Looking for an off-the-beaten-path, affordable destination this summer with loads of family-friendly and free activities? Clarksville, Tennessee might just be the place. This 155,000-population city is far from small, with plenty of opportunities, but you’ll still be less than an hour from Nashville for a day trip and you’ll spend a lot less when you stay in Clarksville.
Here are some ideas for free activities and places to enjoy in Clarksville this summer.
This full-block urban park is a kid’s delight. An imagination playground with a collection of large blue foam parts, allows kids to create a play space that is constantly built and re-built by their imaginations. Kids also love the water features – a small river replica, a delta area and small protruding fountains make this a summer favorite. Kids of all ages enjoy free concerts in the summer and ice skating in the winter. Plus, there’s plenty of room for free play and shaded spots for a picnic.
- Public Art
About 25 pieces of public art dot the downtown and surrounding areas – “about” because it’s an ever-increasing number! From murals to fountains to sculptures and statues, a tour of Clarksville’s public art is both educational and entertaining. Maybe most impressive is the 120′ x 40′ “Clarksville Starry Night” mural at 420 Madison St. by artist Olasubomi Aka-Bashorum. Or, if you’re a sports fan, make sure to see Wilma Rudolph and Pat Head Summitt in Liberty Park. For a handy guided walking tour, use the Visit Clarksville app or Build Your Trip widget, select the Public Art Tour, pick what you want to see, and we’ll map it and give you walking or driving directions.
- Fort Defiance Civil War Park
Hear the stories, learn the history, see the equipment, wander the grounds and experience the views at the Fort Defiance Civil War Park & Interpretive Center. This free facility offers a remarkable Visitor Center. Throughout the year, you can learn lots about like during the Civil War — what the medical profession looked like, how soldiers mended their clothes, what types of food they ate and songs they sang, what a typical Christmas involved, what artillery was used and what a cannon sounds like.
- Dunbar Cave and Port Royal State Parks
Explore two state parks in the Clarksville area. Dunbar Cave is 144-acre massive natural playground with a huge cave (guided cave tours require tickets), wildlife, trails, picnic areas and events throughout the year. Port Royal was the site one of the earliest colonial communities and trading posts in Middle Tennessee and was first settled in the early 1780s. The 26-acre park offers boating, canoeing, kayaking, picnicking and fishing at the Red River and Sulpher Fork Creek, plus three short hiking trails.
- Clarksville Blueway
If you’ve not kayaked with your family, you don’t know what you’re missing. This is truly an opportunity to unplug and reconnect. Plus, you’ll see the best views of the city from the water as you feel the stress leaving your body! Choose routes from 2 – 14 miles along the Cumberland and Red Rivers and their many creeks and forks.
- Customs House Museum
Enjoy free Second Saturdays at the Customs House Museum (admission is also free anytime with a paid membership.) On the main floor, find rotating exhibits that are usually art focused, a sports gallery with stories about native Clarksvillians, and tons of Clarksville history, plus more tucked away rotating galleries. Downstairs, kids will enjoy the family art room, Explorer’s Landing with a kid-size grocery store and a Bubble Cave. The museum also boasts one of the largest model railroad layouts in the region.
- Free Summer Concerts
Downtown @ Sundown happens the first and third Fridays, May – October, and Mic Check Monday happens every Monday in June and July at Downtown Commons. These family-friendly concerts feature local and regional bands from every genre. Bring a picnic and lawn chairs, or enjoy a meal at a downtown restaurant, then head over to hear the music.
Outside the downtown area, enjoy Jazz on the Lawn at Beachaven Winery two Saturday each month from May-October. Bring a picnic and lawn chairs or quilt and enjoy some of the best jazz bands in the region. No outside alcohol is allowed.
Discover all of Clarksville’s concerts on our Concerts Calendar.
- Clarksville Greenway
The Clarksville Greenway is an excellent choice for biking, walking, jogging, or inline skating. Hop on the 9-mile paved trail at any of four trailheads and find picturesque scenery along the bluffs, creek, overlooks and open fields. B-cycle rentals are available and the south end connects to the North Ford Mountain Bike Trail (advanced riders only.)
- Community Build Playground
The Community Built Playground opened in Liberty Park in 2012. This giant space includes a separate area for smaller children and just about everything a kid could want in a playground. Within picnic facilities nearby, a 2-mile paved walkway along the Cumberland River, a Dog Park, wildlife, a stocked fishing pond and plenty of large, open spaces for Frisbee, soccer or kite flying, you can easily spend most of your day here.
Follow along three history trails and learn about Clarksville’s heritage, notable residents, historic architecture, and other significant sites. The website shows a map overlay for easy directions and significant information about each site. All trails begin at Downtown Commons and range from .78 to 4.7 miles.
(Coming this summer to the VisitClarksvilleTN app is an African American Heritage Trail – a fantastic and educational fourth heritage trail option.)
- 30+ Local Parks
Have a blast at any of Clarksville or Montgomery County’s 30+ local parks. Easily fill a day with splash pads, picnic areas, trails, horseshoes, playgrounds, a skate park, Blueway access, and more – all free!
You’ll find Downtown Market every Saturday morning in downtown Clarksville through mid-October (except September 7) from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. The consistently top-rated open-air market features local farmers and artisans who offer locally grown fresh produce, food items, and handcrafted products. Enjoy live music, meet our Market mascot, “Corny the Cob,” and experience activities on select market days.
- Disc Golf
Have you discovered disc golf? It is truly a sport that the whole family can enjoy. Clarksville’s two courses can be found at Rotary Park (18 holes) and Barbara Johnson Park (9 holes). Rotary is hilly and a bit more challenging through woods and open areas so be prepared for some hiking. The course at Barbara Johnson is flat and more open. So, take your pick for a challenging or laid-back experience and enjoy. (You will need to provide your own discs.)
Built in 1890, the L&N Train Station was once one of the busiest locations in Clarksville, with soldiers and civilians arriving and departing daily. You’ll find a Farmers Market during summer months on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. during the summer and fall in the Train Station parking lot. The depot is also a great spot for family photos. If you’re old enough to remember it, you’re probably already humming “Take the last train to Clarksville…”.
- Movies in the Park
Clarksville’s Parks & Recreation Department hosts free Movies in the Park from June through October at Heritage and Liberty Parks. Movies begin at 8 p.m. but come early for other fun activities and food trucks. (Pets and alcohol are not allowed.) Showing this summer are Aquaman, Mary Poppins Returns, Blank Panther, The Karate Kid and more. See the schedule and check on weather cancellations at the Parks & Rec Facebook page.
Meet the artists and experience the art each First Thursday. From 5-8p.m., the Downtown Clarksville Association hosts Art Walk, a free event where businesses in a five-block radius featuring work from local artists and offer refreshments. It’s a fun time to meet and socialize with fellow art lovers and the artists themselves.
- Independence Day Celebration (July 3)
See one of the most impressive fireworks displays in the state, if not the southeast, right here in Clarksville. Celebrate our nation’s independence with great food, live music, and family-friendly activities followed fireworks display at Liberty Park on the banks of the Cumberland. Liberty Park opens at 5:00, with festivities beginning at 6:30. Fireworks begin about 9:15 p.m.
Clarksville, Tennessee is the state’s fifth-largest city. Located 40 minutes NW of Nashville on I-24 at the Tennessee/Kentucky border, the city is home the Fort Campbell 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Austin Peay State University, a beautiful historic downtown, and 650 miles of navigable waterways. About 155,000 residents make the city their home, with another 46,000 residing outside the city limits in Montgomery County.