Here are the 18 best day trips from Nashville, including caves, caverns, state parks, historic towns, and more!
Visitors to Music City are spoiled for choice when it comes to activities and attractions. There are so many amazing things to do in Nashville.
But a day trip outside the city will allow you to explore more of the diverse and beautiful landscapes of Tennessee and the American South.
Soak in the panoramic views at Rock City Gardens in Lookout Mountain, or go on a historic tour of Franklin, Tennessee. Music lovers can head over to Memphis to tour the iconic Sun Studio and see live music on Beale Street.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is one of the world’s largest space museums. There are endless opportunities to learn about science, technology, and history in the cities and towns around Nashville.
Whether you want guided tours, adventures in nature, or historic sights that would amaze history buffs everywhere, you can do it all on these day trips from Nashville.
Check out our 3 Days In Nashville Itinerary to keep you busy before you embark on a day trip.
Table of Contents
- 18 Best Day Trips From Nashville
- 1. Fall Creek Falls State Park
- 2. Mammoth Cave National Park
- 3. Franklin
- 4. Lookout Mountain
- 5. Stones River National Battlefield
- 6. Huntsville
- 7. Cathedral Caverns State Park
- 8. Chattanooga
- 9. Natchez Trace Parkway
- 10. Cedars Of Lebanon State Park
- 11. Memphis
- 12. Knoxville
- 13. Dunbar Cave State Park
- 14. Jack Daniel Distillery
- 15. Diamond Caverns
- 16. Rock Island State Park
- 17. Cumberland Caverns
- 18. Center Hill Lake
18 Best Day Trips From Nashville
From Mammoth Caves National Park, to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, to the historic Diamond Caverns and more, here are the top day trips from Nashville. There is plenty to see and do in Music City itself, but these day trips allow you to explore more of the country!
The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.
1. Fall Creek Falls State Park
- Distance from Nashville: 126 miles
- Driving Time: 2 hours
Fall Creek Falls State Park, located on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, is a breathtaking natural haven that boasts the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River, lending its name to the park.
The park spans over 26,000 acres and encompasses diverse ecosystems, including cascading waterfalls, lush forests, and expansive gorges. Fall Creek Falls itself plunges 256 feet into a shaded pool, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that attracts visitors from far and wide.
The park offers a network of nature trails that lead to various overlooks and vantage points, allowing hikers to appreciate the stunning landscapes and witness the beauty of the park from different perspectives.
In addition to its awe-inspiring waterfalls, Fall Creek Falls State Park provides a range of recreational opportunities. The park features a golf course, an 18-acre lake for fishing and paddle boating, and an extensive trail system for hiking and mountain biking.
Campers can choose from a variety of camping options, including campsites and cabins, immersing themselves in the natural beauty of the park. With its diverse landscapes, outdoor activities, and iconic waterfall, Fall Creek Falls State Park stands as a popular destination for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those looking to connect with the scenic wonders of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau.
2. Mammoth Cave National Park
- Distance from Nashville: 88 miles
- Driving Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Mammoth Cave National Park, located in Cave City in south-central Kentucky, stands as a testament to the wonders of the underground world. It’s one of the coolest day trips from Nashville and allows you to explore the neighboring state of Kentucky!
As the world’s longest-known cave system, Mammoth Cave spans over 400 miles of explored passageways, showcasing an intricate labyrinth of chambers, stalactites, stalagmites, and unique rock formations.
The cave’s geological history dates back millions of years, with ongoing processes shaping its subterranean landscape. Visitors to Mammoth Cave National Park can embark on guided tours that delve into the fascinating history and ecology of this underground realm. The park’s diverse surface landscape includes hills, rivers, and lush greenery, providing a striking contrast to the mysterious depths below.
Beyond its geological marvels, Mammoth Cave National Park is also a haven for biodiversity. The park encompasses a diverse range of ecosystems, including hardwood forests, rivers, and wetlands. These habitats support a variety of plant and animal species, some of which are rare or endangered. The Green River, flowing through the park, adds to the scenic beauty and ecological richness.
Visitors can engage in above-ground activities such as hiking, bird-watching, and canoeing, immersing themselves in the natural splendor that complements the awe-inspiring underground world of Mammoth Cave.
This unique national park provides an opportunity for both adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts to explore the wonders of the Earth’s subterranean realms and the vibrant ecosystems that thrive above ground.
- Distance from Nashville: 22 miles
- Driving Time: 27 minutes
Franklin, Tennessee, located just south of Nashville, is a charming and historic city. The heart of downtown Franklin is a picturesque Main Street lined with preserved 19th-century buildings that house boutique shops, art galleries, and excellent dining establishments.
Franklin’s historic district is a treasure trove of Southern architecture and history, featuring antebellum homes and the Lotz House Museum, which provides insight into the city’s history.
The Carter House is one of the town’s most popular attractions. Holding a significant place in Civil War history, the Carter House is where the Carter family hid during the intense Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. Visitors can explore the carefully restored Carter House and grounds on a house tour, gaining insight into the lives of the Carter family and the harrowing events that unfolded on that fateful day.
Those interested in history can learn about the city’s dark past on an exciting haunted city tour! Or if a guided tour isn’t your thing, explore on a hop-on-hop-off trolley where you can sightsee and jump off wherever you like.
In addition to its historic charm, Franklin boasts a thriving arts and live music scene, with live performances, festivals, and events throughout the year. The city’s proximity to Nashville contributes to its musical heritage, and visitors can enjoy a variety of genres in local venues.
Whether strolling through its historic streets, enjoying live music, or savoring the flavors of the South, Franklin offers one of the easiest, quickest, and most insightful day trips from Nashville.
4. Lookout Mountain
- Distance from Nashville: 134 miles
- Driving Time: 2 hours
Another one of the best Nashville day trips is Lookout Mountain, a prominent landmark in the southern United States. Stretching across Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, Lookout Mountain is renowned for its panoramic vistas of the Tennessee River Valley and the surrounding Appalachian Mountains.
One of the most famous vantage points atop Lookout Mountain is Rock City, a unique rock formation and garden. Rock City Gardens provides visitors with a stunning view on a clear day where you can see up to seven states!
The area is also home to Point Park, a Civil War historic site that commemorates the “Battle Above the Clouds,” a significant engagement fought during the Chattanooga Campaign in 1863. The expansive views from Lookout Mountain served as a strategic advantage during the war, earning it a place in American history.
In addition to its historical significance, Lookout Mountain has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and tourists seeking a blend of natural beauty and recreational activities.
The mountain offers opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and hang gliding, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the scenic landscapes and experience the thrill of outdoor adventures.
Lookout Mountain’s charm lies not only in its geological wonders and historical relevance but also in its role as a recreational haven. From Rock City Gardens to Point Park, this incredible mountain is a cherished destination in the American South that is only a two hour drive from Music City!
5. Stones River National Battlefield
- Distance from Nashville: 31 miles
- Driving Time: 33 minutes
Stones River National Battlefield, situated in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is one of the top day trips from Nashville for history buffs. This historic site preserves the memory of one of the bloodiest and strategically significant battles of the American Civil War.
The Battle of Stones River, fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863, witnessed intense combat between Union and Confederate forces. The battlefield encompasses key areas such as the Round Forest and the Slaughter Pen, each bearing witness to the sacrifices made by thousands of soldiers.
Visitors can explore the well-preserved landscape, marked by monuments, cannons, and interpretive signage that vividly narrate the events of the battle and the soldiers’ experiences.
The Stones River National Cemetery within the park honors those who gave their lives during this conflict, providing a solemn space for reflection and remembrance.
Stones River National Battlefield stands as a testament to the courage and sacrifices of those who fought on its grounds and serves as a place for both reflection and learning. From the monuments and exhibits to the Stones River National Cemetery, this day trip will open your eyes to a critical chapter in American history.
Find more day trip ideas on our list of the best things to do in Tennessee!
- Distance from Nashville: 111 miles
- Driving Time: 2 hours
This day trip will take you south into Alabama! Often referred to as the “Rocket City,” Huntsville is a dynamic and thriving urban center with a unique blend of scientific innovation, southern charm, and outdoor beauty.
Home to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville has been at the forefront of space exploration since the 1950s, contributing significantly to the development of the U.S. space program.
Visitors can explore the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, an engaging museum and educational facility that showcases the history of space exploration. Captivating exhibits, artifacts, and full-scale replicas of rockets and the iconic Saturn V are just a few things you’ll find at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
The city’s commitment to science and technology is further exemplified by the Cummings Research Park, one of the largest research parks in the United States, which houses numerous high-tech companies and research institutions.
Huntsville also has a vibrant cultural scene, featuring art galleries, theaters, and music venues. The historic downtown area, with its charming blend of preserved architecture and modern amenities, invites visitors to stroll along tree-lined streets, enjoy local cuisine, and explore boutiques and craft breweries.
Nature enthusiasts can also appreciate the beauty of the region at the Monte Sano State Park, where hiking trails and scenic overlooks provide a peaceful escape. Or explore the beauty of Huntsville Botanical Garden right in the city center.
Huntsville’s diverse attractions make it a day trip destination that combines cutting-edge technology with the warmth of southern hospitality.
7. Cathedral Caverns State Park
- Distance from Nashville: 139 miles
- Driving Time: 2.5 hours
Cathedral Caverns State Park, located in northeastern Alabama, is home to one of the most spectacular cave systems in the United States. The centerpiece of the park is Cathedral Cavern, a breathtaking underground wonder characterized by its massive stalagmites and stalactites, some of which reach heights of over 45 feet.
The cavern’s awe-inspiring formations create a surreal landscape, with intricate shapes and delicate formations adorning its expansive chambers. Notable features within the cave include “Goliath,” one of the world’s largest stalagmites, and “Frozen Waterfall,” a unique rock formation resembling a cascading waterfall. Guided tours take visitors on a journey through this subterranean marvel, providing insights into the geology and history of the cave.
Beyond the cave’s captivating beauty, Cathedral Caverns State Park offers additional outdoor attractions. The park encompasses picturesque woodlands, hiking trails, and picnic areas, inviting visitors to enjoy the natural beauty above ground.
Cathedral Caverns State Park stands as a testament to the wonders of the underground world and provides a unique opportunity for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers to explore the beauty hidden beneath the surface of Alabama’s landscape.
- Distance from Nashville: 134 miles
- Driving Time: 2 hours
Located along the banks of the Tennessee River, Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a vibrant city that combines outdoor adventures with cultural attractions. Renowned for its stunning riverfront, Chattanooga offers a scenic backdrop for a range of activities, from leisurely strolls along the Riverwalk to exciting scenic river cruises.
The city is home to the iconic Walnut Street Bridge, one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges, connecting downtown Chattanooga to the eclectic North Shore district. The exciting city features parks, gardens, and iconic attractions including the Tennessee Aquarium and Chattanooga Zoo.
Chattanooga is also steeped in history, notably as a pivotal location during the Civil War. The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, located just south of the city, preserves the sites of two major battles and offers a somber reflection on the cost of war.
The Incline Railway, one of the steepest passenger railways in the world, provides breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding mountains, adding a touch of adventure to the cultural and historical experiences Chattanooga has to offer.
Chattanooga’s rich railroad heritage is expertly showcased at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, a living testament to the city’s pivotal role in the evolution of rail transportation. Learn about the city’s railroad history with a guided tour around the museum, or book a trolley and train ride for a more immersive experience!
With a rich tapestry of attractions, from the arts and history to outdoor recreation, Chattanooga stands as a dynamic day trip destination that captivates residents and visitors alike.
9. Natchez Trace Parkway
- Distance from Nashville: 21 miles
- Driving Time: 24 minutes
The Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic highway that stretches for 444 miles through three states—Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi—is a journey through the historical and natural beauty of the southern United States.
Initially used by Native American tribes and later by European settlers, this ancient trail saw a variety of travelers, including traders, soldiers, and early pioneers. Today, the Parkway stands as a preserved corridor, allowing modern travelers to follow the footsteps of those who traversed it centuries ago.
The road is lined with lush forests, open meadows, and significant historical sites, providing a serene and immersive experience for those seeking a tranquil drive through the southern landscape.
You can reach this iconic stretch of highway by driving just 25 minutes outside downtown Nashville! The Natchez Trace Parkway encourages a leisurely pace, with opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, and picnicking along the way.
Its commitment to preserving the natural environment and showcasing the cultural history of the region makes the Natchez Trace Parkway a unique and enriching experience, offering a connection to the past while embracing the tranquility of the present-day southern landscape.
Heading further South? Try these amazing things to do in Atlanta, Georgia.
10. Cedars Of Lebanon State Park
- Distance from Nashville: 32 miles
- Driving Time: 35 minutes
Cedars of Lebanon State Park, located in Middle Tennessee, offers a peaceful retreat with its serene landscapes and diverse ecosystems. Named after the Eastern Red Cedar trees that dominate its forests, the park encompasses over 9,000 acres of rolling hills, limestone sinkholes, and cedar glades.
The unique geological features contribute to a rich biodiversity, making the park a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife watchers. Visitors can explore a network of hiking trails that wind through the woodlands and meadows, providing opportunities to encounter rare plant species and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the Tennessee countryside.
The park also boasts recreational facilities, including a campground, picnic areas, and a swimming pool, making it an ideal destination for families and outdoor enthusiasts. The park’s natural beauty is complemented by its historical significance, as it was part of the original 2,000-acre tract granted to early Tennessee settlers.
With its combination of natural charm, outdoor activities, and a nod to the region’s history, Cedars of Lebanon State Park stands as a welcoming destination for those seeking a peaceful escape and a connection to the natural heritage of Tennessee.
- Distance from Nashville: 212 miles
- Driving Time: 3 hours
Nestled along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, Memphis, Tennessee, stands as a vibrant city with a rich cultural heritage and a significant impact on American music history. It’s a 3-hour drive from Nashville, but you can still visit in a day if you’re willing to tackle a bit of driving! Or you can visit as a weekend trip from Nashville. Either way, it’s definitely worth visiting Memphis!
Known as the birthplace of blues music, Memphis has played a pivotal role in shaping the country’s musical landscape. Beale Street, a historic thoroughfare lined with blues clubs, restaurants, and vibrant nightlife, is a testament to the city’s musical legacy.
The iconic Sun Studio, where legendary artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded their groundbreaking hits, offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.
Memphis is also steeped in civil rights history, with the National Civil Rights Museum located at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. The museum chronicles the struggle for civil rights in America and serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing quest for equality.
Visitors can explore other historical sites, such as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, offering a comprehensive understanding of Memphis’s role in shaping both musical and social narratives in the United States. Or book a guided city tour to let a knowledgeable local guide show you the highlights of the city.
From the soulful sounds of Beale Street to the somber reflections at the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis invites visitors to explore the diverse layers of its cultural tapestry.
- Distance from Nashville: 180 miles
- Driving Time: 2.5 hours
Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Knoxville, Tennessee, is a city with a rich blend of history, culture, and outdoor adventure. The downtown area, characterized by its historic architecture and vibrant atmosphere, hosts a variety of cultural events, art galleries, and eclectic eateries.
Market Square, the heart of downtown Knoxville, serves as a focal point for community gatherings and features a bustling market with local vendors. The city’s cultural scene is further enhanced by the historic Tennessee Theatre, a grand venue that showcases live performances and events, adding a touch of elegance to Knoxville’s entertainment offerings.
Knoxville is also a gateway to the natural wonders of East Tennessee. The nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides ample opportunities for hiking, camping, and exploring the breathtaking scenery. The Urban Wilderness, a unique recreational area within the city limits, offers a network of trails, parks, and greenways for outdoor enthusiasts.
Additionally, Knoxville’s proximity to the Tennessee River allows for water-based activities, including boating and fishing. With its vibrant cultural scene, outdoor recreational opportunities, and welcoming community spirit, Knoxville stands as a dynamic city that embraces both its historical roots and the natural beauty that surrounds it.
13. Dunbar Cave State Park
- Distance from Nashville: 45 miles
- Driving Time: 46 minutes
Another one of the best day trips from Nashville is Dunbar Cave State Park located near Clarksville, Tennessee.
At the heart of the park is the impressive Dunbar Cave, one of the largest caves in Montgomery County. Rich in both geological and cultural significance, the cave served as a sacred site for indigenous peoples for thousands of years, with evidence of prehistoric Native American habitation found within.
Visitors can embark on guided cave tours to explore the intricate chambers adorned with stalactites and stalagmites while learning about the cave’s ecological importance and its role in shaping the region’s human history.
Beyond the cave, Dunbar Cave State Park offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking trails, picnic areas, and a beautiful lake suitable for fishing. The park’s diverse ecosystem attracts birdwatchers, with the chance to spot various avian species, including great blue herons and migrating waterfowl.
Educational programs and events, such as nature walks and wildlife talks, provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the park’s natural and historical features.
With its combination of subterranean wonders, outdoor recreation, and cultural heritage, Dunbar Cave State Park provides a multifaceted experience for those seeking a connection with the natural and historical treasures of Tennessee.
Read next: 21 Best Things To Do In Memphis
14. Jack Daniel Distillery
- Distance from Nashville: 73 miles
- Driving Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes
The Jack Daniel Distillery, located in Lynchburg, Tennessee, is renowned worldwide for producing one of the most iconic and celebrated brands of whiskey—Jack Daniel’s. Established in 1866, this historic distillery offers visitors an immersive journey into the art and craft of whiskey-making.
The distillery tour takes guests through the picturesque rolling hills of Moore County, showcasing the natural limestone cave, the iron-free cave spring, and the iconic charcoal mellowing process that defines the unique character of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
Visitors can explore the rickhouses where the whiskey ages to perfection in white oak barrels and witness the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into every step of the distillation process.
The distillery complex also includes the Lynchburg Hardware and General Store, providing a glimpse into the town’s history and offering an array of Jack Daniel’s memorabilia and exclusive merchandise.
The Visitor Center and Barrelhouse 1-14 showcase the brand’s rich heritage, featuring artifacts and stories that span over a century of whiskey-making tradition. For enthusiasts and connoisseurs, the tasting experiences allow visitors to savor the distinct flavors of Jack Daniel’s various expressions.
The Jack Daniel Distillery tour is not just a journey through whiskey production but a cultural exploration of a brand that has become synonymous with Tennessee craftsmanship and Southern hospitality.
15. Diamond Caverns
- Distance from Nashville: 87 miles
- Driving Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Another one of the most unique day trip destinations is Diamond Caverns, situated in Park City, Kentucky. This subterranean wonder captivates visitors with its stunning geological formations and fascinating history.
Discovered in 1859, the caverns were initially named “Beyer’s Cave” after the landowner. Renamed Diamond Caverns in the late 19th century due to the sparkling calcite crystals adorning its walls, the caverns have become a popular destination for those seeking to explore the beauty hidden beneath the surface of the earth.
A guided tour will take you through a labyrinth of chambers adorned with stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone formations, creating a surreal and enchanting underground landscape.
Diamond Caverns is celebrated not only for its geological wonders but also for its historical significance. During the American Civil War, the caverns served as a source of saltpeter, a crucial ingredient in the production of gunpowder. The remnants of this mining activity can still be seen in certain parts of the caverns.
Today, visitors can experience the magic of the historic Diamond Caverns through cave tours that provide both geological insights and a glimpse into the caverns’ role in shaping the region’s history. The caverns stand as a testament to the beauty that lies beneath Kentucky’s rolling hills and offer an educational and awe-inspiring adventure for all who venture into their depths.
Exploring further east? Consider checking out Asheville, North Carolina!
16. Rock Island State Park
- Distance from Nashville: 85 miles
- Driving Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Rock Island State Park, nestled in the scenic beauty of the Caney Fork River Gorge in Tennessee, is another one of the best Nashville day trips for outdoor enthusiasts.
Situated at the confluence of the Collins and Caney Fork Rivers, the park offers a tranquil retreat characterized by waterfalls, lush forests, and the rugged charm of the Cumberland Plateau.
One of the park’s highlights is the Great Falls of the Caney Fork, a majestic cascade that draws visitors with its breathtaking beauty and the opportunity for water-based activities. Rock Island State Park is a paradise for anglers, providing excellent opportunities for fishing in the clear, cool waters of the Caney Fork River.
Beyond its aquatic allure, Rock Island State Park offers a network of trails that wind through the park’s diverse landscapes, providing glimpses of rock formations, caves, and scenic overlooks.
The Twin Falls Trail, for example, guides hikers through the lush woods to the picturesque Twin Falls, adding an extra layer of natural beauty to the park’s offerings.
With its diverse range of recreational activities to the stunning waterfalls of Great Falls to Twin Falls, Rock Island State Park is a fascinating day trip destination in Tennessee full of unspoiled beauty!
17. Cumberland Caverns
- Distance from Nashville: 182 miles
- Driving Time: 1.5 hours
Cumberland Caverns, located in McMinnville, Tennessee, is another subterranean marvel that beckons adventurers to explore its vast chambers, intricate passageways, and stunning formations. Discovered in the 19th century, the caverns have since become a premier destination for cave enthusiasts and curious visitors alike.
The extensive cave system spans more than 32 miles, making it one of the longest caves in the United States. Guided walking tours take visitors deep into the heart of the earth, showcasing the remarkable geology of the caverns, including stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, and the impressive “Volcano Room,” a massive underground auditorium with a 400-foot ceiling that hosts concerts and events.
Beyond its natural wonders, Cumberland Caverns has historical significance, having served various purposes over the years, from saltpeter mining during the Civil War to a speakeasy during Prohibition.
The caverns also feature the Bluegrass Underground, a unique concert series that takes advantage of the natural acoustics and ethereal surroundings of the cave.
For those seeking adventure, Cumberland Caverns offers spelunking experiences and overnight caving trips, allowing a deeper immersion into the underground world. With its geological splendor, historical intrigue, and opportunities for exploration, Cumberland Caverns remains a captivating destination for those eager to discover the mysteries hidden beneath Tennessee’s surface.
Read next: The Ultimate 3 Days In Asheville Itinerary
18. Center Hill Lake
- Distance from Nashville: 70 miles
- Driving Time: 1 hour
Center Hill Lake, nestled in the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee, is a picturesque reservoir created by the construction of Center Hill Dam on the Caney Fork River. The lake is not only a vital component of the region’s hydroelectric power generation but also a popular destination for recreational activities.
The lake covers over 18,000 acres and boasts more than 400 miles of shoreline, offering ample opportunities for boating, fishing, camping, and other water-based pursuits. Visitors can explore secluded coves, navigate clear blue waters, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the surrounding hills and forests.
Also renowned for its diverse aquatic life, this gorgeous lake is a favorite spot for anglers. The lake is stocked with various fish species, including bass, catfish, and crappie, providing a rewarding fishing experience.
Numerous marinas, campgrounds, and parks dot the shoreline, providing amenities for both day-trippers and those seeking an extended lakeside retreat. Whether one is interested in water sports, fishing, or simply relaxing by the shore, this is another one of the top day trips from Nashville!
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