An Adventure Traveller's Guide to Tennessee

Tandem Skydiving | © Yaniv Yaakubovich / Flickr
Tandem Skydiving | © Yaniv Yaakubovich / Flickr
Photo of Leena Kollar
5 July 2017

Adventurers, rejoice! We’ve discovered the best places to get an adrenaline rush in Tennessee. Whether you’re just passing through or planning to stay longer, here’s where to have the most intense, exhilarating experiences during your visit.

SOAR Adventure Tower

With four levels of fun to explore, SOAR Adventure Tower in Franklin is a paradise for daring outdoor enthusiasts. There are over 110 climbing elements that challenge people mentally and physically. Each platform has three different elements and you can create your own experience by changing direction at any time.

With each level, the challenges get higher and more difficult. The ground level was designed for children and is ideal for ages four to seven. It encourages kids to explore as they gain confidence in their abilities. Level 1 reaches 15 feet above the ground and features simple elements that build confidence in adults. Level 2 has heights around 30 feet above the ground, and is the perfect balance for people of all abilities. This level will test your mental strength. Level 3 is the most challenging, with heights reaching 45 feet above the ground. There is an enclosed deck where climbers can take a break as needed before testing their physical abilities with the 12 Adventure Fit elements.

On the ground floor is an 18-hole mini golf course with holes shaped like musical instruments. In fact, there are music themed elements throughout the tower that pay homage to the music community in Nashville.

Outdoor Gravity Park

At the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge is Outdoor Gravity Park. The main attraction here is an activity that’s popular in New Zealand called zorbing. It involves a blown-up ball called an OGO that is constructed with 11-feet of transparent plastic and more than 1,000 plastic anchors and 600 multi-colored strings. GoPro cameras are inside each OGO to capture each person’s adventure on film. There are three different ways to use an OGO at Outdoor Gravity Park.

FUNnel allows up to three people to roll through a zig zag zorbing track. Speed Demon allows a total of three people to roll down the 1,000-foot hill at a high speed, while for solo zorbers, there’s the Extreme Zig Zag. These zorbing options are only available for part of the year, but the park offers one experience that’s available all year: wet zorbing using what is called an H20GO. Up to three riders can experience the H20GO, which is an OGO filled with 10 gallons of water. The door to the OGO is secured and riders slide around as they roll down the hill.

Zorbing Downhill | © PanchoOn/Pixabay

Flyaway Indoor Skydiving

If you’ve always wanted to skydive, but aren’t quite ready to jump out of a plane, the Flyaway Skydiving experience is a great alternative. You get the chance to fly without the fear of falling from the sky. Participants attend a 20-minute training class that discusses body control techniques and are then dressed in a fly suit, helmet and safety equipment. Each person gets to fly inside the vertical wind tunnel with an instructor for three minutes. Flyers break the bonds of gravity and experience human flight in an enclosed environment.

Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park

Family-owned and operated Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park is a former farm that was converted to an outdoor adventure park in 2010. Among the park’s offerings are the Goliath Zip Lines – the highest and longest in the Smoky Mountains. The Waterfall Canopy Tour uses seven zip lines to take people over rivers and creeks through forest canopy.

The Bridge to Prosperity is the longest swinging bridge in the United States and goes from the base camp at Foxfire Mountain across Dunn’s Gorge to Prosperity Mountain. There are also hiking trails that lead to Lost Mine Falls.

Enjoy ATV riding on the Bear Crawler Tour or climb 60-feet on the Aerial Adventure Course. For kids, there’s a play area and obstacle course as well. Stop by the Zippin’ Pig BBQ Shack for lunch and end your visit by checking out the Wylie Cider House and gift shop, where handcrafted cider is available. Certain attractions are seasonally available between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and others are open all year.

Zipline Tour in Gatlinburg | © Chuck Sutherland / Flickr

Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures

For those who have a strong sense of adventure but don’t necessarily need an action-packed experience, take to the skies with a Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures balloon ride. The family business offers hot air ballooning services across the Middle Tennessee area. The balloon rides take people over less developed areas, offering stunning views of hidden lakes, wildlife and the rolling hills of Tennessee.

Each balloon basket can accommodate between two to eight people to provide a personalized experience. Hot air ballooning is recommended for adults and children ages five years and older. Due to the nature of the logisitics involved, each flight is based on an average weight of 200 lbs. per passenger.

As a locally-owned company, the owner or pilot answers every phone call and riders receive an email within 24 hours to confirm their reservation. The pilot contacts guests the day before their scheduled flight to confirm weather conditions and coordinate a launch site.

Hot Air Balloon Ride | © EnricoDias / Pixabay

Rusty Wallace Racing Experience

If you’ve got a need for speed and have ever wanted to drive on a racetrack like a professional NASCAR driver, you can sign up for the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience. Available on two tracks in Tennessee, drivers get to experience a “condensed” version of NASCAR racing. There are various levels of racing available, depending on your level of comfort and experience.

The Taste of Speed package provides classroom instruction that allows drivers to take three to five laps around the track. The Shootout package puts drivers in a Rusty Wallace Racing Experience driver’s suit and provides them with a 45-minute orientation with a professional instructor, where they get to enjoy 10-15 laps of racing. The Checkered Flag package gives drivers an individualized coaching experience that lets them take 36-40 laps around the track. Additional packages are available, including a Ride Along experience where riders sit shotgun in a NASCAR stock car driven by a professional instructor who takes them on the ride of their life. The Side by Side Ride Along is the ultimate experience, where riders sit shotgun as their drivers race another car in a NASCAR-style race simulation.

Race car on the track | © Pixabay/Pexels

Nashville FlyBoard

The ability to experience jet powered human flight is available with Nashville FlyBoard. The FlyBoard was invented by world champion jet ski racer and Zapata Racing founder Franky Zapata. Nashville FlyBoard serves the Middle Tennessee area and offers flyboarding for anyone age 13 or older. Beginners reach heights of up to three to seven feet above water, and an experienced rider can get up to 30-feet above water.

When you book a flight with Nashville FlyBoard, you can choose a lake at any Middle Tennessee spot, or head to the lakeside location inside Nashville Shores at Cap’n Dave’s Water Sports. There is no extensive training or uncomfortable gear required to flyboard, and it is a safe experience, as long as you fly with an official Zapata Racing Instructor.

Skydive Tullahoma

For an authentic, exhilirating skydiving experience, book a time to fly with Skydive Tullahoma. It’s located at the Tullahoma Regional Airport downtown and is open every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. With Skydive Tullahoma’s introductory tandem skydive packages, you get to experience a 60-second freefall on your first jump, while attached to a USPA certified tandem master. There is no training required, other than a few minutes of instruction before a Twin Otter skydive certified jump plane takes you up to the sky. You do have the option of adding video to your dive to relive the experience if you choose.

Tandem Skydiving | © How I See Life / Flickr

Cascade Outdoors

Take a whitewater rafting trip down the Ocoee River (the most visited whitewater river in the United States) with Cascade Outdoors, which offers two rafting experiences. An experienced guide leads rafters down the Ocoee River for a half day or full day trip.

The half day trip is suited for beginners ages 12 and up and is less intense. You splash through over 20 rapids and the trip takes two-and-a-half to three hours. The full day experience is for thrillseekers and takes rafters on a 10-mile trip that offers the chance to raft down the 1996 Olympic whitewater slalom competition course. This trip takes five-and-a-half hours and can accommodate up to six people.

Whitewater Rafting | © skeeze/Pixabay

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