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23 Top Things to Do in Tennessee | Travel


Tennessee’s considerable pure magnificence, wealthy historical past and music tradition are just some causes to go to The Volunteer State. There are additionally unimaginable pure wonders, thrilling out of doors adventures and top-notch points of interest that beckon nature lovers and thrill-seekers. You would possibly even uncover hidden treasures in the small cities off the principle highways and byways. During your go to, be certain to pattern the state’s well-known barbecue, sip a little bit whiskey and luxuriate in a wholesome dose of Southern hospitality alongside the best way. U.S. News compiled a listing of the 23 high points of interest to see and enjoyable issues to do throughout the state. (Note: Some excursions and excursions could also be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. New insurance policies could also be in place, together with capability restrictions and parking reservation necessities. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and native tourism boards earlier than touring.)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park


With greater than 522,000 acres of forest, waterfalls and wildlife stretching throughout Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited nationwide park in the U.S. The park boasts 850 miles of mountain climbing trails throughout 150 paths. The 5 1/2-mile round-trip Rainbow Falls is without doubt one of the high hikes: The first mile is a difficult stroll alongside LeConte Creek, adopted by a number of miles sprinkled with footbridges. Hikers are rewarded with views of the falls. If you time your go to for the afternoon, you may even see a rainbow (therefore, the title of the falls) in the mist. Another common hike, Chimney Tops, encompasses a steep climb to the summit for sweeping mountain views. There are additionally 1000’s of species of animals and plants, together with elk, deer and black bears and greater than 1,600 types of flowering vegetation. For a totally immersive expertise, make reservations to camp in the park. Three of the really helpful entrance nation campsites are Abrams Creek, Deep Creek and Cades Cove. Cades Cove boasts a beautiful valley with ample wildlife-watching alternatives. Explore the 11-mile route by automobile, bicycle or on foot. Not-to-be-missed is Clingmans Dome, the very best level in the park – and in the state – at 6,643 ft elevation. At the Clingmans Dome car parking zone, you can additionally take the Andrews Bald path which vacationers mentioned boasts spectacular forest surroundings.



Fans from all around the world make the pilgrimage to Graceland to go to the house of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. The bustling leisure complicated in Memphis boasts 120 acres of museums and memorabilia devoted to the legendary performer. You’ll want tickets to entry all the pieces, and think about splurging on the Ultimate VIP Tour. This package deal consists of an intimate tour of Graceland Mansion, a self-guided tour of Elvis’ jets, full entry to Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex (the place you will discover collections of Elvis’ vehicles, jumpsuits and different artifacts), a meal voucher for the on-site restaurant and entry to a VIP-only exhibit, amongst different unique perks. Plan to keep at The Guest House at Graceland to take pleasure in all the highlights, memorabilia, Elvis-themed occasions and dwell live shows. This resort, one of many largest in Memphis, options rooms and suites impressed by the glitz of Las Vegas and the decor at Graceland and Elvis’ residence in Palm Springs.



(Courtesy of The Peabody Memphis)

Known because the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Memphis is all about music. Top-rated points of interest embrace Beale Street (the place dwell music venues abound), the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Sun Studio, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and Graceland. Graceland is the most important draw, however guests additionally benefit from the guided tour at Sun Studio. They say that though the constructing is small, there’s plenty of info in the previous studio. Additionally, they are saying listening to the previous music clips from music heavyweights like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis is priceless. Book lodging on the historic Peabody Hotel and watch the well-known Peabody geese at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day as they strut their stuff down the foyer’s purple carpet. It’s finest to arrive early, or go for a view from the second-story atrium because the foyer will get very crowded for the spectacle. The National Civil Rights Museum on the Lorraine Motel is one other one of many metropolis’s high points of interest together with a riverboat cruise on the Mighty Mississippi. When it comes to Tennessee barbecue, seize lunch or dinner at The Rendezvous. This iconic spot positioned in a downtown Memphis alley has been serving up Memphis-style ribs since 1948.

Pigeon Forge

This little mountain city on the foothills of the Smoky Mountains has saved households entertained with thrill rides, out of doors actions, music and eating and for greater than 60 years. The city could also be finest recognized for Dollywood, however there are lots of different points of interest, outdoors excursions and eating choices price exploring as effectively. Roller coaster fanatics will need to take a look at Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show and Adventure Park, the place you will discover the Flying Ox. This zip line-meets-rollercoaster hoists riders 80 ft in the air to zoom round a curler coaster observe at 15 mph. The Island in Pigeon Forge is one other family-friendly leisure heart that has rides, escape rooms, purchasing and eating. Be positive to take a spin on the brand new SkyFly: Soar America. This indoor journey soars excessive above the Grand Canyon, Alaska’s glaciers and different iconic American areas. While in city, plan to keep at The Inn on the River Hotel. Situated on 3 acres on the Little Pigeon River, this property is a traveler favourite for its shut proximity to eating places, purchasing and high points of interest.


Chattanooga sits on the banks of the Tennessee River in the Appalachian Mountains, bordering Georgia. The metropolis boasts spectacular museums, enjoyable issues to do, a vibrant downtown space and full of life purchasing and humanities districts. Major points of interest embrace the Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga Zoo, Lookout Mountain and the vintage carousel at Coolidge Park. Coolidge Park’s stunning 100-year-old Dentzel carousel encompasses a calliope band organ, gold leaf benches and 52 handcarved animals. The waterfront park additionally has an interactive play fountain and a pavilion. What’s extra, the venue hosts live shows, festivals and different occasions. Save time to discover the town’s railroad heritage, too. The Chattanooga Choo Choo resort is one favourite. This historic beaux arts-style constructing was the primary railway station constructed in the South. And on the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, prepare fanatics can hop aboard a historic prepare for a experience (choices final from one to eight hours, relying on the journey you select).

Learn About Native American History

Native Americans have inhabited modern-day Tennessee for about 12,000 years. Many names like Chattanooga, Tullahoma, Sewanee and Nickajack are of Native American origin. It’s additionally believed that the title Tennessee is of Cherokee origin and means “where the river bends.” Today, you possibly can discover Native American heritage throughout the state. Plan to start your journey in the city of Vonore on the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. Located roughly 35 miles southwest of Knoxville, this museum is owned and operated by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation and pays tribute to a Cherokee by the title of Sequoyah. He was a silversmith, a soldier and statesman, however is finest remembered as the person that created the Cherokee writing system. The Cherokee Memorial, the place stays of Cherokees from the 18th century are buried, can also be on-site. Afterward, plan to go to The Tansai Memorial, which is positioned 12 miles southeast of the museum and commemorates a Cherokee village. Part of the 5,043-mile-long Trail of Tears additionally runs by means of Tennessee. In the 1830s, the U.S. authorities compelled Native American tribes throughout the southeast to relocate from their ancestral homelands to the west. The ensuing journey turned often known as the Trail of Tears. Along the path, you will discover the a number of locations to go to to study extra in regards to the horrific trek, together with the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park in Birchwood. This is a multipurpose facility with informative historical past and memorial partitions, an amphitheater and a wildlife refuge. Visitors to the park remark that it is an exquisite and well-deserved memorial to the Native American individuals.

Titanic Museum Attraction

Top Things to Do in Tennessee

(Courtesy of Titanic Museum Attraction)

Owned and curated by the person that led the diving expedition to the Titanic in 1987, this spectacular museum in Pigeon Forge brings the historical past of the legendary ship to life. The top-rated Titanic Museum Attraction has artifacts from the Titanic Historical Society and maintains greater than 400 relics and memorabilia from the ship. The exterior of the constructing is roughly half of the dimensions of the particular ship, however the inside recreated rooms are full-scale. Inside, you will discover an actual reproduction of the Grand Staircase – which you’ll be able to climb – in addition to galleries crammed with details about the ship and tales from survivors. There’s even a Memorial Room devoted to the two,208 passengers and crew members. Travelers recommend spending a minimum of two hours in the museum so to pay attention to the emotional tales of the survivors and are available away with a greater understanding of what occurred that fateful night in 1912. You’ll want tickets to enter, which might be bought on-line in advance.

The Lost Sea Adventure

Travel 140 ft under floor to see the most important underground lake in America. The aptly named Lost Sea is positioned roughly 50 miles southwest of Knoxville in Sweetwater. The 75-minute guided tour begins with a 3/4-mile round-trip stroll on large sloping pathways, and previous vacationers really helpful that you just put on snug, non-slip sneakers. The guides clarify the historical past of the cavern and you may learn the way geological elements create the uncommon formations and cavern rooms. At the tip of the tour, hop on a ship experience to see the clear waters of this 70-foot deep lake that covers a number of acres. A go to to Sweetwater could possibly be a daytrip from Knoxville, however you might have considered trying to keep a day or two to discover the city and e-book a cabin or cottage trip rental. Sweetwater’s historic district has distinctive retailers and boutiques with uncommon antiques, collectibles and art work. Don’t miss a go to to Sweetwater Valley Farm’s cafe to seize lunch and luxuriate in farm-fresh dairy specialties, resembling grilled cheese sandwiches and creamy milkshakes.


Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains – and with a number of downtown entry factors to the nationwide park – Gatlinburg is the right base for out of doors journey, however there’s way more to do whereas in city. Ober Gatlinburg affords year-round household enjoyable with amusement rides, an aerial tramway, ice skating, tubing, snowboarding and different actions. Many patrons take pleasure in this attraction, although others warn that there could be a lengthy await a few of the actions and say that it is overcrowded. You may go to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, stroll a 680-foot suspension bridge at Skylift Park and zip to the highest of Anakeesta theme park on a chondola (an open-air chair with security bar). For an prolonged keep, make reservations on the Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg or The Lodge at Buckberry Creek, two of the highest motels in Gatlinburg. Then, get up early to beat the crowds on the iconic Pancake Pantry, Tennessee’s first specialty pancake restaurant.

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail in Tennessee

Top Things to Do in Tennessee

(Jeffrey S. Otto/Courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development & Journal Communications)

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail covers 15 states and greater than 100 areas that have been vital to the Civil Rights Movement, and you will find 12 of those locales in Tennessee. In Memphis, go to 5 websites, such because the National Civil Rights Museum on the Lorraine Motel and Clayborn Temple. Then, journey roughly 210 miles northeast to go to Nashville’s six stops, which embrace Fisk University and the Civil Rights Room on the Nashville Public Library. In Clinton, positioned 174 miles east of Nashville, study in regards to the Clinton 12 on the Green McAdoo Cultural Center. These 12 Black college students stepped inside an all-white public highschool in August 1956, making this the primary built-in college in the South. Visitors say the museum could be very effectively completed and expressed that their go to was a transferring expertise.

Tennessee Whiskey Trail

Tennessee has lengthy been recognized for its whiskey, because the custom dates again to pre-Civil War instances. Today, there are greater than 30 distilleries and over 800 miles of scenic landscapes to cowl on the statewide whiskey path. In truth, the path’s official web site estimates you will want 14 days to go to all of the spots. There’s even a whiskey passport and an app you possibly can obtain. The full itinerary consists of stops in and round Nashville, the Smoky Mountains, Knoxville and Memphis. Be positive not to miss the Lynchburg and Tullahoma space, residence to the historic George Dickel and Jack Daniel’s distilleries. In between stops, take a look at Civil War battlegrounds, dwell music venues, native meals favorites and hidden gems in smaller cities that embrace boutiques, historic houses and museums, and state parks with out of doors adventures. For lodging in Memphis, think about staying at Big Cypress Lodge. This outdoor-themed pyramid-shaped resort boasts a Bass Pro Shops, eating choices, leisure and views of the Mississippi River. The historic Hermitage Hotel is a best choice in Nashville and in the Knoxville space, The Oliver Hotel is a traveler favourite due to its shut proximity to Market Square.

The Memphis Zoo

Located in Memphis’ Overton Park, the Memphis Zoo has been a significant attraction since 1906. The zoo covers roughly 70 acres and is residence to greater than 500 species of animals that reside in numerous zones and displays. In Cat Country, you possibly can view the elusive snow leopard and the endangered Bengal (Friday by means of Monday) or Sumatran tigers (Tuesday by means of Thursday). The China exhibit encompasses 3 acres and options Asian wildlife, together with Francois langurs, Sulawesi crested black macaques and the visitor-favorite big pandas. There are additionally seasonal displays and particular occasions all year long, such because the KangaZoo Outback Experience and Zoovies, the place you possibly can watch a film outdoors on the zoo. You can buy tickets on-line. The admission worth consists of all everlasting displays. Special occasions and experiences could also be a further price. Visitors say that this is without doubt one of the finest zoos in the U.S.


Top Things to Do in Tennessee

(Courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development)

Named after and owned by nation star Dolly Parton, Pigeon Forge’s Dollywood affords 160 acres of family-friendly thrill rides, dwell reveals, leisure and loads of Southern-inspired eating. Splash Country, the water park, options mountain views and thrilling slides like Fire Tower Falls, Mountain Scream and TailSpin Racer. If you favor, seize a tube and experience the waves in Mountain Wave pool or calm down whereas floating down a 1,500-foot river on the Downbound Float Trip. Of course, you will need to keep close by with a lot to do, so reserve lodging at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa or go for one of many property’s luxurious log cabins. Guests of the resort benefit from the snug lodging, pleasant employees, eating choices, facilities and every day timesaver passes which can be included with a keep. And when you ever want a break from the parks, Pigeon Forge’s different high sights are simply 3 miles away.

The Hermitage

The Hermitage is a 1,120-acre property and mansion that served as residence to President Andrew Jackson and his spouse Rachel. Located about 15 miles northeast of Nashville, a go to to the property can be an ideal day journey from the town. Jackson lived at The Hermitage from 1804 – when he bought the property as a 425-acre farm – till his loss of life in 1845. Over the years, the mansion has undergone intensive renovations and additions. Today, the home options most artifacts from Jackson’s life. Several tour choices of the mansion and its grounds can be found, together with two totally different excursions that discover the lives of enslaved males, girls and kids who labored at The Hermitage. Travelers say the excursions are a really informative and academic expertise. They additionally respect how a lot historical past is preserved on the property. Don’t miss the displays on the customer heart and earlier than leaving, be certain to pattern wines from the property’s Natchez Hills Vineyard and Winery.


Knoxville is residence to out of doors journey, museums, historical past and a vibrant arts scene. Plan to keep a couple of days at The Tennessean Hotel, which is centrally positioned downtown. Then, stroll over to Market Square, the place you possibly can discover the purchasing, eating and leisure choices. Other highlights in the town embrace the Sunsphere at World’s Fair Park (from the 1982 World’s Fair), the East Tennessee History Center and McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture. For out of doors fanatics, go to what the town has dubbed its Urban Wilderness. The assortment of out of doors points of interest options 50 miles of trails, lakes and parks. You’ll additionally discover the Ijams Nature Center & Quarry for mountain climbing, biking and mountaineering. Finally, Civil War and historical past buffs can chart out a go to to battlefields like Fort Sanders or plot a driving tour of the world’s Civil War websites.

The Tennessee Aquarium

Take a journey throughout every kind of our bodies of water on the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. In one constructing, discover the mountains of East Tennessee in River Journey, then journey to the ocean in Ocean Journey (a constructing all its personal). With greater than 10,000 animals that swim, bounce, fly and waddle, you possibly can anticipate to see river otters, lemurs, penguins, sharks, colourful fish and octopus. In River Giants, see freshwater fish from world wide that develop to monstrous proportions. What’s extra, the Turtle of the World gallery has probably the most intensive assortment of turtles of any accredited zoo or aquarium in the U.S. Be positive to take in a present on the IMAX Theater, which options all kinds of documentaries resembling “Great Bear Rainforest” and “Into America’s Wild.” Some vacationers say that the ticket costs are a bit excessive, however many benefit from the expertise on the aquarium and advocate a go to.

The Caverns

Top Things to Do in Tennessee

(Katherine Brown/Courtesy of The Caverns)

Home to the TV collection “Bluegrass Underground,” The Caverns touts itself as “The Greatest Show Under Earth.” This otherworldly cave system boasts greater than 8,000 linear ft of passageways. During the day, take a guided tour of the caves, the place you will have a behind-the-scenes tour of the live performance venue and see one of many largest underground rooms in the world (it is the dimensions of about three soccer fields). For the extra adventurous, e-book the Adventure Cave Tour, a real spelunking journey. At night time, pay attention to high music acts in Big Mouth Cave, its underground live performance corridor. The venue even serves meals and brews. It’s additionally accessible for music followers with mobility points. If you favor wide-open skies, there’s an out of doors music venue: The Caverns Above Ground Amphitheater. Concertgoers in an prolonged keep can e-book a “Stay-and-Cave” package deal that features lodging, transportation and different facilities. Reviewers say the underground live performance expertise is exclusive and enjoyable. You’ll discover The Caverns in Pelham, roughly 85 miles southeast of Nashville and 60 miles northwest of Chattanooga.

Discovery Park of America

Located in Union City, roughly 112 miles northwest of Memphis, Discovery Park of America will entertain members of the family of all ages. You’ll need a minimum of one full day to go to this 100,000-square-foot museum and the encompassing 50-acre heritage park. Indoor displays embrace 10 galleries and interactive shows highlighting all the pieces from expertise and area to artwork and historical past. There’s additionally a 20,000 gallon aquarium, a theater and the tallest commentary tower in northwest Tennessee. Outdoors, go to a duplicate of a circa 1800s frontier settlement or see a gristmill in motion in an early Twentieth-century city. You may wander by means of Japanese gardens and a prepare station full with rail vehicles and a caboose. The park even has a river, waterfalls and a playground. Visitors say the museum is price a go to and that it is instructional and nice enjoyable for households. General admission tickets and a VIP Discovery Package choice can be found on-line. When you want to refuel, take a break at one among two informal eateries, Sabin’s Cafe or Eats and Treats. If you could have time, go to Union City’s historic downtown space or close by Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge and Reelfoot Lake State Park in Tiptonville. For an in a single day keep, reserve lodging at one among a number of close by motels.

Museum of Appalachia

Located about 25 miles northwest of Knoxville, the 65-acre Museum of Appalachia in the city of Clinton is a dwelling historical past museum – and it makes for an ideal daytrip from the large metropolis. This Smithsonian Affiliate museum and genuine pioneer mountain-farm village options 35 log cabins, barns, church buildings and faculties together with greater than 250,000 artifacts, people artwork and musical devices. You may stroll round a number of gardens and watch free-range cattle. Self-guided excursions can be found seven days per week to study Southern Appalachia’s historical past and heritage. Be positive to take a look at the indoor displays, together with the Hall of Fame constructing, which honors people who’ve a connection to the Appalachians and homes a group of Native American artifacts. Plan to spend a number of hours on the property and, whereas there, take pleasure in a lunch on the on-site cafe. Visitors are impressed with the informative displays and variety of artifacts. They additionally come away with an appreciation for historical past and lives of the Appalachian individuals and their tradition. After you tour, take a stroll by the Clinch River, go to Clinton’s vintage district after which head over to Hoskins Drug Store, the place you will discover an old school lunch counter and soda fountain.

Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

Top Things to Do in Tennessee

(Courtesy of Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary)

Located roughly 40 miles northwest of Knoxville in Petros, Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary was Tennessee’s first maximum-security jail. In operation for 113 years till it closed in 2009, the power saved most of the state’s most violent criminals locked up for all times, which helped earn the jail’s nickname, “The End of the Line.” The facility affords self-guided excursions that cowl 30 stations. Throughout the jail, you will discover shows and descriptions of what occurred in that specific spot. The attraction additionally screens an 18-minute documentary that runs each half hour. Guests can go to most components of the jail, together with the cell block, cafeteria, laundry room, train yard and the “HOLE,” the place inmates have been despatched in full darkness for up to 30 days as punishment for poor habits. Former inmates and jail guards are stationed all through the jail to share tales of life in Brushy. The extra adventurous explorers might take pleasure in a nighttime or in a single day paranormal tour. Most guests discover that the excursions led by former inmates or guards are attention-grabbing and academic. At the on-site distillery, pattern its End of the Line Moonshine, which comes in quite a lot of totally different flavors. Before you propose your escape, dine behind bars at their southern-inspired restaurant, the Warden’s Table.

Lookout Mountain

Situated about 5 miles southwest of downtown Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain options three points of interest that target the speedy space’s pure magnificence. Located deep inside the mountain, Ruby Falls is the tallest and deepest underground waterfall in the U.S. Tours take you thru the cave and by the falls. After spending time underground, take a heart-racing zip line journey by means of the treetops. The Incline Railway will even get your adrenaline pumping because the 125-year-old funicular railway climbs or descends Lookout Mountain at a steep 72.7% grade. The mile-long trek – often known as “America’s Most Amazing Mile” – lasts about quarter-hour one-way. The final cease at Rock City boasts panoramic views of seven states, huge rock formations, a 180-foot suspension bridge and gardens with greater than 400 indigenous plant species. Travelers say that the mountain is price a go to and the views from the mountaintop are unimaginable. Tickets for the points of interest should be bought individually.

Belle Meade Historic Site & Winery

This historic Greek revival mansion and surrounding 5,400 acres spotlight Tennessee’s historical past, structure and equine heritage. During your go to, you possibly can choose two tour choices. On the Mansion Tour, you will study in regards to the property’s storied historical past and the individuals who lived and labored right here till 1904. The guided mansion tour features a complimentary wine tasting and entry to the grounds and outbuildings. The second choice, Journey to Jubilee, affords perception into the lives of enslaved individuals who labored at Belle Meade. Following your tour, browse the specialty shops and wine store. Then, finish your go to with a standard Southern-style meat and three lunch, which features a selection of meat, three facet dishes and a slice of cornbread or a biscuit. If you favor a extra formal meal and wish to pattern Belle Meade’s wines or bourbon, reserve a spot for one among Belle Meade’s culinary experiences. You’ll discover Belle Meade about 10 miles southwest of downtown Nashville.

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