Where should we go in Kentucky/Tennessee?
December 25, 2007 10:06 PM   Subscribe

Within 5 days, where should we take a roadtrip in Kentucky/Tennessee/other close-ish areas?

So. A very good friend of mine lives in Texas, and I live in Cincinnati, OH. We have not been able to see each other since she moved to Texas two and a half years ago. This year, for Christmas, my mom and her dad got in cahoots back in October and secretly arranged, for both of our Christmas presents, to plan a trip for us to go on together in June of 2008. Her parents are flying her in and out of Lexington, KY, and we'll have 5 days 4 nights in the time that she's here.

Now, they picked Nashville, TN as a tenative place for us to go, but also left this mostly unplanned so we can pick what we want to do. At least one day should be spent in Nashville, but 5 days is a lot to spend in Nashville, so we're interested in a mini-road trip around the Kentucky/Tennesee area or anywhere else within, say, a 4 hour radius or so.

Of interest: hiking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting (we REALLY REALLY want to do this. where's the best place? West Virginia? is that feasible?), general exploring, the mountains, pretty scenery, other adventures, maybe a museum or two, etc. Not necessarily of interest: sporting events/things, pricey restaurants or hotels. We've got some time to save some money, but we're also both college students, so cheaper is defientely better.

Where are your favorite places in this neck of the woods? If it were you, what would you go and see? We're both female and will both be 21 at that time (though, I should add, neither of us drink much).

Thanks in advance!
posted by Quidam to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From Lexington to Nashville itself is about a 4 hour drive (at least in all the time I did it back and forth from school - that's been more than 10 years, but if anything, traffic will have gotten worse). From Nashville you can head to the Ocoee (outside Chattanooga, approx 3 hours drive), where all the whitewater events for the '96 Olympics were held.

If you're already in the Chattanooga neighborhood, Rock City/Ruby Falls/Lookout Mountain is a touristy spot, but one that's pretty enjoyable, since the attraction is still built out of some awesome natural formations, both above and below ground.

In between Nashville and Chattanooga you cross over Monteagle, part of the Cumberland Rim - driving Hwy 41 over the mountain is a great spot for just checking out the views - it's twisty and slow going at times, but again, worth the drive if you're in the area. Don't try it your first time in a driving rain or at night, you'll miss the view, and the road can be a lot more dangerous then.

Just north of Monteagle you're into Tennessee Whiskey Country, home to both Jack Daniels and George Dickel, both historic tours.

This area is also Tennessee Walking Horse country.

From there back into Nashville you pass through my hometown area - Murfreesboro is an old southern town that's grown over the years, is home to a large University, and lots of shopping options, as well as the Stones River National Battlefield and National Cemetary. Also not a bad potential home base for exploring the area.

Nashville itself gives you all the usual music themed stuff, the Parthenon, some pretty good museums, and lots of tourist opportunities.

You could easily spend a day around Lexington (check to see if Keeneland is in session, an afternoon at the races is actually pretty cheap if you watch the betting), exploring Lexington Cemetary (strange as it sounds, it's really a beautiful place when all the trees and flowers are filled out), lots of historic buildings downtown and a couple of blocks up at Transyvlania U.

I don;t live in the area anymore, but if you want to shoot a MeMail, I'll come up with anything else I can.
posted by pupdog at 10:32 PM on December 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just to add, within a 4 hour radius of Nashville, you're going to be able to get into north Georgia/Alabama, just about to Memphis, just into the mountains in East TN, you could check out Louisville, but not a whole lot farther than that...
posted by pupdog at 10:43 PM on December 25, 2007

Go to Mammoth Cave, its only 1.5 hours form Nashville and you can easily spend a whole day.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:48 PM on December 25, 2007

mammoth cave is neat, and since it's a cave, you don't have to worry about being cold.

it's supposed to be in the 50s and rainy here for the next week, so hiking may not be the best choice. but if you want, there are trails at edwin and percy warner state park and radnor lake (both within city limits). not sure if the rafting companies even run in the winter (it's not usually this temperate), but they might.

you actually could spend 5 days in nashville if you use it as your base camp. chattanooga is only 2 hours away, knoxville and birmingham are 3, memphis and atlanta are 4.

i have company coming into town, so i just compiled a list for them. here they are: you can google them all:

tennessee state museum
adventure science center
traveller's rest
the hermitage - andrew jackson's home
belle meade plantation
cheekwood botanical gardens
the parthenon - full-scale replica, art museum inside, in centennial park, which is also nice
the frist center for the arts
opryland hotel - fun, tacky
the country music hall of fame - actually supposed to be pretty good
historic downtown/2nd avenue/lower broadway - fun, tacky

for good, cheap eats and drinks, the area around vanderbilt is the way to go. check out hillsboro village and elliston place. also, if you want to walk around and see history, there are some enormous civil war battlefields within an hour of the city. i think the best one is stones river.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:31 AM on December 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

mefi mail me if you want more info. have fun!
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:31 AM on December 26, 2007

If you want pretty scenery, take half a day or so and explore the area around Lexington/Frankfort. The Old Frankfort Pike (official scenic road) is just a few miles from the airport and meanders through rolling bluegrass hills of horse country. Stop at Wallace Station for delicious sandwiches halfway between Lexington and Frankfort. You mentioned that you weren't big drinkers, but there are some distillery tours nearby that are worth visiting just for the history and good smells. The Woodford Reserve tour is just gorgeous (and really cheap), and the road to get there is also scenic.

I'm actually about to hop a plane for Frankfort in just a few hours.
posted by lizjohn at 7:40 AM on December 26, 2007

Maker's Mark Distillery! We went on a huge road trip and loved our stop there. It is out in the middle of nowhere, but totally worth it!
posted by likesuchasand at 8:22 AM on December 26, 2007

Keeneland is only in session in April and October, I'm afraid.

You're in luck with regards to horseback riding, though, at the Kentucky Horse Park, which is just under an hour away from Cincinnati.

For hiking it would be hard to top Red River Gorge (the wiki has some good links at the bottom). It's about an hour east/southeast of Lexington. It is hard to overstate the beauty of the place, especially in June.
posted by hecho de la basura at 8:55 AM on December 26, 2007

Oh! and I hear the Ocoee is a good place to go white water rafting in TN.
posted by likesuchasand at 9:14 AM on December 26, 2007

Fall Creek Falls (in Tennessee) is a beautiful place to go hiking, I love that place.
posted by jockc at 9:57 AM on December 26, 2007

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