I spent most of my childhood in Southern Illinois- almost an hour and a half directly east of St.Louis. Then we moved to Tennessee my junior year.
I could not wait! West Tennessee sounded like the perfect escape to the norm that I grew up in (Side note: I’m fully convinced I have a gypsy heart).
Since I graduated, I have lived in six other states. We came back, if for a fleeting moment; however, both of our families still live in West Tennessee.
While it doesn’t have the beautiful geography that East Tennessee does, there is so much it does have to offer.
What is West Tennessee known for?
After moving there, we also saw cotton for the first time. On our first visit back to Illinois, we brought some up to family and friends.
From a social standpoint, the biggest thing West Tennessee is known for, which will become a post all of its own, is Memphis. There is Memphis in May, the Peabody, the Pyramid, Elvis Presley’s home, and much, much more.
This post is going to focus on some of the more rural things to do that are equally as fun and worth your time.
West Tennessee Family Outings
Casey Jones Village
This is where we went when we were a younger family. It’s a great place to go if you are wanting something fun to do that’s reasonably priced. We would go putt-putt golfing and then eat at the buffet.
Little did I know, there is so much more to this place! It also holds a museum that even has an engine on it where people of all ages can see what it’s like to be in the main compartment.
This village is located right off of 80A on I-40 in Jackson.
Tennessee Safari Park
About thirty minutes from Jackson, off of 412 West is the Tennessee Safari Park.
This drive-thru zoo has been toted by many as better than the Memphis zoo. During the summer months there is often a line and be sure to have your gas tank full because you could easily be putt-putting along for upwards of an hour and a half. You won’t even realize it!
They have buckets for animal feed- and there are plenty of animals. From zebras to bison, deer, and even camels! Save some of your food for the end because many often are empty by then so those animals don’t get as much.
Once you get done driving, there is a place to park and feed the giraffes and parakeets, giving you ample time to stretch out after that drive.
Prices run as follows: $16 for adults, $12 for children 2-12 and free for children 1 and under.
Discovery Park of America
We went here several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. My favorite part was the Cooper observation deck. It has glass floor panels both inside and on the observation deck. There are also little statues with pockets of information.
In addition, the girls and I like the outdoor play area. They have swing ropes that are a ton of fun! As a matter of fact, there are several things outside, including their barn area and an old church/one-room schoolhouse.
For those who like engines, there is a rocket that you can go in, a car museum that is pretty early on during your time there, and a train. Yes, West Tennessee likes their trains!
One thing to note: they don’t allow outside food; however, you can always get a wristband to get back in, go eat lunch elsewhere (or in your van!), and come back.
- Reelfoot Lake
If you are interested in fishing, this would be the place. They have beautiful trees spread throughout the lake and tons of fish. You cannot swim here.
They also have a sanctuary with bald eagles you can visit. It is near the Reelfoot Lake Boardwalk hiking trail. This hike is beautiful and I highly recommend it.
They have a craft fair every fall. This year it lands on October 1st- 3rd.
- Paris Landing
Hubby and I went there on the fourth of July. It was our first adventure. We had so much fun! We went swimming in the lake, in the pool, and hung out to watch the fireworks.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, the Lodge at Paris Landing is it! The pool is pristine and they are re-opening the hotel this fall.
If you want to swim, this is also a great place. Hiking? They got you. And if you’re bored here, there is more right nearby since it’s right on Kentucky Lake.
- Mousetail Landing
We went to Mousetail often when the girls were little. It’s perfect for when you are seeking a true camping get away. We had spots that were right on the Tennessee River. We camped, we had food under the stars at night. It was my little taste of this life I love so much. This would also be my recommendation if you are heading from Jackson to Nashville, as it’s not too far off of Exit 143.
Can’t Miss Restaurants
Green Frog Coffee; Several Locations
This is my go-to coffee shop when we are in town. If you are going to Dyersburg, their green frog location is called Java Cafe.
If you are a coffee person, my go-to is the dirty snowman. It’s got a buttery taste to it that is indescribable. Nobody else makes the white chocolate and toffee nut combination quite as they do.
I don’t normally eat here though- their menu is a bit too expensive for me and I have yet to see latte art in my hot latte, which is a bit of a bummer.
If you do want to eat here for lunch, I recommend the frickin’ chicken sandwich, it’s got fried pickles, after all.
Neil’s BBQ or Bad Bob’s BBQ; Dyersburg, TN
I’m a sucker for both of these joints. When moving to Dyersburg in 2001, many people recommended Neil’s. We went there a lot those first two years in town.
Later, I even had the best pulled pork BBQ sandwich of my life from there after having Miss Breanna (thanks mom).
Bad Bob’s is a must-go as well though. The gentleman who owns it won the Memphis in May contest the year before opening and it is melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
Sakura Sushi; Jackson, TN
My friend Rebecca Braker moved to Dyersburg at the same time I did. She was shocked when she found out I had never had sushi. Learning that, we set a date to change this.
We drove to this hole-in-the-wall restaurant that she said was good enough that her family would drive up from Memphis to go to. Indeed it was delicious and I have continued to go back ever since. They have done so well that they’ve upgraded to a larger location across town!
Our recommendations would be the mango roll and the avocado roll. Those two rolls can easily serve three people- so bring friends or ask for a to-go box. Nevaeh would also like to recommend the Ramune drink.
Grubb’s Groceries; Jackson, TN
This is not just a restaurant but a grocery store. As soon as it opened and I was up, I went. It’s a local based grocery store that carries organic and natural based products.
I have not tried their restaurants but according to their website, they offer a full breakfast, a panini-lunch, a juice and smoothie bar, and their version of a “beer cave” with a growler filling station for both beer and kombucha.
If you go on Saturday mornings, they also have a farmers’ market. There is an Amish family that sells donuts there- people line down the block for them!
After high school, B and I moved to Mississippi and spent most of our time in New Orleans.
Think you are going to be “stuck” in West Tennessee? Think again! This place is full of fun things to do, places to eat, and so much more.
And if you feel like I missed anything, be sure to leave a comment and let me know. We’d be happy to explore more.