Looking to break out of the Spring Break mold this year and go on a little adventure? How about experiencing the great outdoors, plus an iconic music scene, all with a dash of that good old Southern hospitality? Welcome to the wonder of Tennessee. We’ll kick off with ridge upon ridge of wildflowers and forests in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg. Then we’ll head to Nashville for some live country music, fantastic Southern cuisine, and historic sites. This Spring Break adventure is one for the books y'all!
We’re kicking off our Spring Break on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Gatlinburg, the primary gateway to the park, has a bustling downtown with fun craft stores, casual restaurants, a fully stocked grocery store, and mountain gear shops for your time in the park. You’ll find plenty of lodging options, and we’re big fans of the many rustic yet chic cabins that surround the park. Check out Glamping Hub for affordable prices and up-to-date inventory on the coziest cabins in the area.
Dropped off your bags and ready to hike? First thing’s first…you can put your wallet away because there’s no cost to explore the grounds. Yes, you read that correctly – there is not an entrance fee for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cha-ching! You’re ordering dessert tonight!
With nearly 521,000 acres to explore, there’s no shortage of trails to suit every level of adventure-enthusiast. Luckily, streams, rivers and waterfalls appear along almost all hiking routes that include a segment of the Appalachian Trail, creating that beautiful blue mist that hovers over the peaks and valleys of the park. If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend the hike to Clingmans Dome, the observation tower that tops the highest peak, offering scenic views of the mist-covered mountains. At an elevation of 6,643 feet, the hike definitely includes some uphill and rocky sections, but it’s deemed “moderate” by the park guide and is a five-mile excursion (just don’t forget the five miles to hike back down!), so it’s the perfect way to spend a full day. Make sure you stay hydrated as you increase elevation and enjoy a picnic at the top that will leave you feeling like you’re dining in the clouds.
While the park is named after the smoky-looking mist that floats through the air, it’s also known for the ~1,500 species of wildflowers that bloom across the rolling hills. It’s a no-joke, tear-inducing, beautiful sight. Think we’re exaggerating? Check out this gallery with just a fraction of the flowers that grow in the park. And you’re just in time, as April hosts the annual Wildflower Pilgrimage. This 69-year-old annual event features guided hikes and tours from the park’s resident adventurers where you can learn about, see and smell (just don’t pick!) all the different flowers. Viewing wildlife in the park can be challenging because much of the area is covered by dense forest for animals to live peacefully away from humans. However, this guided tour will let you see more than just those gorgeous blooms. You’ll trek through open areas like Cataloochee and Cades Cove that offer some of the best opportunities to see white-tailed deer, elk, black bear, woodchucks, and maybe even a bobcat (oh my!). The pleasant April temperatures and picturesque backdrops will make for some amazing photo ops (and freshen up throughout the hike with gaan + co).
Alright, you’ve nestled up in nature for a few days and have become one with Mother Earth. Fitting since Earth Day is later this month! Now, it’s time to pack up your gear and head to the capital of country music, Nashville! Just under a 3.5-hour drive from Gatlinburg, Nashville is a great place to visit in the spring, when college kids head to the beach, the temperatures hover between the 50s to 70s and the humidity is very manageable. Nashville can pleasantly surprise first-time visitors with so much more than cowboy hats & honky-tonks (we figure you won’t have any trouble stumbling across plenty of down-home country music), so in true gaan + co style, we’ve found some hidden gems that will add some history and Southern charm to your Spring Break adventure.
Kick off your day with an unforgettable breakfast. The Pancake Pantry, an iconic diner and cultural pillar in Nashville, is a hole-in-the-wall you won’t find in most travel guides. They’ve been mixing up scratch-made pancakes since 1961, so let’s just say you’ll leave with a bit of history in your belly. Don’t let the long lines deter you. It’s worth the wait and you’ll meet some fine people (likely locals!) who can help you select from the expansive menu of 23 pancake varieties, omelets, waffles, and more. Literally something for everybody!
Conveniently located just across the street is Hey Rooster General Store. This specialty store is anything but “general” and carries some of the most unique merchandise in the city. Find ready-to-enjoy small batch food, painted art, handmade clothing, body & skincare products formulated with natural ingredients. Grab a homemade gift or two and support one of the best small businesses in town. Check out our April Product Picks for some of the finest little trinkets and treats we found in the shop.
Now that you’ve given those flapjacks a chance to settle in, it’s time for some music. But instead of listening to the next big star make their debut on Broadway street (aka Honkey Tonk row), we thought you would enjoy a 30-minute bike ride down memory lane. United Record Pressing is a facility founded in 1949 that pressed the first Beatles 7-inch and is still doing its part to keep the vinyl beat alive. It’s the largest record pressing operation in the world and pressed over a million records a month in its heyday in the 1960s. It’s got history, great vibes, and some awesome swag. This is a total Instagram-worthy spot. Time to freshen up with a gaan + co deo wipe!
Ready to move those legs again? Perfect timing since we’re approaching 5 pm which means happy hour! A perfect combo to keep your heart rate up and the fun flowing is Nashville’s signature Pedal Tavern. These BYOB pedal-yourself bike party tours can accommodate up to 15, making it a great adventure for a big group, or an equally great adventure for solo/small group travelers to make some new friends! Tour routes are customizable depending on what types of sites you want to see, and of course, the cocktails you want to consume! Your guide will provide the cooler, ice and cups, and you provide the drinks! We can’t think of a better way to see the city, get some fresh air and cheers to an amazing vacation.
If you’re ready for dinner and have the energy for one final stop of the day, The Loveless Cafe is a Nashville culinary institution that doesn’t need to impress with fancy silverware and decor. The retro cafe served it’s first chicken & biscuits in 1951 when Lon and Annie Loveless started serving hungry travelers and eventually had to convert their home into a full-fledged restaurant. One thing remains true (the most important thing we think!) about the café: the entire menu is home-cooked, no-frills Southern dining. The made-from-scratch biscuits are especially heavenly. In fact, you might have to make a pit stop on your way to the airport in the morning!
Hashtag your Tennessee Adventure #gaanguidetoTN and tag us on Instagram @gaan_co and you could be featured in next month's newsletter and win a gaan + co Gift Pack complete with our Deodorant and Mosquito wipes along with some of our favorite product picks from this month.
- Written by Rachel Levy