mansion is one of the most-visited private homes in the country for good reason. You’ll see the King’s famous jungle room, pink Cadillac, record collection, and blue-suede shoes. There’s also his old game room with pinball machines on display, as well as gifts sent to him from his most ardent fans.
  • National Civil Rights Museum. The Civil Rights Museum is built around the notorious Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. It documents the Civil Rights leader’s life and death, as well as the country’s civil rights movement. The most well-known exhibit is an authentic 1955-era city bus that you can walk inside to view a statue of Rosa Parks.
  • Pink Palace. The Pink Palace is, well, eclectic. Clarence Saunders built the mansion in the 1920s using pink Georgian marble blocks. If you’re unfamiliar, Saunders is the genius who came up with the concept of a supermarket. Among the displays of dinosaur bones and mineral collections, you’ll find a walk-through replica of Saunders’ self-service grocery store: the Piggly Wiggly.

5. Knoxville

Knoxville, Tennessee's downtown skyline at twilight.

Knoxville prides itself on offering things to do for kids of all ages. It boasts a walkable downtown full of vacation rentals near plenty of kid-friendly activities, attractions, history, and arts and culture — so they can learn while having fun! The third-largest city in the state offers a unique mix of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and cultural attractions. Consider going with one of the nearby cabin rentals along the Tennessee River so you can enjoy the great outdoors to the fullest, while also having attractions still be accessible.

Things to Do in Knoxville

  • Enjoy the dog-friendly vibe. The city goes out of its way to say you should bring your dog (or dogs) with you. They’ll be greeted with welcome signs, fresh bowls of water, plenty of walking trails, waterholes, and dog-friendly patios where you can relax together.
  • Sunsphere. Standing 26 stories tall, the Sunsphere is an iconic part of the city skyline, originally built for the 1982 World’s Fair. Each pane of glass is made with 24-karat gold, giving the sphere its reflective gold color.
  • Zoo Knoxville. The acres of spine-tingling adventure include the new Asian Trek experience, where you’ll find Tiger Forest and Langur Landing & Gibbons Trails — with Arya the Tiger, Opie the Langur, and Georgie the Gibbon.

Family Vacations in Tennessee Are Endless!

There is a lot to see and do in Tennessee that can turn a humdrum family vacation into an unforgettable time. We provide a better way to find the right vacation rental for your needs, compiling the best results from the leading travel sites. So you can focus less on where you’ll stay, and more on all the fun you’ll have during your Tennessee family vacation!