Unveiling the true spirit of the South, Tennessee is a state that seamlessly melds natural splendor with vibrant culture.
The birthplace of blues and home to the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee offers an array of unique experiences that cater to every type of traveler.
Here, we present an eclectic mix of 17 must-do things on your Tennessee journey.
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1. Experience the Grandeur of the Grand Ole Opry
As the country’s longest-running radio show, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville is an unmissable experience for any music lover.
The famed Opry stage has witnessed performances from countless music legends, offering a magical night filled with live country music.
Traveler’s Tip: Check their schedule to see if your favorite artist is performing.
2. Dive into History at Sun Studio
Referred to as the ‘Birthplace of Rock N’ Roll’, Memphis’ Sun Studio is where legendary artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis began their illustrious careers.
Taking a guided tour through this historic recording studio is like walking through the pages of a music history book.
Traveler’s Tip: After the tour, grab a milkshake at the retro Sun Studio Soda Shop.
3. Explore the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
The rich history of country music unfolds in Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
With countless artifacts, photographs, and original recordings, it’s an educational and entertaining journey into the heart of this iconic American music genre.
Traveler’s Tip: Don’t miss the “Sing Me Back Home” exhibit, which takes you through the history of country music.
4. Discover Blues at Beale Street
Located in Memphis, Beale Street is a historic street that’s been synonymous with the blues for over a century.
With a lively atmosphere and music pouring out of every club and bar, it’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in Memphis’ blues culture.
Traveler’s Tip: Make sure to visit BB King’s Blues Club for an authentic blues experience.
5. Hear the Blues at the Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee is the city where rock ‘n’ roll was born, and its rich musical heritage permeates the city’s atmosphere.
Visit Sun Studio, known as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, where Elvis Presley, B.B. King, and Johnny Cash all recorded albums. Don’t forget to stop by Beale Street, a significant location in the history of the blues.
The street is home to numerous clubs and restaurants, with live music every night.
Memphis is also home to the Stax Museum, dedicated to preserving the legacy of American soul music.
Traveler’s Tip: Be sure to check the schedules of music venues in advance, as some of the best local acts are not to be missed.
6. Experience the Appalachian Wilderness in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited parks in the U.S., and for good reason. The park offers over 800 miles of maintained trails, stunning waterfalls, and diverse wildlife.
Enjoy a scenic drive through the park, go hiking, fishing, or horseback riding, or simply immerse yourself in the stunning natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.
Visit this site for detailed information about the park.
Traveler’s Tip: The park can be crowded during peak seasons. Plan to arrive early in the day to avoid the crowds and make the most of your visit.
7. Walk the Line at The Johnny Cash Museum, Nashville
Celebrate the life and music of the ‘Man in Black’ at The Johnny Cash Museum, located in the heart of downtown Nashville.
Ranked as the #1 music museum by Forbes and Conde Nast Traveler, it boasts the world’s largest collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia.
Learn about the iconic singer’s life, see personal letters, costumes, and instruments, and even hear unreleased recordings.
Traveler’s Tip: Don’t miss the gift shop for exclusive Johnny Cash merchandise.
8. Indulge in Southern Comfort Food
From hot chicken and biscuits to barbecue and bourbon, Tennessee’s culinary scene is a gastronomic delight.
Nashville is known for its hot chicken – crispy chicken doused in a spicy cayenne pepper sauce. Memphis, on the other hand, is famous for its barbecue, particularly ribs.
For a taste of Appalachian cuisine, visit the cities and towns near the Smoky Mountains.
They offer hearty dishes like country ham, grits, and apple stack cake. Check out this link for top food destinations in Tennessee.
Traveler’s Tip: Always ask locals for restaurant recommendations. They often know the best spots!
9. Visit the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga
The Tennessee Aquarium, located in downtown Chattanooga, is a must-visit for families and aquatic enthusiasts.
Home to more than 12,000 animals including otters, penguins, and numerous species of fish, the aquarium provides an immersive and educational experience.
The aquarium’s River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings offer exhibits ranging from freshwater habitats to a butterfly garden and a shark bay.
Traveler’s Tip: Consider purchasing a combo ticket for the aquarium and IMAX 3D Theater for a fully immersive experience.
10. Explore the Smoky Mountains
No visit to Tennessee is complete without exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
With its majestic peaks, diverse wildlife, and more than 800 miles of scenic trails, it is America’s most visited national park.
From hiking and fishing to simply admiring the panoramic vistas, there is something for everyone.
Traveler’s Tip: For an unforgettable experience, drive the scenic Cades Cove Loop Road.
11. Soak up the Sun at Tennessee’s Lakes and Rivers
Tennessee’s numerous lakes and rivers offer an array of watersports opportunities, from boating and fishing to kayaking and paddleboarding.
Some of the state’s most popular water destinations include the beautiful Norris Lake and the meandering Tennessee River.
Traveler’s Tip: If you’re into fishing, don’t miss the chance to catch a bass in the Tennessee River.
12. Discover the Treasures of Tennessee State Museum
Located in Nashville, the Tennessee State Museum takes you through the state’s rich history from prehistoric times to the present day.
The museum’s extensive collection includes Civil War artifacts, Native American relics, and much more.
Traveler’s Tip: The museum is free to the public, making it a budget-friendly educational outing.
13. Walk Through History at the Shiloh National Military Park
Shiloh National Military Park marks the site of the 1862 Battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War.
The park offers numerous walking and driving tours of the battlefield and cemetery, allowing you to immerse yourself in a pivotal moment in American history.
Traveler’s Tip: Don’t miss the informative park film at the visitor center to enrich your visit.
14. Experience Wilderness at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The most visited national park in the United States, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is renowned for its diverse plant and animal life and the beauty of its ancient mountains.
Enjoy the picturesque views by hiking, horseback riding, or simply driving through.
Traveler’s Tip: Try to visit during the fall season when the park turns into a riot of colors.
15. Explore the Unique Parthenon in Nashville
While Nashville is famous for its music scene, it is also home to a full-scale replica of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece.
The Parthenon also serves as Nashville’s art museum and houses a 42-foot statue of the Greek goddess Athena.
Traveler’s Tip: Don’t miss the detailed frieze that tells the story of Athena’s birth.
16. Taste the Local Flavors in Tennessee’s Culinary Scene
From mouthwatering barbecues to homemade biscuits and country ham, Tennessee’s culinary scene is not to be missed.
While Nashville and Memphis are known for their food, smaller towns like Franklin and Jonesborough also offer delicious local eats.
Traveler’s Tip: Make sure to try Nashville’s famous hot chicken and Memphis’s dry-rubbed ribs.
17. Embark on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail
Finally, no trip to Tennessee is complete without experiencing its rich whiskey tradition.
Embark on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail and visit distilleries like the legendary Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel.
Traveler’s Tip: Many distilleries require advance booking for tours, so plan accordingly.
Tennessee offers a wealth of diverse attractions, from natural beauty to historical sites and a rich culinary scene.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the music scene in Nashville and Memphis, and the Tennessee Whiskey Trail are among the must-visit spots.
Always check local guidelines and restrictions, especially for distillery tours, and plan your trip in advance to get the most out of your visit to Tennessee.