Discovering the Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll know that a few weeks ago I took a little road trip with my colleague Tiffany to Union City, Tennessee. It’s there that we discovered Discovery Park of America.
Discovery Park of America opened in November of 2013, and it’s a little hard to explain succintly. It’s part children’s musuem, part science/nature museum, with a big dose of history plus a sprinkling of random cool things.
Inside, there are three floors of exhibits, plus a tower with an observatory and a giant slide. Outside, there’s a replica 1800s settlement, a restored passenger train, a replica early 1900s town square, a chapel, and a dozen other buildings. You could (and should) spend several hours there.
It’s a two and a half hour drive to Union City, and other than some small towns, there’s not too much to see on your way. We arrived at Discovery Park around 11 a.m. on a summer Wednesday and the parking lot was pretty full. The main facility is an imposing metallic modern building surrounded by, no joke, a moat.
This is what greets you when you walk in the front door.
First things first, we had to eat. I tried the turkey pita and Tiffany had the fried chicken salad. Not bad at all. There were all manner of sandwiches and pizza. Next we got our tickets and wristbands.
For at least the first half hour, I walked around with my mouth hanging open because the variety of exhibits kept surprising me. I saw a group of dinosaur fossil displays, an aquarium, a collection of several thousand arrowheads, Civil War memorabilia, and a couple of holograms. (Yes, holograms.)
On the bottom floor, there are 25 antique and novelty cars from all eras, plus a WWII airplane and a helicopter suspended from the ceiling.
The third level has more interactive exhibits on science, energy, and space, including a play area for kids and a human-shaped slide that takes you back down to the second level. Tiffany and I didn’t have a chance to do the Starship Theater, but the Earthquake Simulator, a video-sensory show that told the story of the formation of nearby Reelfoot Lake, was worth the extra few bucks. The Tower Observatory was also well worth it.
One of the strangest exhibitis was a blue-lit gallery behind a giant bookshelf that displayed everything from a dog’s suit of armor to a driftwood sculpture to a set of early hominid skulls, and a life-size replica of the Ark of the Covenant. Of course.
Tiffany and I spent another hour or so wandering around outside in the log cabin settlement, looking at lots of taxidermy and 1800s-era artifacts. We also explored a very impressive, totally restored passenger train. Kids were a big fan of the engine with the working horn.
Looking through the floor of the Tower Observatory room.
This new Tennessee attraction is impressive, educational, a little bit kitschy, and entertaining, all at the same time. There is a lot of taxidermy. Tiffany and I were thoroughly amused and intrigued the whole time we were there, so I’d imagine that kids would absolutely love this place. We saw so much more that I could make this post three times as long, so if you want to see a ton more photos, go here.
Discovery Park of America is ADA accessible, with the exception of the trains and a few of the cabins at the settlement. I’d recommend calling ahead if you have specific questions about accessibilty or assistance.
Backpacks and food are not allowed. The Park hosts events like painting classes, cocktail parties, and historic reenactments, plus concerts. This summer’s lineup is fairly impressive (Travis Tritt, Survivor, Everclear). Go here for more info.
Get more ticket info here.
Discovery Park of America
830 Evertett Blv. Union City, Tennessee 38281