As COVID-19 cases surge in the Nashville area and restrictions tighten back up on local businesses, bars, and restaurants, you may be looking for ways to get out of the house again while staying safe. After all, four months of quarantine have gotten to even the best of us.
Thankfully, we live in a part of the country that has no shortage of amazing outdoor activities and spots to explore while staying far, far away from other germy people.
For purposes of this article, we'll stay away from the obvious places (Percy Warner Park and Cummins Falls, for example, which are both awesome but can get pretty crowded).
Here's a few other gems around Nashville worth leaving your house for.
Percy Priest Lake gets all the press, and rightfully so with it's huge footprint and tons of hiking, camping, and fishing, but Radnor Lake may be a better place to go and get away from people. Located right off Granny White Pike, it's actually a protected Class II Natural area - which means it's 8 miles of trails are used only for hiking and wildlife observation. Pets, bikes, and joggers are only allowed on one trail in the park. That means it's green, serene, and quiet, and there are PLENTY of opportunities to take in nature, with a huge variety of wildflowers and plants to go along with some of the best bird-watching and wildlife observation in the area.
ROCK ISLAND STATE PARK
Again, Cummins Falls gets all the recognition and, to be fair, it's a little closer to downtown Nashville, but Rock Island isn't far away and boasts an equally awesome swimming hole. It's about an hour and a half away from Nasvhille, between McMinnville and Sparta. I could tell you about it, or I could just let the picture speak for itself.
DRIVE THE NATCHEZ TRACE PARKWAY
You can make this a nice day trip or a multi-day excursion, depending on how adventurous you're feeling. Following the "Old Natchez Trace" used by Native Americans and European settlers, it actually starts near the famed Loveless Cafe, cuts through Williamson County, and treks 444 miles down to Tupelo, Mississppi. The whole thing is drivable or bikable, but there's plenty of stops along the way to take quick hikes, check out historic structures, prehistoric mounds, and even a couple of Civil War battlefields. And the views...well, they don't suck.
If you just need a quick breather away from home, Centennial Park is of course a great destination right here in downtown Nashville. Of course it's the home to The Parthenon, which is open again at partial capacity, but more importantly it's just a huge greenway with tons of walking trails, a pond, and lots of picnic areas that give you the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without being around a ton of people.
If you want something a little more sporty and don't feel like hiking, there's actually a ton of free disc golf courses around town from Metro Parks. Seven Oaks, Two Rivers, Shelby Park, Cider Hill, and Cane Ridge all have courses that are open and free from dusk til dawn, and you can get a full disc golf set on Amazon for like 20 or 30 bucks.
It's harder to avoid crowds here, but it's all outdoors and obviously one of Nashville's crown jewels with beautiful botanical gardens, fun activities for the whole family like a massive toy train track, and great areas to picnic or grab the perfect Instagram picture. Right now is super cool too because the Chiluly Nights exhibit is open, celebrating the art of Dale Chiluly. You have to have special event tickets to see it all lit up as it's intended, but even during the day the exhibits are cool.
They're only open on weekends right now because of COVID, but did you know that you can rent a kayak and paddle the Cumberland River right through downtown? There's no better social distancing than being by yourself (or with one other person) on a kayak in the middle of a river. It costs $45 per person and you can start in either Cumberland Park or Shelby Park. Not only do you have the Nashville skyline along the route, but you also can see a ton of wildlife including turtles and blue herons. Each trip takes about an hour or two, depending on how fast you paddle :) You can book online here
Obviously this only scratches the surface. With metro and state parks all within driving distance of Nashville and a ton of outdoor activities, social distancing doesn't mean you have to be confined to the four walls of your living room. What's your favorite getaway around town?