OUR 10 FAVORITE TENNESSEE ATTRACTIONS
1. The Whiskey Trail
When you think of Tennessee, a few key images come to mind: the Great Smoky Mountains, country music, whiskey. But until just a few years ago that reputation for spirits revolved solely around a few legal outfits — and the lore of mountain-made moonshine. Before 2009, the state had just three distilleries, located in the only three counties that allowed them. Five years ago, some 40 more counties became eligible for micro-distilleries, thanks to new state legislation. Since then, craft distillers have opened across the state. Together they form a Tennessee Whiskey Trail with tours and tastings so good you’ll trade your stemware in for Mason jars in no time. Sparta is in the heart of the Whiskey Trail.
Nashville is where music lives. A place where music hangs its hat and puts its feet up on the furniture. To really experience Nashville’s music history, see a show inside the Ryman and Grand Ole Opry. Visit Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree, the second oldest radio show, airing after the Grand Ole Opry. Walk along Music Mile or Music Row. See Historic RCA Studio B, Music City’s only historic studio tour. Learn why they call it “Music City” at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. At night, the city comes alive! Hit up the Gulch entertainment district or the District, a vibrant part of Lower Broadway, where honky tonks and good restaurants converge. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and other honky tonks are jam-packed with people. Hear up-and-comers and renowned songwriters perform at legendary Bluebird Cafe, and see a show at famous Wildhorse Saloon.
3. Belle Meade Plantation
Belle Meade Plantation is an historic plantation mansion whose grounds now function as a museum. Many people find it the most enjoyable part of their trip to Tennessee. It was originally a horse farm and working plantation. Visits to Belle Meade Plantation include a tour led by a trained and costumed guide through the plantation’s beautiful Greek-Revival mansion commissioned by John Harding in 1845. Additionally, you will have access to Belle Meade’s many other historic buildings on the plantation grounds including a dairy, horse stable, carriage house, mausoleum, gardens, and a log cabin. After you’ve completed your tour of the house and grounds, a free wine tasting at the winery awaits. There is also an on-site restaurant, Harding House.
4. The Smoky Mountains
Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park. One of the most popular places in the park is Cades Cove– a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains. It offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing in the park. Large numbers of white-tailed deer are frequently seen, and sightings of black bear, coyote, ground hog, turkey, raccoon, skunk, and other animals are also possible. An 11-mile, one-way loop road circles the cove, offering motorists the opportunity to sightsee at a leisurely pace.
Gatlinburg, at the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is an ideal base for a family looking to explore the park’s numerous offerings. After you’ve gone hiking, fishing, rafting or horseback riding, ride an elevator 342 feet to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle for stunning views of the Smokies. There’s also an amusement center next door with great rides and games.
6. Pigeon Forge
This spectacular town is located in east Tennessee in Sevier County between Gatlinburg and Sevierville, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. Travelers from around the globe flock to Pigeon Forge for its scenery, food, proximity to Dollywood and the Smoky Mountains, and so much more. It’s Tennessee’s answer to Branson, Missouri and contains some of the same attractions.
Dollywood has been recognized as one of the world’s best theme parks, offering thrilling rides, award-winning live shows, delicious restaurants, seasonal festivals and much more.The Dollywood theme park also offers bone-rattling roller coasters, such as the Wild Eagle, Barnstormer, Thunderhead and Mystery Mine. There also are plenty of rides for little ones that guarantee a great time. You can spend the whole day there and not worry about packing a lunch! With all of the restaurants that serve an array of delicious Southern cuisine you’re sure to be well fed. For dinner we recommend The Dixie Stampede: a modern-day Wild West revue, pitting sections of the audience against each other in a good-natured way as “the South” and “the North” battle to win various horse riding competitions. Parton sings her Native American hit “Sha-Kon-O-Hey!” during the performance.
8. The Titanic Museum
The Titanic Museum is a two-story museum shaped like the RMS Titanic. It is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and opened on April 8, 2010. It is built half-scale to the original ship. Visit and you can walk the Grand Staircase, steer the ship, learn to send an SOS signal, touch an iceberg and much more.
Memphis is a pilgrimage for those wanting to visit the birthplace of the blues, of soul and of rock ‘n’ roll. On Beale Street, W.C. Handy put down on paper the first written blues music. Elvis, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash all recorded at the historic Sun Records, which is now a museum. Graceland, the second most-visited home in America, welcomes visitors from around the world who yearn for a peek into the life of “the King.” Beyond the music, Tennessee’s largest city also offers much more. It has more sunny days each year than Miami, and combines southern tradition and hospitality with modern amenities. You’ll enjoy great dining (be sure to sample the barbecued ribs), art galleries and exciting nightlife.
When Elvis Presley was a young boy, he promised his parents he would make a lot of money and buy them the finest house in town, putting an end to years of struggle. For Elvis Presley, Graceland – a charming and stately colonial revival-style mansion for himself and his parents – was the fulfillment of that childhood promise. Because Graceland was so close to Elvis’ heart, it also holds deep meaning to his legions of fans from around the world. For many, the Elvis Presley mansion embodies the American Dream – a poor small town boy who reached super stardom and changed pop culture and the world forever. Other than his daughter and his music, Graceland was probably Elvis’ greatest pride and joy. For fans of Elvis Presley, Graceland is the ultimate pilgrimage.