From concerts at the Grand Ole Opry to riding the trolley downtown, Nashville, Tennessee features a host of cultural events and activities, gourmet restaurants, and upscale shopping centers. When you want to escape from the big city atmosphere, venture out to the nearby small towns and villages in Tennessee. Book a stay at a Nashville vacation rental during the week, then head out for an exciting weekend getaway. Here are the most unforgettable places close to Nashville.

1. Bristol

bristol tennessee
Source: Flickr/Eli Christman

For the lover of NASCAR or country music, Bristol is the perfect location for a weekend getaway. The Bristol Motor Speedway hosts several races and events throughout the year and is considered the birthplace of country music. In the 1920s, the first country music records were recorded at the building that now houses the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, where you can take a tour and learn more about this rich history. Have an adventure when you explore the Bristol and Appalachian Caverns. Both of these caverns offer guided tours with knowledgeable guides to point out the different types of rock formations.

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2. Pigeon Forge

amusement park swings
Source: Flickr/Sean Benham

Get your fun on with some time in Pigeon Forge. This resort town in the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee has something for everyone. Take the kids for a day at Dollywood, a themed amusement park created by Dolly Parton, to ride the coasters, kiddie rides, see the shows, and buy some gifts from master craftsmen. Stop by the Island at Pigeon Forge and take a ride on the Great Smoky Wheel, a Ferris wheel with large, see-through pods that slowly rise so you can see for miles. For dinner, take the family to Dixie Stampede to enjoy a country music show with fireworks while you eat a three-course meal.

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3. Franklin

canon wheel house
Source: Flickr/MICHAEL BROWN

A short drive puts you in the heart of the history of the American Civil War in the town of Franklin. In fact, the Carter House was the command center for the Confederate Army during this conflict. You can take a tour of this home that dates back to the 1830s, and see cannons and other artifacts from this time period. Other antebellum homes and plantations to add to your list include the Carton Plantation and the Lotz House. This town was the sight of a famous battle, and your kids can learn all about it at the Battle Of Franklin Civil War Museum.

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4. Townsend

nature waterfall
Source: Flickr/Wayne Silver

A weekend away in Townsend is all about the great outdoors. This small town is within easy driving distance of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where you spend your days hiking. Stop by the visitor’s center and sign up for one of the ranger-led walking tours or sign your kids up for the Junior Ranger program. Kids also enjoy a visit to the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum with its train engine out front that the kids are invited to climb into and pretend to be an engineer. The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center offers you a look at the history of the local area and the past inhabitants that date back to 2,000 B.C.

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5. Lynchburg

old town buildings
Source: Flickr/nola.agent

You’re going to feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you visit the quaint little town of Lynchburg. This town has a small downtown area filled with brick buildings, awnings, and tree-lined sidewalks. One of the stores that you might notice on your stroll through the historic district is the Lynchburg Hardware and General Store, where you can get supplies for your vacation rental and also score official Jack Daniel’s merchandise. This town is also the sight of the Jack Daniel’s distillery, where you take a tour to see how these spirits are made. Kids clamor to be the first one into the Big Blue Chair to have their photos taken.

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6. Gatlinburg

tennessee hills mountains
Source: Flickr/Eric

With a trip to the resort town of, you’re going to spend a lot of time at Uber Gatlinburg. During the summer months, take the tram up to the top of the mountain for a little shopping or see if you remember how to ice skate at the indoor rink. There is a mountain coaster, where you board an individual car and glide down the mountain. Younger children can ride with a parent, and you control the speed to let you enjoy the scenery. In the winter months, bring your skis and hit the snow-covered slopes of Uber Gatlinburg. There’s even an area dedicated to tubing. The Gatlinburg Space Needle puts you above the city with incredible views in every direction.

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7. Arlington

red rocking chairs
Source: Flickr/Carl Wycoff

Pass by Memphis on your drive to the charming town of Arlington. SY Wilson is the general store in town and sits in the same building as the original general store. Pick up supplies, food, and souvenirs all at this charming store. Wander around and say hello to the locals, many of whom had ancestors in the area when the town was founded. Learn more about the town at the Rachel H.K. Burrow Museum, then head to Cazadores Mexican Grill to enjoy a spicy meal or get your fix of barbecue at Plumpy’s BBQ.

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