Our students have plenty to do in Nashville when they aren’t studying English. On the weekends, there are also lots of great day trips they can take to experience the diverse culture, history, and natural beauty of the United States. Here are five suggestions.
Explore the history of American space travel in Huntsville, the city where early rockets were designed, modules of the International Space Station were built, and tomorrow’s space vehicles are under development. At the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, you’ll see the first American satellite, the Saturn V Moon Rocket, the Pathfinder space shuttle, the Apollo 16 command module, the Skylab orbital workshop, a moon rock collected by the Apollo 12, and more.
You can also enjoy breathtaking documentary films in the Spacedome IMAX Theater and the 3D National Geographic Theater. Finally, be an astronaut for a day in training simulators that let you experience a rocket launch, G-force, and the mountainous landscape of Mars.
- Where: Birmingham, AL (less than two hours from Nashville)
- When: 7 days a week, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
- Price: $23 for adults; $15 for children ages 5-12. See website for admission plus movie packages.
Fall Creek Falls is the largest and most popular state park in Tennessee, covering 26,000 acres (105 km2). It’s famous for its beautiful waterfalls, including Fall Creek Falls, one of the tallest in the eastern United States.
Explore 34 miles of hiking trails that take you around the Fall Creek lake, gorges, and streams. You can also visit the nature center, take a guided trail ride from the horse stable, ride the thrilling zip line course, play golf, and swim in an Olympic-size pool. Cabins, campsites, and a 145-room inn are available for a longer stay.
- Where: Bledsoe and Van Buren counties (2 hours from Nashville)
- When: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
- Price: Free admission (all Tennessee state parks are free); see website for prices for zip lines, trail rides, and golf.
The tiny town of Lynchburg, Tennesseee has a big claim to fame: It’s the home of world-famous Jack Daniel’s Whiskey. The best-selling American whiskey in the world has been produced here since 1866 with mineral-rich water from Cave Spring Hollow.
Watch and learn about the whiskey-making process and see some of the 1.9 million barrels that are currently aging. Visitors can choose from four different tours with or without whiskey tasting. Nearby, you can also visit the Lynchburg Hardware and General Store for souvenirs and have a traditional Southern lunch at the 100-year-old Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House & Restaurant (reservations required).
- Where: Lynchburg, Tennessee (1.5 hours from Nashville)
- When: 9:00 a.m.-4:30 daily
- Price: $13-$22, depending on which tour you choose
Located in Chattanooga on the Tennessee River, the Tennessee Aquarium is considered one of the country’s best aquariums. The River Journey exhibit was the world’s largest freshwater aquarium when it opened in 1992, containing 400,000 gallons (1,500,000 L) of water. It features fish and other animals from America and around the world, including alligators, turtles, seahorses, and frogs. The 700,000-gallon (2,600,000-liter) Ocean Journey includes the Secret Reef, invertebrate and jellyfish exhibits, penguins, a butterfly garden, and more.
Tennessee Aquarium also shows nature films in its IMAX Theater and offers boat tours of the Tennessee River on the 65-foot River Gorge Explorer.
- Where: Chattanooga, Tennessee (2 hours from Nashville)
- When: 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. daily
- $29.95 for adults; $18.95 for children ages 3-12. See website for combination tickets with IMAX Theater and/or River Gorge Explorer.
Explore parts of the world’s longest cave system (over 405 miles) in the closest national park to Nashville. Take a ranger-guided cave tour, hike, cycle, fish, or boat in this beautiful park along the Green and Nolin Rivers in southern Kentucky. On your way, stop in nearby Bowling Green to check out great American sports cars at the National Corvette Museum.
You can see photos from last year’s IEI trip to Mammoth Cave and the National Corvette Museum on Facebook.
- Where: Edmonson County, Kentucky (1.25 hours from Nashville)
- When: See website for seasonal hours.
- Price: Park admission is free; see website for cave tour prices.