For a day trip or an overnight, Sewanee is a family-favorite right near Nashville!
One of our favorite recent day trips was Sewanee, Tennessee which is about an hour and a bit from Nashville. There are a ton of hikes and cool things to do in the area (Buggytop is hard and ambitious but a favorite worth mentioning!). I love the Sewanee area because there are easy ways to explore the area with younger kids too.
We like starting off the day at the Natural Bridge. It's only 3 acres, but it's beauty packs a big punch and is simply stunning. My family and I happened upon it on a quiet Sunday and had the place to ourselves. My husband and I remarked that it was strangely akin to "Angkor Watt" in the way that nature has grown wild amongst stone, trees twist through the air in strange shapes (of course this is not manmade!). The highlight is a natural, 25-foot high sandstone arch that brave visitors can actually walk across. Once you venture across the bridge (or walk around with small kids) you circle into a cleared out area with a cave and several large trees and boulders. I delighted in my children saying 'this was the best playground ever' and watching them play "Lion King/Pride Rock" for an afternoon. It's only a 0.1-mile walk from your car, so the smallest of hikers can see this beautiful natural setting.
After that, head to Shenanigans, in "downtown" Sewanee (really only a few shops, restaurants, and a post office). It's a brightly colored building right upfront. We walked inside and found a local vibe, a friendly staff, and yummy food. The menu is pretty big and includes sandwiches as well as grilled food.
Eat your lunch onsite or take it with you for a picnic at Green Views which is just past the campus of the University of the South (aka Sewanee) campus. The drive will leave you breathless - the beautiful stone buildings and lush landscape are stunning and kind of Hogwarts-like. Greens Views is a viewpoint that you can drive right up to. It's gorgeous and there are several benches that you can enjoy the views from. If you are feeling even more adventurous, there are several hikes that start here.
If you are interested in staying in the area overnight, The Sewanee Inn and Edgeworth Inn are both excellent options. Additionally, there are so many lovely and reasonable Airbnb's and private home rentals in the area.