The family vacation, the moments you don’t just remember, but replay again and again. When your heart skipped a beat and eyes opened wide to the wonders of the world. With water & amusement parks, zoos & aquariums, nature & parks, farms & orchards; memories made in Tennessee feel like home.
The soundtrack of laughter is music to a parent’s ears. The Kid Reviewed “Laugh Tracker” campaign appeared at nearly 30 popular family destinations across Tennessee. Kids wore a recorded device to track laughter and excitement. Recorded reviews from the experts themselves, kids, can be found here, each baring a special “Kid Reviewed” logo to let families know they can choose a particular attraction with confidence.
Dolly Parton’s Dollywood in Pigeon Forge is Tennessee’s No. 1 attraction. The world-class theme park features Wildwood Grove, a suspended family roller coaster called the Dragonflier, Dollywood’s Splash Country with more than 20 water slides and splash pads, live entertainment, indoor and outdoor play areas, theatrical show, concerts and events like the new Flower and Food Festival. Book a stay at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa for family-inspired rooms, spa services, a pool, live music and storytelling at night and much more. Walk among the treetops with a magical experience in the mountains at Gatlinburg’s Anakeesta. A new expansion includes the AnaVista Tower, TreeVenture Challenge Course, dual-ziplining, gem-mining, Smokehouse Barbeque & Brewery and a new water play area. Pet jellyfish and stingrays; enjoy playful penguins and be wowed by sharks at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Get ready to make a splash at Soaky Mountain Waterpark in Sevierville with a massive wave pool, adventure river, thrill rides like the Avalaunch Watercoaster at The Hive, the perfect play spot for little tykes.
Hands On! Discovery Center in Gray is fun for the whole family with immersive interactive exhibits, a musical Tesla coil, giant building blocks, a 3-story Paleo Tower and an art studio. Experience the magic of Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium in Kingsport with a 44-acre lake, hiking trails, a Nature Center with a state-of-the-art Planetarium Theater, and animal habitats featuring wolves, bobcats, raptors and reptiles. Be sure to stop for a spin on the Kingsport Carousel for a ride on one of the 32 hand-carved animals and two chariots. Little racers can join the kid’s club and enjoy the fun around the world’s fastest half-mile track at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol. Learn about trail travel and see the restored Southern Railway caboose at the Chuckey Railroad Depot Museum in Jonesborough. The town’s railroad legacy is told through exhibits, artifacts, maps and photographs.
Make the Tennessee Aquarium a must-stop. Along the journey, see cuddly penguins and otters, alligators and sturgeon and hundreds of butterflies in the rooftop garden. Head to Coolidge Park to ride the beautifully restored 100-year-old carousel. Experience the interactive Classic Arcade Pinball Museum filled with classic arcade games and pinball machines dating back to the 1940s. Kids can splash in a manmade “river,” dig for dinosaur bones, make beautiful music and get a bird’s eye view of downtown in the three-story Lookout Tower at Creative Discovery Museum. Check out the monkeys, jaguars, snow leopards, red pandas and feed an African pygmy goat with a tour of the Chattanooga Zoo. Venture underground 260 feet by elevator into historic Lookout Mountain to marvel at the impressive waterfall and beautiful cave formations at Ruby Falls.
KNOXVILLE & MIDDLE EAST TENNESSEE
See wildlife up close and personal like red pandas and a tiger forest while exploring acres of creative habitats perfect for animal lovers of all ages at Zoo Knoxville. Fly high at Navitat Canopy Adventures’ tree-based zipline challenge park at Ijams Nature Center, a 300-acre environmental learning center for all ages with meadows, woodlands, flora and fauna and a boardwalk. Learning is fun at The Muse Knoxville. The hands-on children’s science and art museum features exhibits, a full-dome planetarium, indoor and outdoor learning spaces and a playground.
Less than 20 minutes from Knoxville in Clinton, The Museum of Appalachia is a living history museum of pioneer, frontier and mountain life. The 65-acre complex includes dozens of authentic log structures, traditional farm animals, unusual mountain relics and live musicians. In nearby Oak Ridge, science and history come alive with hands-on exhibits at the American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE). The museum tells the story of the technical marvels from the “Secret City” of Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project. Enjoy a walk back in time as you stroll through the Bush’s story at Bush’s Beans Visitor Center in Dandridge. The museum housed in the A.J. Bush & Company general store, built in 1911, is fun for all ages. Be sure to stop for a piece of pinto bean pie at the café. Travel through cave networks on a boat at the Lost Sea Adventure in Sweetwater.
NASHVILLE & MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Ride the Soaring Eagle zip line, get up close at Kangaroo Kickabout and see animals from around the world including spider monkeys, Andean bears, white rhinoceros, clouded leopards, giraffe and more at Nashville Zoo. Open the mind to the wonder of science with hands-on, interactive exhibits, a spectacular show at Sudekum Planetarium and award-winning programs like Science Live! demonstrations, 3D printing workshops and more at Adventure Science Center. Make a splash on three levels of thrill rides or relax by the pool at Soundwaves at Gaylord Opryland, an indoor and outdoor oasis. Feed curiosity and creativity through interactive exhibits and art-making stations and galleries at the kid-friendly Frist Art Museum. Scavenger hunts, exhibit activity guides and educational programs make galleries fun for kids to explore at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. In nearby Murfreesboro, see the World’s Largest Cedar Bucket at Cannonsburgh Village. The reconstructed pioneer village includes a gristmill, one-room schoolhouse, town hall, log home, church, general store and working blacksmith’s shop. Lucky Ladd Farms in Eagleville is home to Tennessee’s largest petting farm, featuring over 100 friendly animals, acres of playgrounds, hands-on animal encounters, pony rides and good old-fashioned fun.
JACKSON & ALAMO
Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum in Jackson tells the story of the famous railroad engineer who saved his passengers by sacrificing his life. Enjoy the Old Country Store which has a southern-style buffet, ice cream served in an 1800s replica ice cream parlor, fudge and gifts. See cars from Batman, Scooby Doo and other iconic rides for just $5 admission/person at Rusty’s TV and Movie Car Museum. Pet and feed more than 80 species of exotic animals from the comfort of your car at Tennessee Safari Park. The drive-through zoo located on a century farm is known for its friendly, exotic animals including giraffes, zebras, bison, primates and tapirs.
The Pink Palace Museum is one of the largest facilities of its kind in the Southeast. See dinosaurs and fossils, trace Memphis’ development from the time of Spanish explorers, check out the CTI Giant 3D Theater and AutoZone Dome at the Sharpe Planetarium. Play and learn with hands-on exhibits and programs, the “H2Oh! Splash Park,” outdoor play space, airplane cockpit and disco room at Children’s Museum of Memphis. Explore the wild side at the Memphis Zoo. The easy-to-navigate park includes a Yellowstone ecosystem, polar bears and wolves from the great Northwest and pandas from China. Some of the city’s most famous animals call the fountain inside Peabody Hotel home. Stop by at 5 p.m. for the fanfare as the ducks walk the red carpet.
Be amazed at Discovery Park of America. Zoom down a super-fast slide, ride in the earthquake simulator, control a huge globe to drain the world’s oceans, create a weather pattern, peer through the observation tower, race solar-powered airplanes, discover dinosaurs, a suit of armor and fantastic treasures. Outside on the 50-acre heritage park, find a working gristmill, antique train and tractor displays, exhibits and landscaped gardens.
For more Tennessee family-friendly stops, visit www.tnvacation.com/experiences/family.