8 Awesome Stops for a Family Fun Tennessee Road Trip

A family road trip is one of my favorite ways to travel. I love planning stops along our route and having time to listen to music and talk to each other. I couldn’t wait to plan our Tennessee road trip from Rochester to Pigeon Forge, and was excited for the family attractions along the way.

When most people hear you are going to drive long distances with kids they often think its crazy but planning a family road trip can be a really fun part of the adventure.

Steps to Planning Our Tennessee Road Trip

First we decided we were going to add Tennessee to our list of states we want to visit. At first our plan was to visit Memphis, Nashville, and the Great Smoky Mountains but we changed it as we started researching.

We typically have about 8-10 days for a road trip and try to balance driving with exploring a location. We knew we wouldn’t have time to visit all three destinations and stop along our route. I always take a bit of time to do some searching about where we want to visit and what family destinations are out there. Take the time to search about where you want to go and then make a plan.

We decided to make our final destination Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and spend 5 days there before continuing our road trip back to Rochester. If we had a few days longer I would have added Memphis and Nashville to our trip.

A few years ago we decided to make the journey of a road trip part of the fun. We research roadside attractions and places to visit along our rout. Our first trip we did this was during our road trip to Myrtle Beach. It was one of our best trips and some of the stops became some of our most cherished memories. 

Tennessee Road Trip: Rochester to Pigeon Forge

  • Day 1(Friday)- Rochester, NY to Columbus, Ohio (382 miles)
  • Day 2 (Saturday)- Columbus, Ohio to Louisville, Kentucky (221 miles)
  • Day 3 (Sunday)- Louisville, Kentucky to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (311 miles)
  • Day 4-7 (Monday-Thursday) – Pigeon Forge Tennessee
  • Day 8 (Friday) – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to Pittsburgh, PA (489 miles)
  • Day 9 (Saturday)- Pittsburgh, PA to Rochester, NY (284 miles)

Our plan was to take 3 days at the start visiting multiple places, spend a few days in Pigeon Forge, and take two days to drive home. We spent a lot of time researching different cities and attractions until we decided on the itinerary below. It is a good idea to play around with different routes and involve the kids in choosing your stops.

Day 1: Rochester, New York to Columbus, Ohio

The main goal of our first day was to drive as long as we could in a short amount of time. We planned to leave Rochester around 4:00 pm and arrive in Columbus after 9:00 pm. 

We packed all the road trip essentials, including snacks, food, and movies, and then started on our way. Our one planned stop was at the New York/Pennsylvania border where we would stretch and use the restrooms. 

We arrived in Columbus and checked in to our hotel for the night. We stayed at a Fairfield Inn & Suites and it was clean and perfect for an overnight stay. 

As we checked in we discovered we were across the street from a Skyline Chili. These are popular in this area so my husband brought some back to the room for us to enjoy. It was good and fun to try something new!

skyline chili
Skyline Chili in Ohio.

Day 2: Columbus, Ohio to Louisville, KY 

Day 2 was a big one. We had 3 stops and it was going to be a super hot day. Our first stop was at the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati Ohio, then the Kentucky Derby Museum, and finally the Louisville Slugger Museum. It was a lot but they were all places we thought would be great for us to experience.

The American Sign Museum was a perfect stop because it didn’t take a lot of time. We toured the museum for about 20-30 minutes and were back on the road. It wasn’t much off our route either so it made for a great stop. 

I love seeing the old neon signs and the American Sign Museum has some really awesome ones.

American sign museum
American Sign Museum was a perfect stop during our Tennessee Road Trip.

After the American Sign Museum we headed to Louisville. We planned to stay the night in Louisville and we also wanted to visit two museums during our time there. 

Our first stop in Louisville was the Kentucky Derby Museum. I don’t know much about horse racing but this place was full of history and really told the story of the Kentucky Derby.

We also got to tour Churchill Downs. This was included in our admission ticket and is a great experience. The tour is family friendly (you can bring strollers) but it’s a walking tour with a guide. It may be difficult for kids to listen and pay attention for the duration of the tour. 

Churchill downs

Our final stop for the day was the Louisville Slugger Museum. The museum is also a factory where they make the bats. Photos/videos are not allow on the tour but it was neat to see it and explore the museum.

We headed back to the hotel and then went to dinner at The Troll Pub Under the Bridge. This was so good and I would definitely add it to the top of my list when visiting Louisville. They had sweet potato tater tots and fried pickles that everyone loved. 

I share more details about our time in Kentucky on the post Family Fun Things to Do In Louisville, Kentucky.

Day 3: Louisville, Kentucky to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

We packed up our stuff and got on the road to Pigeon Forge. Before we could leave Kentucky we made a quick lunch stop at the original Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Harland Sanders Café and Museum is located in Corbin Kentucky and was a really fun stop! It was a great lunch spot and perfect to add a little more to our drive.

Original Kentucky Fried Chicken
Original Kentucky Fried Chicken for Lunch.

From there we made our way to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We took the day to relax and enjoy our cabin. 

Day 4-7: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

We planned to stay a few nights in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It was our first visit to the Great Smokey Mountains and we wanted to relax after our busy few days of driving. Below I listed the posts of our itineraries and family destinations.

Day 8: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Although we were sad to say goodbye to our cabin in the mountains we were ready to start our journey back home. We also had a few places to stop on the way home. 

I purposely planned less stops on the way back home because typically at the end of a vacation we are all a bit more tired. We were excited to visit Pittsburgh but we were also exhausted from our busy week.

Day 8 was spent driving to Pittsburgh-it was also the longest part of our road trip. We left around 6:00 am and arrived in Pittsburgh around 3:00 pm. This gave us time to check in to our hotel, visit the local IKEA, and pick up a pizza for a night at the hotel.

Day 9: Pittsburgh, PA to Rochester, NY

We have spent a lot of time visiting Pittsburgh and this visit was quick. I love all the family friendly Pittsburgh destinations and we didn’t have time to fit everything in but we did make a stop at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum.

My kids love the Mo Willems books and I had read about a Mo Willems exhibit at the museum. This was why we added this to our trip. We wanted to check out the exhibit. It worked out great because of the location on our route and the kids really enjoyed their morning at the museum.

From there we hopped in the car and made the drive back to Rochester, New York. I was happy that we had a mix of busy days with relaxing days and had a chance to visit so many places. It was an awesome family road trip with so many memories.

Read Next: The Best Pigeon Forge Attractions for Families

Have you gone on a family road trip that you loved? Share in the comments!


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