A road trip from Philadelphia to Nashville, the home of country music, is always a good idea. A journey by road between these two iconic cities passes through some of the United States' most stunning scenery, including spectacular views along the world-famous Blue Ridge Parkway: known to road trip connoisseurs as "America's favorite drive".
The 800-mile road trip from Philadelphia to Nashville takes 12 hours of solid driving. Highlights include Washington DC, Baltimore, Pigeon Forge, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, plus the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
These are just some of the many amazing places you will encounter, so keep on reading to find out more about the best route to take, the attractions along the way, the best time to visit, and more.
How far is Nashville from Philadelphia, and how long will the road trip take?
The road trip from Philadelphia to Nashville is over 800 miles long and will take around 12 hours of driving. Covering the trip in one day would be tiring and miss out on a lot of the attractions along the way.
We recommend taking at least 3 days, ideally a week. Soak in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and visit historical landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and George Washington's Mount Vernon.
The drive is blessed with wonderful scenery, epitomized by the route through the beautiful valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Best road trip route from Philadelphia to Nashville
There are several possible routes for the road trip from Philadelphia to Nashville. The route via Pennsylvania through Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Tennessee is the most scenic and has the most to see along the way.
This involves mainly interstate driving, with slight detours on state routes for national parks and museums along the way, so if you're new to road trips, this is an excellent introduction.
If you'd like to save on time and have already visited Washington DC, you can follow the interstate from Pennsylvania directly to Virginia and then follow along the same route.
How to drive from Philadelphia to Nashville
The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between Philadelphia and Nashville. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.
To begin your journey, join Interstate 676 E/US Route 30 following the beautiful Delaware River then merge with Interstate 95 South and head into Delaware.
After 50 miles, you will arrive at Maryland, crossing the Patapsco River. Visit the Edgar Allen Poe House & Museum, get a birds-eye view of the city from the World Trade Center's Observation Deck, and marvel at the Washington Monument.
Proceed towards Baltimore and Washington DC. Delve into the past with a visit to the famous Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Continuing your journey, take Exit 27 West for Interstate 95 for Silver Spring.
Take the Interstate 495 West into the beautiful state of Virginia. You'll take exit 49 to connect with Interstate 66 West towards Front Royal and then take Exit 1A to merge with Interstate 81 South and follow for over 100 miles.
You'll drive by the Shenandoah National Park, through the mountains of Virginia, and with the majestic Great Smoky Mountains National Park just a slight detour away.
Via Interstate 81 South, you'll enter Tennessee. Drive through the forests of the South for just over 200 miles, then take Exit 1B to merge with Interstate 40 West towards Knoxville.
From Knoxville, the trip is a steady 180-mile drive on Interstate 40 all the way to Nashville, which should take no longer than three hours.
Blue Ridge Parkway Detour
The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as America's favorite drive, and for good reason. The route runs along the spine of the Blue Ridge, spanning the southern and central Appalachian Mountains.
Taking the Parkway involves leaving the main route on Interstate 81 at Staunton, following Interstate 64 for 16 miles until you arrive at Rockfish Gap. This is the starting point of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The route passes Roanoke and Fancy Gap before arriving at Blowing Rock, the ideal stopover point on the route. From there, continue to Asheville before reaching the end of the way at Cherokee.
The Parkway covers 469 miles in total, and you may wish to do the whole route or just a section of it, but whatever you decide, it is a stunning driving route that is not to be missed.
On leaving Cherokee, take the Interstate 441 north to Pigeon Forge, and then continue onwards to Knoxville and follow the main route from there to Nashville.
Best places to stop between Philadelphia and Nashville
Taking the trip over several days will give you the time to see many of the attractions along the way, and we have suggested some of our favorite places to make a stopover.
Explore iconic Washington DC
Our first recommended stopover gives you a fantastic city to explore, 140 miles (or about 2 and a half hours) in. You may decide to stay for several nights to take in all that Washington has to offer and there are many fabulous accommodation options.
Situated by the Southwest Waterfront, we recommend the citizenM Washington DC Capitol, with its light and airy rooms, and stunning rooftop bar, it's an ideal place to relax and gaze over the city skyline.
The hotel is in close proximity to the city's landmarks. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, National Gallery of Art, the US Capitol, and many more are within walking distance of the hotel.
The property is a 20-minute detour from the route, dependent on DC traffic, but it's one that's well worth it.
Catch a panoramic view of the city from the Washington Monument's observation deck and treat yourself to a meal with a view at Kennedy Center's Roof Terrace Restaurant - a perfect treat to leave you refreshed before getting back on the road.
Wind down in Pigeon Forge
If you're thinking of including a day of relaxation or exploring a national park, an ideal place to break up the journey is Pigeon Forge, a mountainous vacation town, 620 miles into your road trip.
Helpfully, this stop is around 3 and a half hours away from Nashville, making it a great option for your last night on the road.
A half-hour detour from the route is The Inn at Christmas Place, a beautiful castle-like property with a large pool, a 30m water slide, and lots of Christmas influence throughout the year.
There are many unique attractions located close to the hotel, like the Titanic Museum, the Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery Dinner Show, The Island in Pigeon Forge, and more.
The inn is just 12 miles from the scenic Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you'll have a chance to be amidst the lush forest, surrounded by streams, waterfalls, and unbeatable views from mountain peaks.
You can spend a night in Pigeon Forge, pack up and leave in time for an early morning hike at the national park before you continue on your way to Nashville.
See stunning mountain vistas from the Blue Ridge Parkway
Taking the Blue Ridge Parkway Detour definitely warrants a stopover amidst the amazing scenery. Take to the great outdoors and explore the excellent hiking routes, forest trails, and amazing mountain views.
The beautiful village of Blowing Rock, around halfway into the journey, has sweeping views of peaks, forests, and the Johns River gorge. Enjoy regional artwork at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum.
Set among 87 acres of beautiful grounds, Chetola Resort is a stunning and peaceful escape, allowing guests to feel closer to nature as they relax in the indoor pool or unwind in the sauna and jacuzzi overlooking the lake and neighboring National Park.
It is perfectly placed to explore the parkway and the resort has several outdoor activities to enjoy. There are daily fitness and yoga classes, and guided hiking trips can be arranged, to explore the hills at your own pace.
Things to see on a road trip from Philadelphia to Nashville
There are so many things to explore along the route during a road trip from Philadelphia to Nashville. There is an abundance of attractions to visit, and here are a few that you really shouldn't miss.
- The White House - The official residence and workplace of the US President since 1800, take a self-guided tour and get an insight into the world of the US President.
- United States Capitol - A symbol of the American democracy, visit the Capitol and see the meeting place for Congress.
- National Gallery of Art - Located in DC, it houses an extensive collection of fine American and European art and an attached sculpture garden.
- Lincoln Memorial - A neoclassical temple located opposite the Washington Monument in honor of the 16th US President, Abraham Lincoln.
- Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - A neoclassical architecture marvel, a free for all museum that's open 364 days of the year, that houses hundreds of unique exhibits.
- Edgar Allen Poe House & Museum - The former home of American writer Edgar Allen Poe, located in Richmond.
- Shenandoah National Park - A slight detour from the route, a beautiful national park in Virginia with several mountain hikes, and home to deer and the black bear. You will need an Old Rag Day-Use Ticket if you are planning to visit the Old Rag Mountain. Please check the national park's website for details.
- The Blue Ridge Mountains - Part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, situated in the Southwest, boasting panoramic views of their surroundings.
- Natural Bridge State Park - A gem of nature and a National historic landmark, located in Rockbridge County, a 215 ft high natural arch.
- Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center – An American civil war museum, with other significant landmarks.
- George Washington's Mount Vernon - A historic home and plantation of the first US President George Washington and his wife.
- Grandfather Mountain - A non-profit attraction and quite a detour from your route, it is the highest peak in the eastern part of the Blue Ridges.
- Pigeon Forge - A mountainous vacation town in Tennessee with unique museums and a Dolly Parton statue.
- Big Walker Lookout - Situated in Wytheville, Virginia, it is a vintage shop with a lookout over mountains in five states.
- Shenandoah Caverns - Located in Quicksburg, Virginia, a tourist favorite with caves with crystalline and geological formations and a souvenir store.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park - On the North Carolina and Tennessee border, one of the most popular parks in the country with lush greenery, several mountain peaks, and activities.
- Mount Mitchell – On the Blue Ridge Parkway, witness the highest mountain peak in the eastern United States.
- Whitewater Falls – Enjoy this wonder of nature, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies, located in Jackson County.
Best time to go on a road trip from Philadelphia to Nashville
Though you can make the road trip from Philadelphia to Nashville at any time of the year, when to go will depend on the experiences you wish to enjoy along the way.
Nashville, your ultimate destination, is best to visit from spring to fall. The city comes alive with many music festivals and live shows, popular among tourists.
The weather does reach up to 90 degrees in the summer months, so if you're comfortable with heat, it's a great time to visit. The fall and winter times are slower paced, with low hotel rates, generally lesser crowds, and fewer events in the city.
In our opinion, the summer months (June, July, and August) are the best time to visit, especially the two national parks - Shenandoah National Park & Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
If you're a lover of fall foliage, there's nothing better than the Smoky Mountains in October. Given the high elevation of some of the scenic mountain roads, some of the parkway routes may be closed in winter. Be sure to check travel guidance before setting out in winter.
Whenever you choose to make the road trip, be sure to plan for several stops. Traverse through the natural gems and sing aloud to your favorite road trip tunes as you embark on an unforgettable journey.