DeSoto Falls is just outside of Mentone, Alabama. (©Evangelio Gonzalez/Flickr, Creative Commons)
When you're in the mood to get out of Music City for a day, or a few, consider one of these weekend getaways. Most are a three-hour drive or less.
Perfect For: History Buffs
Though Franklin is about a half-hour drive from Nashville, it's worth spending a weekend in this charming, small town.
Founded in 1799 and named for Benjamin Franklin, the town is steeped in Civil War history. Today visitors can explore the past at Carnton Plantation that served as the main Confederate field hospital, or one of a half-dozen other small museums dedicated to the town's history. Stop by Puckett's Gro. & Restaurant to sample some of the best barbecue in the country; author Johnny Fugitt ranked it 17 out of his 100 best barbecue restaurants in America.
Getting There: Follow Interstate 65 South from Nashville then take Exit 65 for State Route 96 West
Check-In: Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast, a 1905 Craftsman-style house just blocks away from historic, downtown Franklin
Don't Miss: Downtown Franklin's antique stores, specialty shops, art galleries and restaurants
Perfect For: Outdoors Enthusiasts
"Outdoor" magazine named Chattanooga Best Town Ever twice, and for good reason; the city is surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and two major lakes. The mountains offer rewarding hikes, perfect perches for hang gliding, mountain streams for whitewater rafting and miles of singletrack for awesome mountain biking.
There's also plenty to do on the banks of the Tennessee River. Cycleboat offers a charter for groups that allows patrons to bring coolers, food and hang out on the river. For landlubbers, see what the pandas are up to at the Chattanooga Zoo or stroll through the Sculpture Fields and explore 32 large-scale sculptures.
Getting There: I-24 Southeast 132 miles to Chattanooga
Check-In: Chattanooga Cho Choo Hotel is a 24-acre complex with two hotels, rose gardens and an authentic, restored Pullman Train Car.
Upper Cumberland Wine Trail
Perfect For: Vinophiles
Eight family-owned wineries make up the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail. The trail itself meanders through back roads and historic towns, so visitors can visit all the wineries in a day drive or make a relaxed weekend of journey. The wineries come together throughout the year to participate in events like "Art-Jazz-Food" each June, with live music and food by local restaurateurs.
Getting There: The trail is about 70 miles long headed east on I-40 from Nashville starting near Exit 254 at Cellar 53 and ending Chestnut Hill Winery near Exit 322.
Check-In: East Port Marina, a lodge overlooking Dale Hollow Lake
Don't Miss: Go in June during the Watertown Wine Festival for Wine on the Rails—a wine-tasting aboard a 1950s streamliner train bound for Nashville and back.
Perfect For: Music Lovers
Located on the state's southwest corner, Memphis is Tennessee's second largest city—second to Nashville—and is the birthplace of the Memphis blues and rock 'n' roll. Of course, Elvis Presley's Graceland is still one of the city's most famous attractions and music is alive along Beale Street, home of blues legend W.C. Handy and host to bars and restaurants; the vibe is rivaled only by New Orleans' Bourbon Street.
In the 1960s, Memphis also helped give birth to the Civil Rights movement. The legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and pivotal events of the movement are told at the National Civil Rights Museum in the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968.
Getting There: Follow I-40 west for 211 miles to Memphis.
Check In: The Peabody Memphis is elegant, centrally located and has one of the best rooftop parties anywhere.
Don't Miss: Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken for the hot and spicy chicken
Perfect For: History Buffs and Outdoor Enthusiasts
This quaint mountain town is like a step back in time. Situated on the west brow of Lookout Mountain, it offers all the beauty and peace you'd expect of a mountain getaway.
The streets are little more than lanes dotted with cute cottages where you can shop for handmade gifts in the Log Cabin Craft Village, enjoy the view of the valley in Brow Park and pause for reflection in the Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel, a stone church built around a huge boulder. Visitors can also hit the slopes at Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort, a four-season ski resort.
Getting There: Take I-24 east to Hammondville, then I-59 south to Mentone
Check In: Mountain View Inn
Don't Miss: DeSoto Falls