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Summer vacation options

No need to travel far for plenty to do
By Glen Liford, Editor 6/26/2020


Breathtaking mountain views like this scenic overlook along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are among the many attractions awaiting visitors who want to enjoy the beauty of our corner of the world.
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The events of the past few months have forced everyone to think creatively as they consider vacations and family gatherings. Air travel is iffy at this point, and many folks are skeptical about when it may be safe to travel again. 

That’s disappointing for those of us who like to travel. The last few years, my wife, Tisa, and I have made several journeys to visit some of the western national parks. With 419 parks in the National Park System, we have a ways to go to visit all of them, and we have canceled plans this summer to check off a couple of more.

Fortunately, Tennessee and our surrounding states have some great options for those who may prefer to stay close to home this year. If you are seeking ideas for vacations nearby, here are just a few options to consider.

At the top of the list, of course, is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This Tennessee-North Carolina treasure attracted 12.5 million visitors and led the list of most visited national parks in 2019 according to the National Park Service. At press time, some campgrounds were still closed as the park implemented a phased re-opening, but many trails and attractions are open. With 150 official hiking trails, the park offers plenty of options for all sorts of visitors from beginning day hikers to seasoned backcountry veterans. Some of the more popular trails may be crowded, but the lesser-known treks offer plenty of solitude and opportunity for social distancing.

Tennessee State parks offer a variety of attractions. Burgess Falls near Cookeville (see the In Focus feature on page 28), Fall Creek Falls, and Reelfoot Lake are among my favorites. 

Of course, a trip to Reelfoot is not complete without a stop in Tiptonville at Boyette’s for some tasty catfish, and that brings up another thought as there are plenty of unique locally owned restaurants in many of our areas. Take Soda Pop Junction in Lynnville, for example. You can read all about this Middle Tennessee attraction on page 18 of this issue.

I enjoy the back road drives associated with my job, and there are always beautiful rural scenic views and new discoveries around the curve or across the next hill. 

Quaint towns like Jonesborough, Bell Buckle, and Sweetwater are favorite stops, and many  include unique shops like antique stores where it’s easy to spend hours treasure hunting. 

Or if you just want to learn more about our state’s rich history, there are historic civil war battlefields in Franklin, Murfreesboro, and Shiloh. The homes of Tennessee’s presidents — Andrew Jackson in Hermitage, Andrew Johnson in Greeneville, or James K. Polk in Columbia — are also interesting to visit.

This is not an all-inclusive list, but hopefully, it might spur you to get outside and visit some of the small towns and attractions near you. 

Whatever you decide to do, remember it might be a good idea to call ahead to verify hours and availability. Some local restaurants and shops may still be closed or be operating with alternative hours. 

 Stay safe and have fun.

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