When I moved to Knoxville in May 2016, I was taken aback at how much there was to do in East Tennessee! People in Knoxville love the outdoors and cherish new adventures with their friends and family.
But if your family doesn’t want to hike or go to tourist-heavy areas such as Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains, enjoy one of these 6 family-friendly activities throughout East Tennessee.
1. Take a Friday Night Falls Tour
Make your way to Chattanooga to enjoy a Ruby Falls lantern tour with the whole family. On this late night tour, you’ll get a glimpse inside Lookout Mountain as you follow a tour guide through the cave. The waterfall and caverns are not highlighted by lights as they normally are during the day. Instead, you’ll get to enjoy your cavern tour illuminated by hand-held lanterns, and kids receive a miner’s helmet. Not only will you get to learn about local folklore as you tour through dancing shadows, you’ll get to gaze on the beautiful, underground waterfalls inside the mountain.
To enjoy the evening adventure, children must be older than 5 and a reservation must be made at least 2 weeks in advance. Check-in begins at 8:30 pm weekly and tickets are $29.95 each. There are also regular guided tours that occur daily.
2. Visit the Museum of Appalachia
Not far from Knoxville, The Museum of Appalachia is a living history museum in Clinton, Tennessee, where your family can experience what life was like in a historical, Appalachian town. The museum has 35 log cabins, pioneer tools such as bear traps, leather making, free-range farm animals and more.
This summer, you can even celebrate Independence Day like an early settler with the museum’s annual anvil shoot. Curious? You get to watch a gunpowder-filled anvil get launched into the air and explode. And it gets launched multiple times throughout the day on July 4th. The Museum of Appalachia offers a special family discount rate of $25 for the Anvil shoot and other 4th of July celebrations until June 30.
3. Jam from the Top of Lookout Mountain
Rock City is home to more than the famous point where you can view 7 states at once; Lookout Mountain, Georgia, is also home to family-friendly Summer Music Weekends. Each weekend, enjoy a variety of artists such as Matt Downer, Amber Carrington, who was a semi-finalist on “The Voice,” Tarryn Aimee Smith and the Highbeams.
While you soak up traditional ballads, country croons and more, kids can create a firefly jar, join in on the WSRC RADIO kids’ show and watch the Birds of Prey Raptor Show. Since different musicians perform each day, maximize your time and spend a weekend soaking up sun and music.
And on your way home, make sure you stop by one of my favorites, the Moon Pie General store in Chattanooga. There, pick up unusual Moon Pie flavors, memorabilia and check out the home of the Moon Pie.
4. Daytrip to Dandridge
In Dandridge, the whole family can visit historical sites scattered around Douglas Lake. For instance, learn about how the dam was built to fuel “The Manhattan Project” with hydro-electric power in the 1940s. You can also discover how the dike built near the lake saved the City of Dandridge.
More history abounds at the historical Hickman Tavern, which is open for visitors to tour and is located right in the heart of historic, downtown Dandridge. Then tour the Revolutionary War Graveyard, the resting place of early Dandridge settlers and Revolutionary War veterans. At the end of a history-filled day, quench your thirst and fill your belly at the Tinsley Bible Drug Store, home to a soda fountain and the locally famous Bible Burger.
5. Enjoy the Balloon Festival
It used to be called the Muscadine Balloon Fiesta, but this year, the annual hot air balloon festival takes the name Monroe Life Magazine’s Balloon Fiesta. This annual celebration takes place on September 1-2 at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonroe, Tennessee.
It is a colorful and exciting family-friendly event letting kids and adults enjoy hot air balloon rides, live music, food, games and kid-friendly inflatables. At night, the beautiful balloons are set aglow as music plays, creating an awe-inspiring, dreamlike vision of floating lights. You can buy tickets for $10, and kids under the age of 4 get in for free.
6. Lick up Some Soft-Serve
Ice cream—the perfect end to all your adventures. Lick up some soft-serve ice cream at Cruze Farm, a family favorite just outside of Knoxville. I just tried their lavender-honey soft-serve and boy, oh, boy, it is refreshing. Create your own soft-serve or sorbet twist and lounge with your delicious treat on the wraparound ice cream house porch. You’ll find plenty of other families and friends relaxing on hot summer nights with fresh ice cream, too.