Our Favorite Family Weekend Getaways Near Knoxville, TN

We’ve chosen 6 of our favorite destinations, all within a 3 hour drive from Knoxville, where you can experience a fantastic weekend getaway, whatever the season, whatever the reason. These towns are particularly wonderful to visit in the fall with plenty of autumn color and outdoor adventures.

Each of these destinations highlights a nearby mountain town that offers great local food and shops along with terrific indoor and outdoor activities. Something for everyone. No lodging research needed or activities to plan out — it’s all covered in detail in our itineraries, saving you time and effort that you would rather spend on your weekend getaway, not planning it.

Enjoy an easy scenic hike, go apple picking or antiquing, pitch a tent, or explore the local shops along a charming Main Street.

We’ve returned several times to each of the towns listed below and provide everything you need to know: where to stay, eat, and what to see and do! All organized into detailed day-by-day plans.

Fall foliage in the foreground of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC

1. A Weekend In Johnson City, TN

Distance from Knoxville to Johnson City, TN- 1 hour 38 min.

Two figures on top of Round Bald on AT near Carver's Gap on a weekend getaway to Johnson City, TN
Round Bald on the AT near Johnson City, TN

Johnson City, TN is a small town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and their logo aptly states “start your adventure here.” It’s a great hub for biking, hiking, and even exploring a fossil site. A revitalized downtown offers terrific restaurants and breweries in a quaint setting.

It’s a place where you can spend a day hiking the Appalachian Trail over numerous mountain balds with amazing 360 degree views, bike a family-friendly bike path, or tour a fossil dig site. And from all of these activities, you can easily return to town for lodging, a local craft beer, and a great meal.

Our favorite trip highlights in Johnson City include the Gray Fossil Site and Museum and the adjoining Hands On! Discovery Center, eating at White Duck Taco, and hiking one of the most beautiful sections of the AT to Round Bald and Grassy Ridge.

2. A Weekend In Chattanooga, TN

Distance from Knoxville to Chattanooga, TN- 1 hour and 42 min.

The Incline Railway climbing Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, TN
The Incline Railway in Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga has no shortage of things to do for kids AND adults. This is one of the few cities you can visit where you can climb in one of the largest climbing gyms in the country, walk across one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world, visit Civil War battlefields, admire a jellyfish exhibition, and squeeze through rock boulders alongside tiny gnomes statues–all in one weekend!

In addition to a fun downtown filled with a variety of good local restaurants and breweries, Chattanooga’s outdoor opportunities earned it Outside Magazine’s “Best Town” twice.

Our favorite trip highlights in Chattanooga included the Kid Zone at High Point Climbing, the magnificent Tennessee Aquarium, and the Incline Railway to Lookout Mountain.

3. A Weekend In Abingdon, VA

Distance from Knoxville to Abingdon, VA- 1 hour 54 min. from Knoxville

Boy standing atop rocky ridge in Grayson Highlands State Park near Abingdon, VA
Wilburn Ridge in Grayson Highlands State Park near Abingdon, VA

Abingdon, Va is a beautiful, quaint town in southwest Virginia. It has terrific restaurants, walkable streets, a craft brewery, and the famous Barter Theater. Catch a show at the Barter and stroll around Abingdon’s historic downtown.

Seek more adventure with a bike ride along the Virginia Creeper Trail (a 34 mile rails- to- trails pathway) or with a hike along the trails at Grayson Highlands State Park, famous for its soaring views and wild ponies. You’ll find plenty to do!

Our favorite things to do when we are visiting Abingdon, VA is to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail and visit Grayson Highlands State Park to see the wild ponies that graze there.

4. A Weekend In Brevard, NC

Distance from Knoxville to Brevard, NC- 2 hours and 20 min.

Girls sitting on porch of a cabin near Brevard, NC
Our rental cabin in Cedar Mountain near Brevard, NC

Brevard, NC is a charming mountain town filled with shops (including a great toy store), restaurants, antiques, and art galleries. It’s located just 33 miles from Asheville. It’s also home to Dupont State Forest, which offers plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails to explore.

The Hunger Games movie was filmed at Dupont where you can visit Triple Falls, the most recognizable mountain scenery in the movie.

Our girls loved the easy hiking trails to the waterfalls in Dupont State Forest, O.P. Taylors Toys downtown, breakfast at Cedar Mountain Cafe, and our cozy VRBO cabin, Summer Haven in Cedar Mountain.

5. A Weekend In Bryson City, NC

Distance from Knoxville to Bryson City, NC- 2 hours and 10 min.

View of Fontana Lake from above
View of Fontana Lake near Bryson City, North Carolina

Bryson City is a such a fun outdoor town and possibly the most underrated. Within a 20 minute driving radius of downtown, you have lakes to canoe, rivers to raft, and hikes to waterfalls. Plus, a brewery, a fantastic pizza place and other good restaurants, a bookstore, and an excellent outdoors store- all downtown. You just can’t beat it.

Bryson City is one of our favorite mountain towns for outdoor adventure. Our girls loved taking the train through the mountains at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, and my husband and I couldn’t get over how clear the water is at Fontana Lake when spending the day kayaking. And rafting down the Nantahala is right up there with rollercoasters in terms of excitement for the kids.

Anthony’s Restaurant is the perfect place to end your day of adventure with delicious pizza and a cold beer!

6. A Weekend In Greenville, SC

Distance from Knoxville to Greenville, SC- 2 hours and 50 min.

Pedestrian path going through downtown Greenville, SC
Downtown Greenville, SC

Calling all foodies and outdoor lovers! Greenville, SC has been on the trendy radar for some time, appearing in multiple travel magazines and blogs for its vibrant food scene and beautiful use of the riverfront downtown. Take a hike or bike the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 20 mile paved bike trail running through downtown and leading to fun food stops along the way.

Bonus Destination – A Knoxville Staycation!

Sometimes a “staycation” is the right way to go. The nice thing about Knoxville is that you don ‘t even need to leave town to have a fantastic family outing. Take advantage of downtown activities, spend a day at Ijams Nature Center, bike the greenways, tour the downtown food scene, or go to the top of Knoxville’s infamous local landmark, the Sunsphere.

You’ll find plenty to do in this fun town and there is always something new to discover. Let Knoxville Backyard & Beyond provide inspiration!

Check Out Our North Carolina Mountains Book On Amazon!

North Carolina Mountain Towns–Family Weekend Adventures: Asheville, Brevard, and Bryson City

The North Carolina mountain towns of Asheville, Brevard, and Bryson City provide the perfect combination of outdoor fun, terrific local restaurants and craft breweries, and charming downtowns.

They offer a fantastic family getaway in any season. Enjoy easy scenic hikes, float a river, go mountain biking, try apple picking, pitch a tent, take a train ride, or explore the local shops along Main Street. These North Carolina mountain towns have it all!

These 6 weekend destinations within 3 hours of Knoxville, TN will make everyone happy with fun adventures, good food, and beautiful memories. Get out of the everyday and into something different for a change of pace and scenery even if it is just for a weekend! Happy Trails – Amy

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