• Jonathan Desai

Local Day Trips in the East Tennessee Area- Unique Experiences in East Tennessee


If you are looking for destinations for your next local day trip, you won’t have to travel far to visit one of these hidden gems in East Tennessee. Ijams Nature Center, Little Ponderosa Zoo, and Bays Mountain Park offer the perfect nature experience for kids and adults alike with wildlife encounters and other outdoor activities.



Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville is a wildlife sanctuary and preserved natural area that offers visitors the chance to experience the natural beauty of East Tennessee. There are over 12 miles of trails to enjoy walking, hiking, or biking at Ijams, and a boardwalk along the Tennessee River. Inside the Visitor Center in Ijams there is a gift shop with snacks and coffee, but due to COVID-19 the hallway exhibits are closed. Ijams natural areas are all dog-friendly, so don’t forget to bring the whole family! Inside Ijams Nature Center sits a spectacular rock quarry, as well; a beautifully unique display of nature.




Right outside of the Knoxville area, in Clinton, TN is Little Ponderosa Zoo- a nonprofit organization that operates as a zoo as well as an animal rescue for exotic animals. Visitors can walk around the park, and then have a hands-on experience in the petting zoo! The zoo houses a wide variety of animals; some of the rescues who found a home here include a kangaroo, a lynx, and a silver fox. Little Ponderosa also operates a white-tailed deer rehabilitation facility which works to give orphaned fawns the support they need to return to the wild. Several kinds of birds and reptiles live at Little Ponderosa as well, making the zoo a unique experience for children and adults, too. Since the zoo is a nonprofit organization, visitors’ admission is a donation to the rescue mission.




In northeast Tennessee is Bays Mountain Park in the city of Kingsport, TN. Inside Bays Mountain is a Nature Center where visitors can learn about wildlife and history of the region. There is a walk-around wildlife zoo that provides visitors close encounters with animals like bobcats, birds of prey, and wolves- a particularly unique and popular exhibit in the park. Barge rides on the 44-acre lake in the park are offered at Bays Mountain, as well as fun, educational programs like What Does the Fox Say, Turtle Talk, Snakes Alive, and Wonders of Wolves. Bays Mountain is a nature preserve with 39 miles of trails for hiking or biking, and includes a trail to their retired fire tower which offers visitors a grand view of the rolling hills in the region. While dogs are not allowed in the walk-around zoo, they are permitted in the trail areas. Trails in Bays Mountain take visitors through the mountains of East Tennessee, to waterfalls, and even to a lily pad cove.



East Tennessee has a lot to offer, and each of these destinations makes for an easy day trip with a fun, unique experience included.


Written by Macey Kennedy

Edited by Jonathan Desai

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