Tennessee is a state that has something for everyone—whether you’re a thrill-seeker at heart or more of the laid-back type.
Of course, Tennessee is largely known for its booming country music scene and for being the birth of the music business as a whole. Yet, this state also possesses a few hidden gems—quainter and quieter areas that make for a perfect weekend getaway.
Whether you’re a longtime Tennessee native who is looking to become fully acquainted with what the state has to offer or whether you’re merely visiting and have a few days to explore, here are six places you should visit in the great state of Tennessee!
1. Pigeon Forge
If you’re looking to avoid the congestion of a large city—such as Nashville or Memphis—but want to visit a spot that will keep your children entertained for a day, be sure to take a trip down to Pigeon Forge.
This lively town, tucked away in eastern Tennessee, offers an eclectic range of activities—from Dolly Parton’s Stampede dinner show to the Rocky Top Mountain roller coaster to the world’s largest Titanic museum. What’s more, Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s very own theme park!
While there’s usually plenty going on in Pigeon Forge, the town is also positioned at the feet of the Great Smoky Mountain range—allowing you to escape the barrage of entertainment for some peace and quiet at any point during your trip.
With a population of just over 4,000, Gatlinburg is a small town that lies nearby the eastern border of Tennessee. Unlike Pigeon Forge and some of Tennessee’s bigger cities, however, Gatlinburg remains fairly quiet year-round.
The town is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, making it an ideal location to visit if you love spending time outdoors. Choose from hundreds of hiking trails, take in the beauty of multiple scenic overlooks, and take a skylift above the mountain’s tree line.
But Gatlinburg has its fair share of entertainment options as well. Book Gatlinburg’s famous Ghost and Haunt Tour, visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, or check out the Village Shops.
As for food and drink, Gatlinburg is also home to many different top-notch breweries and distilleries, including two of the most well-known options in the entire state—Sugarlands Distilling Company and Ole Smoky.
Not only is Nashville is the biggest city in Tennessee but it has also been ranked as the 14th fastest-growing large city in the U.S. over a 10-year period. As you would expect of any major city, Nashville has no shortage of entertainment and activities for people of all ages.
To start, take a stroll downtown and take in all of the elements that make Nashville special—its southern charm, live music, and exceptional food. Also, consider taking a city tour via double-decker bus or golf cart, or taking the Taste of Nashville food and sightseeing tour!
Then, take some time to embrace Nashville’s rich musical heritage by visiting either the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum or the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. You might even consider checking out the Johnny Cash Museum or buying a ticket to a live concert at the highly revered Grand Ole Opry music venue.
For the sports fanatic, Nashville is also home to top-level teams and facilities. Treat yourself to an exhilarating sporting event, whether it’s a Tennessee Titans football game or a Nashville Predators hockey game.
Similar to Nashville, the city of Memphis is largely known for its stamp on the music industry. But rather than being a country music hot spot, Memphis is more well known for its rock music presence—made famous by none other than the “king of rock and roll”, Elvis Presley.
So, while in Memphis, be sure to visit the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, as well as Graceland—the home Elvis owned and lived in for much of his life, including up until his death in 1977.
Then, consider paying Sun Studio a visit. A tour here will provide you an overview of the history of music and introduce you to the many music stars that passed through the recording studio.
Beyond only music, though, Memphis is home to the National Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Botanic Garden, and the Memphis Zoo. Whether you’re looking to fill your day with fun activities for the family or a place with great nightlife, you’ll find that Memphis checks every box.
After Nashville and Memphis, Knoxville—although perhaps not quite as well-known—is the third-largest city in all of Tennessee. This eclectic city offers a wide range of activities, from mountain hikes and garden strolls to college sporting events and theater shows and everything in between.
If you’re planning to visit Knoxville, one of the best starting points is Market Square. This hot spot alone has the potential to keep you occupied for hours on end, as it offers a unique assortment of historical buildings, restaurants, and shops.
Elsewhere in Knoxville, you’re able to visit the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Zoo Knoxville, and the Knoxville Museum of Art. If what you crave most is a great view, be sure to check out the observation deck on the iconic Sunsphere Tower or the grounds and trails that the Ijams Nature Center has to offer.
Chattanooga, while still a major city in Tennessee, isn’t what you might expect from the average metropolitan area. Rather, this southeastern city is known for its natural beauty and historical significance.
In fact, Chattanooga was once a battleground that played an important role in the Civil War. By visiting the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, you’ll get to see this former battlefield for yourself and share in its rich history.
This area is also home to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum—one of Tennessee’s most popular historical attractions.
When you visit Chattanooga, you’ll also get to witness all types of stunning views—whether it’s via Lookout Mountain, the Chattanooga Riverwalk, and the Raccoon Mountain Caverns, or the wildlife at the Tennessee Aquarium or Chattanooga Zoo.
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