Looking for cool spaces in hot places? With more than 8,600 caves, Tennessee offers a brilliant tapestry of natural wonders guaranteed to entertain your imagination, delight your sight and most importantly keep you cool. From experiencing an underground adventure, to taking a dip in our lakes and rivers or cooling off at our water parks to visiting one of the state’s many museums, or stopping for a cool treat, Tennessee is abundant with ways to beat the heat this summer.
With year-round cavern temperatures averaging between 40-60 degrees, going down under is certainly a way to beat the heat.
In Northeast Tennessee, Bristol Caverns is one of the largest and most beautiful caverns in the Smoky Mountain region. The journey will take you through millions of years of timeless beauty. Close by, Appalachian Caverns in Blountville offers an hour-long guided tour featuring beautiful formations and bridges. It is also a historical site, used during the Civil War as a hospital.
In the Smoky Mountains region, see sparkling formations, towering natural chimneys, numerous grottos and a crystal clear stream at Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville. Carved over tens of thousands of years in one of the earth's oldest mountain chains, Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend are known as the "Greatest Site Under the Smokies." Estimated to be between 20 and 30 million years old, the Caverns are rich in history and lore in recent years as well.
From there, head south and take a boat ride on the Lost Sea in Sweetwater, a unique natural wonder which is listed as "America's Largest Underground Lake" in the Guinness Book of World Records. Go underground, stroll through classic cave scenery and see America’s highest underground waterfall a magnificent 145-foot waterfall with dramatic lighting at Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. Also located in Chattanooga is Raccoon Mountain Caverns. Consisting of over 5 1/2 miles of explored and mapped passageways with new discoveries still being made, this cavern offers a variety of experiences. Visitors can choose a 45-minute come-as-you-are walking tour known as the Crystal Palace Tour, or one of the famous wild cave expeditions.
Tennessee's largest show cave is Cumberland Caverns, conveniently located between Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville in McMinnville, Tenn. For an extraordinary experience, make plans to attend Bluegrass Underground which broadcasts live from the Volcano Room. For a summer schedule, visit http://www.bluegrassunderground.com/.
In addition to caverns, Tennessee offers beat the heat options for family vacationers.
In West Tennessee, get hand dipped ice cream at Casey Jones Old Country Store 1890's Ice Cream Parlor, Named by USA Today as “One of the Top 50 Ice Cream Parlors in America!” Try unique flavors of frozen yogurt or Italian gelato at Yolo in Memphis. Splish Splash at Children’s Museum of Memphis is offering a fun outdoor slip and slide 11a.m.-2p.m., June 28-29. The Memphis Zoo is even cool, having mister stations in various locations as well as many indoor exhibits. For a special treat drop by Jerry's Sno Cones located on Wells Station in Memphis.
In Middle Tennessee, visit some of Tennessee’s amazing natural wonders and State Parks, such as Fall Creek Falls State Park, a paradise of more than 20,000 acres sprawled across the eastern top of the rugged Cumberland Plateau. Fall Creek Falls is one of the most scenic and spectacular outdoor recreation areas in America. Or take a dip at Rugby’s Gentleman’s Swimming Hole. A short hiking trail will lead you to the swimming hole where the men from Rugby would swim in the Clear Fork River. Head indoors to the Tennessee State Museum. It is free and open daily. You can find it all, art, history, textiles, crafts and culture. Or have Summer Fun with Shrek and Friends at Gaylord Opryland Resort. Guests can create the vacation tale of a lifetime and meet favorite characters from DreamWorks Animation films. Have a sweet treat at Soda Pop Junction, an old-fashioned soda shop in downtown Lynnville, established in 1860.
In East Tennessee, acres of cool fun in the sun await at The Wetlands Water Park in Jonesborough. Get wet at Dollywood Splash Country Adventure Water Park in Pigeon Forge, an outdoor water park featuring more than 23 water slides and thrill rides. Go on a never before seen journey into the lives of a mother polar bear and her two seven-month old cubs as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness they call home at the 3D IMAX Theater in Chattanooga. Bring your snorkel mask and wade into the cool waters of the Conasauga River east of Chattanooga to see tropical colored fish at the designated fish-viewing area. You can find more species in a short distance than exists in the entire Columbia River. Funyack or raft the Hiwassee River. Experience an adrenaline rush white water rafting the Ocoee. Lastly, chill out at Mayfield Dairy Visitor Center where you can take a tour of the Mayfield Dairy Plant then cool off with your favorite Mayfield Dairy Ice Cream. The tour is free. The ice cream is yummy!!
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