Nashville is calling your name, and this year, you finally want to answer. You’ve packed your bags, wrangled the kids, and you’re getting ready to set out. What do you need to know when traveling from Detroit to Nashville by car?
Road tripping to Nashville from Detroit will take you through Ohio (including Cincinnati), Kentucky, and finally, Tennessee. The drive takes about 11 hours in total without heavy traffic, so it’s doable in about two days.
If you want to plan your family vacation from Detroit to Nashville, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.
Keep reading for more information such as the preferred route, the exact drivetimes, and destinations to hit up along the way to make your family vacation a very memorable time!
The best route from Detroit to Nashville
When driving with impatient kids in the car, you want an efficient route that will get you from Point A to Point B in as little time as possible.
I’ve put together that exact route so you can safely reach Nashville from Detroit. It is a bit of a drive, and I do recommend splitting up your voyage into two days.
The car ride is too long for the kids otherwise, and you don’t want to drive when fatigued.
Without further ado, here’s your route from Detroit to Nashville.
Detroit to Toledo
Detroit is the only city in Michigan you’ll be driving in during your trip, as you’ll soon venture to Ohio.
Your first stop is Toledo, which you can reach from Detroit by driving south for about an hour barring heavy traffic.
Toledo is on the western side of lovely Lake Erie and features museums, zoos, aquariums, and many other attractions for you and the kiddos to engage in.
Of course, if you simply wanted to take a walk around and drink in the beauty of the city and the nearby lake, that’s perfectly fine as well!
Toledo to Lima
When you’re ready to leave, you’ll continue your drive through Ohio, this time reaching Lima from Toledo.
It’s about a straight shot down to Lima for an hour and a half, so this is already getting into long-drive territory.
Make sure you treat the kids to some time in Lima to compensate for the long stretch of driving.
Lima was once an oil-heavy town that spanned the Oil Boom of Northwest Ohio.
It’s the home of parks, museums, historical societies, and even an indoor amusement center with golfing that I’m sure your kids will be begging you to take them to.
Lima to Brookville
Your trek through Ohio continues as you next drive to Brookville from Lima.
This is again pretty much a straight shot south for an hour and a half. You’ll pass Fort Wayne on your route, which is a sure sign that you’re close to Brookville.
Montgomery County’s Brookville is a northwestern Ohio city that’s on the smaller side.
If you and the kids are into outdoor activities, then you’ll find a lot to do here, as there’s the famed Brookville Lake, a wolf creek rescue and habitat, a flea market at White’s Farm, and even canoe rentals.
It’s the perfect place to spend a warm, picturesque afternoon!
Brookville to Cincinnati
In about another hour and a half, forbidding heavy traffic, you’ll next reach Cincinnati from Brookville. As you have the entire journey, you want to continue driving straight south.
I would recommend that you find a place to stay in Cincinnati–of which there is no shortage–as you’ve been driving for about five hours already, and the rest of the trip from Ohio to Tennessee is not short.
Right on the Ohio River, Cincinnati has gorgeous architecture that dates back to the 19th century.
As one of the most popular cities in Ohio, you can find a little bit of everything here regarding family entertainment options.
Zoos? Oh yes. Museums? You betcha. Aquariums? Yes! Amusement parks? You’ve got ‘em right here, as well as public parks for catching some vitamin D.
There’s enough to do here that you might want to take a mini vacation in Cincinnati for a day or two and then get back to adventuring to Nashville.
Cincinnati to Williamstown
Are you finally ready to bid adieu to Cincinnati?
Next, you’ll reach Kentucky from Cincinnati, specifically Williamstown. This is a short distance from Cincinnati if you drive south.
Without heavy traffic, you should get there in under an hour. It’ll take you about 48 minutes.
The unincorporated community of Williamstown in Hancock County has some hidden gems if you’re willing to explore, including state parks, museums dedicated to gas and oil, and even a museum about trains and toys.
Williamstown to Louisville
The short part of your drive is over, as the next bit will be a stretch. From Williamstown, you want to drive southwest for about an hour and a half to get to Louisville.
Louisville is of course known for its storied baseball history, but did you know that this is also where the Kentucky Derby is hosted?
That’s two sports in one to explore here!
Louisville to Nashville
Now that you’ve gotten to Louisville, you only have to drive for about three hours and you’ll be there.
I recommend making a beeline for Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, which isn’t too far from Bowling Green. You can reach that spot by driving south from Louisville for an hour and a half.
Then, provided you haven’t run into too much traffic, you can continue right from the park to Nashville by driving slightly southwest.
This stretch of your trip will take an hour and a half as well.
Congratulations, you’ve made it!
How long will it take you to reach Nashville from Detroit?
Driving from Detroit to Nashville isn’t a challenging drive, as you’re mostly heading straight south from Michigan to Tennessee, but how long will you drive?
Well, assuming you’re breaking the trip up into two days as I advised, the first day of driving is five hours. The second day is five and a half hours.
In total, the trip will take you 10 and a half hours.
This is, of course, all assuming that you don’t hit heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours. Then it will take considerably longer to reach where you want to go.
Can’t-miss attractions between Detroit and Nashville
Keeping kids entertained when on a long road trip is paramount to ensuring the drive goes smoothly.
Even if you are dividing your drive into two days, five+ hours in the car two days in a row can leave kids cranky.
Allow me to recommend some entertainment ideas and attractions at each of the destinations on your route so you can quell your kids’ moodiness.
- The Toledo Zoo & Aquarium
What’s better than a trip to the zoo? A trip to the zoo and aquarium, of course!
The Toledo Zoo & Aquarium will check both boxes early into your road trip so the kids are in a good mood for hours.
The zoo houses such creatures as amphibians, mammals, birds, invertebrates, and reptiles.
In the aquarium, you can see all nature of aquatic creatures, among them fish, octopi, sharks, seahorses, turtles, and jellyfish.
Do you want something more out of your day at the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium? You can regularly see animal demonstrations, and the zoo maintains an active event calendar that changes throughout the year.
There’s probably something exciting going on when you plan to visit!
- Imagination Station
The Imagination Station is sure to grow your kids’ minds in new and exciting ways. The range of creative and innovative exhibits will definitely impress.
The KeyBank Discovery Theater is another excellent part of the Imagination Station. It’s a 58-foot screen that laser-projects in 4K quality.
You and the kids can sit down and enjoy showings of Backyard Wilderness 3D or Dinosaurs of Antarctica 3D.
- Toledo Botanical Garden
Another great destination in the area is the Toledo Botanical Garden, which I’d especially recommend for those kids who have shown an early interest in gardening and greenery.
The gardens expand over 60 acres and include plant collections and appealing gardens.
Nearby is the Doneghy Inclusive Garden with a variety of textures, tastes, sounds, and sights for exploring sensorily.
Don’t miss the Artisan Village, which includes various sculptures and is also the host of the Crosby Festivals of the Arts once per year.
- The Hero Day & Glow Golf
In the Lima Mall is The Hero Day & Glow Golf.
This oversized indoor playground features a Ninja Park complete with inflatable obstacles for challenging your kids’ physical skills.
The Ninja Park is more than 20,000 square feet in all and is sure to keep the children busy for hours.
When they’re done with that, they can play a game or several of glow golf.
The 12-course glow-in-the-dark golf course is for younger and older kids alike.
If your child scores a hole-in-one in the last hole, they win their next game of golf for free!
- Faurot Park
If you’d rather your kids get some fresh air while stopping in Lima, Faurot Park is a good place to visit.
This park is 89 acres in all and features a picnic area for refreshments, a splash pad for summertime cooling, a skate park, volleyball courts, and ball fields.
There’s also play equipment, of course.
- White’s Farm Flea Market and Auctioneers
You never know what you’ll find at a flea market, and that’s half the fun!
When you arrive in Brookville, White’s Farm will surely enchant the kids as they see all the incredible, varied wares on sale.
No two experiences will be the same, so maybe you can come back on the way home as well.
- Morgan’s Outdoor Adventures, Inc.
Have your kids been pestering you for months about trying canoeing? Now is finally the chance at Morgan’s Outdoor Adventures, Inc.
The facility is a generous 120 acres and is right over the Whitewater River. You can rent canoes for the whole family and then explore that river.
Although a name like Whitewater River might give you pause, Morgan’s insists that the river has slight curves and gentle rapids.
- Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens
Have you by chance heard of the famous hippo Fiona? She and her family live at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens!
The animals here are divided into various habitats as follows:
- African Penguin Point
- Birds of the World
- Cat Canyon
- Elephant Reserve
- Gibbon Islands
- Gorilla World
- Jungle Trails
- Lemur Lookout
- Night Hunters
- Otto M. Budig Manatee Springs
- P&G Discovery Forest
- Reptile House
- Rhino Reserve
- Roo Valley
- Spaulding Children’s Zoo
- Swan Lake
- Wings of Wonder Bird Encounter
- Wolf Woods
- World of the Insect
To get around the zoo, you can pay to ride a train or rent a ScooterPal. There’s also a carousel the kids can ride for an additional fee.
Speaking of additional fees, if you don’t mind paying extra, you can provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for your child to have a behind-the-scenes encounter with an animal.
The available encounters are as follows:
- Kickin’ it with the Kangaroos (October through February)
- Roam’n with Red Pandas
- Hangin’ with Hippos (April through September)
- Elephant Extravaganza (April through October)
- Wild & Wonderful Wallabies (April through October)
- VIPenguin Experience (April through October)
- Gentle Giants: Private Giraffe Encounter (April through October)
- Coney Island Park
Although you’re a good ways away from Coney Island, New York, the Coney Island Park in Cincinnati will still provide fun, thrills, and priceless moments of family togetherness.
This seasonal water park features a dive pool, splashground, water slides, floating obstacle course, and Sunlite Pool all as part of the Sunlite Water Adventure.
When you and the kids are all dried off, you can play some mini golf or rent some paddle boats.
- American Sign Museum
The kids will be dazzled by the endless array of neon lights at the American Sign Museum.
The museum displays signs over history that span back almost 100 years. There are selfie and family photo opportunities at nearly every turn here.
- Krohn Conservatory
The Irwin M. Krohn Conservatory, known as the Krohn Conservatory for short, is in Cincinnati’s Eden Park.
The conservatory has a stunning butterfly display (and sometimes butterfly shows as well), a desert house with plenty of cacti and other succulents, the John Carroll Bonsai Gallery, an orchid house, a palm house, and a fern house.
Depending on the time of year you visit, you might be able to see the holiday light shows or the seasonal floral showroom with kumquat, tangerine, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and orange trees.
- Louisville Zoo
If you’ve missed the other zoos on the trip list so far, then at least make it a point to take your kids to the Louisville Zoo.
This Kentucky zoo features an assortment of exhibits as follows:
- Animals & Plants
- Africa (zebras, red-tailed monkeys, elephants, giraffes, and more)
- Australia (wallabies, lorikeets, and more)
- Glacier Run (snow leopards, sea lions, grizzly bears, polar bears, and more)
- HerpAquarium (vampire bats, black piranhas, boa constrictors, Gila monsters, frogs, snakes, and more)
- Islands (penguins, Cuban crocodiles, Sumatran tigers, orangutans, and more)
- South America (sloths, flamingos, maned wolves, jaguars, and more)
- Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay
A day at an amusement park is sure to make the last stretch of your drive into Nashville a lot more bearable for the kids.
At Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay, you and the family can ride all sorts of rides, from a river ride to coasters and thrill rides, carousels, Ferris wheels, and the teacups.
For very young kids, the Pre-K rides never go too fast.
Over at the Hurricane Bay Water Park, which is open seasonally, you and the kids can lounge on a lazy river, ride the Family Wave Lagoon, or go down an exciting assortment of tube rides and slides.
When you and the kids are feeling hungry, fill up on carnival fare and authentic Kentucky eats like funnel cakes, flatbread pizzas, hot chicken, tacos, and hot dogs.
There’s also plenty of shopping throughout the park for picking up the perfect souvenir.
- Louisville Mega Cavern
The Louisville Mega Cavern has so many wonders to behold, from mega zip-lines to mega bike tours, mega tram rides, and the kid-friendly Mega Quest.
On the Mega Quest, you and the family will traverse aerial ropes to get through to the end, and all while underground!
- Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
I mentioned before how Louisville is known for its baseball, and nowhere is that truer than at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory along Museum Row downtown.
The museum is an ode to all things baseball, with signature memorabilia on display.
If you want to learn more about the museum and all its exhibits, be sure to request a guided factory tour.
You can even buy baseball bats emblazoned with your kids’ names on them!
What is there to do around Nashville?
Once you arrive in Nashville, how do you keep yourself and the family entertained?
Fortunately, there will be no shortage of options, so let’s explore!
Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
I hope you’re not zoo’ed out by now, because your kids deserve a trip to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere.
This zoo has an amazing array of animals, everything from reptiles to mammals, amphibians, arthropods, fish, and birds.
Once you’re done strolling the zoo grounds, pop into the Adventure 4D Theater, a 50-seat venue with screenings once per 15 minutes.
The shows will tickle the senses with such sensations as wind, snow, mist, and bubbles!
Backstage Pass tours are also available, including Rise & Shine with Rhinos (with a touching opportunity), This Is How We Zoo, and Getting to Know You tours for the aardvark, cloud leopard, and sloth.
Each experience costs an additional fee.
Adventure Science Center
The Adventure Science Center has been a Nashville staple for well over 70 years.
The science center includes all sorts of interactive exhibits across 15,000 square feet.
Some of the exhibits are the Adventure Tower, a beekeeping exhibit, Bodyquest (a tour of the human body), the Infinium Room, the Galactic Gardens, and Max Flight: the full-motion simulator.
The Sudekum Planetarium is 63 feet and shaped like a dome to show you the stars in the clearest way that you and the kids have ever seen them!
Witness concerts, laser shows, and planetarium shows here.
Tennessee Central Railway Museum
Since 1989, the Tennessee Central Railway Museum has been an excellent way to learn about the history of locomotion in this southern state.
Of course, you can do more than look at trains but also ride them.
The rides are sometimes themed too, like murder mystery, Mardi Gras, or Christmastime.
Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort
I also can’t recommend Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort enough.
This is more than merely a water park but also an inclusive, upscale resort for staying several sun-drenched days with your family.
Open seasonally, the water park has pools, slides, a lazy river, and even boating on nearby Percy Priest Lake.
The adjoining Treetop Adventure Park offers zip-lining, Tarzan swings, cargo nets, and suspension bridges for kids and adults.
You can even rent pontoon boats, jet skis, or marina space on the lake through the resort.
Road Tripping from Detroit to Nashville is quite a winning experience for the whole family. You can experience fun destinations along the way, enjoy exploring several states on your route, and then have a blast once you reach Tennessee!