From eagles to white squirrels and sunken cypress trees to dinosaurs, Northwest Tennessee is filled with unique attractions just waiting to be explored. While the area has long been a mecca for hunters, birdwatchers and outdoor water sports enthusiasts, today you’ll also find family-friendly experiences around every corner. Conveniently located only an hour-and-a-half from Jackson, two hours from Memphis and three hours from Nashville, the area is an easy day trip.
Discovery Park of America
If you are looking for a quirky, eclectic, one-of-a-kind museum that rises up out of a cornfield in the middle of rural America, then you must check out Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee. The iconic 100,000-square-foot museum and beautifully landscaped 50-acre heritage park is something to see. Inside, you are greeted by friendly staff who are happy to point you in the right direction to begin your adventure. Bring your stroller, backpacks and definitely walking shoes because you will be covering a lot of ground.
The exhibits inside the museum are incredible. Stand right next to dinosaur skeletons, crawl inside the fish tank, experience an earthquake, wind through an impressive collection of military artifacts, learn all about science, technology, engineering, the arts and math, feel nostalgic standing next to the collection of more than 35 vintage cars and so much more. Insider tip: we highly recommend booking a room at the Sleep Inn right next door to Discovery Park and taking advantage of the park’s two-day VIP pass because you will want two days to explore everything.
Sabin’s Café is on-site, so you don’t have to leave for lunch. But, if you are looking for something local to try, check out their blog on the “Best Diners and Dives in Union City.”
Open Tues. – Sun. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
New hours in 2020:
Jan. and Feb. / Aug. – Dec.: Open Thurs. – Mon. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
March – July: Open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Reelfoot Lake State Park
Experience the great outdoors at Reelfoot Lake State Park in Tiptonville, Tennessee. This beautiful scenic lake has 12,500 acres of water with an abundance of crappie, bluegill, catfish, bass, wildlife, birds, bald eagles and beautiful scenery. What used to be swamplands was then turned into Reelfoot Lake caused by the 1811-12 earthquakes, which they say made the Mississippi River run backward and fill in the swamplands.
While you’re there, be sure to stop by the Reelfoot Lake Visitors Center to see bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, barred owls and more. You can camp down at the lake or rent one of the newer cabins through Tennessee State Parks.
Looking for good food? We highly recommend Blue Bank Resort or Boyette’s Dining Room. If you want to have dinner with a view, head over to Blue Bank resort. They have a delectable menu as well as a bar inside their dining room. Be sure to arrive just before sunset to experience one of the most beautiful views of Reelfoot Lake imaginable. No picture online can do it justice. Blue Bank Resort also has lodging if you wanted to eat, drink and sleep by the lake.
Lunch or dinner at Boyette’s is like an experience as if you were walking into your grandma’s home. The atmosphere is quaint, the wait staff is as sweet as pie, and if you don’t try the catfish, are you really having the true experience at Reelfoot Lake?
White Squirrel Winery in Kenton, Tenn.
Surrounded by the beautiful fields of Kenton, Tenn., is White Squirrel Winery and Vineyard run by the Sanderson Family. Pop in and enjoy their tasting room where you can try several different wines and experience one of the most peaceful views of rural Tennessee anywhere. They harvest eighteen acres of grapes, fruit from the orchard and bramble bushes to make their well-known wines. Shop in the tasting room where you can find an assortment of made-from-scratch jams and jellies, as well as hand-poured candles.
Tastings on Friday and Saturdays are from 1-6 p.m. and on Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Be sure to check their Facebook page for live music events, dinner theaters and more.
Full Throttle Distillery
Photo Submitted by TripAdvisor reviewer ShopGirl_71
Want to have the Sturgis experience without riding all the way to South Dakota? Cruise in to the small West Tennessee town of Trimble to Full Throttle S’loonshine, owned and operated by Michael Ballard, who was born and raised in Trimble and is well-known for opening the world’s largest biker bar in Sturgis. Full Throttle S’loonshine is an authentic Tennessee moonshine distillery that uses an early 1900s recipe along with an authentic copper still to make the moonshine. Walk in to the tasting room surrounded by the rustic wooden barrels, shiny bottles of moonshine and get ready to taste some of the best moonshine in West Tennessee. And if you’re lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of Michael walking around the distillery, making sure everything is running smoothly (including the shine) in his hometown.
Paris Landing State Park
Outdoor recreation lovers – this is your oasis. The beautiful 841-acre Paris Landing State Park is located on Kentucky Lake, which is right off of the majestic Tennessee River and only a one-hour drive from Discovery Park of America. Enjoy all kinds of water activities such as fishing, skiing, boating and swimming, as well as dry land experiences of hiking, camping and golfing.
If you want to explore the charming town of Paris, Tenn., the locals welcome you to shop in their quaint downtown shops, eat at fun restaurants and just enjoy some small town charm. Be sure to visit the Paris town square for great shopping and eclectic gift shops. Don’t forget to try the wines at Paris Winery while you’re there. And yes, there is an Eiffel Tower. Experience Paris without hurting your wallet.
Historic Downtown Martin
Unique shopping experiences and one-of-a-kind dining venues are lined up and down Lindell Street in historical downtown Martin, Tennessee. Pop in and out of quirky antique stores, gift shops and cute boutiques and even get your caffeine fix at the Martin Coffeehouse. Mix with the locals at several restaurants in downtown Martin, with our favorites being The Opera House, A.B Cheatham’s Downtown Tavern and the newly opened Blue Oak Oyster Bar. Oh, and even though it’s technically not downtown, you must head over to The Grind Mac-and-Cheese Burger Bar. It’s just around the corner right next to the University of Tennessee at Martin. You will not be disappointed.
Insider tip: If you are in town the first week of September, head downtown to experience the award-winning Tennessee Soybean Festival. Shop local vendors, eat delicious food, walk the midway and enjoy live music. The city shows out during this jam-packed week-long festival, and it is something everyone should experience.
Charlene’s Colony of Shoppes and Murray Hudson’s Antique Maps and Globes
Nestled about a mile off Highway 51 in Halls, Tennessee, is the cutest little colony of shoppes. Charlene’s is loved by locals and travelers who just so happen to know about this well-kept secret. When you arrive at Charlene’s Colony of Shoppes, you will feel as if you have found the hidden treasure. Shop in the quaint antique store and find some of the most exquisite home décor in West Tennessee. From Christmas decorations and one-of-a-kind rugs to elegant throw pillows and glitzy chandeliers, Charlene’s has it. After shopping, pop inside the Just Divine Tea Room next door for a light lunch or dinner. Be sure to leave time when you are in Halls to stop by Murray Hudson’s Antique Maps, Globes, Books and Prints. With 24,000 maps and 760 globes, you’ll find his cartographic stash full of unique treasures, many of them one of a kind.
Open Tues. – Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Murray Hudson’s Maps
Open Mon. – Fri., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Get ready for your very own safari experience without leaving the great state of Tennessee! Located in Alamo, Tennessee Safari Park is a place where memories are made. It’s a drive-through safari ride where you can see buffalo, zebras, antelope, giraffes and more! Purchase some animal feed, roll down your windows and get ready for the ostriches to walk up and eat the food right out of the bucket!
Open Mon. – Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Open Sun. 12 – 5 p.m.