10 Family Outings Within Driving Distance of Clarksville
Story by Liesel Schmidt
Temps topping out in the triple digits, sunny days that seem to stretch on endlessly…Sounds like summer, which means that you’re probably trying to plan how all those endlessly sunny days are spent. And while you could easily book plane tickets to some destination far afield or load up the car to set off for another part of the country (don’t forget to bring the digital devices, your sanity will thank you), why not stay close to home and check out al the wonderful things that are just up the road from Clarksville?
As Nashville's only resort waterpark, SoundWaves at Gaylord Opryland Resort offers an amazing aquatic experience for guests at the hotel that brings the fun and excitement of an amusement park and offers it all both indoors and out, combining it with the resort’s upscale amenities to create a one-of-a-kind experience that people of all ages will enjoy. Get swept up in the tide of fun on one of the energetic rides, float along on one of the relaxing water features, or immerse yourself in the music for which Opryland is famous. Beautifully designed to offer a sleek, upscale aesthetic, SoundWaves has created an indoor experience unlike any other, featuring 9 acres of glass atriums, water rides set amidst living walls and plant beds, indoor gardens, cascading waterfalls, and an indoor river with a Delta flatboat—all kept at 84 degrees year-round. Open during the summer season, the outdoor offerings at the resort include a looping drop and body slides, a 4-lane mat racer, a multi-level kids’ play structure, and a wave pool. More than just a waterpark, Soundwaves offers spa amenities, a variety of dining experiences at restaurants located on-site, and golfing.
Located in Santa Claus, Indiana, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari might not be a winter wonderland, but it’s definitely still a wonderland of fun! Whether you love the thrill of a roller coaster, want to make a big splash on a water ride, or find your happy place while floating along on a lazy river, Holiday World will make you fee like a kid at Christmas. Featuring too many adrenaline-pumping rides and attractions to count, there’s something for everyone to enjoy; and the fun doesn’t stop there. From magicians to daring diving acts, music, fireworks displays, and even some chill time with Santa, the park offers a wide variety of entertaining shows and events that are sure to make your vacation one you’ll never forget.
Rated by many as the best aquarium in the country, the Tennessee Aquarium is a must for any nature lover on vacation. Spread out over two buildings, the aquarium features wildlife habitats found in North America and the Gulf of Mexico as well as a unique array of exotic plants, aquatic creatures, and terrestrial animals from remote regions of the world. Venture inside the River Journey building, where you’ll see river otters, exotic frogs, incredible turtles, and countless species of freshwater fish including trout, giant catfish, and even prehistoric-looking sturgeon. For deep-water amazement, you’ll want to explore the Ocean Journey building, where you’ll get up-close and personal with sharks, jellyfish, and thousands of colorful reef fish as well as butterflies and penguins. For even more immersive learning, the Imax 3D theater offers laser cinema technology that takes their digital films from amazing to larger-than-life awesome.
Running from May until mid-October, the City of Clarksville’s Park and Recreation Department is hosting Movies in the Park, an outdoor movie series featuring great family-friendly films as well as pre-show activities that are sure to entertain. Pack up a blanket, lawn chairs, and a picnic dinner, and round up the family for this free event—it’s the perfect way to spend a summer evening and have some bonding time. Food vendors will be on site; pets and alcohol prohibited.
Featuring heart stopping, adrenaline-pumping twists and turns and drops, the water tubes at Tie Breaker are a great way to make a splash this summer; and the interactive water playground will soak you in fun. Perfect for all ages, this waterpark offers something for everyone, whether you prefer to drift gently through the day on the Ripple River that runs through the park or crave the fast-paced excitement of a rushing water ride. When hunger strikes, take a break and visit The Snack Attack, where treats, drinks, and eats are available poolside for drowning out the munchies.
Spanning 282 acres, Cummins Falls State Park is a day-use park located just north of Cookeville on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River on the Eastern Highland Rim. Offering scenic views and great swimming, the park has long been an attraction for nature lovers of all ages; and as Tennessee’s eighth largest waterfall, this 75 foot- high natural wonder is one opportunity for a selfie you won’t want to pass up. For even more outdoor fun, the park features picnic areas, scenic trails for hikers of all skill levels, and shallow-water fishing in the river, so pack up your gear and put “Getting Wild” on your summer to-do list.
A family entertainment center where the focus is bringing every type of recreation under one roof, The City Forum features go kart tracks, spinners, ten lanes of bowling, 18 holes of mini golf, a two-story laser tag course, and an arcade with all the classic and newest games to keep you and your family engaged. Designed with a sleek, modern look that’s appealing to today’s crowd, every square inch of The City Forum offers something to do, and whether you’re taking a break to hang out in one of the facility’s social areas or going head-to-head against one of your friends at one of their many games, this is one place where they really score high on fun.
For panoramic views that remind you of the majesty of nature, Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is a must see for your family vacation this summer, offering access to SkyBridge and a walk through the clouds that you’ll never forget. As the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, SkyBridge could easily be considered the most spectacular and awe-inspiring experience in the Smokies, spanning 680 feet as it stretches from the top of the Gatlinburg SkyLift over a deep valley. Reaching a height of 140 feet at its midpoint, SkyBridge features unique glass-floor panels in the middle of the span, making looking down at your feet an adventure in itself! For an exceptional experience in getting to the top, ride the SkyLift, which sweeps riders from the heart of town up five hundred vertical feet to the top of Crockett Mountain, where the SkyDeck offers views unlike those you’ll see anywhere else.
A world-class educational and entertainment experience with more than 70,000 square feet of nature, science, technology, history, and art exhibits, Discovery Park of America is a truly immersive experience with something for everyone, no matter their age or interest. Inside the 100,000 square-foot Discovery Center and its multi-storied atriums, you’ll find ten exhibits that focus on Children’s Exploration, Energy, Enlightenment, Military, Native Americans, Natural History, Regional History, Science/Space/Technology, and Transportation, as well as the Special Exhibit Gallery, where traveling exhibits are featured. For a learning experience that’s high on visuals, check out the theater simulation of the 1811-12 earthquakes that shaped the land in this region as well as a planetary tour in the starship theater. Love aquatic life? Visit the Discovery Center’s 20,000-gallon aquarium. From a 60-foot replica of a human body with a 30-foot slide to hands-on exhibits with dinosaurs, fossils, Native American artifacts, military equipment, and vintage automobiles, you’ll discover something new at every turn, and the fun continues outside. Featuring 50 acres of outdoor action, you’re sure to want to see the water feature that bisects the Park’s property and includes waterfalls and bridges as well as extensive landscaping showcasing Japanese, European, and American gardens filled with plants and flowers from around the world. Other outdoor exhibits include log cabins, farm buildings and equipment, a 100 year-old church, a train station complete with a locomotive and various cars, and a replica of the Liberty Bell.
Located on a 40-acre ridge top adjacent to the Narrows of the Harpeth State Park, Adventureworks offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside with the perfect setting for relaxation or, for those with a love of the thrill, all kinds of adventure. Take the Canopy Zip Tour and soar through the trees as you zip from ridge top to ridge top; or test your agility on the Aerial Adventure Course as you climb, walk, and swing across a series of cables, ropes, and logs that take you higher and higher into the treetops. If you’re a night owl, come to the park at dusk and go on a moonlight zip tour. From the Firefly Zip Tour to the New Year’s Polar Bear Zip Tour, Adventureworks has you flying high above the treetops all year long!