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Did You Know…?

  • From Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain, you can see seven states.
  • Tennessee has five official state songs, including “Tennessee Waltz.”
  • The Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg is the oldest registered distillery in the nation (1866).
  • Oak Ridge was created as a “secret city” in 1942 as part of the Manhattan Project.
  • The “Grand Ole Opry” is the world’s longest continuously running live radio show (from 1925).

All about music

Tennessee folks will divert visitors with good southern cooking, gorgeous antebellum houses, Civil War battlefields, relaxation in the Great Smoky Mountains and opportunities to kayak, hike or pursue other outdoor activities — it all depends on what the visitor has a mind to do.

However, for a lot of prospective visitors, Tennessee is all about music. Most notably, Nashville is the epicenter for country music and Memphis historically sings the blues, but other sounds include bluegrass, gospel, pop and rock.

Venturesome travelers know Tennessee has plenty for them besides the music. They single out the mountains in the eastern part of the state and the recreation to be found there. Those who lean toward the less venturesome side talk about the entertainment value in the Nashville and Memphis areas.

In addition, the Volunteer State has plenty of history for travelers who like this type of sightseeing. It is second only to Virginia in Civil War battles fought on its terrain; the Shiloh National Military Park tops the list for war remembrances. These and more recent developments like the Tennessee Valley Authority and Oak Ridge provide all visitors with lots of significant sightseeing. Country music fans also say they enjoy the “country” atmosphere.

All visitor types cite the lovely and unspoiled nature to be found in Tennessee, but it’s the music that gets the most attention from prospective visitors, and indeed a lot of music comes out of Tennessee.

As noted above, Nashville and Memphis are centers for country music and the blues, respectively. Those at the center and on the mellower side of the personality scale enjoy the entertainment possibilities in these cities, augmented by the hospitality of the locals. They also praise Opryland, the theme park that surrounds the Grand Ole Opry, for its homespun shows, rides and other attractions.

If the obvious options (Grand Ole Opry, Dollywood, Graceland, etc.) don’t sate the appetite for music or its lore, visitors can drop in at many clubs in Nashville (or almost any Tennessee city) to listen and two-step the night away. In addition, Tennessee’s calendar is chockablock with music festivals, from rock to classical.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Sleep with ghosts. Options include the Pinhook Plantation House B&B, Calhoun; the Franklin Pearson House, Cowan, and the Prospect Hill Bed & Breakfast, Mountain City. All come with tales of ghostly doings.
  • Take a canoe trip on the Harpeth River. You can make that a two-hour sampler or up to a five-day journey.
  • Stay at a dude ranch for horseback riding, whitewater rafting and more. For a more rustic experience, join a trail ride that could last a few days and involve campsites of various types (with or without electricity).
  • Take the NashTrash Tour, which is both entertainment (with adult humor, must be age 13 and up) and a sightseeing expedition in Nashville. For a few extra bucks, you can tour RCA’s Studio B, where Elvis Presley recorded some of his hits.
  • Attend the four-day Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival outside of Manchester. The June fest draws nearly 100,000 fans who generally camp on the grounds.
  • It’s a sobering experience that you can relive by attending one of several of the state’s living history events, a famous battle of the Civil War at Shiloh National Military Park. The bloody battle lasted two days and cost almost 24,000 lives.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Go to the races, car races, that is. Tennessee counts more than 45 speedways, racetracks and dragways (three are major tracks) and the NASCAR Speed Park.
  • Hike, bike or ride horseback on the Norris Watershed Hiking and Biking Trail. Part of the route heads into the Norris Dam State Park.
  • Attend a performance or workshop (events offered from June to October) at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough. Even better, show up for the National Storytelling Festival in the autumn.
  • Set up for the summer on a houseboat on Dale Hollow Lake.
  • Get married in the Great Smoky Mountains. More than 600,000 people get married or attend weddings in the Smokies each year.
  • Visit the wineries (in Gatlinburg, Hampshire and Livingston) and Tennessee’s distilleries. The latter choices are Jack Daniel in Lynchburg and George Dickel in Normandy for whisky, and rum-maker Prichard’s in Kelso.

Things to do for Authentics

  • In Nashville, grab a meat-and-three lunch (that’s meat and three sides for one price), a local standard. Take in the music, too.
  • Go golfing. The state boasts that you will find a state park golf course with challenges for every golfing level within an hour and a half of any point in the state.
  • Visit Oak Ridge. The entire “secret city” was built as part of the Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bomb. Be sure to tour the American Museum of Science and Energy, then buy or rent a CD or cassette to guide you through the Oak Ridge Driving Tour.
  • See historic Downtown Memphis in a horse-drawn carriage. Take in the music here, too.
  • Drop a line in some of Tennessee’s popular fishing holes, such as Boone Lake, Center Hill Lake, Kentucky Lake or Pickwick Lake. Or try the Mississippi or Tennessee River.
  • Follow your interests in scenery or history, or both. Tennessee has singled out a number of driving routes.  Here are a couple of examples: the Tennessee Antebellum Trail, described as a scenic route that will take you to “seven of the South’s grandest plantations” (including homes of former presidents Andrew Jackson and James Polk), and the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development at