By Carson Cook, Chattanooga, Tenn.-
They may not be exotic, but these destinations are close enough to be affordable and fun weekend getaways.
1. Fall Creek Falls: 1 hour
One of Tennessee’s most popular state parks, Fall Creek Falls is home to miles of hiking trails with views of stunning waterfalls. Campgrounds can be reserved online for $11 to $25 per night. Students can rent tents, sleeping bags and other camping equipment from the ARC for free with a $50 deposit check.
2. Knoxville: 2 hours
Chances are you have a friend from high school that decided to pursue their higher education at the other UT. High school friends are like free accommodations and personal tour guides in one. Check out Market Square, a trendy area near their campus with restaurants, bars, shops and often live music.
3. Nashville: 2 hours
Not called Music City for nothing, every night there are dozens of live music events going on in and around Nashville.
Bridgestone Arena and Ryman Auditorium host some big names, but there are plenty of venues where you can find great music for free. While in the city, be sure to visit the Frist museum or the Adventure Science Center, both of which offer student discounts.
4. Franklin: 2.5 hours
This suburb of Nashville has become a popular destination in its own right, mostly thanks to its charming, historic downtown area.
History buffs should check out Carnton Plantation, the Lotz house or Franklin on Foot’s ghost tour.
For the most fun experience, try to visit during a festival such as Pilgrimage, Pumpkinfest or Dickens of a Christmas.
5. Pigeon Forge: 2.5 hours
For roller coaster lovers, Dollywood is the most fun you can have without leaving the state.
TripAdvisor, U.S. News, and Travel Channel have all ranked it among the top amusement parks in the country.
While you’re in the area, take in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountain national park or, take a tour of a moonshine distillery in neighboring Gatlinburg.
6. Atlanta: 2.5 hours
As the biggest metropolitan area in the South, Atlanta has plenty to offer. You can try Coke from around the world or even buy furniture from Sweden at Ikea.
For more entertainment, there are professional sports teams, music festivals and a thriving nightlife.
Several tourist attractions such as the Atlana zoo and the High Museum of Art even offer discounts for students.
7. Helen, Georgia: 3 hours
This fairytale village is a hidden gem in northern Georgia. Helen offers quaint shops and outdoor activities year round, but it’s known for Octoberfest. The festival will run weekends in September and daily through October and features traditional German food, drinks and music.
8. Asheville, North Carolina: 3.5 hours
This is another great destination for outdoor lovers. Traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway allows you to take in the exquisite views of the Appalachian mountains in the fall. Fans of period dramas definitely should visit the Biltmore Estate. I literally swooned when I saw the library for the first time.
9. Savannah, Georgia: 5.5 hours
Yes, this is the furthest distance on the list by far, but Savannah has a major selling point: the beach.
After you’ve soaked up some sun and splashed in some waves, stroll through the historic downtown and find great places to eat. This picturesque, Southern port city is well worth the drive.
10. Chattanooga: 0 hours
If your tank is empty, find something new to do here. Visit the Tennessee Aquarium, Hunter Art Museum or the Incline Railway. Take a “staycation” and get to know this beautiful city we call home.