Tennessee is known for its delicious barbecue and flourishing music scene. It also has a lot of picturesque lakes and outdoor sports. Make your next summer trip special by staying at one of the many Tennessee vacation homes located near interesting activities and celebrations.
Best Places to Visit in Tennessee During Summer
Here are the best cities to visit in Tennessee, from the Great Smoky Mountains to the rushing Mississippi River and everywhere in between.
1. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Pigeon Forge is located along the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee. Temperatures range from 60 to 90 degrees, making it just comfortable enough to wear light clothing without becoming overheated.
To begin, visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which has miles of hiking trails, wildlife, and natural beauty. Begin at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, where you may learn about the area’s flora and animals and get a map of all the hiking paths. The Baskins Creek Falls and Grotto Falls walks are two of the most stunning hikes in the area.
Lebanon is located in north-central Tennessee, about east of Nashville. While there are no lakes or big rivers in this town, it is only 20 minutes from Old Hickory Lake and the Cumberland River.
Rent a boat for the afternoon at one of the marinas, which include Cedar Creek, Gallatin, Creekwood, and Blue Turtle Bay. The Wilson County Fair, on the other hand, is a must-see summer event in Lebanon during August. There will be demolition derbies, live music and entertainment, livestock shows, the Fiddlers Grover Historic Village, and carnival attractions during this nine-day event.
3. The City of Kingston
Kingston’s main summer lure is its location on Watts Bar Lake in Roane County, Tennessee. Get a lakefront vacation rental and enjoy long, relaxing summer days swimming and kayaking.
Summer activities in the county include fishing, fairs, and farmers markets. Both the Rockin’ the River Fishing Tournament and the Roane County Bass Tournament are held in May. If that’s not your thing, there’s the yearly Tennessee Medieval Faire, which takes place on weekends from mid-May to mid-June and has live entertainment, jousting, dancing, and giant turkey legs for eating.
4. Union City
Union City is a town in the state’s northwest corner, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in family-friendly entertainment. There are plenty of lakeside vacation homes near Blue Basin and Buck Basin lakes, as well as hiking and exploring in the adjacent Reelfoot State Park and National Wildlife Refuge.
If you don’t want to buy a lake property, there are lots of places for you and the kids to hang out with water access, such as the Reelfoot Lake Greenway, which runs part of the way along the beach. The famed Discovery Park of America, commonly known as the Mini-Smithsonian, is also located in Union City.
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The Discovery Center and 50 acres of grounds are part of this attraction. The center has ten display halls that cover topics ranging from children’s exploration to natural history to science and space technology.
Maryville, west of Pigeon Forge, is another excellent choice for a Smoky Mountain getaway. The national forest is on one side of town and Fort Loudoun Lake is on the other, providing several options for vacation rentals and outdoor fun; Explore the lake with a boat from the Louisville Landing Marina or tour the Fort Loudoun State Historic Park, and then head to the mountains for a hike along the Gold Mine Trail.
Summer on Broadway in June also brings a variety of festivities, ranging from the Big BBQ Bash to the Hops in the Hills Craft Brew Festival. The event starts with a tractor procession and includes a kid’s area, bungee jumping, and train rides.
6. Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Summer is the best time to visit Murfreesboro’s Stones River National Battlefield. Not only is the location a sprawling 570-acre park with walking trails and peaceful meadows and forests, but it was also the site of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles.
While enjoying the outdoors, teach your children about history. Guided tours and reenactments are also available. The reenactments or living history activities take place on a monthly basis throughout the summer. If you have time, visit Fall Creek Recreation Area, a park with water access to the J Percy Priest Reservoir.
7. Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga is located in southeastern Tennessee, near the Georgia border. This city mixes urban excitement with outdoor adventure for a holiday suitable for the entire family. Get a vacation rental in the western rolling hills and mountains, for example, and you may walk out your door every morning into the Prentice Cooper State Forest.
Take a dinner cruise along the Chattanooga River or go boating and swimming in Chickamauga Lake and Harrison Bay. Explore the Moccasin Bend Archeological District, which is located just a short distance from the Tennessee Aquarium and Creative Discovery Museum.
8. Knoxville, Tennessee
Along the Tennessee River, Knoxville is located just north of Maryville and the Great Smoky Mountains. This city’s Market Square comes alive throughout the summer with a farmer’s market, theatrical performances, and ongoing activities such as a Shakespeare festival that runs from mid-July to mid-August.
Even better, it’s a pedestrian-only zone, so you can stroll at your leisure without having to worry about the youngsters. Take a stroll around Charles Krutch Park, which has water elements for the kids to enjoy during the midday heat, and then eat at one of the eateries lining the plaza.
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The Where’s Waldo Scavenger Hunt is held in the downtown area each July. Every year, the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum hosts a dinner to commemorate the summer solstice, which is a wonderful opportunity to explore the gardens and walking paths.
9. Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, located in north-central Tennessee, is the state’s beating heart. In July, enjoy a country summer vacation with bluesy and country music performances at the Grand Ole Opry, or rock out at the CMA Music Festival, Jefferson St. Jazz & Blues Festival, or Let Freedom Sing! Music City Festival.
If you’re traveling with children, seek fossils in Red Caboose Park or visit the living history of Cannonsburgh Village, which dates back to the early 1800s. The Cumberland River, Old Hickory Lake, and J Percy Priest Reservoir are all within the city limits, so rent a kayak and go exploring, or go swimming.
Memphis, in the state’s southwestern portion, has a thriving musical culture as well. Memphis Acoustic Guitar Festival, Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival, Anthem International Music Festival, and Memphis Music and Heritage Festival all encourage this tradition and take place throughout the summer, so you’re sure to be in town for at least one of them.
Memphis also has some amazing food, such as Italian during its Italian Festival in early June or the Memphis Eats Food Festival. Get some fresh air by renting a vacation home on McKellar Lake or along the Mississippi River. You can enjoy hiking into Fuller State Park or exploring the water by ferry.
This summer, explore Tennessee’s events, festivals, activities, and attractions by scrolling through the list below. In collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, we’ve highlighted a few summer 2023 events and places to visit.