Sometimes you can beat the winter blahs with a simple change of scenery. A day trip is an easy and inexpensive way to give you and your family a quick mood boost. We’re fortunate Knoxville is close to plenty of cities and towns that offer unique experiences. Nashville, Atlanta and the Smokies are some of the first places to come to mind, but this Knoxville Moms winter day trips list tries to dig a little deeper. We identified places within a three hour drive you may not have considered or even heard of. We hope something piques your interest and leads you and your family on a wonderful winter adventure!
Winter Day Trips from Knoxville
Abingdon, VA—Just over two hours from Knoxville, this historic town has a little something for everyone. The Virginia Creeper Trail is popular in every season. You can explore the trail on foot or on bicycle. Shuttle services are available to pick you up after your ride. Check out Kara’s visit for tips. The riverside Abingdon Vineyard welcomes families and offers plenty of space for kids to run and explore. During the winter months, you can cozy up by the outside fire pit. Be sure to download the “Traipse” app for a free interactive walking tour of the historic town.
Asheville—It’s fewer than two hours to this artsy mountain town. The Biltmore Estate offers something new in every season and is surprisingly kid friendly. Other fun hands-on attractions include the Asheville Museum of Science and the Asheville Pinball Museum. Bundle up for a winter hike and then warm up at one of the eclectic restaurants. Knoxville Moms has a family-friendly guide to Asheville that can help you plan your trip!
Bristol, TN/VA—With Nashville stealing the country music spotlight these days, many people don’t realize country music was born in Bristol. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in the historic downtown should be your first stop. Within walking distance of the museum there are independent shops, tasty restaurants and art galleries. Don’t forget to take a picture under the sign on State Street. The Tennessee-Virginia state line runs right down the middle of the road! While you’re downtown, take part in the “Caterpillar Crawl.” The star of the permanent scavenger hunt is the caterpillar from Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” There are also natural sights to enjoy like Bristol Caverns and manmade wonders like the South Holston Dam.
Beech Mountain/Boone, NC—Head to the mountains of North Carolina for more traditional winter pursuits like skiing, snowboarding, sledding and tubing. Grandfather Mountain and Blowing Rock have incredible vistas and are open year-round. For hands-on play both indoors and out, check out The Children’s Playhouse and Mystery Hill. Both Beech and Boone have plenty of locally owned shops to explore. The area prides itself on being a culinary destination with restaurants ranging from casual to gourmet.
Chattanooga—Even during the winter months, the “Scenic City” has plenty of activities to offer. Your kids will love climbing and exploring the rock formations at Rock City. Then warm up with a visit to Ruby Falls to see one of the world’s largest underground waterfalls. The temperature is around 60-degrees year-round. Ride the incline to see how Chattanooga earned its nickname. Then let your children take a spin on the antique carousel in Coolidge Park which just happens to be enclosed. A few steps from the park are plenty of places to tempt your tastebuds like Clumpies Ice Cream Shop. The list goes on for fun family activities to explore in Chattanooga!
Greenville, SC—This historic Southern city has a thriving downtown and has recently become a popular destination and for good reason! The Children’s Museum of the Upstate is one of the largest in the country with plenty of play opportunities for the young and old. The South Carolina Children’s Theatre offers an enriching theater experience. Don’t let any cold weather stop you from exploring the nearly two-acre children’s garden at Linky Stone Park complete with a Hansel and Gretel cottage and a secret garden! Greenville has been dubbed an up-and-coming food destination. You can experience the top-notch cuisines at one of the many family-friendly restaurants. Also, be sure to check out our Family-Friendly Guide to Greenville.
Helen, GA—This may be the furthest spot on our list from Knoxville, but it’s a lot closer than Germany! Helen claims to have the charm of Bavaria in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors to this popular spot agree! Charlemagne’s Kingdom is a must-see for little train lovers with a huge model train set among a miniature German town. If dolls are more your child’s speed, check out the Cabbage Patch General Hospital where you can visit the nursery and participate in special events. Those activities barely scratch the surface of what you can see and do in Helen with your family. Be sure to check out Meredith’s fall experience, too!
Kingsport—Pal’s Sudden Service was born here, as was the recipe for the original Long Island Iced Tea. These things are just a snapshot of what Kingsport has to offer. Highlights include a ride on the city’s ornate carousel with 32 beautifully carved wooden animals and a visit to Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium. There visitors can enjoy a nature center with a state-of-the-art planetarium and get up close (but not too close!) to native animals in a special exhibit. It’s no problem to find a great local restaurant for lunch with this handy guide of local flavors.
Maggie Valley, NC—This small town is on the fringe of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are plenty of outdoor things to do, including snow tubing at Cataloochee and mining for gems. You can also scout for elk that have been reintroduced to the area. During the winter months, elk may move from the high country to valleys to feed, increasing your chances of spotting one.
Monroe County—At just an hour’s drive from Knoxville, you can easily fill a day in Monroe County. The Lost Sea Adventure offers a tour of the cavern and underground lake. Then literally walk through history at Fort Loudoun State Park where you can see what a fort life was really like for people in the 1700s. There’s more history to explore at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. He developed the Cherokee writing system which changed his life and the lives of the Cherokee. Before you head home, grab a bite at the Tellico Beach Drive-In. The local institution offers drive-in favorites, including its award-winning hot dogs.
For more great day trips to take year-round, see our Knoxville Moms “Knoxville Family-Friendly Daytrips” list. If you’re looking for more spots to explore outside of Knox County, be sure to check out our Knoxville Moms “On the Outskirts of Town” series featuring Clinton, Dandridge, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge and Sevier County.